Saturday, September 29, 2012

Comics are Magick: Daddy and the Pie

While I try to smack some sense into my life I thought it would be a good time to return to The Source, the initiation place of my younger days. Over the years I've written about the late, lamented Valles' News and the great Mysteries of the paranormal that I encountered there, but I realized that I haven't shared those Mysteries with you as much. What better time than now to do so?

I can't think of a better story to begin with than "Daddy and the Pie," an alien encounter story from 1975 written by the late Bill DuBay (himself a student of the Kabbalah) and drawn by the late Alex Toth (himself an art god). This story is sublime in so many ways but is remarkable in that it serves as a classic initiation narrative and leaves off at a point before the narrator reaches his ascension to occult mastery, which is obliquely- and ominously- referred to in the final paragraph.

Toth's art is beyond cinematic- beneath his trademark ruthless economy, you know that this drama exists fully formed within his mind. If you don't see the reality of his vision at first, just give it a bit of time. Once your eyes adjust you will be stunned by the poetic reality of it all. Note that Toth depicted the alien as a classic Grey type years before they became cliche.

Both DuBay and Toth would have influence far beyond the cloistered walls of comicdom- DuBay was a top figure for Marvel Animation in the 80s and Toth was the main designer for Hanna-Barbera's superhero cartoons, including Space Ghost, Jonny Quest, The Herculoids, Super Friends and many, many more.

Click images to enlarge.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Holding Pattern

2012 has been a banner year for The Secret Sun and a surprising one. My original plan was to kick launch the Radio Mystery Hour in full force and have that be the backbone of the blog but other topics snuck up on me, quite by surprise.

Unfortunately, some considerably less pleasant surprises have befallen me out here in Meatspace, taking my attention away from The Sun for the time being. And as I wrote previously, scheduling snafus have complicated the Radio Mystery Hour relaunch as well. This is to be expected, seeing that a lot of people I want to speak with are involved in academia in one way or another.

But there's a time to reap and a time to sow and a time to let the fields lie fallow. The Sun has been on fire this year (every month has set an all-time hit record, with August the biggest-ever month in our history) and there's also a 24/7 discussion taking place on the Facebook page. I'll be continuing to post scintillating links there while I get my ducks in order on the homefront. And I will get The Secret Sun Radio Mystery Hour up and running as soon as I have a few episodes in the can.

Strangely enough, some of those topics I mentioned before are bleeding over from Ideaspace over into Meatspace. I wish that was as fun as it sounded, but I can't deny that I've been dragged, kicking and screaming, onto a path set out for me before I was born. More on all of that in the days to come.

In the meantime, please note that I've revamped the topic index in order to make your Secret Sun browsing experience more efficient. So don't hestitate to dig into the massive archives. One thing I've notice on the FB group is that new readers don't realize that if they're interested in a particular topic, chances are pretty good I've written about it here.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Programming Note

I've been working on getting new episodes of The Secret Sun Radio Mystery Hour produced, but it's been a bit more of a slog than I expected, with people's schedules and technical considerations and so on. My plan was to get a nice backlog of episodes in the can and get them up twice a week for the next several weeks. But as the song once said, "plans are just dreams, anyhow..."

Of course, this is to be expected and hopefully I'll get the kinks worked out as I go along. This is still a new ballgame for me, but a very exciting one as well. I'm going to be spending the next several days contacting people and making arrangements for new shows, and working on writing questions that will hopefully shed new light on the wonderful worlds of Weirdness.

I hope to be talking to some people some of you may not be familiar with but who've had a major influence on pop culture, weird culture and all the rest of it nonetheless. I've done a lot of interviews in my previous incarnation as a popcult journalist, so you're in good hands. Rest assured.

Stay tuned- once the kinks are worked out, there's plenty more to come.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Punk Alchemy: Burning Away Impurity (Calcination)

My recent posting on the alchemical symbolism of The Fifth Element was anything but arbitrary. Alchemy- the symbolism and psychology of which, rather- has intruded into my life in fascinating ways recently.

It's been more than a lifeline; this has been a challenging  year for me in many ways, and without the context of the Alchemical process, it might be rather bewildering as well. Bear in mind that I'm referring not only to the Jungian interpretation of said process but a distinctly punk rock reinterpretation thereof.

Punk Rock was a reaction to the post-Beatles school of thinking that argued that the old, pre-Rock rules must be reasserted. Technology, virtuosity, and intellectualism were the watchwords of the post-Psychedelic progressive rock movement, which reached its first flower with King Crimson, led by my guitar god, Robert Fripp.

But even Fripp came to rebel against the claustrophobic strictures of prog, which had become a cliche once the drugs and egotism had stolen away the muse from his class of players. Fripp found liberation in working with self-described "non-musician" Brian Eno, who was more punk than the punks themselves in the mid-70s.

And that's the strain of punk (there are hundreds of them, many of them totally useless) that we'll take inspiration from. The school which learns the rules before throwing them out and starting again.

The first stage of the Alchemical Great Work was Calcination, in which impurities were burnt away and only the purest essence remained. Jung saw the allegory of Calcination in the analytic process where the various untruths and disguises that the patient hid his or her true self behind were exposed and discarded, or burned away. This was usually the most difficult and fraught stage of analysis, since these impurities had many years to accumulate, and to become part of the patient's identity.

Many of us don't have the discipline to undergo this process ourselves. Many of us are clever enough to create new masks to replace the old ones. Perhaps a Jung would be wise enough to recognize when the purification process was truly complete, but many lesser clinicians would not.

For many of us, external realities are taking care of this for us. I've always said that you only know a person's true character under pressure, and we're seeing a lot of people who once hid behind masks of respectability be exposed as anything but once the heat is turned up. It's been ugly in some cases. But perhaps clinging to the impurity of Ego is the father of all monsters.

I'd written earlier how The Alchemical Tarot seemed to be a particularly useful tool for me lately. It remains so, and I can't help but wonder if the surreal, almost comic book-like imagery of Alchemy plays some role in this. Truly powerful images are themselves pregnant with psychic power, and I can't help but wonder if Robert Place's well-studied imagery is part of the magic there.

But the Tarot--which is not something I'm usually given to working with-- seems to be particularly effective given this Saturn transit I've been dealing with. I had a Saturn-in Cancer transit from 2002 to 2005- which literally nearly killed me- but at the same time it was a time when these symbol systems spoke more clearly to me.

And now this other transit (don't ask me how I won the jackpot and got myself a second go-round) seems to be similar, in that not only have I been forced into this Calcinatio process, but these extraordinary ways of knowing seem to be accessible.

The first transit took a lot of things away from me, things that I valued, but it also led directly to Our Gods Wear Spandex and The Secret Sun and all of the rest of it. In many ways, I get the feeling that this second transit is putting me on another path- or perhaps back on the path I was before- removing valued distractions that I may look back on and see rather as obstacles.

Of course, when you're dealing with all of this you tend to focus more on the stress and unpleasantry, but the first go-round helped give me a greater perspective, leading me to take action before action is forced upon me.

Unless you're one of the richer-than-ever 1%, things are probably pretty rough sledding for you as well. But you're probably discovering how much impurity there was in your life, how much non-essence you've been convinced was somehow important. To my way of thinking, only the life of the Mind is real, everything else is a trap, meant to imprison us in the material world.

The very imagery- the language- of Alchemy defies the material world, just as the Dadaists and the Surrealists did. Looking back it's almost impossible to imagine these guys were really trying to literally turn lead into gold. It's hard to imagine they were trying to do anything literally. Their riches were their art and their understanding of transformation.

So a challenging time can become literally that in the context of Punk Alchemy- a challenge to burn away everything that's been holding you down or keeping you enslaved. In this context, the Calcinatio is a process of liberation from the traps of the past.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Alchemical Romance of The Fifth Element

Like The Matrix, the 1997 film The Fifth Element mines the feverishly imaginative world of comic books. But whereas The Matrix derives from Marvel Comics and manga, The Fifth Element draws its visual punch from French comics, formally known as bande desinee (BD), familiar to readers of the American magazine Heavy Metal, which reprints a great deal of comics from Europe.

Bande desinee is, like manga, a medium and not a genre. Any number of types of stories are produced, usually in hardcover oversized albums. But the most familiar form of BD to American readers are the kinds of outrageous and decadent science fiction yarns serialized in French magazines like Pilote and Metal Hurlant.

These sci-fi stories are characterized by lavish, nearly-baroque art and design, and a narrative sensibility that emphasizes sophomoric nihilism, sadistic violence and decadent sex.

The dizzying visual imagination of the BD sci-fi subculture is mirrored in The Fifth Element . In fact, Besson enlisted one of BD’s premier talents, the late Jean Giraud, to forge the visual look of the film. Giraud is known to BD readers by his pen names ‘Gir’ and ‘Moebius.’

As Gir, he drew the long-running adventures of the Western hero, Lieutenant Blueberry. And as Moebius, he illustrated a large body of science fiction stories, often in collaboration with Alejandro Jodorowsky, the South American filmmaker best known for his films El Topo and Santa Sangre.

Giraud’s own work is also of a distinctly spiritual bent, but defining the precise nature of that spirituality is often elusive. Moebius was the follower of a French New Age guru named Jean Paul Appel Guery, who changed the course of Moebius’ work from dystopian sci-fi to incredibly opaque new age sci-fi. Moebius had also worked on several sci-fi/fantasy films, including Alien, Willow and The Abyss.

Besson also enlisted the visual talents of another French legend for The Fifth Element. Jean Paul Gaultier, the fashion maestro best known for his work with Madonna, designed many of the sexually-provocative costumes for the film, and gave the film a distinctly decadent and androgynous sheen.

The plot of The Fifth Element. concerns a struggle between the forces of good, here in the form of the alien Mondoshawans and their human accomplices; and the forces of evil, represented by a malevolent Death Star-like planet (known only a “Mister Shadow”) and its alien and human enablers. Gary Oldman, scenery-chewer extraordinaire, plays Zorg, an evil weapons manufacturer who works in concert with the alien Mangalores to help make manifest the destruction of earth by this ultimate Evil.

The Mondoshawans send their champion, the so-called “Supreme Being”, to Earth to help destroy the Ultimate Evil, but the Mangalores shoot down their ship before it can reach the Earth. A salvage team is sent to the crash site (which is on a moon) and a piece of a arm is recovered, which turns out to be from the Supreme Being.

The severed limb is brought to Earth and through some kind of DNA something-or-other is reconstituted into an intact replication of the supreme one. Happily, it transpires than underneath their bulky and cartoonish armor, the Mondoshawans look like hot, young, naked supermodels. Hence LeeLoo, the reconstructed supreme being, is played by hot, young, naked supermodel Milla Jovovich.

However, LeeLoo freaks out when she is reborn, busts out of her rebirthing chamber and ends up in the care of soldier-turned-cabbie Korben Dallas (played by Bruce Willis). At her urging, Dallas then brings Leeloo to the priest Father Cornelius, played by Ian Holm. Cornelius is part of a hereditary line of priests that do the Mondoshawan’s bidding in protecting the Earth.

What must be done next is to recover the ritual stones symbolizing the four elements and get LeeLoo to Egypt post-haste, in order to perform the ritual that will repel and destroy “Mister Shadow." However, the stones are being kept by an alien chanteuse on a galactic pleasure cruiser halfway across the galaxy.

Hence, Dallas, Cornelius and LeeLoo rocket out to the cruiser to recover the stones. Along the way, LeeLoo immerses herself in human lore and language, with the aid of a laptop computer supplied to her by Father Cornelius. The messianic troupe also make the acquaintance of a maniacally-epicene galactic talk show host named Ruby Rhod, played by Chris Tucker.

Along the way they are countered by Zorg and his Mangalores cohorts. All sorts of mayhem ensues, and the alien singer protecting the stones is killed by the Mangalores. As she lays dying, she tells Dallas that the stones are located inside her body, and Dallas must pull them out of her corpse. Zorg is also after the stones, but is ultimately destroyed by a bomb he places on the cruiser (literally ‘hoisted on his own petard’, you might say). Dallas, Cornelius and LeeLoo escape just in the nick of time and return to Earth to perform the ritual.

The trip back seems to be going well until LeeLoo stumbles across the subject of war in her humanities studies. She is so driven to despair by visions of man’s inhumanity to man that she is unable to perform the ritual. The stones are put into place, but the Fifth Element isn’t activated.

Cornelius reckons that LeeLoo needs a first hand lesson in the ways of love to ease her despair over man’s barbarism, so he orders Dallas to have a snog with her. Dallas and LeeLoo neck and the Evil Planet something-or -other is destroyed in an orgasmic burst. The film ends as Korben and LeeLoo enjoy a hearty shag in a sarcophagus-type reactor chamber in a Nucleo Lab, as the President of the Earth and a worldwide television audience look on.

Aside from the obvious comic book, action movie and Solar ritual drama motifs, Besson seems to borrow heavily from Alchemical symbolism. Or, more precisely, Jungian interpretation of Alchemical symbolism. That final scene where Korben and LeeLoo copulate in the reactor chamber while the lord of Earth look on is directly taking it cues from three of the pivotal stages of Alchemist’s so-called “Chemical Marriage” process.

As depicted in numerous Alchemical texts like the Mutus Liber, the Chemical Marriage is a process in which the Sun (represented by a king), and the Moon (represented by a queen) are reunited into a single primevel being, the Royal Hermaphrodite, or the Rebis. In some texts the King and Queen copulate in a chamber filled with Mercurial water ( water collected from the morning dew), in others they commingle in a furnace.

Another product of this Royal Copulation is the Lapis, otherwise known as the Philosopher’s Stone. The Philosopher’s Stone is the device the Alchemists believed could transform base metals into gold. This fabled Stone is now familiar to hundreds of millions of people the world over thanks to the Harry Potter novels.

Alchemy is the most arcane of ancient sciences, and since the Alchemists deliberately obscured their teachings either in wordless books or in arcane symbols, scholars disagree as to their meaning.

Was the Chemical Wedding purely symbolic and spiritual, or was it some arcane recounting of an actual process? My vote is for the latter, but no one can say for sure. Carl Jung thought it was a metaphor for a person’s “individuation process” where the two halves of human nature- spiritual and rational- are conjouned.

However much Alchemy is scoffed at today, in many ways it was the forerunner of modern chemistry, and had a huge influence on modern medicine as well. Sir Issac Newton, arguably the most important scientific thinker in history, was obsessed with the alchemical arts. When Sir Issac wasn’t discovering the laws of gravity or inventing calculus or revolutionizing the study of Astronomy, he busied himself amassing England’s largest Alchemical library and conducting Alchemical experiments.

The language of Alchemy is the crux of The Fifth Element. The Alchemists believed that all matter was composed of four fundamental elements- Earth, Air, Water and Fire.

Some historians that the word "Alchemy" itself is derived from Al Khemiya which in turn is derived from Kemet (“the black land”), the name the ancient Egyptians new themselves by. ”Egypt” is a Greek name given to Kemet by the Macedonian Ptolemaic dynasty, and derives from aigis or “shield.”

The etymology of the word “Alchemy” is directly referenced by the location of the Mondoshawan temple in Egypt. And again, the use of the four elements is drawn from Alchemic arts. And the “Fifth Element” is not LeeLoo alone, but the by-product of the Coninunctio, or the Chemical Wedding between Korben and LeeLoo.

Their make-out session overseen by the priests in the Mondoshawan temple was their nuptials, and the episode in the rebirthing chamber was their royal consumation. The kings, queens and princes of the Earth are their to witness their apotheosis, which signifies the supreme status of the Alchemical arts in this ritual drama.

Not surprisingly, this Alchemical ritual drama is rife with Solar imagery. The big baddie, Mister Shadow in the tale is depicted as a Black Sun (or Saturn, in some traditions), a burning orb that gives no light nor heat. In other words, a spiritual force that exists only to serve its own needs, and possesses neither love nor compassion. It is pure, elemental Evil. It’s a sun that gives off light instead of shadow. It’s accomplice, Zorg, is a disciple of Evil. He believes that destruction and warfare are necessary facets of existance, and that personal enrichment is the highest good.

In the Alchemical Wedding drama of The Fifth Element, Korben is the Sun King and LeeLoo is the Moon Queen. Leeloo herself represents the prima materia of the Alchemical grail quest.

LeeLoo is reconstructed from a genetic fragment recovered from the Mondoshawan ship, which crashed on a barren and dusty moon. The moon, being traditionally untouched by man, is thereby a source of the prima materia, or the “untouched matter” which the Alchemists sought to transform into gold. The Moon also reflects the Sun, which accounts for the solar touches in LeeLoo’s outfit.

Korben is a depicted as deactivated soldier from an elite military order. Exactly which order Korben serived is no mystery to those familiar with medieval or military iconography. When we first meet Korben in his small, Spartan apartment we see has a golden trophy adorned with the Templar cross (00:18:27)

Finally, the Mondoshawan priests dress in red and gold robes, and their Egyptian origin and extraterrestrial and godly alliances links them with the Shemsu Hor, the priest kings who ruled Ancient Egypt when the Netjer, or gods, returned to the Heavens. The Shemsu Hor are traditionally believed to be the guardians of the sacred arts, not the least of which is Alchemy.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Faith Collapsing

Despite all of the talk and theorizing you may be hearing in the media about American interventionism, the riots in Arab countries over an amateur hoax film trailer represent a profound, existential crisis in one of the most powerful religions in the world. We are seeing one of those epochal moments in history when a religious movement reaches the end of its road, the point of no return.

We're talking about a religion with world-conquering ambitions and a totalitarian ethos. A religion that has caused nothing but violence and disruption since it first reared its ugly head on the world stage. A religion that wants to crush human individuality and cultural uniqueness, all in pursuit of a mad, utopian vision of worldwide uniformity.

It's been the cause of war and sectarian violence all across the planet and shows no sign of quenching its taste for human blood. And yet its contradictions are so immense and its foundations so faulty, it can't but implode when faced with the reality of 21st Century life.

Yes, the religion of Globalism is collapsing. The question is how many of us will it take with it?

I remember quite clearly when Globalism became the religion of the corporate Elite. It was a few years following the end of the Cold War when American industry faced its own existential crisis. Other markets were expanding and formerly Communist and Socialist economies were liberalizing, creating a gold rush that threatened to leave the onetime masters of the Universe behind.

We soon saw a number of treaties- NAFTA, GATT, MAI-- that have done untold damage to the American middle and working classes at the same time it's turned the rich into the super-rich and the super-rich into veritable gods.

The Elites envisioned a borderless, nationless world where workers, resources and capital flowed without tariffs or taxes, where mass immigration and outsourcing drove wages down to the lowest possible levels. A world where American brands and franchises were established in every village and city.

Surgical warfare would remove any religious or nationalist-based resistance abroad and American workers would be distracted into impotence with pseudo-religious movements such as the Megachurch and the Prosperity Gospel movements (which a traditionalist Christian friend of mine says was "spawned from the pits of Hell"). Any resistance to the Global agenda would be diverted by conspirashills and hucksters crying wolf with ridiculous Apocalyptic fantasies that only the most gullible people could take seriously.

It's been only too successful. But the people who were supposed to lie down and die are refusing to do so. Chinese workers are increasingly restless, tired of bearing the brunt of the world's manufacturing burden for near-starvation wages. The politics of austerity are bringing people into the streets in Europe and threatening the Neoliberal ruling class and its pet project, the European currency.

And the animus that Fundamentalist Islam feels for the rest of the world is creating chaos everywhere, no matter how hard the ruling class and its pliant media try to paper over the cracks with a vicious, deceptive and punitive form of political correctness.

Certainly the rioters over the past week have no shortage of legitimate grievances with the West (and vice versa) but somehow they chose to riot over a dopey YouTube video that absolutely no one would have paid attention to otherwise. This is no small thing, no matter how much the apologists might try to spin it.

The video is an abomination, the same kind of thing you see Farrah Fawcett Rense and his kind post about Jews several times a week. The same kind of thing that Arab governments produce about Jews and Christians and other infidels and show to schoolchildren.

But if the high priests of Globalism weren't trying to squeeze us all together into a flavorless paste it probably wouldn't be an issue.

We've already seen the West's response- Obama cracked the whip on Egyptian PM Morsi, who dutifully broke up the demonstrations and NATO "accidentally" bombed some Afghan women, which probably had nothing at all to do with Taliban attacks on US Marines in response to the video.

It may all die down, but I don't know- rising populations in Arab and Muslim countries along with massive structural unemployment and rising global food prices are not going to ease tensions. And a determined push in America towards energy independence certainly seems to point towards a increased possibility for confrontation in the future.

One thing for sure, though, is the high priests of Globalism will cling to their illusions until the bitter end. That religion was born out of a host of short-term conditions- the end of the Cold War, the collapse of oil prices, the tech boom, the 90s stock market boom- that everyone would like to relive but probably won't repeat themselves in our lifetimes.

But people's salaries and reputations are now invested in Globalist fantasies, so it's likely that many of them will double down rather than admit that the World is Not One. And of course, there's also the dream of endless profit, of planting your brand in hostile territory and having the folks back home pick up the tab if there's any trouble. Since the super-rich have become un-moored from any sense of proportion or reality, don't expect that dream to fade, either.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Everything In Its Right Place

I'm of the opinion that genuine weirdness is usually an intimate affair. And as much as the capital 'S' Skeptics-- many of whom are in fact neurologically wired with various perceptive challenges-- yell and scream and rend their clothing, I still think the reductive materialistic viewpoint of Reality is inferior and incomplete.

But I also think it's necessary to build a consensus. Because things like Synchronicity are often so subjective, it's simply a question of being able to communicate in the fullest sense of the word; to share a common experience of day-to-day reality so we can all get along and get things done.

The experience we call "alien abduction" is a perfect example. It's almost impossible to prove. But contrary to the ahistorical misinformation you may hear in the media, this is by no means a recent phenomenon. It goes back forever. There have been multiple theories to explain it away-- sleep paralysis (which is an interesting explanation in some cases), hypnogogia (which is ludicrous), dissociative amnesia and so on-- but what interests me is how claims of extraordinary contact (of which "abduction" is only one kind) produce extraordinary results: changes in behavior, physical or mental ability, precognition, other kinds of breakthroughs.

Can these all be explained away through neuroscience? Sure, absolutely anything can be explained away if you're willing to throw out enough data and your audience has already made up its mind, as the so-called Skeptic crowd has with everything that falls- or ever will fall- outside the most reductive view of reality.

But even fungus is often an effective antibiotic. The paranormal world is a free-for-all and has always been a haven for ripoff artists and attention hounds. As tempting as it is to blame media shills like the Amazing Randi and the Mythbusters cabal (whose misery and misanthropy always ends up carved in their faces), the fact of the matter is that it's all too easy to find fraud in the paranormal.

Indeed, the frauds are always the most visible and the serious researchers and practitioners usually tend to shun the limelight.

And then there's the astonishing contradiction of organized geekdom- that the people who tend to be the most enthusiastic audience for the Skeptics and debunkers turn around and totally immerse themselves in the paranormal, the Occult, the pseudoscientific, the mythological, and the irrational in their entertainment.

I was recently at a comic book convention- after a few years away-- and was gobsmacked to see all of the stuff I've been writing about for the past few years-- UFOs, psi, magick, Alchemy, the Tarot, etc etc etc- out there in the open, practically punching the initiated in the face.

Isn't this a gross contradiction? Isn't this the moral equivalent of racists immersing themselves in Hip Hop culture, or feasting on Mexican food and beer?

Well, here's where I come back to the original inspiration behind this blog, as well as my books. As I've written before, all of this began when I noticed that artists who immersed themselves in the Mysteries seemed to produce art that was more resonant and influential than those who did not.

Why did Led Zeppelin seem to resonate on such a deep level when Deep Purple, who essentially followed the same formula, did not? What about David Bowie versus Elton John or Jimi Hendrix versus Eric Clapton? Or Jack Kirby versus Steve Ditko? Or Philip K. Dick versus Ben Bova, or William Gibson versus Bruce Sterling, or Alan Moore versus Kurt Busiek?

Even when similar artists had larger followings, it was those who most effectively tapped into deeper currents that were the more influential.

It is through art that I've had my most profound spiritual realizations. Music, film, comics, novels, painting. I recently watched the DVDs of Jay Weider's Kubrick documentaries and realized that 2001's influence on me is as powerful today as ever. More so, in fact. The Max Ernst exhibit at the Met left me trembling and in tears, it moved me so deeply.

There are any number of albums that have the same effect. My obsession with The X-Files is so deep that I find a new mindblowing sync almost every time I rewatch an episode, to the point that I almost wonder if reality is somehow being overwritten.

I have had what I believe to be genuinely paranormal experiences, but they've been so rare and sporadic as to seem like little more than glitches to me. But spiritual epiphanies, more often than not, are inspired by art. Art is the medium of Spirit, and always has been. Without Spirit, Art is dead and inert. It's masturbation, it's entertainment, it's a pass-time- but it's not Art.

It was this same realization that's informed great art throughout human history.

The thing is that it's very difficult to communicate paranormal experience in a literal sense. It never quite lives up to what the experiencer experienced. But if you can turn around and translate that into a work of art, you're not simply describing that experience to your audience, you're allowing them to relive it. And in doing so what an individual may or may not believe becomes irrelevant, because a good artist allows them to experience the irrational or the impossible through their art.

So the contradiction in geek culture becomes considerably less so in this context. From the simplest novel to the most elaborate video game, the audience is given the opportunity to relive these extraordinary experiences, and the more you can embellish them with resonant symbolism and whatnot the deeper their experience is going to be. There's as much bad art as there are crappy UFO or ghost books, but the artist doesn't ask the audience to make a leap that may violate their worldviews.

I get a huge kick seeing all of the Lovecraft worship out there, not only because I believe the man was considerably more irrational than he claimed to be but because his claims to atheism and the rest seem driven by his fear and hatred of nonwhites, whom he consistently identified with those "barbarous rites."

One fanboy has gone so far to claim that Lovecraft is the creator of Ancient Astronaut Theory (which in most geek quarters is restricted entirely to jokes about Giorgio Tsoukalos' hair) discounting Fort's theories and Jack London's (who was as famous as Lovecraft was obscure) story "The Red One", both of which predate Lovecraft's Old One yarns, whose malevolent demons and mystic rites bear no resemblance at all to anything you'd in Von Daniken in Sitchin.

But such is the power of us vs. them tribalism and such is the power of numinous writing.

Lovecraft's prose is famously overwrought (or he was a shit writer, depending on your POV), but whether through nightmare or drug use (or other means), you get the strong feeling that Lovecraft was intimately familiar with the things he was writing about. Too familiar, actually. The fact that the original Lovecraft obsessives were all occultists of the Aleister Crowley variety is one of those great historical ironies that make geek culture so fascinating.

But maybe that's how it all works. Ideas want to reach as many people as possible, and can only do so in the proper medium. Something to think about...

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

AstroGnostic: Hymn of the Pearl, Revisited

Sometimes I wonder if the ancient Gnostics weren't the first Geeks. Their cosmologies and tautologies were just as complex and overwrought as any superhero fan's, and their Apocalypses and Gospels can seem like fanfic, endlessly reimagining more prominent works and adding layers of sometimes impenetrable jargon and buzzwords.

The layered spiritual heirarchies emanating from the Godhead of the Monad- all the Aeons and Archons and the constant, competing reinterpretations of Platonic, Pagan and Jewish doctrine are eerily similar to the dense, Byzantine heirarchies of superhero fandom and its offshoots such as the Star Wars Universe.

Although modern Gnostics see the arc of history and the triumph of Christianity (and later Islam) as some kind of cosmic injustice, the plain fact of the matter is that the various schools of Gnosticism suffered not only from a lack of unity and discipline but from a tendency towards obscurantism and intellectual esotericism. All of this at the same time their Orthodox competitors were boiling down the complexities of the faith so that the humblest peasant could grasp it. Kind of a no-brainer who was going to win that struggle.

But there are moments when the Gnostic message is expressed in plain and simple language, cutting through the fog of allegory like a knife through tofu. The Gnostic Gospel of Thomas (a so-called "Sayings Gospel") is one example of this, as is The Hymn of Judas Thomas the Apostle in the Country of the Indians- better known as The Hymn of the Pearl- which tells the story of a prince who is sent on a mission by his father and along the way forgets his true (or secret) identity. The king sends a giant talking eagle to remind the prince of his true identity and guide his way back home.

Ironically, it would be modern day Geeks who would make sense of the clashing complexities of their ancient forerunners and bring Gnosticism- or a pop variant thereof- in the mainstream. As we've seen, Gnosis was in the bloodstream of 20th Century American pop culture and reached a kind of apotheosis in the original Star Trek. But it would be The Matrix- which began life as a comic-book formatted pitch- that would spark popular interest in Gnosticism, even if just for a very brief time.

The comic book connection is important, because there's something inherently and profoundly Gnostic about superhero universes. Sci-Fi- of which superheroes form a distinct subgenre- is also about salvation through knowledge.

The secret identity is a fundamentally Gnostic conceit, particularly when that false identity recasts the hero as humble or weak figure. The world may see Peter Parker as a bumbling, awkward AV nerd, but that's merely an illusion. Gnosis transformed him. You can go up and down the list of superheroes and sci-fi heroes to see this Gnostic impulse in action, and the tremendous appeal it has to hardcore fans, many of whom are seen by the world as a bunch of Peter Parker's, Clark Kent's and Barbara Gordon's.

But there's Gnostic and then there's Astro-Gnostic. Gnosticism has often been watered down by the schoolmarm impulse of polite pop culture analysis but AstroGnosticism is a different matter entirely. AstroGnosticism crosses over in the world of High Weirdness, where the world of metaphor and allegory is gleefully tossed over the railing and questions that the world wants to ignore are answered with a sense of wild abandon.

We looked at a variant on the AstroGnostic identity a while back (the short story "The Stalkers", illustrated by the great Alex Toth) but since 2012 has been about rediscovering Jack Kirby's work prior to the dawn of the Marvel Age, it should be no surprise that a far more faithful retelling of The Hymn of the Pearl should have emerged from the drafting table of pop culture's greatest and most influential Gnostic.

Rewriting ancient scripture in an AstroGnostic context was par for the course to the King. He used the extremely unlikely forum of Devil Dinosaur- essentially a pitch for an animated Saturday morning cartoon- to rewrite the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. That story featured a pair of protohominid apes and a malfunctioning alien computer.

His God portfolio was Gnostic to the core, depicting a detached Monad turning his back on his creation. And in stories and illustrations throughout his career he recast angels and demons as aliens, expressing an explicit take of Ancient Astronaut Theory in his stories some ten years before Chariots of the Gods? hit the stands.

He and Stan Lee seemed to spend a lot of time discussing alien dimensions, since it was all over their stories from the time Kirby rejoined Marvel full-time, following on the heels of Kirby's pre-Marvel work. Kirby continued on with the theme up until the very end of his career, not only with the final Fourth World stories (the New Gods et al were interdimensional aliens) but also his late-period series, Captain Victory (which was appropriated by James Cameron's Aliens) and Silver Star (which was appropriated by NBC's Heroes).

Then there's this story, which very much has the feeling of Lee/Kirby collaboration. In it, a man desperately seeks help for recurring nightmares featuring a typical Kirby monster of the period. Like many of Lee and Kirby's monster yarns, the text is a lot more interesting than the sensationalistic cover graphics might lead to believe.

After telling his story to an ER doctor, the man is finally sedated. His dream begins with a childhood revery- riding on a roller coaster. That soon turns to terror, as the demon appears once again and abducts him from the ride.

But the demon is fact an angel- an interdimensional robot sent to retrieve the man from the hell that is Earth. Just like in The Matrix, an evil Demiurge created Earth to torture the king. A spell of forgetfulness was cast, erasing the king's true memory of his identity and his home. Exactly as in The Hymn of the Pearl.

Besides a Gnostic parable, this story is also an alien abduction narrative, told a number of years before the Hill drama came to light. But the story is turned in on itself- the true abduction was that undertaken by the Demiurge/sorcerer, who cast the King down into this world of illusion as a form of torture.
Heady stuff, but par for the course for Kirby's work following his split with Joe Simon. And one constant theme- beside the UFOs, AAT and other-dimensional realities-- was this whole concept of telepathic communication with alien beings, yet another life-long obsession with the King. And of course the most startling example of this theme was his astonishing photo-collage fumetti, "Children of the Flaming Wheel" (from Spirit World #1).

I'm finding that the closer I look at Kirby's post-Simon, pre-Fantastic Four era, the more astonishing the stories seem. All the more so given how obscure most of the stories are today (and were at the time, come to think of it).

I don't think it all would have the same impact had I not immersed myself in the High Weird World, and most fans tend to ignore or gloss over this period. It reminds of how many X-Files fans totally dismiss the early-season alien walk-in ep, 'Space', which I thought at the time was the coolest damn thing I'd seen on TV, having read about the themes explored in it in the context of the Highly Weird.

Similarly, I also immersed myself in Kirby's generally unloved 80s work, since it worked quite nicely with my daily sacrament at the time. Of course, I wasn't alone in that, re: the aforementioned Aliens and Heroes swipes.

But there's something quite Gnostic about diving into the obscure depths of a pop culture creator's work and coming away with pearls...

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Astronaut Theology: "Half-Billion Miles from Earth..."

In 1960, the powerful Washington think tank The Brookings Institute released a white paper which included a section on UFOs and ETs, outlining a number of various scenarios for poltical and military leaders should contact ever occur. Brookings was pessimistic about such an event, noting that societies don't tend to react favorably when confronted with a superior technological advancement.

Given what we now know about the vast distances between stars and the limitations of space travel, chances are good- in my opinion, at least- that any contact we might have might be with something much more exotic than interstellar neighbors, perhaps even some kind of interdimensional contact (given the energy requirements involved, traversing between dimensions from a fixed point might well be more feasible than drifting through several light years of space).

But Brookings felt that the more likely possibility was discovery of an earlier civilization within our own solar system, either native or transient:
It is conceivable that there is semi- intelligent life in some part of our solar system or highly intelligent life which is not technologically oriented, and many cosmologists and astronomers think it very likely that there is intelligent life in many other solar systems. While face-to-face meetings with it will. not occur within the next twenty years (unless its technology is more advanced than ours, qualifying it to visit earth), artifacts left at some point in time by these life forms might possibly be discovered through our space activities on the Moon, Mars, or Venus.
This was the basis of 2001: A Space Odyssey, in which the discovery of an alien artifact leads to a coverup. That in turn was inspired by Arthur C. Clarke's short story 'The Sentinel', one of several stories working that theme.

Some researchers have speculated that these artifacts have indeed already been found (on Cydonia, for instance) and what we've been seeing over the past 30+ years is a two-pronged approach to preparing the public for disclosure of an otherworldly civilization; relentless ridicule by scientists and the media accompanied by a steady diet of ancient astronaut/alien themes in films, TV shows, video games and so on.

For my part, I'd say it was unlikely that the authorities would ever want to disclose anything that disturbs our present understanding of history or threatens their worldwide crowd control project, religious fundamentalism. But I'm not married to that. And there was Ridley Scott's relentlessly hyped Prometheus, wasn't there?

Now there was a stray line in Prometheus, utter by Charlize Theron's character- one that got the nipples of twiddleheads like Phil Plait and Neil De Grasse Tyson in a right old twist- that led me to wonder this afternoon if it weren't a gross computational error (these films pay scientific consultants big dollars to catch these kinds of things) but a clue as to what the film is really all about. A clue that we can draw a line from it, to the NASA-sponsored Mission to Mars, back to 2001.

It's when she mentions being a "half-billion miles away from Earth." As Tyson mentioned, that would put the mission somewhere in the vicinity of Jupiter. I don't expect Tyson or the rest to understand secret code or hidden messages, but certainly all of you out there do. And pray tell- what famous alien contact narrative took place outside the orbit of Jupiter?

Oh, that one. Right.

What's even more interesting to me is how similar so much of what we see in Prometheus is to Mission to Mars, certainly a film that most Hollywood producers wouldn't seek to emulate. Of course, it's all told in the context of a horror story, but the elements of the holographic history lessons and the 3D space map are all there, quite incongruously.

Then of course there's also the giant alien sending its DNA to Earth, which we see in the beginning of Prometheus. Now, most scientists believe that Mars' magnetic field was destroyed half a billion years ago, due to an asteroid impact. Is that another clue? A double entendre to what critics dismiss as a gross error? We'll get to that in a minute...

Given that the action in the film takes place in a giant space ship underneath the surface of a moon, I can't help but think of the search for life on Jovian moons such as Europa, which played such a crucial role in 2010: Odyssey Two.

And that story climaxed with the ignition of Jupiter† as a new sun, Lucifer, which is not a name (and appears in no Bible translation at all until the King James Version) but a title meaning the "Light-Bringer," which is what role Prometheus the Titan played in Greek mythology, having stolen fire from the gods to bring to humanity.

I was thinking about those Martian giants today in context of the final scene in Prometheus when Mary Magdalene and John the, Elizabeth and David take off for the Engineer's homeworld. Of course, all this interstellar travel would take decades, if not centuries, in the real world so you can't help but wonder what planet they're steaming towards in the decoded version.

A lot of people have dismissed Zechariah Sitchin's Nibiru theories- and the man was no astrophysicist- claiming the impossibility of life on such a far-flung planet. Plus, it doesn't even exist anyway, so there. But we keep hearing stories of something out there- and it's a good light year or so to the edge of the solar system, and there are theories of brown dwarfs and moons and the rest. One thing you can be sure of with science is that we know now is almost certainly going to be rewritten later.

But I couldn't help but think again that a truly advanced race- say, a race of former Martians who saw their beautiful paradise of a world blown to shit by some passing spacejunk- might take very seriously the danger of our cosmic neighborhood and realize that longterm survival meant getting the hell out of the way of the Sun's gravity, which is always dragging all that dangerous crap towards it.

We can't imagine a truly advanced race, past a sci-fi level. But a truly advanced race might see the past couple of thousand years since historians were recording them bounding around the Earth's surface a friggin' blip in their concept of time. And given that the so-called Face (with all its symmetry and right angles) is about a mile long, they probably wouldn't have our concept of space, either.

And funny how NASA spends all its time excoriating Face theorists and the like but has no problem underwriting a film about it.

And, of course, the promo art for Prometheus also features a face, one remarkably similar to Jack Kirby's 1958 'Face on Mars'*. That story too featured a holographic history lesson about giants and planetary destruction, and it's a very good bet that Kubrick and Clarke read the comic while working on their film.

In light of all of these connections, I think there's a very good chance indeed that that "half a billion miles" wasn't some gross error, but was in fact a wink and a nod pertaining to Jupiter. I can't help but think of Robert Temple's offhand remark some time ago that the merpeople (or Nommo) of the Dogon religion were out there in hibernation around one of the gas giants.

Are there specific people to whom that "error" was a wink and a nod? There seem to be an awful lot of people in Hollywood who are interested in AAT, including many of the biggest names behind the camera. What do they know and how do they know it?

*For some reason I just put together the fact that the inker on the story (the artist who created the finished art from Kirby's pencil drawings) was Al Williamson, who was my Narrative Art teacher at The Joe Kubert School, which was my first class on Monday mornings. I remembered this after thinking back on Joe, who died this summer (as did the brother of the director of Prometheus).

† Cheers to Liz for the correction. I obviously had the Brotherhood of Saturn weighing heavily on my mind while writing this...

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

The Exegesis: Synchronicity, Semiotics and All-Seeing Eyes

Synchronicity is a wonderful and powerful thing. If you work with it, it works with you.

Working with Synchronicity requires a high degree of rigor and discernment, of separating the big fish from the guppies
. But eventually you will reach a genuine shift in consciousness- you will realize that mind is not brain, as Jeff Kripal says, and that there are forces at work that utterly mock our reductionist models of consensus reality.

The most powerful synchronicities in my life are mine alone. Explaining them is usually difficult, often impossible. It took me a long time to separate signal from noise, genuine sync from simple coincidence (which is often fun, but not nearly as utilitarian). So I don't bother trying to explain them to the uninitiated. And I really recommend that you do the same. Rigorous analysis gives you all the confidence you need; you don't have to seek validation from other sources.

Synchronicity often comes in waves, often tied to astrological influence for some unknown reason. It sounds rather counterintuitive but I notice syncs will heat up during MercRet phases. I don't know that much about Astrology per se- which is to say I tend to stumble around a lot and pay attention only to major trends or when a number of astrologers agree (which most of them don't) on a certain phase.

But I do very much agree with Jung's appraisal that Astrology is linked closely to Synchronicity. That the planets themselves are not necessarily influencing us but the subtle, repeating rhythms of nature can be marked by their movements, much like ancient navigators used the stars to chart their way.
I use Synchronicity the same way. Recently I've been experimenting with The Alchemical Tarot (I'm as much a bumbler with the Tarot as I am with Astrology) as a synchronistic tool and finding remarkable-- nearly impossible-- patterns emerge.

Cards repeatedly showing in spreads, seemingly beyond random probability, and in combinations that seem not to describe the future, but the god-damned morass I've been plumbing through (the same damn sword cards keep popping up) lately. In other words, using it for diagnostic means and not prophetic ones. That to me seems to fall under the same influences that govern Synchronicity.

A several key points in my life Synchronicity has popped up and helped me make difficult decisions that only in hindsight seem inevitable. I found that that by narrowing my focus and not hunting for correspondences, they'll come to you. I also came to realize that Synchronicity isn't always pleasant-- it can upset you, and force you out of comfortable ruts, just like what happened one sunny Tuesday morning eleven Septembers ago when I thought I was on top of the world.

All that being said, the sync I've been mulling over recently is pretty minor in the grand scheme of things (and not nearly as gratifying as the Rev. Moon death sync). In and of itself, that is.

The day after I had poured out my disgust over the Olympic scaremongering (and profit-driven fearporn in general), I got my copy of The Jack Kirby Omnibus Vol 1. This was a typical sync in that I ordered it off Ebay (and got it for an amazing price, thank you very much) but the tracking information had gone blank and I had no idea where it was in transit. It arrived Saturday morning (less than 24 hours after the Olympic post) and I made a delightful discovery-- there was a story in there that I had never seen.

In fact, it was a story I hadn't heard of before (this is a period in Kirby's career fans generally ignore). It's called 'The All-Seeing Eye' and is a rather startling little tale about a journalist who is entrusted with an ancient artifact (the eye of the title) which allows him to, well, remote view.

The writer uses it to break stories and report crimes to the cops. But a gang of clever thieves catch on to the Eye and try to steal it from him to help in their scams. After their plan is foiled the newspaperman, being an honest fellow, decides that the Eye is too powerful to be allowed to fall into the hands of crooks or worse, so he hitches a ride out into the ocean and drops the Eye in the drink.

The story is not a world-beater but it tied right into what animated my post the night before- how crooks and thieves are misusing symbology (All-Seeing Eye spotting is like a religion to these types) to whip up fear and rake in profits.

Cryptosemiotics was once the province of a tiny handful of USENET weirdos but once profiteers like lifelong Naval Intelligence asset Bill Cooper got their hands on it it became the basis of an endless right wing witchhunt; brainwashed EvangeliCIAls constantly scouring the mediastream for signs of that dastardly Illuminati Goldstein and his devilish symbol trickery, while their jobs are exported, their savings looted and their homes are foreclosed by real-life villains, not imaginary witches and warlocks.

The story helped put the capper on my cryptosemiotic work- at least publicly. I realize that I don't want to do anything more to feed this madness, even though my interest- my obsession- over the past few years largely became centered on ignoring all the secret society flooferoo and trying to glean what these symbols originally meant. But there are too many people walking on the edge of the volcano out there and when they fall they usually take innocent people with them. I don't ever want that on my conscience.

I did cryptosemiotic work via email for years before launching this blog. But that was before I realized how empty and meaningless-- not to mention utterly garbled-- most of the symbolism you see out there is and what a near-total waste of time it is looking for it. I realize that now. Fun for email, message boards, FB groups? Sure. Worth much more than that? Absolutely not.

I can say with utter confidence now that it doesn't ever go anywhere but in endless circles, and my creeping suspicion over the past couple of years that it was all being put out there to divert people from real issues is now a bedrock conviction.

The utter economic devastation we see all across the world proves once and for all what the real issues were and are, and in a better world the people who wasted our time chasing phantoms- or wasting a second worrying about Lady Gaga- would face real consequences for their actions.

Which is not to say there isn't value in cryptosemiotics- there very much is. But it's kind of like a chainsaw or a gun- it can do a lot of damage in the wrong hands. And at this point, that's mostly what it's in.

But bringing it back to the beginning here, Syncs tend to cluster around potent symbols, so it's well worth your time to familiarize yourself with them. But I would recommend that you stop worrying about things you will never have any control over and learn what symbols tend to recur through your own life. In that, a serious study of cryptosemiotics is useful as it gets. After a while, you'll lose that narcisstic paranoia and get down to reverse-engineering the hidden architecture of reality as it exists in your own psychic neighborhood.

I finally understand the obsession with secrecy and so on with some of these old esoteric groups. They understood how the stupid and venal tend to shit not only their own beds but everyone else's if they think there's a buck to be made. But at the same time secrecy has a distorting effect and can lead to its own kind of sins, sins that can ultimately consume the host. History is filled with esoteric rebels who became exoteric dictators.

For now, you just have to get used to the fact that if you choose to hack the reality-consensus mainframe, you're going to arouse opposition among the simpletons, whether the materialist/reductionist Left or the witch-hunting/cryptofascist Right. Them's the breaks.

But I think the best approach for the time being is openness and honesty, as well as a pure heart and an open eye. As well as the realization if that knuckleheads like Alex Jones or Mark Dice understand- or even recognize- a sign or symbol, it's probably not worth your time.

UPDATE: Speaking of syncs and such, I can't believe I forget to mention this one- the fam and I took a few days to drive up to my old stomping grounds of Innsmouth and Arkham (that's 'Gloucester' and 'Salem' for the civilians) and had a lovely time. We capped it all off with a delicious meal on the patio of the local Chinese restaurant, which gave us a great view of the streetlife (dogs- lots of dogs).

At the end of the meal the waitress brought the bill and the cookies. At first I pushed aside mine but then I thought where else could I possibly get an effective fortune than in Witch City, USA (in the shadow of Samantha Stevens, no less)?

This certainly fit the bill, right down to a T. Doubly so given the immediate view to my left. Gave me a ray of light in what have been some dark days lately...

Monday, September 03, 2012

Sync Log: The Moon Goes Out

Timing is everything. Shortly after I was writing and talking about the Evangelical movement, real mind control and the CIA, the Reverend Sun Myung Moon- perhaps the most important figure in the entire story- passes from this world and takes his rightful place in the next. I think you can probably guess where I believe that is.

The Reverend Moon was an impossibly wealthy and powerful man, with business holdings all across the world. His organization has a huge stake in the sushi and ginseng markets, so bear that in mind next time you go shopping. He was deeply embedded in the Dominionist Right, which just goes to prove that politics makes for strange bedfellows.

When the first stage of the Evangelical program- the television rock star Evangelist stage- ran aground thanks to the Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker scandals (not to mention some untoward scams from preachers like Oral "God will call me home" Roberts and others), it was the Reverend Moon's deep pockets that saved the day, and allowed the program to be phased out without too much damage done to the larger agenda. Moon later bailed Falwell's Liberty University out of its financial black hole as well.

The Reverend Moon also was key to in helping to create what is now a massive and highly lucrative hard right-wing media infrastructure when he created The Washington Times in 1982 and bought out the UPI wire service in 2000.

The Times never has overshadowed its crosstown rival The Post and has been plagued by links to extremist groups, but it set an example for networks like Fox News and the countless right-wing talk show hosts on the radio, all of whom not only rake in a lot more cash than their liberal competition, but have dominated the public political agenda in Washington since the 1994 Congressional Elections.

The fact that so many major Neoconfederate racists and Dominionist nutjobs in the Religious Right were so willing to kiss Moon's ring is astonishing, given that he saw himself as the messiah, declared Jesus' ministry to be a failure, held bizarre coronation rituals for himself, wanted crucifixes removed from churches and held mass race-mixing marriage ceremonies over the years.

Or maybe not. Moon's pockets were seemingly bottomless and his Unification Church was/is an incredibly useful laboratory for the brainwashing techniques that are being perfected in Evangelical and Pentecostal churches across the world. Techniques that bypass the rational mind, manipulate the atavistic brain functions and develop powerful neural addictions among hard-core believers.

And it's all being used to steer the believer to accepting Republican Party tenets as gospel truth. In fact, many churches spend the majority of their time indoctrinating their followers into a purely political agenda, throwing in scattered Bible verses to lend it all an air of authority. And Reverend Moon was one of the key figures in this new form of worship.

I was thinking the other day about when exactly the American worker's death warrant was signed and I realized it was when Nixon made his famous trip to China. It was all sold as a great mission of peace, but it was really about creating a new labor force for American corporations. It's no accident that the Religious Right program was unrolled under Nixon, and perhaps it all would have been a lot worse without Watergate.

A story which was broken by Moon's hated Washington Post.

UPDATE: Former Moonie on the Church:

'Moonies don't believe in democracy'

"We tried to investigate the Moonies," he said. "They don't believe in democracy. It's a Hitler-esque kind of organisation which wants to take over the world.

"After the Jonestown tragedy [in which 913 members of the Peoples Temple, a religious organisation led by radical preacher Jim Jones, died in 1978] I started to study psychological influence techniques, methods of persuasion, mind control and indoctrination to develop new exit counselling methods."

He became professionally interested in the field of social psychology, studying techniques cults use "to take away free will from people".

In his 1988 book "Combating Cult Mind Control," Hassan came up with a model of mind control or brainwashing, known as the BITE model.

According to him, the four components of mind control are Behaviour, Information, Thought and Emotional control. Cults forcibly recruit members using an extensive range of techniques, including "systematic deception, behaviour modification, withholding of information and emotionally intense persuasion techniques".