Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Secret Sun Guide to the X-Files Mythology, Part 2

4x01 Herrenvolk (Carter)

Chris: Jeremiah Smith takes Mulder to a secret farm in which clones of abducted children raise bees for the alien apocalypse. Meanwhile, Mulder's mother gets on the Mythology Hospital-Go-Round and a new Deep Throat emerges, this one being young, beautiful and blonde (played by Laurie Holden). A great teaser, and a great death scene for a departing supporting character whose actor was off to star in his own series but not much else. The detour to the bee farm holds some startling imagery but is extremely confusing and anti-climactic to say the least.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Secret Sun Guide to the X-Files Mythology, Part 1

Many people are rediscovering The X-Files with the advent of streaming services like Hulu and Netflix. It's no suprise; in many ways, the series is more relevant than ever.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Highly Strange Cinema: Wavelength (1983)

I'm not quite sure how it happened, but somewhere in the course of my wanderings I came across this strange interview from the Project Camelot site. It wasn't from the Dying NASA Scientist, but close- it was from a physicist who claimed to work at Lawrence Livermore National Labs in California. In it, he made this rather startling claim:
What can you tell us about the ET presence?
Look up the movie Wavelength. It’s based on a totally true story. Have you seen it? It's based on an incident that took place at Hunter Liggett. This is a hot one.

You shot down a disk?
[shaking head] We should never have done it. It wasn't me personally, but the group did. Between us we had all this gizmo weaponry and I guess they panicked and thought they were in a movie or something. The disk was disabled and it was captured, and so were the occupants, and I saw these very briefly. They were small child-like humanoids, with no hair. And they had small eyes, not large almond-shaped eyes. I don’t think anyone knows about this. As far as I know its not on the internet.

This is incredible. I've never heard of this incident.
 Most of the other witnesses ended up in Vietnam and many were killed. I may be the only living witness to what happened... I dont know. The rest of the story is in a sci-fi movie called Wavelength, which was released in the early '80s. Id never heard of it until I ran into it years later, in Arizona. Did I just say this? [laughs, for the first time]When I saw the video, I was expecting some, you know, light entertainment with a beer or two, but I mean, my mouth just hung wide open. The beginning of the film just completely clearly and accurately describes the incident, and the film is very close to the rest of the story, including the use of an abandoned Nike base in Southern California to store them. Go find it. Its all basically true. I was just amazed when I saw it. The person who wrote it must have been there, or knew someone who was there. But I don’t know who.

I'd never heard of the film Wavelength, which is strange since I had my ear quite low to the ground in 1983, being a regular Starlog reader. It probably never got released in the Boston area. It was an independent film, shot in 1981 but not released until the middle of 1983. Critics at the time compared to E.T., but it could be not less similar. 

After re-watching the film and doing some research, I would most definitely say it was based on a true story, one that's popped up in allegorical form in some other venues, including The X-Files. But although it does have something to do with aliens and the area around Hunter Liggett, I would venture to guess it has nothing to do with a crashed flying saucer or recovered alien pilots. Rather it has to do with a dark and disgraceful chapter in postwar America...

Wavelength was written by Mike Gray, a writer and political activist better known for his nonfiction and documentary work. Having earned a degree in aeronautical engineering from Perdue (that's Gus Grissom's alma mater, for those of you keeping score at home), Gray also worked for Aviation Age and later went into advertising. In Chicago he formed a film group that began producing commercials but soon began making highly-charged political documentaries.

Gray's group made documentaries on the protests at the 1968 Democratic National Convention as well as the murder of Black Panther Fred Hampton. These earned him some unwelcome attention from the Chicago Police, encouraging his migration to Los Angeles. Gray was also highly critical of drug war policy and wrote about its negative effects on the country up until his death for magazines such as Rolling Stone.

His biggest brush with notoriety came when the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant experienced a highly Synchronistic meltdown just two weeks after the release of his very 1970s conspiracy film The China Syndrome, which depicted a similar event at a fictional plant in Los Angeles.

What was so remarkable about that film is how it depicted media manipulation- the whistleblower was painted as a nut and a drama queen and when a reporter tries to defend him, her signal is cut. But Gray wasn't merely lucky- as an engineer, he had based his script on serious research of the shortcomings of nuclear power plant design.

Gray later produced The Rocket Pilots, a 1981 TV documentary on aviation where Gray used his connections to the aerospace industry to score some eye-catching money footage at Edwards Air Force Base.

It was immediately following the making of that film that his focus took a very, very sharp turn leading to the making of Wavelength. Gray later insisted that it was not inspired by an actual UFO crash and retreival operation and I believe him.

That doesn't mean I don't believe that Wavelength wasn't based on real life events of an extremely weird nature.

Wavelength is a very dark and angry film, made in a semi-documentary style. It's very much more The X-Files than it is E.T. or Close Encounters. It's also very much in keeping with Gray's nonfiction work in tone, which leads you to wonder exactly what it is he is trying to tell us here.

His aliens are played by young boys with shaved heads and body stockings, who Gray goes out of his way to depict as being vulnerable and preyed upon in the "Hollywood underground." Most fans see it as cost-cutting (one reviewer said "Gray spared every expense" in making the film) but I see it as a statement.

As Gray later told it, he'd been living in the Hollywood Hills near an abandoned Nike site, near his friend Robert Carradine and actually knew a real life prospector named Dan. He just tossed this all together and came up with the script. Voila. Just like that. He had wanted Kaki Hunter as the female lead but the producer insisted on Cheri Currie instead.

Carradine plays a struggling musician living in- where else- Laurel Canyon, ground zero of the soft rock scene that doused the rebellious flames of the late 60s.  Crosby, Stills and Nash, Joni Mitchell,  Jackson Browne, Carole King, James Taylor, Linda Ronstadt, the Flying Burrito Brothers, America, and the Eagles all emerged from the Canyon in the early 70s, releasing all those peaceful, easy records that drove me and others like me screaming into the arms of hardcore punk by the end of the decade. 

Strangely enough, many of these singers came from military families, particularly from families involved in military intelligence. Perhaps this isn't so remarkable given that their fathers all came of age during the largest military mobilization in the history of civilization, or that military intelligence often meant writing songs for Armed Forces Radio or drawing cartoons for leaflets to be dropped over occupied cities, but the confluence of events remains rather curious nonetheless.

Either way, it sets us back into the 70s rather than the early 80s when everyone in LA was playing skinny tie New Wave (which I have no doubt Gray was all too aware of). Anyhow, after a run-in with a greedy producer, Carradine drowns his sorrows in a local bar where he meets Cherie Currie.

Our struggling soft rocker's bungalow overlooks an ostensibly abandoned military installation, which upon closer inspection turns out to be not so abandoned after all. One night Currie (I'm not going to bother with the character names) is awoken from his bed by voices in her head, voices that almost sound like forlorn whales. Not wanting his mellow harshed, the soft rocker dismisses it all.

Keenan Wynn enters the picture, playing a character so unlikely he can only be a metaphor- a gold prospector working the Hollywood Hills (Gray later claimed he was based on a real person!). What becomes clear is that he is Gray's stand-in for an old-time Hollywood biz figure- he brags that he help build the tunnels for the military installation beneath the City of Dreams.

Wynn does the old, loveable Katz' Deli curmudgeon riffs to the hilt and makes one wonder if he isn't a stand-in for a old exec who schooled the newly-arrived Gray on just nasty Hollywood could get "underground"(Gray did mention some producers who mentored him but their names escape me at the moment- he was very close with the Douglas family).

Because when Carradine and Currie get underground they find a huge secret installation that is torturing captured aliens who -again- are played by young, vulnerable boys.

The black ops team soon discover that Currie can communicate with the aliens so she is hooked up to all kinds of equipment where she reads their minds. The only problem is that the aliens starting killing off their captors. And that's all I'm going to tell you- go watch the rest on YouTube.


Now let's unpack some of this.

When told of the Project Camelot theories on a radio interview, Gray explained he came up with the idea for Wavelength during a vacation to Big Sur sent him through Hunter Liggett Military Reservation on the way back (probably wanting to avoid the nauseating Pacific Coast Highway) where he just happened to daydream about lasers and UFOs and so on. 

First of all, where did Gray go during his stay in Big Sur? There are some bed and breakfasts there of course but there's also Esalen, then a hotspot for the Hollywood glitterati.
At the time Gray had his brainstorm for Wavelength, Esalen was under the spell of one Jenny O' Connor, a voluptuous young British woman who Esalen co-founder Dick Price under her thumb, so much that she was soon calling the shots there, while crediting all of her decisions to the alleged spacegods known as The Nine. 

The Nine were affiliated with one-time CIA mad scientist Andrija Puharich, or were his creation, depending on whose story you believe.  Puharich was on the outs with his old employers for losing his marbles in public with the Uri Geller book, and was having a run of bad luck (the people burning his house down and trying to kill him kind of bad luck) so I'm not exactly sure who was running The Nine at the time (possibly Sir John Whitmore).

The Nine were also connected to Gene Roddenberry, who took their money for a screenplay he never wrote. But with The Nine any connection at all- no matter how tenuous- seems to have a weird resonance, which we'll see a few years after Wavelength.

Hunter Liggett is on the grounds of an old Spanish mission which has a very long history of UFO sightings, including sightings of "flying ghosts" sighted by Indians dating back to the early 1700s.

Big Sur itself is no stranger to UFO weirdness. So it's not surprising that this trip should change the course of Gray's career for several years.

But not his basic nature; Wavelength is not a hippy-dippy space brother film. It's an angry fulisade against the military-industrial complex's abuse of American citizens, particularly children, which I believe Gray folded in with the abuse of children that is a grim fact of life in the Hollywood underground. Hence the film is literally set underneath Hollywood itself.


What's more it is a direct indictment of the MK Ultra program- which a radical like Gray was most certainly aware of- and I believe also an indictment of stories Gray heard of an continuation of the program taking place on secret black bag installations. 

I can't possibly understate the importance of this. If you look at Gray's body of work before and after Wavelength, it is unmistakably political and activist; writing books, articles and policy papers against the war on drugs and the death penalty in particular. He also wrote a serious work on the Space Race, so serious that it was a featured selection on the Skeptically Speaking booklist.

And here he is writing and directing a serious, angry and politically charged movie about aliens. Not a studio film, mind you, something he did just for the bucks, but an independent film financed by Maurice Rosenfield, a lawyer best-known for creating the class-action lawsuit.

Let's go to the shots in which Gray tells us what he's really talking about here.

Directly after the shot above, in which the two black bag head shrinkers watch Carradine on a hidden camera, Gray flashes to this Code of Conduct. Some of you may be aware that the original selling point of MK Ultra was reports that captured US soldiers had low escape attempt percentages due to secret brainwashing techniques.

That was the pitch- I don't believe that was actually the point of the program. I think it was infinitely more bizarre than that. Only an idiot thinks you can control anything when someone is on LSD. And these people were not idiots. Evil, but not stupid.

Gray reinforces the connection later by showing Currie standing in front of these plaques as well.

And the headshrinker running the show here is one "Benjamin Stern", who I think you will agree is a dead ringer for MK Ultra ringleader Sidney Gottlieb.

According to his biography, Gottlieb retired in 1972,  declaring his work to be a failure, and dedicated the remaining years of his life to goat farming and caring for lepers.

Yeah. I'm thinking that's probably not the way it went.

According to some theories, after MK Ultra ended (meaning ended its experimental phase, and began its field-testing phase under Evangelical cults such as the Jesus People and Jim Jones' Peoples Temple), Gottlieb went from bad to weird. Getting seed money from CIA Director Richard Helms, Gottlieb allegedly began Operation Often, a project that would eventually explore the fringes of the occult, parapsychology and UFOs.

I'm thinking the truth is somewhere in between. That with the Evangelical program in the MK ascendancy Gottlieb did some freelancing here and there, probably mostly in the black budget world where the real action was.  And was most likely was involved in this psychotronic experiment that ended up in people getting killed, for whatever reason.

What's more, another doctor is called in, a British doctor who's a ringer for MK Ultra vampire Ewan Cameron. Gray shows some of Cameron's techniques in action on the "aliens" here- isolation, sensory deprivation, induced coma.

As I said, I believe Gray was rolling in stories he heard about post-Ultra experiments with stories he was hearing about producers preying on underage children, so in a remarkable stroke of unambiguous symbolism he has his essentially naked boys escape from the underground right under the Hollywood sign. 

Why do I believe Dan is a producer and not a prospector? The first thing Currie does when she sees him is scream, "DON'T TOUCH THEM!!!!" Being the good guy, Dan is confused but curmudgeonly affable.

The fact that the "aliens" are taken home to the Mojave Desert leads me to believe their real-life counterparts were Navajo or Hopi children abducted by this post-Ultra op for their perceived psychic powers. We see this when they take part in a ceremony by the Native Americans who help them escape. 

But it also raises questions about the nature of MK Ultra itself, questions I think have not been properly answered. I think its goals were a lot weirder that simple mind control, which after all was much more efficiently executed by television and religion.


Nick Redfern's book Final Events begins with a story told by a priest named Ray Boeche, who was also involved in the murky world of UFOlogy. He claims he was approached by two men who worked for the Department of Defense in 1991, who were concerned about the work being done in the field of psychotronic warfare. They claimed that black project groups were getting involved in heavy occult activity and seeking to contact NHEs, or non-human entities, which they intended to weaponize.

It sounds like the kind of bullshit you'd chalk up to religious hysteria- and in truth it's all coated with all the usual kinds of nonsense about Crowley and the rest (which even Michael S. Heiser finds absurd), almost certainly for disinfo purposes. Except in this case, Boeche was shown a series of photographs of the catastrophic results of one of these experiments.
Information given, but not allowed to note during meeting: Discussion of individuals killed during psychotronic weapons experiments.
1. Male, white, 25-30 yrs., allegedly death by remotely induced cardiac arrest.
2. Female, white, 20-25 yr., allegedly death by remotely transmitting and creating head trauma equivalent to crushing of right anterior portion of the skull. 
3. Male, white, 30-40 yrs., allegedly death by remotely controlled suffocation. 
Setting was in a laboratory environment. Alleged victims were wired for EEG EKG, seated in reclining chair, somewhat similar to dentist's chair.
Now why do I think this is important in this context?

Well, in the film the same thing happens.

But not in the same kind of Project Blue Beam way, indicating that whoever was passing this to Boeche would be basing it on this incredibly obscure film. More in a way that this event was mostly hushed up but got talked about and showed up in different allegorical treatments, albeit most after Boeche's information had gone wide on the Internet.

But Wavelength was a long time before that. Let's go to the tape again...

"Setting was in a laboratory environment. Alleged victims were wired for EEG/EKG, seated in reclining chair, somewhat similar to dentist's chair."

There's also the fact that one of those allegories was in Taken, where the Cherie Currie role was filled by Dakota Fanning, who would later play Cherie Currie herself in The Runaways film, a fact absolutely no one considered except maybe Currie herself when that role was cast.

So even if I see most of the Collins Elite story as deliberate disinfo being put out there to muddy black project waters with religious flifferoo, I do believe that there was some mind-bendingly horrific event sometime in the 1970s  in which some bizarre attempt to contact alien beings resulted in people getting killed. How exactly is anyone's guess- it could be something as simple as the wacked-out equipment they rigged up for this bondoggle.

But I do think they were using kids- most probably kidnapped or orphaned Native kids- as "mediums" for all of this. That would be par for the course for the Gottlieb/Cameron kind of crowd and might necessitate some bullshit story about Aleister Crowley and the rest being cooked up to muddy the waters in case people talked. That's the kind of thing that would get a Mike Gray pissed off enough to make a feature film about it.

It could be I never heard about Wavelength back in 1983 because it was made clear that it would be better if people didn't know about it.

How do I interpret all of this?
I think that Gray heard stories of the weird shit that black bag groups were up to while he doing his documentary on the rocket planes. I think he also heard a lot of stories about UFOs and other kinds of weird shit from people he very much respected which got him interested in the subject for several years. He also seemed to like to get high so who knows what he ran into down in Big Sur some brilliant starlit night?

Getting back to The Nine, Gray was hired as a writer/producer for the second season of Star Trek: The Next Generation. But the managerial chaos in the writer's room (Roddenberry had set up a situation in which line producer Rick Berman and head writer Maurice Hurley were at odds and couldn't challenge his primacy) drove him away before the end of the season, but not before working on the pivotal episode 'Contagion', with its dimension-jumping "demons of air and darkness." 

It's worth noting that when we finally see a UFO in Wavelength, it's nothing even close to a flying saucer or anything made of nuts and bolts. It's an enormous gateway to another dimension altogether.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Unified Weird Theory Addenda: Astro-Gnosis Redux

Gnosticism is not easily understood, and was intentionally designed that way.

The point was to drape its extremely radical- and weird- messages in layers of allegory and symbol, some of whose definitions are lost to us today. There were also a bewildering number of different expressions of Gnosticism (a term invented after the movement's heyday in the time before Rome's adoption of Christianity as state religion), from strongly Christian groups to pagan-influenced groups who incorporated magic, alchemy and concepts such as the Ogdoad from ancient religions. 

Gnosticism seems to mean whatever anyone wants it to mean these days. Right-wing Christians from conspiratainment extremists to mushy moderates like the New York Times' Ross Douthat use the term to attack and vilify their opponents within the Church, a rhetorical practice dating back to the earliest "church fathers." Often you see people on the left and right throwing the term Gnostic around willy-nilly to describe (and therefore denigrate) everything from squishy liberalism to Nazism to Maoism and everything in between.

It's not as if there isn't a huge corpus of excellent material on the topic out there. It's easy to get lost in the highways and byways of Gnostic codebreaking and the rich, roiling atmosphere of second-century Alexandria: the most-definitely overlapping magisteriums of the Jews, the Christians, the Mysteries, the Buddhists, the pagans, all more alike and influenced by each other than their survivors today would ever want to admit. But one idea set the Gnostics apart from all the rest...
The fundamental difference that separates the Gnostics from their contemporaries is that, for them, their native `soil' is not the earth, but that lost heaven which they keep vividly alive in their memories: they are the autochthons of another world.

Hence their feeling of having fallen onto our earth like inhabitants from a distant planet, of having strayed into the wrong galaxy, and their longing to regain their true cosmic homeland, the luminous hyper-world that shimmers beyond the great nocturnal barrier.

Their uprooting is not merely geographical but planetary.

And to treat them as aliens in the political or civic sense - which is what happened - could be nothing but an absurd misunderstanding, like giving a Martian a temporary residence visa.

For the Gnostics, all men were in the same condition, although they were the only ones who knew it, and the human community as a whole is implicated in this universal exile, this galactic diversion that has caused us to be dumped on the mud of planet earth.

The Gnostics must have felt this exile even more acutely in that they themselves constituted marginal communities, strangers or ‘foreigners' in the narrow sense of the term, in the heart of a whole humanity of foreigners.

Here there was an historical humus which justified the Gnostic feeling of exile, of being a planetary foreigner: `I am in the world but not of the world' is the most basic Gnostic formula.

So the problem is simple, and one begins to understand how the Gnostics saw it: man, then, is a lifelong exile on a planet which is a prison for all mankind; he lives in a body which is a prison for the soul; he is the autochthon of a lost and invisible world.

The Gnostics
by Jacques La Carriere

Owls and eyes, eh? Ancient Gnostic amulet

Eric Vogelin's work is wildly popular with conservatives looking for cudgels and meat-hammers to bash Gnostics, quasi-Gnostics and not-really-Gnostics with, but even so the great German scholar understood the basic heart beating at the core of the ancient heresy:
Of the profusion of gnostic experiences and symbolic expressions, one feature may be singled out as the central element in this varied and extensive creation of meaning: the experience of the world as an alien place into which man has strayed and from which he must find his way back home to the other world of his origin.

"Who has cast me into the suffering of this world?" asks the "Great Life" of the gnostic texts, which is also the "first, alien Life from the worlds of light."
It is an alien in this world and this world is alien to it. 

Therefore the question, "Who conveyed me into the evil darkness?" and the entreaty, "Deliver us from the darkness of this world into which we are flung." The world is no longer the well-ordered, the cosmos, in which Hellenic man felt at home; nor is it the Judaeo-Christian world that God created and found good. Gnostic man no longer wishes to perceive in admiration the intrinsic order of the cosmos.

Flying "eyes" have been seen for thousands of years

In the ontology of ancient Gnosticism this is accomplished through faith in the "alien," "hidden" God who comes to man's aid, sends him his messengers, and shows him the way out of the prison of the evil God of this world (be he Zeus or Yahweh or one of the other ancient father-gods).

Eric Vogelin, Collected Works: Science, Politics and Gnosticism

And not all modern right-wingers are anti-scholarly when it comes to Gnosticism. Catholic intellectuals often understand its message, they just realize it's bad for business.
To the Gnostics of old … this world is an immense prison guarded by malevolent powers on high, a place of exile where the fallen and forgetful divine spark dwelling deep within the pneumatikos (the “spiritual man”) languishes in ignorance and bondage, passing from life to life in drugged sleep, wrapped in the ethereal garments of the “souls” it acquired in descending through the planetary spheres, and sealed fast within the coarse involucrum of an earthly body.

The spiritual experience at the heart of the Gnostic story of salvation was, as Hans Jonas puts it, the “call of the stranger God”: a call heard inwardly that awakens the spirit from its obliviousness to its own nature, and that summons it home again from this hostile universe and back again to the divine pleroma—the “fullness”—from which it departed in a time before time.  David Bentley Hart, First Things


Gotta love that saucer section.
One of the primary Gnostic texts-- a generally accepted Creation narrative-- is Hypostasis of the Archons or "Reality of the Rulers." We've looked at it here before but it describes a situation in which emanations from the Godhead or Monad take form and come to know themselves. But one in particular sees himself as superior to the others and creates a false world in which to imprison lower emanations from the Monad, which decrease in spiritual power the further away from the source they are.

This false-creator is variously known as the Demiurge or Ialdoboath of Samael. Who, uh, came from Outer Space...
Their chief is blind; because of his power and his ignorance and his arrogance he said, with his power, "It is I who am God; there is none apart from me." When he said this, he sinned against the entirety. And this speech got up to incorruptibility; then there was a voice that came forth from incorruptibility, saying, "You are mistaken, Samael" - which is, "god of the blind."

His thoughts became blind. And, having expelled his power - that is, the blasphemy he had spoken - he pursued it down to chaos and the abyss, his mother, at the instigation of Pistis Sophia.

And she established each of his offspring in conformity with its power - after the pattern of the realms that are above, for by starting from the invisible world the visible world was invented.

As incorruptibility looked down into the region of the waters, her image appeared in the waters; and the authorities of the darkness became enamored of her....
The rulers laid plans and said, "Come, let us create a man that will be soil from the earth." They modeled their creature as one wholly of the earth.

This Evangelical diagram clearly shows that the Biblical term "waters"
refers to extrasolar outer space, the "firmament" describing our solar system

Of course, reading the Hypostasis of the Archons, with its heavenly hosts of celestial powers, including one who stands up against all the others and creates the Cosmos in the image of a celestial goddess, and the "waters" and then the creation of man, you can't but be reminded of this text, can you?
That he might divide the monster and do artful works.
He split her like a shellfish into two parts:
Half of her he set up and ceiled as sky,
Pulled down the bar and posted guards.
He bade them to allow not her waters to escape.
He crossed the heavens and surveyed (its) regions.
He squared Apsu's quarter, the abode of Nudimmud,
As the lord measured the dimensions of Apsu.
The Great Abode, its likeness, he fixed as Esharra,
The Great Abode, Esharra, which he made as the firmament.
Anu, Enlil, and Ea he made occupy their places. When Marduk hears the words of the gods,
His heart prompts (him) to fashion artful works.
Opening his mouth he addresses EA
To impart the plan he addresses EA
To impart the plan he had conceived in his heart:
"Blood I will mass and cause boned to be.
I will establish a savage, 'man' shall be his name.
Verily, savage man I will create.
He shall be charged with the service of the gods
That they might be at ease! The ways of the gods I will artfully alter.
Though alike revered, into two (groups) they shall be divided."
So it's clear beyond any possible argument that Gnosticism preached a message of alienation, of belonging to another world. Of being higher beings imprisoned in meatsuits.

The question is how literally do we dare take this? Do we keep all this lost in the misty miasma of mysticism, or do we cross-reference with other texts (oh, like, you know, THIS) and a modern understanding of the cosmos and our own history- and cough, cough, DNA-  and see what comes of all that?

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Unified Weird Theory: Why It Matters

When I wrote about the Unified Weird Theory it wasn't based in some impulse to bring together a bunch of pseudo-sciences and quasi-superstitions under one tent.

In fact, it was to redefine these as emanations, mere byproducts of what should be a modern Gnosis. At the very top of it all should be an understanding that the world we are sold is false and illusory. And that we'll take whatever clues we can find to get out of the primeval forest we are drifting further and further into every single moment of every day.

Quite simply put, we don't belong here. There's something about us that is profoundly maladaptive and foreign to this biosphere and we will never feel at home here. All of the great visionaries and gurus have told us so. The problem is that even if their minds and souls were somewhere else, their bodies were right here in the celestial prison camp with everyone else. And as soon as they were safely out of the picture the guards turned everything they ever said around and in on itself.

I don't know if anyone has noticed, but the institutions we once built to try to better the human condition are all falling apart to shit. The news media no longer acts as a watchdog for the people against the powerful. The universities are saddling our kids with crushing debt and handing them often-useless degrees- and toxic, divide-and-rule "identity politics" nonsense- in return. The Technology giants are nothing more than manservants for the national security state, Cyberpunk dreams be damned forever.

The scientific establishment is nothing but a cooing, submissive lapdog for powerful corporate and government interests that spends all of its time yapping at its critics. Yet the evidence continues to pile up that a near majority of scientific work being done today is outright fraud, nonsensical corporate makework. Religions have exposed themselves as political tools for the rich and incubators for sexual predation. And nobody tries to pretend that any attempt to build a grassroots political movement won't be co-opted as soon as it emerges.

The problem is that everything is wrong.

We don't know who we are or why we are here. We are a classic-- definitive--- invasive species on this planet. We are doing terrible harm to the biosphere and to our indigenous neighbors; beautiful, loving, highly-intelligent creatures like the pachyderms, the great apes, the canines, the cetaceans and so on and so forth. We are trying to build a scale model of a world our DNA only half-remembers and can't be imposed on this planet without doing irreversible harm to ourselves and everything else. Never mind the "Green" fantasies- it's worse than that. Crazy worse.

We have to get the fuck off this planet- or at least move the focus of our destructive anti-biosphere lifestyle somewhere else- before it gets sick of us and wipes us all out. We've not been here a eyeblink in its history and it has wiped the slate clean five times already in the past four billion years. It's fixing to do so again but is being kind enough to give us advance warning.

But I'd say we have until the end of this century- at the very outside- before Stepmother begins cleaning house.

While our scientists download porn and torture lab animals for lulz the planet is cooking up new pathogens that our medicines won't be able to touch. We're already seeing the frontiers of our antibiotics- the next phase of planetary germ warfare is about to begin.

So what the hell does weirdness have to do with all this? 

Anomalies are ignored by scientists because they have a nasty habit of doing away with long-held theories. And this present system is if nothing else entirely theoretical. To quote Gibson, it's a hallucination we all decided to have. But it gets more insane every single day. Ask an older relative what they think of it all.

And anomalies and weirdness are the signals that you are living in an illusion. They are the seams in the matte painting, the cop-issue boots on the anarchist, the corporate advertising on the conspiracy site, the knowing wink on Air Force One, the waving Apollo flag. The signs that something is not right, that something is not as it seems.

As are calamities. I'm still sitting here but got three separate sneak previews of Armageddon in the past several months. Sandy was brutal, but the Halloween storm was by far the most life-changing, maybe because it came first. This gentle little snow, so soft and clean- it should've been a lovely day off. Except the trees were fully dressed and couldn't handle the weight. Listening to trees and branches explode- literally like a Fourth of July fireworks show- and realizing there was nothing anyone could do about it- not even the mighty Bill Nye- made me wonder what we do in the event of real disaster.

 Of course, one came the following year. Like the devastation in Oklahoma it was preceded by massive solar unrest, giving lie to the hubristic scientistic delusion that human activity is causing all of this. What they really mean is that we scientists are causing it, because we are the supreme crown of all creation, the greatest expression of the entire universe. And we can stop it too, because we fucking rule. Fuck yeah. High fives.

So please let me tell you once again that the people on the Internet who try to sneer you away from pursuing your own Gnosis- whatever form it may take- have nothing to offer you. Nothing. Their own realities are crumbling around them- don't be caught in the rubble of their illusions. They attack you to take their minds off their own disintegrating holograms.

And now there's a concerted effort in the mainstream media to get you to pay no attention to the man behind the curtain, to lump in questioning anything they happen to be ordered to print with "conspiracy theory" and then to identify the term "conspiracy" with stupidity, which would surely be a surprise to all the prosecutors who file charges of conspiracy every weekday.

It's weak and sloppy but utterly typical. The mainstream media is dying too, having broken faith one too many times with its audience. Everything is falling apart, because everything is built on a lie. Sure, some things are falling apart faster than others, but the Second Law of Thermodynamics holds steady.

I think two things will happen- an overwhelming crisis point is coming soon that will either destroy us or snap us out of our Enlightenment-era delusions. We will reboot the project with an understanding of actual reality, and not a Victorian-era reality that reduces everything there is to chunks that can be cut up, measured and sold. Because that's all that the entirety of human activity is oriented towards in these times.

And if you ask me, that's pretty fucking weird.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Unified Weird Theory: An Introduction

Hey, you wanted weird...

Food preparation is both an art and a science. It's a science because it's about taking certain elements (ingredients) and subjecting them to various processes of measurement and mixing and exposing these to carefully determined levels of heat (sometimes cold) at determined intervals in order to achieve a desired outcome. It's an art because there are all kinds of variables that cookbooks --or even training-- can't account for or predict.

As with a schoolkid's chemistry experiment, you are often dealing with catalytic agents that change the basic nature of the ingredients you are preparing. Drink-mixing-- a related science/art-- is much the same way. My favorite example is the Long Island Iced Tea, in which you take carefully measured portions of various liquors and end up with something remarkably similar to a can of sweetened Iced Tea, something you'd never guess would ever result if you tasted the individual ingredients themselves.

With cooking it's also important to choose the right ingredients in the best available quality. Sometimes you can make magic with inferior ingredients but only sometimes. Bad ingredients can not only ruin a dish, it can also affect your taste not only for that dish but for that type of cuisine. It's a visceral thing, and doesn't respond to the rules of scientific rationalism. Nor does any endeavor that makes life tolerable.

I find it's best to prepare several different types of cuisine. You'll find that your understanding of one will help you better understand the other. I suppose there are people who stick to one kind of cooking- or dining- but I think you'll find that most people enjoy a variety of dishes, often at a single meal. Only one kind of food can get really boring really fast.

And so it is with the World of Weird: you have the paranormal (which includes topics like Synchronicity and remote viewing), fringe science (which includes psychedelic research) and exopolitics (which includes topics like UFOlogy and ancient astronauts). I'll toss in parapolitics into the mix for good measure, since disinformation and manipulation from outside parties is always an issue for anyone who doesn't want to think like a pasty, horn-rimmed gelding with their nose buried in the mainstream media's starfish.

The problem is that too many people plant their flags in one plot or the other (or the other), and zealously lob grenades at their neighbors rather than focusing all of their aggression where it belongs; the defenders of the corrupt establishment.

Hence you see UFO people arguing with paranormal people (although UFO people seem to spend most of their time fighting with each other) and paranormal people arguing with entheogenic researchers and so on and so forth. And of course that guy is a shill and this one is a plant and come to think of it so are you, at least according to the third guy.

But for me, that's not only a waste of energy, it's also extremely short-sighted and self-limiting.

I realize that I might be older than a lot of people reading this and I've been into this stuff since the 70s and certainly have no shortage of weirdness in my bio. But not only do I not think these things are separate and distinct, I very much believe that you really can't have one without the other: that "it" only really works when you put them all together (in the proper formulation, of course). I have come to see all Weirdness as profoundly interconnected and interdependent.

I have my own biases; I don't believe UFOs are spacecraft filled with Reticulan anthropologists and I don't think psychedelic drugs are the key to human evolution (and therefore should be gobbled at will), but I'm more worried about the mindless drones staring at "reality television" (sic) than I am about forcing someone who's interested in any kind of weirdness at all to agree with me.

I also realize that it's no use trying to distance yourself from any of the other Weird phyla in hopes that you'll be seen as respectable by the mainstream. Why? Well, because the elites are creating a world in which even the smallest deviation from their pronouncements, whether through The New York Times or the conservative media, will not be tolerated. Questioning conventional wisdom in any way at all will brand you as a heretic or woowoo or a "conspiracy theorist". So in for a penny, in for a pound.

I've spent more time than any sane person should working on these blogs. For every article I've posted here there have been hours and hours of research and agonizing you don't see, which is why I can't post with the frequency I used to.*

But it hasn't been time wasted because it helped me realize that all these weird interests I had before I started blogging here were all very deeply and profoundly connected, and figuring how exactly has totally changed everything.

The next step is to figure what to do with this realization in a world that is rapidly becoming a real-time sci-fi dystopia. 

I realize that a lot of people want to distance themselves from the UFO question- and looking at the state of modern UFOlogy I really don't blame them.
But it's an inextricable part of the puzzle and always has been, no matter what kind of deceiving gibberish that noxious theocratic shills (I don't use that term lightly- I mean literal, bought-and-paid-for shills and conmen) might try to foist off on an ignorant nation of YouTards under the cover of objectivity.

But the beauty of it is that you don't even need to believe in the objective reality of UFOs for the recipes to work. Like so much of the World of Weird, UFOs are a topic you should take seriously but you don't necessarily have to take literally.

Let me retrace my steps here...

In the early summer of 1998 I began printing out a ton of information on UFOs and ancient astronauts and conspiracy theories and all the rest on three hole punched paper and binding it into a book. I had downloaded all of this stuff off the Internet and had intended to use it as reading material for my plane trip out to San Diego for Comicon.

I barely cracked it. By the end of the summer I was using the printouts as sketch paper.

I lost interest- again- just as I had around the same time I got online a few years earlier. There was just nowhere to go with the extraterrestrial hypothesis. At least for me.

It was such a break that when I sat down to watch The X-Files' seventh season premiere "The Sixth Extinction" in early November of 1999 I remember telling my wife, "oh, they're doing the ancient astronauts stuff. I used to be into that kind of thing."

In the interim I wrote the published Our Gods Wear Spandex and the unpublished Ancient Dramas, Modern Myths which certainly mentioned UFOs and aliens in the context of the plotlines of the films I was looking at, but that was about it. My primary target in Ancient Dramas were the ancient sun worship cults, which I didn't really understand at all when I wrote the book because hardly anyone else did (or does).

So I started the blog to promote Spandex and blog about the weird stuff I wrote about in private.  But more importantly I wanted to field-test ideas explored in Ancient Dramas. I remember looking at photos of Rockefeller Center and having it click into place- whoever designed this place was paying tribute to what I called the "Heavenly Beam" which manifests itself in the person of "Prometheus", whose statue there is in fact based on depictions of Mithras the Aryo-Persian sun god, not the hoary old Titan of Greek mythology.

Mithras was important because he was the god of choice for the Roman alpha male and his rites and cults were remarkably similar to more recent secret societies. I used to get an eyeful of old Mithras when my wife worked at the old AT+T headquarters, since a giant golden statue of him stood over the main entrance to the site. Back then I thought these symbols had meaning to the guys in the corner offices, but came to realize the real action was with the artists and architects, who were consciously- or ritually- drawing on symbols that their ancient forebears had done.

Or once did, rather, before modernism and post-modernism devastated not only the basic skillset of architects, artists and designers all over the world but also erased any spiritual connection they might feel to the Dionysian Artificers or Medieval stonemason guilds. Anything that inspired- or even entertained- people as they marched to their flourescent-lit cubicles was systematically destroyed.

It was more important to hammer the general public in the head 24 hours a day with dehumanizing CIA-promoted abstract art and sub-Lego architecture that would depress the most committed Soviet, all to serve the true agenda of elevating the cult of Mammon to its present state of unchallenged divinity. 

So it took several years for me to decode all of this. I started off steeped in Jung, but didn't quite make the connection that Jung had started his life's work with a headful of the Mithraic Liturgy and ended it obsessively studying flying saucers.

It wasn't until I went back and re-read that Liturgy that it all became clear- this text, which ultimately introduced the term "collective unconscious" in the global lexicon was in fact nearly identical to any number of 50s vintage Contactee fever-dreams, with flying metallic disks with doors and beams and ramps and crewmen and all the rest of it.

Unfortunately for the skepdicks, it was written at least 1700 years ago and was probably based on a text written long before that. They had no science fiction to contaminate their UFO visions.

In between all of this I was invited by Jeff Kripal to lecture about Jack Kirby at the Esalen CTR, where I discovered that despite all the frothing nonsense you hear from little fascist weasels, Esalen itself is about as sinister as (and in fact was eerily similar to) an episode of Portlandia.

Jeff also invited Jacques Vallee and a woman from MUFON and everyone was talking about UFOs. I had just finished working on The Complete X-Files and wondered if they were really taking this stuff seriously. At that point it had been a full decade since I had thought much about the topic. But I didn't really understand that they meant something different than little gray dudes in interstellar frisbees. And as I wrote, I got a real-time immersion into the world of weird upon returning from first trip out to Big Sur.

It wasn't until I let go out of the "nuts-n-bolts" version of UFOs --and the pomade-and-bronzing-spray version of Ancient Astronaut Theory-- that all the pieces fell into place. But there were more pieces to the puzzle.

Like a lot of guys in their early 20s I was into psychedelic research, but Cyberpunk stole me away soonafter. Part of the pitch with Cyberpunk was virtual reality, which my next great fixation- Gnosticism- took a more dim view of.

But at the time I didn't realize that what made William Gibson's novels so interesting --and all the other Cyberpunk writers' books less so-- was how he leavened his take on VR with ancient archetypes from the Mystery religions, albeit through their (direct)Vodou incarnations. I read about the Mysteries when I was up to my ears in Gnosis magazine and so on, but it all seemed like some lost, archaic curiosity, a precursor to more effective systems like Gnosticism and Christianity.

Boy, was I wrong.

Soonafter I returned from Esalen I was contacted by Jeremy Vaeni to appear on his Culture of Contact podcast. I was still extremely leery about the abduction thing; even when I was into UFOs I saw it all as dissociated sexual abuse trauma, if not outright fantasy. But even then I was trying to make sense of it in the context of some  kind of induced experience, similar to VR. It wasn't until I really begin to look into the issue that that all made perfect sense. Abduction-as-induced-VR -experience would come to be a major theme on this blog.

VR will remain primarily theoretical as entertainment, because even with our superfast computers it's still devilishly labor-intensive (and if you can brainwash the masses with an attention-starved freak and a video camera, why bother?).  The more sensible course would be to bypass the visual cortex all together and go straight to the brain. I'm sure that's being worked on and I'm sure that if it goes wide it will be as porn, not government mind control.

Of course, the mix of Gnosis and VR--and an unhealthy dose of Singulartarianism - went mainstream with The Matrix, but for my money it was more interesting (and sexier) when done as Gnosis/VR/alien abduction narrative the year before in Dark City (ironically the same year I dropped the UFO ball for a decade). The VR in Dark City is a bit more analog, but it's essentially the same concept.

For me the Gnosis/VR/alien abduction/sex was even more interesting in 1964 when it was done as the original pilot for Star Trek and then again in 1967 when done in The Invaders. I'm sure you can go further back still, but both seem to draw from The Outer Limits' ep "Nightmare", which itself was based on The Manchurian Candidate.

And if you read Bruce Rux, you'd know he believes that the real basis of MK Ultra and the rest of the attempts at Manchurian Candidate mind-control (which I would say were all scuttled in favor of EvangeliCIALism and now the brutal control techniques we see being used out in the open today) was not North Korean prison camp interrogation techniques but then-classified "alien abduction" reports.

The common denominator in these televised dramatizations was the men behind them and their connections to people in the military and police, which gave them access to the real currency of intelligence work, gossip. Outer Limits producer Leslie Stevens, Gene Roddenberry and Invaders producer Quinn Martin were the right mix of connected and maverick to tell interesting tales out of school. And all three would have a profound effect on the culture, not only in America but all around the world.

But what also connects the three is a interest-bordering-on-obsession with the strange frontier between weird science and the occult. Stevens wrote and directed the ultra-bizarre Incubus with William Shatner, Roddenberry dropped some serious weirdness into Trek (right under the noses of tedious sci-fi scolds like Harlan Ellison and Isaac Asimov) and later wrote the occult-themed Spectre (with Outer Limits alum Robert Culp) and the original treament for Earth: Final Conflict. Quinn Martin's only feature film was the classic Mephisto Waltz and his final project was The Aliens are Coming, very much an attempt to update The Invaders.

So even though everyone else might be telling you you're wasting your time with this stuff, I'm here to tell you that entire religions have been built on much, much less. The problem is that external conditions have historically inhibited the effective study of these topics.

I'm here to tell you that the people who might mock you for being interested in Weirdness are in fact the saddest, most pitiful creatures you could ever meet. They are desperate self-loathers who hide their existential despair by searching out people who they think they can dump on with impunity.

But the shoe may be on the other foot some day, when the former middle class realizes that all of the scientists and academics we're told to worship as new gods are really nothing else but crackwhores for Mammon's techno-predatory gloryhole. Start preparing for that day now.

The first step to that future starts with you and it starts with one question: is all this worth my time or would I be better off doing something else? Is this all junk culture detritus or very ancient wisdom in disguise?

What is culture after all, and who decides what is junk or not?

And are the hyperprivileged drones and/or paraphiles at CSICOP and TED and The New York Times and PBS and Freethought Blogs qualified to make those kinds of decisions for me?

* I had intended to do the Mystery Hour more regularly until my computer began crapping out post-Sandy (I can't afford a new one at the moment) and experienced delightful surprises such as the port for my headset not working and Audacity crashing every time I tried to open a file in it. I also found that the people I had approached to appear on the show weren't exactly chomping at the bit to cooperate with me. That's show biz for you.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Exegesis: You Still Don't Need Their Permission.

Against my better judgement I actually voted for Obama this past election. I hadn't planned on it but my wife was insistent because of the issue with insurance coverage. I knew full well it was a choice between effin' evil and really effin' evil but what can you do? I didn't even vote in 2008- I realized as soon as I heard Obama was being backed by Sith Lord Pete Peterson that no good would ever come of him.

Even so, I was worried that Romney would make everything worse by instituting austerity, cutting Social Security and Medicare and ramping up the war machine in the Middle East and possibly against Russia as well.

I needn't have worried at all, because as we all know Obama has done all of that for him.

And now we see Obama out-Nixoning Nixon: ideological IRS hitjobs and wiretapping enemies in the press, that on top of all the other Orwellian nightmares he already out-Bushed Bush on. It doesn't matter though, because Obama could stab young children on live TV and the Democrat zombies in the media- especially sites like Slate and Salon- would fall over each other praising his knife skills and writing stirring essays about how our brave President is creating a more sustainable world by doing away with useless eaters, though their exact phraseology would be a bit different.

As we all know, Obama and his media toadies' big push after the election wasn't jobs or worker's rights or restoring civil liberties but gay marriage, which is all fine and good but perhaps a lesser priority given the fact that like everyone else, a lot of gay people are losing their jobs, their insurance and their pensions and probably won't be able to afford to get married at all. But that's not the point.

The point is that identity politics- in other words, ancient divide-and-rule tactics- are how the Wall St. faction that controls the Democratic Party has decided to wage political war against their Republican dopplegangers.
The obvious agenda is to make sure that people are constantly fighting over symbolic issues so no one will notice that Obama is actually to the right of Bush on many, many issues, and very far to the right compared even to Ronald Reagan. "Social justice", which is nothing more than a synonym for identity politics, has become the rallying cry because Obama and his party-- especially his salad-tossing amen corner in the media-- have completely given up on the concept of economic justice.

So in other words, the middle class is to be wiped out --for good-- by outsourcing, unpaid internships and immigrant exploitation, no matter which party you vote for. You probably won't have a pension or insurance when you reach retirement age and your kids probably won't be able to go to college and upward mobility will be forever lost.

However, the good news is that you can use the magic totem of "social justice" to show everyone that you are an enlightened and "progressive" serf, nothing like those mouth-breathing, regressive serfs over there.

Of course, an integral part of the new identity politics program is Atheism and to a lesser extent, skepticism. Atheism is perfect for the coddled children of hyper-privilege who comprise nearly the entirety of the so-called "Progressive" movement in North America, since they can finally play the victim. Oh poor godless me, Daddy sent me to a state university to major in womyn's studies when I really wanted to go to Sarah Lawrence. I'm so put upon- it's God's fault.

Of course Atheism is not only not stigmatized in the circles they spend their entire lives traveling in, it's practically de rigeur.

But they can point to some mouth-breathing yahoo in some deep red state and pretend that they are the victims now. Better yet, they don't have to worry about "people of color" at all, unless it's to browbeat a perceived opponent about "white privilege." They can even (privately) huff and puff about how they are being victimized by them despite having lived lives of almost unimaginable comfort and privilege, since the Nu Atheist movement is in large part motivated by studiously unacknowledged racial anxieties

But some genius- and I'm thinking it was probably Obama's svengali David Axelrod- realized that the best answer to the religious right (who were so influential in this country primarily because they were reliable unpaid envelope-stuffers every election cycle) was the Atheist Left, because liberals have never figured out how to deal with religion.

They took over the so-called mainline churches and ran them all into the ground. I mean, there have been atomic bombs that did less damage to their targets than the liberals did to the churches they set out to "save." So why bother? Atheists make much more pliable consumers-- and voters-- if you appeal to their endless vanity (and insecurities).

So after spending 20 years on the internet seeing mindless tribalism on the part of the religious right everywhere I look, I can now see that AND mindless tribalism on the part of the irreligious left. And of course the two parties that both packs of idiots support are not even remotely at odds about anything but symbolic (read: tribalist) non-issues.

So 'eff them all.

And to get to the heart of the matter, 'eff all these people in weird/Fortean/UFO/whatever world that would worry about what all these Starbuck-sipping idiots think of them.

Eff those who ever-so-tentatively ask the Plait's and Randi's and Shermer's and Myerses and Watson's and Dawkins's if it's all right if they play with their little paranormal toys for awhile. They promise they won't make too much noise and they'll put them all back in the closet when they are done.

It's all just good, clean fun and besides we don't really believe any of this nonsense, so please don't give us the stinkeye through your coke-bottle lenses.

Seriously- eff 'em. They are cowards, traitors, weaklings. They are of no use to anyone, not even themselves. The road goes in one direction, or the other. You are either committed to a path-- in this case, the High and the Strange-- or you're wasting your time and ours.

Listen, all you wannabe-pundits who think you can straddle the fence: the media is too busy licking Obama's dingleberries (and making excuses for his rampant Republicanism) to even notice you. And they won't pay you a dime for your talking head; they don't even pay your travel expenses. The Skepdicks only find you mildly useful if they can use you to attack your friends and allies. "Being reasonable" means playing by their rules.

You either believe in another reality paradigm or you don't. You just fucking don't.

There is no point in being your own debunker because you just look like a cowardly idiot who has wasted their own time. Nobody cares if you run around and "murder your own darlings." The skeptics see you as weak and accommodating and an easy target, even if they may pat you on the back for "being one of the more sensible ones."

Of course, that doesn't mean you have to become the reincarnation of Ti and Do. Discernment is always the path to wisdom. But you are either committed to an alternative worldview or you are not.

There's no point looking over your shoulder at people who will never accept you and never stop looking down on you. They will never give you permission to play with your UFOs, not matter what kind of worthy, schoolmarmish word-drool you dress them in.

You see, the real problem with the paranormal/whatever field isn't the evidence at all. 

The problem is that the people in the field who should speak up are too damn quiet, and too busy worrying about the opinions of people who they would much better off mocking and ridiculing, if not outright attacking.

The problem is cowardice.

I am old enough now to see where the road takes you, which ever particular route you may take. The road of half-measures and compromise leads nowhere.

And I know for a fact that the road the skeptics and nu atheists are on only ever leads to one destination: despair. Already the two camps spend nearly all of their time fighting each other now, because negativity and conflict are all they are any good at.

I do what I do because I know what I am doing is based not only in my experience but in rigorous study.  

I do what I do because I know that the people who see the world the way I do are the ones who have changed the world in their own image.

I have at least ten thousand years of forefathers and mothers to look upon for guidance and inspiration. I know it's the High and the Strange who kicked the heads in of the Lame and the Same and then pushed this gods-forsaken human race forward.

I will not be moved.

I'm not backing down for anyone.  And neither should you. No one gives a shit about anything but themselves so stop waiting for their permission. Fight tooth and claw for what you believe or find something else to do.

Otherwise, you're wasting your life away.

UPDATE: Mike Clelland shows exactly how the media responds to UFOlogists pleading and cajoling to be paid attention by the mindless clockpunchers at useless rags like The Washington Post.

And as if to further prove my point, this is the kind of stupid that gets you a Rhodes Scholarship and a job among the squishy, hyperprivileged schoolmarms at The Guardian.

Sunday, May 05, 2013

AstroGnostic: The Ultimate Star Trek Fans

For such a small and obscure group, Marshall Applewhite's Heaven's Gate cult has had an outsized impact on the culture. Their mass suicide captured the public's imagination in ways that the more grisly horrors at Jonestown, Waco and the Solar Temple did not.

For good reason- the Gate captured the zeitgeist of the 90s, with their obsession with technology and the Internet. By comparison, Jonestown was a relic of the Depression-era revival tent, the suicide-by-Fed horror at Waco was the inevitable result of the CIA's Jesus People mind control program and the Solar Temple were some weird relic of the Old World, a bizarre and quixotic retreat to a long-gone past.

But Heaven's Gate and their leaders Marshall Herff Applewhite and Bonnie Nettles became a media sensation a quarter century before the events at Rancho Santa Fe, when a large group of their followers disappeared into the primeval forests of the American northwest smack dab in the middle of one of the most remarkable UFO flaps in history. They eventually emerged from their exile only to go underground as one of the strangest cults of our times.

Both the disappearance and the suicides had a huge impact on pop culture (a 70s comic book story based on the Gate was featured in a Secret Sun post) ultimately inspiring this TV movie- which believe it or not was a series pilot- The Mysterious Two, which recently popped up on YouTube.

Produced in 1979 but unaired until 1982, The Mysterious Two is yet another film that one can imagine Chris Carter and his producers soaking up while at college, since you can see pieces of it all over various X-Files episodes (particularly the pivotal 'Red Museum', which features almost too many parallels to the Gate). One might speculate that The Mysterious Two could have also been a major influence on The 4400, seeing that various Star Trek alumni were involved in that heavily X-Files influenced series, a connection that bears special attention.

The Mysterious Two is a classic 70s sci-fi potboiler, very much of the type of films Mike Clelland and I discussed during our marathon gabfest. None other than Charlie himself- John Forsythe- plays the Applewhite role here. Forsythe was one of those classically handsome Jewish actors who were cast as idealized WASP patriarchs in the Sixties and Seventies when WASP dominance was becoming a thing of the past (Lorne Greene and of course, William Shatner, often played those same types of roles, most importantly on Battlestar Galactica and Star Trek, respectively).

Forsythe is joined by a female variant of the type; the regal Priscilla Pointer, the mother of actress Amy Irving, who this writer had a serious crush on back in the days of your moms and pops (this was shortly after but then concurrent with my Tatum O'Neal crush, which lasted into the early 80s). Irving caught my eye in Carrie and then my heart in Brian DePalma's The Fury, in which she morphed from Carrie's tormentor to a version of Carrie herself. The Fury-- which I saw in a double bill with Alien at the drive-in-- made such a huge impression on me that I had recurring telekinetic dreams for a very long time afterward.

And stunningly, The Mysterious Two also features one Robert Pine, father of Chris Pine, the pseudo-Kirk of the new Trek series.

So, yes; the semiotics are piling up already...

Mysterious Two has some overly familiar TV faces such as Noah Beery and Vic Tayback, but also two actors that would go on to far more resonant and semiotically supercharged roles, namely Jerry Hardin (best known for our purposes as Deep Throat but also as the patriarch in a crucial early episode of ST:TNG) and none other than Freddy Krueger himself, Robert Englund. Their appearance not only anticipates more powerful and lasting popcult phenomena but also lends a bit of frission through the suggestion of black budget meddling via Harding and MK Ultra-type manipulation via Englund.

Of course, Applewhite himself was extremely paranoid, constantly railing about the government and (ironically) the New Age movement, and so theories from the usual pissed-pant types about CIA involvement with Heaven's Gate fall apart like wet toilet paper when examined more deeply.

The secret behind Applewhite's control over his cult-- again, a very small group in comparison to known CIA projects like the Moonies and the Jesus Freaks-- lies in the man's powerful personal charisma but also in the deep and abiding fatherly love he felt for the lost souls who were pulled into his orbit.

Where Mysterious Two fails and fails quite spectacularly in its depiction of the cultists drawn to the Two's seductive charisma.

There's a dirty little secret that no one wants to acknowledge about cults in general and Heaven's Gate in particular- they are often if not typically the province of nerds. The level of commitment -and by extension, danger- varies widely among the various sects, with some random Jedi cult on one end of the spectrum and Aum Shinrikyo on the other but you will often find that the people most drawn to cults- young, alienated, awkward, misunderstood- are classic nerds.

My encounter with the Church of $cientology in the early 80s-- being suckered into the personality test scam-- was also an encounter with a clowder of hardcore nerds. Everywhere you looked in the Co$ interview room you saw well-worn copies of lurid sci-fi paperbacks, Hubbard's own and others. Seeing as how I'd just spent my week's pay at Newbury Comics when I met up with these characters, I did feel very much at home.

Luckily my (and Amy Bishop's) scifi lit teacher knew all about them and encouraged me to stay away. As I had adopted her as my maternal surrogate at the time, I wisely followed her advice.

No cult was as unabashedly nerdly as Heaven's Gate. Although the media- particuarly the reliably-clueless geek media- tried to paint them as some unknowable pack of religious extremists, the Gate were nothing of the sort. They were what happens to nerds when the frontiers of reality and unreality begin to blur.  

I've been to enough cons and RenFaires to see it for myself. Maybe you have too. Judging from the hours of tape the cult recorded they were an unusually pleasant and cheerful bunch of nerds. And early-adopters, too- they ran a web-design business at a time when most people still had no idea what the Web was.

Professional shark-jumper Harlan Ellison recognized the Gate for what they were and wrote a typically misanthropic rant for Newsweek in which he struggled desperately to convince an uncaring clutch of frequent fliers that there once was this idealized Golden Age of science fiction, where intrepid rationalists rolled up their sleeves dared to ascend to the deep reaches of the cosmos from their typewriters.

Sadly, all the essay proves is how delusional Ellison is about the genre and its audience, and how powerful a grip the self-aggrandizing fantasies of a tiny elite of older sci-fi writers like Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke had on his imagination. Anyone who has spent any time in fandom looks at those Heaven's Gate videos and shudders with a deep and indelible recognition, as if looking into distant yet distinct mirror image.

I can't help but notice that the Gate set up shop in the suburbs of San Diego, which even then was the Mecca of Geek. In fact, the first celebrity I saw on my first trip to Comicon was none other than- you guessed it- Harlan Ellison. He was on his way to the men's.

You won't see the stock character actors of Mysterious Two- the mesomorphic prom queens and kings who never hit the sweepstakes but kept busy enough in Hollywood- in the Heaven's Gate videos. You'll see the same awkward, bespectacled men and mannish, severe yet amiable women you'll see at any collection of serious fans of sci-fi and fantasy. In fact, you'll see the same faces and self-effacing smiles you'll see in the Trekkies documentaries. So much so that if the producers of those films were honest they'd make Trekkies III entirely out of Heaven's Gate footage.

Because Heaven's Gate were in fact the ultimate Star Trek fans.
They were so devoted to Gene Roddenberry's idealized world, especially that of The Next Generation, that they were willing to die to become part of it. I feel their pain- I can't begin to tell you how seductive the pull of the Star Trek Universe can be on me, particularly when I see what a miserable shithole this world is becoming. But even what you see in the Trekkies films is nothing compared to the devotion Heaven's Gate acted out.

The problem is that it's all fantasy. The more concerning reality becomes obvious after watching enough Star Trek that "Roddenberry's future" is that of a universal military dictatorship, a kind of totalitarian socialism in which every moment of our heroes' days are spent in pursuit of the good and the worthy. And so it was with the Gate; Applewhite had his followers nerding it up day and night, buried in the various texts and films that the cult saw as inspired.

At some point the pull of TNG became so strong that Applewhite shaved his boyish grey mop into a Picardian crewcut. The cult chirped out Trek terms during their everyday activities, and in the end renamed themselves the "Away Team." How powerful was the Gate's connection to Trek? So powerful that one of its members was Nichelle 'Uhura' Nichols' own brother, Thomas. He must have been a kind of demigod to the Gate.

The Gate understood that Roddenberry's pretensions to atheist rationalism were all so much nonsense, a pathetic sop to the solipsistic SF royalty whose approval he sought but never truly received; cranky, pedantic plodders like Asimov and Ellison, whose works are either long-forgotten or soon will be. The Gate understood that the Trek Universe is deeply and irreducibly Gnostic.

And so Applewhite and Nettles' fluffy bunny New Age Christianity evolved into a severe and rigorous Gnostic Christianity, in which the pain and senselessness of our world faded in comparison to the serenity and discipline of the Enterprise D. The Gate rightfully saw that there was no place in this world hell for idealists and dreamers, especially those variants of same drawn to cults.

The Gate were just part of the wonderful world of high weirdness that the 90s were chock full of. I didn't pay them much mind myself, until a nagging connection dug into my subconscious. Just a few days before the Gate hitched a ride on that giant mothership in the sky one of the biggest UFO flaps of our time was going down on the other side of I-8.

Marshall Applewhite heard an alleged "remote viewer" claim on Art Bell's show that a ginormous UFO was trailing Comet Hale-Bopp and saw this as the great signal that it was time to beam up. The UFO meme was soon debunked but as he and his followers were wrapping up their affairs, the Phoenix Lights were causing panic just a few hours drive away from their Rancho Santa Fe stronghold.

Did the Gate hear about the event? I haven't found any evidence yet that they did but the timing of the event- whatever you may think of the exact nature of the sightings themselves- is bone-chilling.

The Gate were awaiting a giant UFO to come pick them up. And just as they were preparing for its arrival thousands of people were reporting a giant UFO in the skies over Phoenix, a hop, skip and jump away. It's all eerily reminiscent of the end of Mysterious Two, which takes place in Santa Fe, NM, or any number of similar sci-fi movies (I'm thinking Repo Man as well).

But the Gate's influence was even deeper, if not generally acknowledged. Their suicides seemed to mark the end of 90s UFOmania. It's always fun until someone gets hurt.

Soonafter, lifelong Naval Intelligence asset Bill Cooper came out and said he was the victim of an elaborate hoax by the um, newageoneworldreligion or Mystery Babalon or whatever the fuck nonsense he pretended to be afraid of. The X-Files peaked as a cultural phenomenon and moved production to Los Angeles. The air was definitely beginning to go out of the Star Trek franchise thanks to the shiteous Voyager series.

And as if to punctuate the moment, Serge Monast's "Project Blue Beam" hoax (which was itself cobbled from a handful of various Star Trek plots and very possibly given to him by a secret society of religious extremists within the Pentagon) seized the feeble imaginations of the pantpisser nation, inflicting an endless assault of functionally illiterate YouTube rants and AboveTopSecret threads on a defenseless world.

Fandom has become a religion unto itself so the days in which fandom and traditional religion were synthesized may be behind us. Which is not to say the kind of totalizing devotion we saw in the Gate is a thing of the past. It simply means that it will simply take a different form the next time it pops up. It too will catch us by surprise, until we sift through all of the portents that we ignored.

NOTE: This was originally a short piece written for the Satellite, but grew out of control. It may grow larger still. But I thought I'd save you all a click and just post it here on the mothership.