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.