Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Lucifer's Technologies: Fallen from the Sky

Technology rules our lives, so much so that some Futurists predict that humanity will be replaced by robots and artificial intelligences. How did we get here? How did we go from a world where technology remained essentially static for thousands of years to a world in which we've become slaves to our own machines? 
The Lucifer archetype has been associated with knowledge and technology since antiquity, in a positive light (the Prometheus myth) and a darker sense (Satan and the Tree of Knowledge in the myth of the Fall). Which side of this powerful archetype will triumph in the future?  
So, how exactly did this postwar technology boom come about? Nothing like it had ever been seen in human history and we're still sorting through the breakthroughs made in that era.

To be sure, there were a lot of very great (and very well-educated) scientists working for a lot of very big (and very well-appointed) laboratories and companies. But that had been true for some time. It's even more true today and yet the innovation machine seems to be sputtering to a slow march these days. Even Moore's Law is being called into question now.


So many of the breakthroughs that have been made through all fields of science and technology have come about through the computer revolution, a revolution that would have been impossible without a single piece of technology- the simple transistor.

We take it for granted today but before solid state technology everything- radio, TV, computers- needed to be powered by hot, heavy vacuum tubes. It's why the first calculator was the size of a house and today you can get a much better one built into a pen.

The laser has also played an outsized role in the technological revolution of the 20th Century. And oddly enough, both breakthroughs would share links with the year 1947 and with the legendary Bell Laboratories.

Younger people have no concept of how radical and extreme the changes have been in our technology. Older people, particularly those who were adults during World War Two, certainly noticed how things seemed to change almost overnight.

But even so, it took a long time for the ideas that were being explored in the 50s and 60s in places like Bell Labs and Xerox's PARC to come to market. Any engineer will tell you there's a chasm between concept and application.

When I was very young we had a vacuum-tube, black and white TV set that only got VHF stations. We had one rotary telephone. We had a couple AM radios and we also had phonograph player that was more a piece of furniture than a piece of electronic equipment. Later, we had Pong. Braintree didn't get cable TV until 1984.

The graphs you see in this piece indicate what investigators or intelligence agents would call a "pattern break," an indication that something fundamental had changed, something that the target was trying to conceal. And time and again we see a steady rate of technological change suddenly shoot skyward after 1947.


In 1997, at the height of the popularity of The X-Files, a retired military intelligence officer released a book that caused a firestorm of controversy. The book was called The Day After Roswell and seemed to confirm many long-held suspicions of the UFO conspiracy community, suspicions that seemed to reaching a boiling point as the book hit the stores:
Colonel Philip J Corso explains how he gained access to the Roswell files whilst working at the Foreign Technology Desk, R+D at the Pentagon.  Corso explains how the extraterrestrial technology was retrieved and reverse engineered by corporations who were granted the patents for such technology.  Corso also explains how an organization was set up within the government which would seal the lid on the extraterrestrial presence and make it inaccessible to future presidental administrations...
The book became an instant best-seller but many prominent researchers in the UFO field expressed skepticism about both it and about Corso himself, including Kevin Randle, Stanton Friedman, Budd Hopkins and Brad Sparks

The timing seemed suspicious to some. Here was a Lt. Colonel from the Foreign Technology Office telling UFOlogists everything they wanted to hear exactly when they wanted to hear it. And critics noted the book was rife with basic errors of fact.

Many of errors were curious- some had nothing directly to do with Corso's Roswell claims and were the kind of mistakes that could have very easily been corrected by his co-author Bill Birnes when the book was in the editing process.

A further controversy erupted when Senator Strom Thurmond -under whom Corso worked as an aide after he left the service- demanded his (rather glowing) foreword be removed from the book, claiming he wasn't aware of the book's subject matter (though a memo reprinted in UFO Magazine later showed that the foreword was for a "Roswell" book).

So what do we have here? A hoax? A delusional old man cashing in on the UFO craze of the time? A deliberate disinfo campaign meant to splash water on Roswell fever (which in many ways the backlash to the book did)? 

Michael Salla- whose resume is strangely more fitting to a Undersecretary of State than a UFO researcher- dug into the controversy over Corso's book and found than many of the claims made against his reputation and his credibility were either false or trivial. And Thurmond's introduction made it clear that Corso had been a highly partisan Cold Warrior in the 50s and 60s, which Salla claims had made him a lot of enemies.

Roswell's official city seal

Could this then have been what is called in intelligence parlance "cooked information," a sandwich of truth and deception? Or could it have a been a kind of inoculation, a way to seed shards of information to the public but do so through an individual who might easily be dismissed by most, given his fuzzy memory and outrageous claims?

Those claims were essentially as follows:

Together with his commanding officer, Lieutenant General Arthur G. Trudeau, Corso said he developed a plan to "seed" the technologically advanced artifacts to defense contractors who were already working on similar projects. But this had to be done, for the most part, without telling the scientists involved where the artifacts had come from.

According to Corso, he eventually did figure out where to take much of the debris for reverse engineering. Companies like Bell Labs, IBM, Dow Corning and Hughes Aircraft subsequently managed to create new technological breakthroughs that gave the U.S. a decided edge in a projected military response to the aliens.
Among the products that Corso says resulted from the Roswell debris were: 
Image intensifiers, which ultimately became "night vision,"  Fiber optics, Supertenacity fibers,  Lasers, Molecular alignment metallic alloys, Integrated circuits and microminiaturization of logic boards, HARP (High Altitude Research Project), Project Horizon (a military base on the Moon to compete with both the Russians and the aliens.), Portable atomic generators (ion propulsion drive), Irradiated food, "Third Brain" guidance systems (based on the headbands reportedly used by the aliens), Particle beams ("Star Wars" antimissle energy weapons), Electromagnetic propulsion systems, Depleted uranium projectiles
That's quite a list- interesting to see the EM drive on there, which you're suddenly hearing quite a lot about these days. But it doesn't end there:
Corso maintains that the implementation of the "Star Wars" project led to the end of the Cold War. And, while neither Reagan or Chairman Mikail Gorbachev said so publicly, the U.S. and Russia now present a united front against the common alien enemy. The paranoia that had existed between the two countries since the end of World War II had now given way to a determination to fight together for the sake of mankind as a whole.
In his original manuscript Corso claimed the aliens were not smiling space brothers: 
"They have violated our air space with impunity and even landed on our territory. Whether intentional or not, they have performed hostile acts. Our citizens have been abducted and killed" (Dawn of a New Age, p. 77).

"The above are acts of war which we would not tolerate from any worldly source. It also appears they do not tolerate any such acts on our parts on their bases." (Dawn of a New Age, p. 77)
... the aliens have shown a callous indifference concerning their victims. Their behavior has been insidious and it appears they might be using our earth and manipulating earth life.  (Dawn of a New Age, p. 98)

Former Canadian Defense Minister Paul Hellyer claims that The Day After Roswell had a revelatory effect on him, particularly after he called a friend who had been a General in the US Military. Hellyer claims the General told him:
 "Every word of it is true, and more." We then spoke 20 minutes or so discussing the "and more" to the extent he could without revealing classified material. What he said was just as fascinating and compelling as the book. UFOs are real as the airplane flying overhead. That is my unequivocal conclusion..."
Critics countered that many of the technologies Corso cites were already in development, which Corso already had acknowledged to a degree. However, if you look carefully at those claims you'll find that most of what was being worked on was either theoretical science or crude prototype projects that actually bore little resemblance to the technologies as they finally emerged.

But the fact that some of these technologies were being conceived- if only theoretically- seems to fit a very old pattern, one we'll explore in depth in future posts. After all, you don't give a toddler the keys to your Lamborghini, do you now?

And almost without exception, all the big breakthroughs with actual working patents came in the period Corso cites (the 1950s and 1960s) and through the companies he claims were seeded with materials to experiment on. 

So if Corso were making it all up he certainly did his homework. Back when his original manuscript was written that would entail a lot of research, probably a lot of trips to the library. Corso never gave the impression that he was up to all that. Note that Corso did admit that he came into FT late, almost 15 years after Roswell.

Fiber optics is an interesting case- the science was worked on in Japan and Germany (both firmly under the US's thumb then) and England in the 1960s (many of the scientists seemed to get awards for their work in the 1970s, strangely) but was still classified when used by NASA in 1969. It was refined by Corning Glass in 1970 and apparently made ready for commercial use in 1986 by who else? 

Bell Labs. 
Huh. Go figure.

One of Corso's most controversial claims is that the transistor- the basic building block of the entire technological revolution- came from Roswell. Critics responded that it had been in development long before.

But the truth is that the paper trail on the transistor is shockingly thin. Here's what the Wiki has:

 The thermionic triode, a vacuum tube invented in 1907, enabled amplified radio technology and long-distance telephony. The triode, however, was a fragile device that consumed a lot of power.
OK; this is a fucking vacuum tube. Why is included in the history of the transistor? Maybe this is why:
Physicist Julius Edgar Lilienfeld filed a patent for a field-effect transistor (FET) in Canada in 1925, which was intended to be a solid-state replacement for the triode. Lilienfeld also filed identical patents in the United States in 1926 and 1928.
Well, that seems pretty weak. I mean, there's got to be more evidence than a couple lousy patent forms, right? There's got to be some kind of paper trail that can be conclusively dated, establishing the timeline of the development of this world-changing technology.
However, Lilienfeld did not publish any research articles about his devices nor did his patents cite any specific examples of a working prototype.
Oh. So in other words, all the stuff that couldn't be faked doesn't exist. Even a bio of the scientist claims the history of these devices is "sketchy." The Wiki, again:
Because the production of high-quality semiconductor materials was still decades away, Lilienfeld's solid-state amplifier ideas would not have found practical use in the 1920s and 1930s, even if such a device had been built. In 1934, German inventor Oskar Heil patented a similar device. 
We'll learn more about the problem of semiconductor materials in the next post. It's no small problem.*

Be that as it may, it stands to reason that in between 1934 and 1947 there's gotta be a MASSIVE paper trail, right? I mean, this is the TRANSISTOR, people, the Holy Grail of modern electronics. What's the next step in the official history here?
From November 17, 1947 to December 23, 1947, John Bardeen and Walter Brattain at AT+T's Bell Labs in the United States performed experiments and observed that when two gold point contacts were applied to a crystal of germanium, a signal was produced with the output power greater than the input. Solid State Physics Group leader William Shockley saw the potential in this, and over the next few months worked to greatly expand the knowledge of semiconductors.
Oh. Guess not. But Lilienfeld's work served one important purpose:
When Brattain, Bardeen, and their colleague chemist Robert Gibney tried to get patents on their earliest devices, most of their claims were rejected due to the Lilienfeld patents.
Translation: A paper trail documenting the development of the Bell Labs transistor needn't be produced because of these alleged patents.

What else is curious about Lilienfeld is how he seems to fall off the radar in 1935 or so. He's said to have moved to the Virgin Islands (where he was said to have moved to get away from wheat allergies he was suffering in...the metropolitan Boston area) but there doesn't seem to be much of a track record on him from that point forward. A very mysterious story for such an apparently important scientist.†


Whatever it was exactly, something happened after Roswell- the data, the paper-trail, the radical changes in technology bear that out. Whether or not it had something to do with Roswell is another story entirely but the event did seem to act as a harbinger of major changes to come. 

But that's the UFO paradox; at the same time UFOlogy is a minefield of hoaxery and humbug, UFO events so often act as powerful augurs of change.

Of course, the major problem with the Roswell narrative- and other UFO crash stories- is that we're led to believe that such an advanced technology could be defeated by primitive radar systems or electrical storms. But then again our own advanced aircraft often crash in storms or in strong winds or even when birds fly into the engines. Nature is an infinitely powerful force- don't believe otherwise.

However, I have a feeling that something else was afoot and that the alleged 'crash' may in fact have been a cover story for something far stranger- and far more complex.  Something that may in fact happened some time before Roswell. 

A lot of people will cite the influx of German scientists into the US through Operation Paperclip for the radical changes in technology. But the rocket scientist Hermann Oberth has been quoted as saying in 1972, “We cannot take the credit for our record advancement in certain scientific fields alone; we have been helped.”


The levels of deception┬║ over Roswell are deep. So much so that I have trouble believing any of the interpretations of the story, whether from skeptics or believers. I think something did crash, but I suspect that it was neither an alien spaceship or a weather balloon but something actually created to crash. I'll explain why in an upcoming post.

What's more the fact that a General was actually flashing a memo to reporters that contradicted the story he was telling at the press conference (and a memo I'm quite certain he was disappointed no one deciphered until fairly recently) says to me that a very complex intelligence strategy was unfolding over this event.

Corso died a year after The Day After Roswell was released (in Jupiter, Florida, of all places) and the buzz and the controversy over the book soon died down. Or at least seemed to. In UFO circles the fire was still burning because another insider came forward and told a very similar story to the one Corso had.

But his story went into depths of detail Corso barely scratched at.


* It's at the heart of the matter. After all, there's a chasm between an idea and an application. Men were contemplating traveling into space a long time ago. It took a long time to do it.

† What else I find curious- if not actually suspicious- are these narratives from Bell Labs about the development of the transistor I've seen in some books on the subject. This was a very sensitive project with major implications for the company. Knowing what I know about my grandfather's work at MITRE I am willing to bet that any discussion of the project would be kept within the actual working group, especially during that paranoid "Reds under every bed" postwar period.

┬║ And outright nonsense- see the "Roswell Slides" psyop.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Lucifer's Technologies: The Deal with the Devil Comes Due

Lucifer appears in another great literary work, also written in the 17th Century; Christopher Marlowe's Tragical History of Doctor Faustus. This treatment of the Faust myth predates Goethe's more famous version and tells the story somewhat differently. But the basic contours of the story remain the same, that of a brilliant man who sells his immortal soul to the Devil in order to gain forbidden knowledge, a pact he believes will grant him advantage in this life.

The Faust myth resonates in the Information Age, as we surrender more and more of our sovereignty- and our humanity, in fact- to technology and science. You hear more and more now about the Faustian bargain we've made with technology, as the honeymoon ends and the disruption and destruction that technology causes to industry, to community, to identity itself continues to mount.  

With the rise of robotics and Artificial Intelligence (not to mention the surveillance state and drone warfare), prominent figures like Stephen Hawkins and Elon Musk are sounding the alarm, warning that humanity's very survival is at risk.

But it's too late to turn back now; the Pact has been signed.

At the same we've seen the rise of Scientism, a new religion that claims that science is the answer to every question and that all of humanity's other pursuits and beliefs should be subordinated to it, because science is the only method we have to determine what is true or real. 

That art, religion, philosophy and indeed every activity in which humans interact and communicate should be placed under science's thumb, which in the real world would mean setting up Soviet-like committees to inquire into every human activity that had not been legally prohibited.

Scientism is perhaps the most Satanic philosophy the world has ever seen, for reasons that will soon be made clear. 
We can start here, with this story from Reason:
Science Is a Good Substitute for God 
Believers in sci-tech progress tend to be happier than the religiously faithful, says new study 
Religious believers tend to be happier than non-religious folk, according to a long line of psychological research. Scientists have suggested several possible explanations for this phenomenon, including the ideas that religion offers a greater sense of control, provides a purpose for life, and reduces uncertainty.
The researchers concluded that "both belief in scientific–technological progress and religiosity were positively associated with life satisfaction, yet the association with belief in scientific–technological progress was significantly larger." In fact, life satisfaction was three times more likely to correlate with a belief in sci-tech progress than belief in religious doctrine.
Well, it must be true, right? Science says so. I mean these people ran a scientific psychological survey that was in no way biased or weighted towards a predetermined conclusion, right? That's not how science works, right? Not so fast. Read this:
Last summer, the Open Science Collaboration announced that it had tried to replicate one hundred published psychology experiments sampled from three of the most prestigious journals in the field.

Scientific claims rest on the idea that experiments repeated under nearly identical conditions ought to yield approximately the same results, but until very recently, very few had bothered to check in a systematic way whether this was actually the case. The OSC was the biggest attempt yet to check a field’s results, and the most shocking. In many cases, they had used original experimental materials, and sometimes even performed the experiments under the guidance of the original researchers.
Of the studies that had originally reported positive results, an astonishing 65 percent failed to show statistical significance on replication, and many of the remainder showed greatly reduced effect sizes.
OK, so psychological science is rife with fraud. That can't be true of the harder sciences, right? Wait, what's this in the The Boston Globe?
In science, irreproducible research is a quiet crisis 
 Evidence of a quiet crisis in science is mounting. A growing chorus of researchers worry that far too many findings in the top research journals can’t be replicated. 
“There’s a whole groundswell of awareness that a lot of biomedical research is not as strongly predictive as you think it would be,”said Dr. Kevin Staley, an epilepsy researcher at Massachusetts GeneralHospital. “People eventually become aware because there’s a wake of silence after a false positive result,” he added. The same is true in every field of science, from neuroscience to stem cells.
Yes, science is in a state of crisis, one that has become so egregious that the mainstream media has been forced to pay attention to it. The Baltimore Sun:
Increased competition for funding has led science to drift from an emphasis on rigorous reproducible research to flashy high impact studies, which in some cases have been subsequently found to be erroneous or exaggerated. This has led to a perceived reproducibility crisis, in which the credibility of scientific findings is increasingly questioned. 
In combination these trends could lead to a loss of public confidence in science, creating a vicious cycle that could undermine the entire enterprise. If this happens, society will lose its most powerful tool to navigate the crises that lie ahead.

"Flashy high impact studies, which in some cases have been subsequently found to be erroneous or exaggerated."
If you read the science news carefully that's pretty much all you see these days. I looked at this phenomenon a while back, the outrageous headline tailored for social media which is always accompanied by the Big Walk-Back buried at the bottom, preferably below a bunch of pop-up ads. 

They rely on the short attention spans of the reader, most of whom simply catch the flashy headline on their iPhones and go about their daily business secure in the knowledge that the Machine is humming along nicely, that the Great Arc moves ever upward, that the hard times will be over soon.

It's all a lie.

More and more serious thinkers are sounding the alarm that the Age of Miracles is over, that all the low-hanging fruit has been plucked, that Easy Street is coming to a dead end. Some call what we're looking at "The Great Stagnation", and Scientism and technohype are in fact desperate tactics to divert attention to that brick wall looming in the immediate distance.

"Flashy high impact studies, which in some cases have been subsequently found to be erroneous or exaggerated." 

And it's getting worse. The high is getting more naked, more desperate. It's actually worrying. Here's some of the recent miracle stories you may have seen in your Facebook feed:
Ready, set, think! Mind-controlled drones race to the future!

Wow, that's amazing! Oh, but wait...

Here’s how the technology delivers an abstract thought through the digital realm and into the real world: Each EEG headset is calibrated to identify the electrical activity associated with particular thoughts in each wearer’s brain — recording, for example, where neurons fire when the wearer imagines pushing a chair across the floor. Programmers write code to translate these “imaginary motion” signals into commands that computers send to the drones.
Programmers write code to translate these signals...WTF? OK, I get it. This is bullshit

This is not the direct-to-drone Vulcan mind meld the headline promises at all. This is just more EEG brainwave stuff, the kind of thing we've been seeing since at least the early 90s, and probably before. It's the compsci version of the old baking soda and vinegar volcano.
But wait, what's this miracle?
Auto Focus Contact Lenses May Soon Become a Reality!  
Wow, that's amazing! Oh, but wait... 
Jiang, however, admits that getting a working prototype of the auto-focus lens is still five to ten years away. He says, "It is a very challenging project. You need to get tunable lenses, a power supply to drive the lens and the electronics, and everything need to be flexible."

Five to ten years is Scientish for "half past never."
How do I know this? Because I'm still waiting on about thousand technomiracles that were promised back in the 80s. Plus there's this: 

Why Scientific American's Predictions from 10 Years Ago Were So Wrong
Recently, we did an experiment: We took an outdated issue of a respected popular science magazine, Scientific American, and researched exactly what happened to the highly-touted breakthroughs of the era that would supposedly change everything. What we discovered is just how terrible we are at predicting the long arc of scientific discovery.
Well, that was ten years ago. Someone or Somebody's Law or Ever-Increasing Wonderfulness has surely fixed all that. Let's see:
New Technology May Beat the 'Memory Bottleneck' with Plain Old Silicon!
Wow, that's amazing! Oh, but wait... 
Don't go and dump your SSD quite yet. Even just confirming all of this will take years. Still, it seems clear enough that the memory problem has a solution—if not this, than one of any number of alternative avenues being pursued for nanoscale non-volatile mea...bla bla bla bla bla...
Oh my God, have you ever read such equivocal bullshit in your life? I have. Because I've been following these guys for 30 years or so...
DARPA is investigating self-mutating vaccines to take down viruses! 
Wow, that's amazing! Oh, but wait... 
We’re years away from this being a feasible solution in humans but early results are encouraging, with engineered TIPs reducing viral loads in cultured cells around 20-fold. The next step will be animal models, and it’s entirely possible the whole idea will fall down there, long before it even enters a first-in-man study.
"Years away." 

"Entirely possibly the whole idea will fall down."

OK, so what's the point? The point is keeping this late-Soviet-model science-worship machine on the road, even though it's obviously popping gaskets and leaking fluids. Well, at least that's equivocal bullshit. How about flaming bags of dogshit?

Well, there's a one-stop shop for that: the Transhumanism superstore:

Forever Exists! Secrets to Immortality Uncovered!  
Wow, that's amazing! Tell me more!
Transhumanist scientists are deeply working on to “knock outthose genes” which are leading to age-related problems. Well, this is less complicated than adding a new piece of DNA. However, deciding which gene to be knocked out is still a riddle for scientists, according to HEALTHAIM.
"Deciding which gene to be knocked out is still a riddle for scientists." Translation: the secrets to immortality have NOT been uncovered. Don't worry, though, because....
Humans Will Be Immortal Cyborgs By The Year 2050, Expert Predicts!  
Wow, that's amazing! Oh, but wait... 

Dr Pearson says that by 2050, people will be able to connect their brains directly to computers and, ‘could move their mind into an improved android body.‘This would allow people to have multiple existences and identities, or to carry on living long after their biological death.’ 
‘What’s exciting is that it is no longer nature which is forcing changes on us but our own breakthroughs.’
But wait, none of this technology is anywhere close to existing. I mean, nowhere. This is pure Singularist snake oil. The myth that human progress is on this straight curve upward from the caves to the stars comes from these people:
Evolution May Have Sped Up After Humans Cut Up Their Foods!  
Wow, that's amazing! Oh, but wait... 

Researchers have determined that the development of stone tools used to cut up raw meat meant humans spent less time chewing and more time doing, not to mention thinking.
Determined based on what? Personal experience? How is this science? Sounds more like a bunch of bros turning a bonghit session into a press release.

Here's this chestnut, variations of which keep popping up regularly:

Scientists Zapped Mouse Brains with Lasers to Bring Back Lost Memories! 
Wow, that's amazing. Oh, but wait... 
It’s a fascinating result, but brain-zapping lasers probably won’t be used to treat memory loss anytime soon. As scientists begin to identify specific neurons that code memories, Roy said, others can work on developing ways to target them, including with drugs. “I think people would be very excited to get similar results,” he said, “without viruses and lasers.”
Read the story- the actual experiment is almost orthodox Pavlov. I guess it was funding renewal time. Speaking of which:
Scientists claim they can create babies without men by injecting eggs with artificial sperm!
Wow, that's amazing! Oh, but wait...  
"It's important to note that the sperm-like cells produced in the study were not fully mature sperm as we might know them. " 
"In spite of these encouraging results, we are still some way from immediately applying this technique as a potential cure for human male infertility," he continued.
This is one of those stories that isn't even news. A similar story showed up on National Geographic News 12 years ago:
The End of Males? Mouse Made to Reproduce Without Sperm 
Dads, in the mammalian branch of the animal kingdom, are often out of the loop when it comes to producing progeny. After that initial contribution of sperm, they are excluded from pregnancy and are all but superfluous even after birth, when nurturing falls to Mom. Now Japanese scientists have streamlined reproduction even further—they have eliminated fathers entirely.
The experiments in question here deal with so-called Parthenogenesis. But given the conspicuous lack of apparent repeatability with this science, you have to seriously wonder if this is science or something else entirely. 

Why? Because one of the most prestigious science journals in the world made this grave statement in an editorial:
“The case against science is straightforward: much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue. Afflicted by studies with small sample sizes, tiny effects, invalid exploratory analyses, and flagrant conflicts of interest, together with an obsession for pursuing fashionable trends of dubious importance, science has taken a turn towards darkness.” - Dr. Richard Horton, editor-in-chief, The Lancet
So, my question to the I Fucking Love Science crowd would be this: Do you still want a Priests of the Temples of Syrinx world where scientists dictate what is and is not true? 

The fact is that Scientism is a classic circling-of-the-wagons maneuver, a symptom that science is in fact in crisis, that the Age of Wonder may be over. This is where the same prediction from 1900 or so is thrown up in protest, but that was an entirely different world, one without multibillion science laboratories in every major country in the world working 24/7/365.

One science journalist wrote 20 years ago of the End of Science, and recently took stock of his predictions and found they held up quite nicely:
Our descendants will learn much more about nature, and they will invent gadgets even cooler than smart phones. But their scientific version of reality will resemble ours, for two reasons: First, ours… is in many respects true; most new knowledge will merely extend and fill in our current maps of reality rather than forcing radical revisions. 
Second, some major remaining mysteries—Where did the universe come from? How did life begin? How, exactly, does a chunk of meat make a mind?--might be unsolvable. 
So far my prediction that there would be no great "revelations or revolutions"—no insights into nature as cataclysmic as heliocentrism, evolution, quantum mechanics, relativity, the big bang--has held up just fine. 
And here he makes the same diagnosis of the state of the scientific world that many other principled insiders are making:
In some ways, science is in even worse shape today than I would have guessed back in the 1990s. In The End of Science, I predicted that scientists, as they struggle to overcome their limitations, would become increasingly desperate and prone to hyperbole. This trend has become more severe and widespread than I anticipated.  
Oh, has it indeed.

Well, what about AI and algorithms? We're hearing so much about them these days, and how they're the new game-changer. What's the reality on the ground?
Complex algorithms are usually quite difficult to develop and often take longer than experience with other software projects would indicate. Although there are exceptions, complex algorithm projects usually take between four (4) months and several years. True research projects in which new mathematical or logical methods are developed are extremely unpredictable and typically take years.
What about Silicon Valley? Won't it save the world? They certainly act like it. Wait- what's this?
The number of start-up firms in the United States has been declining in recent decades. Prior to 2000, the employment effects of this decline were partly offset by the presence of a small number of high-growth young companies. That pattern seems to have changed.
While social media continues to churn out endless technohype, literally promising the Sun, Moon and Stars, serious people look at the situation on the ground with a more sober eye. The implications are grave: 
Ben Bernanke sees the great slowdown in technological progress 
Indeed, some knowledgeable observers have recently made the case that the IT revolution, as important as it surely is, likely will not generate the transformative economic effects that flowed from the earlier technological revolutions. As a result, these observers argue, economic growth and change in coming decades likely will be noticeably slower than the pace to which Americans have become accustomed. 
Such an outcome would have important social and political — as well as economic — consequences for our country and the world.
And now there are books out there on this, books that policy makers (as opposed to politicians) are going to be studying and considering as the world economy lurches and sputters:
In a three-month period at the end of 1879, Thomas Edison tested the first practical electric lightbulb, Karl Benz invented a workable internal-combustion engine, and a British-American inventor named David Edward Hughes transmitted a wireless signal over a few hundred meters. These were just a few of the remarkable breakthroughs that Northwestern University economist Robert J. Gordon tells us led to a “special century” between 1870 and 1970, a period of unprecedented economic growth and improvements in health and standard of living for many Americans. 
Growth since 1970? “Simultaneously dazzling and disappointing.” Think the PC and the Internet are important? Compare them with the dramatic decline in infant mortality, or the effect that indoor plumbing had on living conditions. And the explosion of inventions and resulting economic progress that happened during the special century are unlikely to be seen again, Gordon argues in a new book, The Rise and Fall of American Growth.
The book attempts to directly refute the views of those Gordon calls “techno optimists,” who think we’re in the midst of great digital innovations that will redefine our economy and sharply improve the way we live. 
Nonsense, he says. Just look at the economic data; there is no evidence that such a transformation is occurring.
No, in fact, it's just the opposite. The rising tide isn't lifting all boats, it's actually flooding out most of the country.
For most Americans, wages are just not keeping up. Incomes actually shrank between 1972 and 2013. And it’s not going to get any better, predicts Robert Gordon.
If robust economic progress in the first half of the 20th century helped create a national mood of optimism and faith in progress, have decades of much slower productivity growth helped create an era of malaise and frustration?
One-time techno-utopians like Jaron Lanier and Douglas Rushkoff haved turned into Jeremiahs, sounding a warning about the ravages of the New Economy. But are they just voices in the Wilderness? No one wants to get left behind when the new world dawns, so boat-rocking is not very fashionable. Everyone still believes the Sun will come out for them tomorrow.

But more sober thinkers are surveying the world around them and noticing that progress has slowed, if not stopped. Or in fact begun to move backward, no matter how many useless (and unused) apps you can download to your smartphone.

We keep hearing about the automation revolution but as with so much of our Tomorrow, it seems to be perpetually on the horizon. You're constantly hearing scare stories of Robotomageddon at the same we're hearing warnings of projected labor shortages.

The fact is that while automation is on the increase, it's also risky, expensive (requiring major capital investment) and can be difficult for companies to integrate. The threat of AIs and robots could be real or it could be more hype from a high tech industry desperate to keep the profits churning.

We (apparently) have this science, but nothing seems to actually be changing:

For the past 20 years, as a science writer, I have covered such extraordinary medical advances as gene therapy, cloned replacement organs, stem-cell therapy, life-extension technologies, the promised spin-offs from genomics and tailored medicine. 
None of these new treatments is yet routinely available. 
The paralyzed still cannot walk, the blind still cannot see. The human genome was decoded (one post-Golden Quarter triumph) nearly 15 years ago and we’re still waiting to see the benefits that, at the time, were confidently asserted to be ‘a decade away’. 
We still have no real idea how to treat chronic addiction or dementia...There has been no new Green Revolution. We still drive steel cars powered by burning petroleum spirit or, worse, diesel. There has been no new materials revolution...physics (seems) to have ground to a halt...And nobody has been to the Moon for 42 years.
And so the question is asked: what happened to Tomorrow? Why has the train ground to a stop? And as this author asks, what got the train going in the first place?
Why has progress stopped? Why, for that matter, did it start when it did, in the dying embers of the Second World War? 
Ah, yes. Why indeed. 

I have an idea. But I guarantee no one is going to like it...


Saturday, April 23, 2016

Lucifer's Technologies: Paradise Lost, Lucifer Found?

Satan in His Original Glory by William Blake

So much of the Western vision of Lucifer was inspired by the epic poetry of John Milton. His Paradise Lost was the Star Wars and the Lord of the Rings of its time, a widescreen, 3D apocalyptic blockbuster that pulled out all the stops and captured the imagination of readers all across Europe.

It took off on the idea of the war of the angels, hardly more than a few lines in the Book of Revelation, and created a saga that was meant to convey the very mind of God to the reader, to tell the story of Creation and the Fall, to open up the inner mind to imagery and drama not seen in the Western world for hundreds- if not thousands- of years.

But the epic was written during very dark days for the English poet, and indeed for England itself. Its motivation and inspiration was less religious ecstasy than death, desperation and paranoia. It may be why Satan- or Lucifer, as he's come to be known in the popular imagination- is by far the most compelling character in the story.

Some have even called him its hero.

A bit of background here:
Milton scholar John Leonard notes, "John Milton was nearly sixty when he published Paradise Lost in 1667. [The writer] John Aubrey (1626–97) tells us that the poem was begun in about 1658 and finished in about 1663.  
Leonard also notes that Milton "did not at first plan to write a biblical epic."...Milton originally envisioned his epic to be based on a legendary Saxon or British king like the legend of King Arthur. 
Having gone totally blind in 1652, Milton wrote Paradise Lost entirely through dictation with the help of amanuenses and friends. He also wrote the epic poem while he was often ill, suffering from gout, and despite the fact that he was suffering emotionally after the early death of his second wife, Katherine Woodcock, in 1658, and the death of their infant daughter (though Milton remarried soon after in 1663). 
Not a happy time, by any measure.

But there's a major plot point in Paradise Lost that tends to get overlooked and that is the association of pagan- and specifically Phoenician/Canaanite- gods with fallen angels.
Remember now that the Book of Enoch was still lost as of Lost's writing and we're just now beginning to discover the connection of the Watchers to now-lost Phoenician deities (gods or demigods).

In Milton's estimation the fallen angels, banned from Heaven and written out of the Book of Life, chose to descend to Earth and present themselves as gods to humankind. (Note: I've translated some of the archaic English here to clarify the text)
Godlike shapes and forms excelling human, princely dignities,
And powers that art in Heaven sat on thrones; 
Though of their names in heavenly records now 
be no memorial Blotted out and erased 
By their rebellion from the Books of Life.

Got them new Names...wandering over the Earth...Of Mankind they corrupted to forsake
…With gay religions full of pomp and gold,

And devils to adore for deities:
Then were they known to men by various names,  
And various idols through the heathen world.

Anu, progenitor of the angel archetype

Milton- who knew his mythology- spends a lot of time cataloging the ancient gods. First among these imposters are Baalim (Ba'al Hadad) and Ashtaroth, noting that the angels- apparently all male- could change genders at will:
…From Syrian ground, had general names
 of Baalim and Ashtaroth,
Those male,
 these feminine.
For spirits when they please
 can either sex assume, or both….
Milton echoes the ancient prophets and laments that the ancient Jews chose to follow these strange gods and because of this infidelity were defeated by their enemies (notably the Babylonians):

For those the race of Israel oft forsook
 their living strength,
And unfrequented left
 His righteous altar, bowing lowly down
 to bestial Gods;
For which their heads as low Bow'd down in battle, sunk before the spear of despicable foes. 

The Astarte/Ishtar figure appears again, significantly worshipped by "Sidonian" virgins:
With these in troop 
came Astoreth, whom the Phoenicians call'd
Queen of Heaven, with crescent Horns;
 To whose bright image nightly by the Moon Sidonian virgins paid their vows and songs, 
Then comes the figure of Tammuz/Adonis, again inflaming the passions of Phoenician girls:
Tammuz came next behind, whose annual wound in Lebanon allured
The Syrian Damsels to lament his fate
 In amorous ditties all a Summers day,
While smooth Adonis from his native Rock ran purple to the Sea...The love-tale infected Sion's daughters with like heat,
Whose wanton passions in the sacred porch Ezekiel saw, when by the vision led 
The Philistine god Dagon appears, who is often identified with Oannes:
Dagon his Name, Sea Monster, upward man
 and downward Fish: Yet had his temple high reared in Azotus, dreaded through the Coast
And then Milton goes and says it, those magic keywords so well-known to those of us familiar with fallen angel conspiracy theory:
A crew who under names of old renown…
For those of you unfamiliar with the reference, Milton is paraphrasing Genesis here, specifically a favorite quote among conspiracy theorists who identify aliens with the Nephilim:
There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown. -- Genesis 6:4 
Cutting to the quick, Milton then names the Egyptian trinity as being particularly monstrous and offensive, as well as seductive to the faithful:
Osiris, Isis, Horus and their Train
With monstrous shapes and sorceries abused fanatic Egypt and her Priests,
To seek 
their wandering Gods disguised in brutish forms rather then human.
Nor did Israel escape
 the infection when their borrowed gold composed the Calf in Horeb
Seeming to proceed out of order, Milton then names Belial, who drives his followers to disbelief.
BELIAL came last, than whom a Spirit more lewd fell not from Heaven, or more gross to love vice for it self: To him no temple stood or altar smoked; yet who more oft then he in temples and at altars, when the Priest turns atheist
"When the priest turns atheist." Interesting.

The Greek gods are treated with less contempt than their Syro-Phoenician and Egyptian counterparts (Greco-Roman monsters like the Gorgons and the Furies et al appear later in the story). Their primary offense in Milton's mind seems to be their multiplicity. But this may be significant in the context of this parade of fallen angels:

The Ionian Gods, of Javan's issue held
Yet confessed later then Heaven and Earth
 their boasted Parents;
Titan Heaven's first born, With his enormous brood, and birthright seized

Milton might have been especially creative and florid in his descriptions of these fallen angel-turned-pagan gods but he was not the first to demonize other people's deities.

He was following in a long tradition dating back to the early Church Fathers, who remade the ancient Daemons (benevolent bringers of knowledge, essentially the same as our modern conception of angels) into evil "demons," similar to the evil spirits of Babylonian folk magic:

In the second century, Christianity had moved deeper into the gentile world. They found it harder to condemn the Hellenic Gods (than) Moloch or Baal, who had always been obscure, esoteric, and associated with atrocities. The answer came to them in the form of pagan converts such as Justin Martyr and Tatian...Through their writing, they preached that the sins and adulteries ascribed to the gods by the Greeks were actually committed by demons…Like pagans, Christians still sensed and saw the gods and their power, and as something, they had to assume, lay behind it...they turned these pagan daimones into malevolent 'demons', the troupe of Satan...  
But England had been Christian for a thousand years by the time Milton wrote Paradise Lost. The Puritans were a major force in English politics, having deposed a king and put one of their own (Oliver Cromwell) in his place as Lord Protector. So why were the old pagan gods such a concern to him, so much so that they became such a central tactic in Lucifer's war against Heaven?

As it happens, the old gods had made something of a major comeback in Europe during Milton's lifetime, and even before. A bit of history is in order:
 In May 1638, Milton embarked upon a tour of France and Italy that lasted up to July or August 1639. His travels supplemented his study with new and direct experience of artistic and religious traditions, especially Roman Catholicism. He met famous theorists and intellectuals of the time, and was able to display his poetic skills. 
While in Europe Milton would have bombarded with images of the old gods, from the Great Masters of the Renaissance as well as more contemporary works. Mythology had become a major source of inspiration for artists, so much so that handbooks were published explaining the symbolic and allegoric meaning of the gods and heroes.
 The Iconologia of Cesare Ripa was published in 1593 and reissued with woodcuts in 1603. Ripa’s commentary, which was in Italian, separated the mythological figures from their narrative contexts, so that they often became abstractions with a moral meaning.  
The other important iconography was the Imagines of Philostratus, a Greek work of the third century a.d. describing an art collection in Naples. 
Painters in France and Italy in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries used classical myths for narrative paintings on a heroic scale, for these were considered to belong to history painting, the most highly esteemed genre. 
Lucifer's daughter is a Reptilian. Just sayin'...

It wasn't just artists who were looking back to the Greco-Roman world for inspiration. Scholars and philosophers had rediscovered the Neo-Platonists, the great rivals of the Gnostics. Foremost among these was Marsilio Ficino:
Ficino translated all of Plato's dialogues into Latin and produced a number of commentaries, but his most important and systematic work was Platonic Theology , in which he outlines Neoplatonism and synthesizes it with other philosophical systems, in particular, Christianity.
Contrary to modern propaganda depicting a Taliban-like theocratic nightmare world across Europe, "pagan" philosophy had actually been in vogue since the High Middle Ages and even as early as the Carolingian Renaissance, as scholars and clerics looked to the classics to bolster the somewhat thin catalog of Christian learning.

But Ficino was willing to go far beyond his Medieval counterparts and skirt the frontiers of heresy:

 There are noteworthy elements in his writings that are less traditional and orthodox by some contemporary philosophical standards. For example, he was deeply influenced by the Hermetic tradition, and describes a species of knowledge, or natural magic, that draws down the intellectual and moral virtues of the heavens to the terrestrial world. 
Ficino also endorses an ancient theological tradition that included, to name a few, Hermes Trismegistus, Pythagoras, and Orpheus among its ranks. He held that this pagan tradition espoused a pious philosophy that in fact presaged and confirmed Christianity. 
Ficino would presage the rise of Hermeticism, a revival of the wisdom (or supposed wisdom) of the fabled Hermes Trismegistus. Along with study of the Cabala, Hermeticism would mark a high-water point for mysticism in the West, as the finest minds of the day delved into this supposed ancient wisdom. Hermeticism would have tangible results, setting the groundwork for the Age of Science and the Age of Archaeology:
(Hermeticism) bore fruit in alchemy, in which transmutation of base metals into gold within a universelike crucible effected a parallel transmutation of the alchemist's soul. Thus the name of Hermes became a banner for occult and mystical philosophies. 
Hermeticism clearly encouraged the Renaissance interest in Egypt, which influenced speculations on language and linguistic philosophy, particularly in the seventeenth century, when the Jesuit Athanasius Kircher (1601–1680) published voluminous works on hieroglyphs.
Milton himself would be influenced by Hermeticism when he was a younger man, making explicit reference to the fashions of the day in his poem, Il Penseroso:
With thrice great Hermes, or unsphere
The Spirit of Plato, to unfold
What worlds or what vast regions hold
The immortal mind that hath forsook
Her mansion in this fleshly nook
And of those daemons that are found
In fire, air, flood, or under ground
Milton would delve into more liberal religious and political ideas as well, perhaps influenced by his experiences in Europe, taking stands on controversial issues like censorship and divorce. He'd also express some relatively unconventional theological opinions in the context of Protestant Christianity.

But soon everything would change for the poet, and change for the worse. From the Cliff Notes biography of Milton:
In 1642, the Civil War began, and its effects touched Milton directly. That same year, he married Mary Powell, daughter of a Royalist family from Oxford. A month after the marriage, Mary (returned) to live with her family...Milton's brother, Christopher, also announced as a Royalist... 
The year 1649 marked a decisive change in Milton's life. 
Charles I was executed, with Milton probably in attendance. The murder of a king was shocking to the people of a country that had always lived under a monarchy and for whom the king had an aura of divinity.  
During 1652, Milton suffered a number of traumatic events.
First, his eyesight, which had been growing weaker, gave out completely...By 1652, Milton was totally blind. 
Second, his young son, John, died under mysterious circumstances. Third, his wife died from complications in giving birth to the Milton's third daughter...
In 1656, he married Katherine Woodcock, who died two years later. He would marry for the third time in 1663 to Elizabeth Minshull, who became his nurse as his health declined...
With the death of Oliver Cromwell in 1658, Milton's political fortunes were reversed. As Royalists gained power, Milton went into hiding...
Milton stayed in hiding until Parliament passed the Acts of Oblivion, pardoning most of those who had opposed Charles II. Even so, Parliament considered arresting Milton, an act which was carried out in October 1659...Milton was released in December.

By the time of the actual restoration of the monarchy in 1660, Milton was hard at work on Paradise Lost. 
Many scholars see the War in Heaven as a metaphor for the English Civil War, but what then do we make of Lucifer/Satan?

He's by far the most interesting and complex character in the epic. A dynamic personality and a great orator, Lucifer/Satan is alternately proud, defiant and courageous 
yet has been cited for a tendency to over-intellectualize, a kind of pettiness, and a penchant for self-doubt. Hmm, interesting. Sounds like a real person.

At the same time Lucifer leads this innumerable army of demons, many of whom who had posed as pagan gods in a war on Heaven- on the cosmic order- itself. He leads mankind into the Fall in his struggle, a struggle he ultimately loses (did I mention he sires a Reptilian?).

Yet he remains the most compelling figure in the saga. A saga in which he wasn't originally supposed to appear in at all.

Was Lucifer/Satan a simple literary invention or had Milton based it on a real person?

Was Milton making a statement with Lucifer/Satan, was he telling a story of Europe's lost innocence, how it had been led astray by charismatic rebels who declared war on the established order and now men like Milton were left to pay the price for their impiety?

Because there was a charismatic rebel who lived a few decades before the creation of Paradise Lost, a rebel who not only declared war on the cosmic order itself but also sought to return the actual worship of the old gods to Europe. Oh, I'm sure some of you have figured this one out by now:
Giordano Bruno, original name Filippo Bruno, byname Il Nolano (born 1548, Nola, near Naples—died February 17, 1600, Rome) Italian philosopher, astronomer, mathematician, and occultist whose theories anticipated modern science. 
Bruno is, perhaps, chiefly remembered for the tragic death he suffered at the stake because of the tenacity with which he maintained his unorthodox ideas at a time when both the Roman Catholic and the Reformed churches were reaffirming rigid Aristotelian and Scholastic principles in their struggle for the evangelization of Europe.
Bruno was one of the first scholars to imagine outer space in the same general terms we see it today, and believed Earth was just one of many planets:
In his 1584 book On the Infinite Universe and Worlds, Bruno theorized that there is a single general space, a single vast immensity which we may freely call Void; in it are innumerable globes like this one on which we live and grow. This space we declare to be infinite… In it are an infinity of worlds of the same kind as our own.
Bruno's concept of an infinite universe and uncountable worlds and suns was almost inconceivable to thinkers of his day. And Bruno wasn't shy about marching straight into the minefields of heresy to make his points:
"I can imagine an infinite number of worlds like the earth, with a Garden of Eden on each one. In all these Gardens of Eden, half the Adams and Eves will not eat the fruit of knowledge, but half will. But half of infinity is infinity, so an infinite number of worlds will fall from grace and there will be an infinite number of crucifixions. Therefore, either there is one unique Jesus who goes from one world to another, or there are an infinite number of Jesuses.
One can't help but think of Satan's uncountable legions of fallen angels when reading Bruno's theories, particularly when they deny the uniqueness of Christ, a claim even an unconventional Christian like Milton would find blasphemous, since technically-speaking, Bruno is sneaking polytheism in the back door there. Read this then:
Witness this new-made world, another Heaven
From Heaven-gate not far, founded in view
On the clear hyaline, the glassy sea;
Of amplitude almost immense, with stars
Numerous, and every star perhaps a world
Of destined habitation; but thou knowest
Their seasons: among these the seat of Men,
Earth, with her nether ocean circumfused,
Their pleasant dwelling-place.  Thrice happy Men,
And sons of Men, whom God hath thus advanced!
It's apparent that Milton was indeed familiar with Bruno's ideas. But simultaneously, you also get a sense that the chaos of Bruno's infinite worlds in the legions of demons storming Heaven. It's as if Milton is comfortable with the idea of infinite worlds but only if the Divine Order is firmly established:
(Lucifer) spake: and to confirm his words, out-flew millions of flaming swords, Drawn from the thighs of mighty Cherubim; the sudden blaze far round illumined hell: highly they raged
 against the Highest, and fierce with grasped arms clashed on their sounding shields the din of war, Hurling defiance toward the vault of Heaven.
Another interesting clue here is that Lucifer creates his own Vatican in Hell, which is called the Pandemonium (meaning "all the demons"). Remember Milton's grasp of ancient myth, his identification of ancient gods with demons and the fact that our folk image of Satan is a corruption of the old fertility god Pan.

Bruno would hailed as a martyr for the cause of  throughout the Enlightenment and into the Scientific Revolution of the 19th Century. It wasn't until a Renaissance historian named Frances Yates took a more serious look at Bruno's writings and history that a different picture emerged:
Bruno was an intense religious Hermetist, a believer in the magical religion of the Egyptians as described in the Asclepius, the imminent return of which he prophesied in England, taking the Copernican sun as a portent in the sky of this imminent return. He patronises Copernicus for having understood his theory only as a mathematician, whereas he (Bruno) has seen its more profound religious and magical meanings. 
Yates added:
“Giordano Bruno’s Egyptianism was demonic and revolutionary, demanding full restoration of the Egyptian-Hermetic religion.”
"Demonic and revolutionary."

It was with Yates then that Bruno's reputation in the scientific world began to falter. 
Up until Yates' book, Bruno had historically been seen as a figure sympathetic to the new early modern science due to his adherence to Copernicus's theory of heliocentricity. His execution at the stake in 1600 by the inquisition was regarded as a martyrdom for the new science. Yates argues that Bruno's outlook had nothing to do with science and was based entirely on his convictions about Magia and Cabala.  
The Catholic Encyclopedia was unapologetic about Bruno's martyrdom, baldly stating:
Bruno was not condemned for his defense of the Copernican system of astronomy, nor for his doctrine of the plurality of inhabited worlds, but for his theological errors, among which were the following: that Christ was not God but merely an unusually skilful magician, that the Holy Ghost is the soul of the world, that the Devil will be saved.
"That the Devil will be saved." A clearer picture begins to emerge.

Milton not only knew of Bruno but may have had a deeper perspective on the man than later historians like Yates could hope to have.

It seems Milton's father and Bruno were acquainted, leading one to believe that Milton may have had an inside track on the rebel :

 Giordano Bruno spent the years between 1583 and 1585 in England, lecturing at Oxford and London and coming into close contact with Fulke Greville, Philip Sidney, and the entire Sidney circle… The controversial nature of Bruno's impact on people belonging to the academic and literary circles ensured the survival of interest in Bruno's thought well into the seventeenth century. 
Milton's father, John Milton senior, and his headmaster at St. Paul's, the elder Alexander Gil, were at Oxford at the time when Bruno gave his lectures on heliocentricity, which were received with both great interest and hostility.

Their acquaintance with Bruno may have inspired Milton's early interest in the Italian scientist and philosopher. Such interest would imply an acquaintance with the different strands of Bruno's philosophy hermeticism, cabalism, and cosmology.
There may have been additional channels of information for the poet as well:
Additionally, Milton's Italian journey, as (Milton biographer) Christopher Hill suggests, would have encouraged greater familiarity with Bruno...
Reading of Bruno and his temperament it's hard not to see him in Milton's Lucifer/Satan, particularly when you consider the darkened mood and hard times the poet was working under.
Age and misfortune seem to have dampened Milton's appetite for apostasy and rebellion. Heretical ideas he may have entertained in his more carefree youth may have seemed more like banes as Fortune herself turned against him. Milton may have been an eccentric Christian but was a Christian all the same.

It should also be noted that Paradise Lost was published in 1667, after the Great Fire of London in 1666 and the London Plague of 1665-1666. Apocalyptic times.

So Bruno's "war against Heaven," his heretical ideas about the Devil, his desire to see the old gods restored to worship in Europe and his ultimate downfall all paint a compelling portrait of the role model for Milton's Lucifer/Satan.

A portrait that would have its own kind of prophetic power.

Bruno's alien seeds would take root and many of his ideas would lead to accepted science. The Rosicrucians would arise in Milton's lifetime and the Freemasons around the time of his death (the Masons would build that famous statue of Bruno glaring at the Vatican).

Bruno's mania for Egyptology would spread like a contagion and lead to expeditions beginning in the 18th Century, which would change history forever. The power of the his nemesis the Church would weaken as the Protestant Reformation and the Enlightenment took hold.

Did someone call for Hermes?

Scientific inquiry and technology would gather strength in the years after Paradise Lost, leading to The Origin of Species and the "dark Satanic mills" of the Industrial Revolution.
But alongside the gathering power of science would be the Neo-Classical revival, in which images of the old gods would be seen on everything from monumental architecture to household wares to soda bottles.

Spiritual ideas from the East would take root in Theosophy and the occult revival, in which the old gods would be openly worshipped and the ancient Mysteries would be revived.

Somehow, some way, the return of the old gods and technological and scientific progress have always gone hand in hand.

From the late Classical Era to the High Middle Ages and the Renaissance and throughout the Industrial Revolution, into the age of radio and mass media (the Golden Age of Hollywood was filled with Freemasons and occultists) the rediscovery of the old gods always seemed to walk hand-in-hand with technological and scientific breakthrough, as if Semjaza and Prometheus still whispered in our ears.

The two World Wars were fought by powers all drawing on the same Greco-Roman symbology- and indeed, the same ancient occult rites- as part of their arsenal.

And as soon as they were over, everything would change in ways no one could have ever imagined. 


My immense gratitude to Gordon White for lending a sympathetic ear while I struggled to wrestle all of the threads in this piece to the ground. His insights and encyclopedic grasp of all things Hermetic were absolutely crucial in sorting this whole story out.