Monday, July 18, 2016

Secret Sun-o-Vision: Stranger Things

2016 has been a messed-up year.

I probably don't need to remind anyone of that but it bears repeating anyway. 

How's it been for you? Every time I think 2016 is doing smacking me around it gets another lick in. But I can't really complain, given the endless ticker-tape of terrible news coming in from all around the world, so much so that it threatens to become routine. 

All hell has not quite broken out everywhere yet, not the way it has in Syria or the Ukraine, say, but it could only be a matter of time. I don't need to read the litany here; you're all smart people and know what's going on out there.

The Olympics, that beloved mash-up of mostly obscure and unloved sports and high initiate ritual, isn't looking like it will offer much relief this year, as Brazil is rocked by political scandal and bad omen.  

America's one-time great escape from reality, the summer blockbuster, is slipping from its grasp as studios focus their money and energy on the foreign market. This is why nearly every movie title these days has either a numeral or a colon in it. 

At some point Hollywood is going to run out of material to recycle and its competitors are going to catch up with its technology. Until then, it's nothing but remakes and sequels as far as the eye can see.

With more and more people shunning the multiplex, television is filling the (yawning, gaping) void. Many of the top writers in the business have migrated into TV, which offers more room to breathe than the hyper-controlled world of moviemaking in the 21st Century. 

And here's where we get to the flip-side of 2016.

Earlier this year I wrote about how a lot of the themes I'd been exploring here seemed to be coming to fruition and Netflix's new series Stranger Things is practically a tulpa in this context. 

It's basically a checklist of Secret Sun standbys, from remote viewing to alternate realities to human experimentation to old-school geekdom to the friggin' Clash*. 

It also ties into another theme this year, this theme of planetary retrograde. I've taken advantage of all these backsliding planets to recover a lot of things from my past and in that regard Stranger Things feels like a kind of punctuation to that process.

I binged the entire thing and have already begun my re-watch but I wanted to riff on my immediate impressions. Suffice it to say, it's been a sync motherlode, personally-speaking.

The story starts off with a Twin Peaks-type mystery; a young boy named Will Byers goes missing after riding his bike home from a friend's house one night. He comes from a broken home with a single mother who isn't entirely stable and has a low-paying job as a cashier. 

He's obsessed with Lord of the Rings and comic books and Star Wars and the rest of it, loves to draw and likes The Clash. He and his friends get bullied a lot by the "mouth-breathers" at school, who all think he's gay.

Yeah, you could say I related to young Will. Except I loved baseball when I was his age. 

And didn't play Dungeons & Dragons, mostly because it wasn't really big when I was his age and by the time it was I didn't have anyone to play it with. The comic store I worked in didn't even sell any D&D stuff at the time, just to give you some context.

If you've watched the show and have read this blog over the years, you've probably picked up on some of the other connections, like the peculiar nature of the Byers' living room. That seemed awfully familiar. A little too familiar.†

So was the general theme of bad shit happening to kids, something else I was all too familiar growing up with. Actually, just this past week I was talking about bad shit happening at a local quarry when I was young and sure enough that very theme pops up in Stranger Things.

Anyhow, as Will goes missing a strange young girl appears, who's apparently escaped from a secret government lab. Will's friends take her in and soon discover she's no ordinary kid. And so the game is afoot.

Stranger Things has been called a pastiche, and to be sure it wears its influences on its sleeve. There's a lot of licks lifted from E.T., The Goonies, Firestarter, Akira, Altered States and a whole host of other 80s classics. There's a healthy dose of X-Files and Outer Limits in evidence.

But there's a lot taken from lesser-known films such as Beyond the Black Rainbow (if you haven't seen it, do so) and especially Wavelength, a decidedly-obscure movie Secret Sun readers are probably familiar with

A lot of the themes the series explores are well familiar to readers of this blog, so much so that it very much feels like its producers have spent some time here (I first made the connections between Wavelength and MK Ultra). The Clash references almost feel like winks in that regard. 

Given that this series was originally supposed to take place in Montauk, I'm wondering if the producers googled my Eternal Sunshine posts and got linked to the Wavelength piece.

The faux-Tangerine Dream music in Stranger Things certainly doesn't disabuse me of that particularly suspicion. 

Well, either way.

Speaking of MK Ultra, its star is Timothy Leary's goddaughter Winona Ryder, whose father was a Leary protege. 

Winona is now 44, which scares the shit out of me. Winona's had a hard go of it  the past several years, having fallen from grace several years ago after being arrested for shoplifting. Which means she's perfect for the role here and adds a spiritual connection to the source material that helps complete the circuit. 

In more ways than one, actually. 

It was refreshing to have something to watch, finally. My problem with most TV (or movies) these days is that I just can't get into the subject matter

I'm hard to entertain. I admit it. I've just consumed too much pop culture over the years. This series was pre-sell for me, there's no doubt about it. But I wouldn't have stuck with it if it weren't so well-done. I'm not really into things with kids but this was not a kids' show, it was an adult show that had kids in it. Big difference.

You'll notice I'm not going into the storylines or plot points in any great detail here. And that's because I want you to watch it. Once it's sunk in we can dive into the nitty-gritty and see if we can't parse some of the finer points.

Long story short: it's great. Go watch it.

* Not just The Clash but also a weird 1983-specific Clash sync. In one scene, we hear "She Has Funny Cars" by The Jefferson Airplane. One of the pivotal events of my youth- and certainly of 1983- was my purchase of the Casbah Club bootleg of The Clash at Brixton Academy. That album starts off with a lift of the drum riff from "Funny Cars." 

That's some pretty specific synchery going on there, especially since I bought the album at the same flea market I got a lot of old comics, including the John Byrne issue of The Comics Journal, artist of the issue of the X-Men that is repeatedly mentioned in the first episode of Stranger Things.

† Around the same time this story takes place (November 1983) I had my cop nightmare, which played uncomfortably like the abduction scene in the Intruders TV movie. It went like this: I was sitting with my mother and stepfather in the living room (aka the owl room) and we were worried about my sister, who was late getting home. 

Suddenly we saw flashing lights in the front window (pink and purple, significantly) and I went to get the door. There was a cop on the front porch but I couldn't see his face. As I opened the front door he took out his gun and shot me in the stomach. Or chest. I had a strange feeling of accomplishment after having that dream. Which raises all kinds of weird issues not unrelated to this series.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Dog Days: Another Look at the X-Files Reboot

The X-Files "Event Series" has been released on DVD. The hype is over and so is the inevitable controversy and things have returned to status quo in X-Files fandom. Or perhaps status quo ante.

I wasn't thinking much about The X-Files after the miniseries. I can't say it didn't live up to my expectations because I really didn't have any. I remember watching the teaser doc on Christmas day and not exactly feeling like Santa brought the 90s back.

Thursday, July 07, 2016

Expanding Your Vision

I was driving around with my daughter the other day and listening to the top 40 radio station with her. And each and every song I heard was like a flashback, usually to the late 80s or early 90s. 

As each song played I pointed out where the piano changes came from (say, from every 80s House music song ever) or where the drum beats came from (say, early 90s hip-hop) or where the chord progression was stolen from, not to mention how much of the vocals were in fact completely digitally processed (Auto-Tune makes me seasick, still).

It's not supposed to be like this. I'm supposed to be out of touch and today's pop music is supposed to be alien and unfamiliar to me, but it was all too familiar. I'd heard it all before, every bit of it.

Is this why sales of recorded music are at an all-time low? 

I read that Beyonce's new album sold a million copies, all told. Like it was a big deal. Not 5 years ago that would have been a crushing disappointment. An embarrassment. Not anymore.

This is where people chime in about streaming but streaming ain't paying the bills. Musicians and songwriters are up in arms over the pittance they receive from streaming and if they can't cover basic costs they'll find something else to do. Even ostensibly-successful ones. Some of us said so all along but were dismissed as alarmists. And here we are.

And I would argue that streaming is a vote of no-confidence in the music. You love it, you want to own it.

Similarly, the movie charts are filled with sequels and remakes and just plain old ripoffs and they wonder why ticket sales are dropping. The sequel to Finding Nemo is a hit, but the sequel to Independence Day is a disaster. And everything else hovers somewhere between, but closer to the latter than the former.

Print book sales were up last year but e-book sales were way down, leading the market to an overall loss. Another major chain went Chapter 11 (Hastings) and Barnes and Noble reported a major loss for 2016. You may have noticed that merchandising takes up more and more floor space at their stores and now they're talking about putting restaurants and bars in some locations. Not a sign of rude health for the book market.

Cable TV providers are all experiencing subscriber losses as people cut the cords and drop TV service. You can see the reason for this- digital cable is a blizzard of redundant stations, locked stations, and crap stations, all of which make the few good ones nearly impossible to find.

Even allowing for market correction in response to saturation, these are not the symptoms of a healthy culture. Social fragmentation is making it nearly impossible to mass-market anything anymore, which becomes a major problem when you're investing hundreds of millions of dollars in a feature film.

But there's also an economic issue at work here.

Main Street America still hasn't recovered from the Great Recession, in fact it's still raging in many parts of the country. Heroin has become an epidemic all across America, cutting across ethnic and class divisions. College graduates face a shrinking marketplace and ballooning debt. But you surely knew all this already, didn't you?

It's hard to think of an instance in today's economy where the scales aren't tipped, the dice aren't loaded, the game isn't rigged. 

But something else is missing: vision. It's disturbing to think that the three biggest pop culture phenomena I could think of these past few years were The Walking Dead, Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones. They might all be fine television but I doubt they're inspiring too many people to break out of the rut we seem to be stuck in.

Where's the vision?

Some might then object that there's no resisting the technocrats and their social engineering agendas but I wonder. I wonder how much of that is just the Big Psych-Out, in which the war is lost before the battle is ever joined. It makes me wonder about how people seem to play a part that's been written for them, and fall into the Hegelian Dialect by default.


It's at points like this I seriously start to wonder about our species and our place in this environment. We seem to have all the tools to carve out comfortable little niches for ourselves but this ability isn't quite adaptive as it seems. 

Societies seem to reach a peak of technological and cultural advancement before imploding. That's basically what history is. Don't ask me why but there's something inherently anti-adaptive about higher intelligence and advanced civilization. It's a raging contradiction, but the record speaks for itself.

It's a process I became keenly aware of while reading about the Sumerians and the Babylonians. The Sumerians rose, declined, and gave way to the Akkadians, who simply repeated the process themselves. 

Then came the Babylonians.

Babylon was once the greatest city on Earth- the Greek historian Herodotus was dumbstruck by its size, scope and technological prowess. A little over a century later it was a backwater, its population moved en masse to another city after constant internecine warfare among Alexander's generals.

You see this in microcosm in families, when you'll have a figure make a great fortune that is frittered away by idiot grandchildren, most often on drugs and fast living, before the line eventually dies out. An addiction to the lifestyle of the idle rich has toppled dynasties since we crawled out of the caves. 

And today people are looking at the Birth-School-Work-Death cycle of modern Capitalism and thinking there's got to be another way. There may be, but it's going to require two things: vision and really hard work. I think the Technocratic agenda is going to show itself to be another in a long line of false utopias, in fact I think it's falling apart already. But it's not going down without taking a lot of victims with it.


It boils down to this: I can't control what they do, but if I'm lucky I can control what I do. This is why I'm grateful Mitch Horowitz is talking up positive thinking so hard, and putting it back in an magical, spirit-based context. The fact is that we're bombarded with negative thinking all day long (as opposed to critical thinking, and people often confuse the two), in fact it's an integral part of that technocratic agenda I mentioned before. Making you feel defeated is an important part of an opponent's strategy.

I don't think vision starts with the group, I think it starts with the individual. In fact I think the reason why so much of pop culture is failing is because it's groupcentric and lacks the power of an individual voice. It all feels committee-driven, focus group-driven, devoid of vision. Devoid of magic.

It's going to continue to fail unless it gets off this road, and that applies to the groupthink that we see so much of today as well. We're already past the fatigue point with that.

If you need a good dose of vision, I'd like to recommend Gordon White's book The Chaos Protocols, which is full of practical and practicable ways to expand your vision and improve your personal circumstances.

I think we're in an interesting situation, one that reminds me of a period in the 20th Century when young people had dropped the ball and left it up to older weirdos to keep the home fires burning. When you had old bohemians (and Theosophists and Rosicrucians, even) keeping it real until the tides came back in. 

An interesting model to consider as you work on your own vision of vision.

Sunday, July 03, 2016

The Mandate of Heaven

I realize I haven't updated the blog in over a week. Most of my free time has been spent buried in research, and spending a lot of time not being able to believe what I've been finding.

And it seems that every time I found myself stuck at a dead end, some new connection or clue would fall out of absolutely nowhere and open the story up all over again. 

It's a story that seems ready to finally be told. It seems to want to be told. The problem is that doing so on a blog is simply not practical. It requires a lot more time and effort.

But it seems that the world outside continues to crumble and shatter and dis-integrate. As I write today there was a devastating car bomb attack in Baghdad, ostensibly blamed on Islamic State.

But I've been reading countless texts talking about the centuries of slaughter that took place in the very same places we are seeing it today, thousands of years before anyone ever heard of Islam.

A Babylonian court poet would call on an ancient incarnation of Lucifer in protest of the carnage in a famous epic poem of the time. The Babylonian version of Lucifer was not a devil either, he the "firstborn son of God" and the "shepherd of mankind," who was "the door," that blocked the gods of war. He was even called on to drive out demons. (Gee, this all sounds oddly familiar).

Yet, when it came time to defend his people, the Babylonian Lucifer did so with "zeal."

Reading all this historical material I am thunderstruck by how familiar it all seems. The Sumerians, the Akkadians, the Babylonians- perhaps more than anyone in history, they all thought they enjoyed the Mandate of Heaven. 

Until they didn't.

Rome was the Eternal City. Until it wasn't.

Then, as now, the enigmatic complexity of the Lucifer archetype suits the complexity of the world, no matter how hard ideologues across the spectrum try to pretend complexity away. 

It suits the difficult choices many of us will find ourselves having to make in the days ahead. As much as some might look for simple answers, they'll be faced instead with increasingly complex questions.

Indeed, many now believe that the current political, social, and economic arrangements are not only unsustainable, I think most intelligent people agree that if we continue on the roads we are on, all these social and political trends are all leading us to wide-scale civil conflict. And possibly worse.  

This is especially relevant in the wake of Brexit, which too many people seem to think was a populist uprising and not in fact the brutal calculation of business elites chafing under the yoke of the EU's Byzantine regulatory regime. Either way, the Rubicon has been crossed and Europe's troubles have only just begun.

Not to mention NATO's, which fester in the shadow of Russia and China's rise as serious military powerhouses (and the subsequent collapse of most of Europe's military capabilities). This at a time when serious questions are being raised about the rolling porkfest that we call the American defense budget.

There are a lot of people predicting the dawn of a new Dark Age anyway, for many parts of the world at least, that systems are always inherently finite and subject to collapse and that there are simply too many pressures on them already, that breakdown is inevitable. 


Think about this; at some point, hackers, probably state-sponsored, are going to unleash not a virus, but an artificial intelligence on the Internet with one simple command: "crash everything you can." 

I'm sure there are programmers working on algorithms designed to crash Facebook, to crash Google, to crash Apple, as we speak. At some point this is going to happen. It may even work.

Similarly, I can't help but wonder if there is a force at work deliberately trying to crash the neoliberal, Capitalist world order from within, attacking it from its left rather than the right, or if it's finally succumbing to its own contradictions. 

Maybe there's a reason hedge fund billionaires are buying remote island getaways. We all want to believe that the elites know what they're doing, which means it will all work out somehow, but maybe they don't. 

Maybe they've been bluffing all along.

So as intractable as many beliefs and attitudes might seem at the moment, or how powerful certain arrangements, institutions or alliances may appear, history teaches us that once open conflicts begin, many of them will shift radically and many will actually dissolve, literally overnight. 

What makes sense in an aura of relative peace and prosperity falls away when civil war and economic disaster strike. Or as Mike Tyson once said, "Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face."

We're already seeing a return to an archaic kind of paganism, not the happy-funtime LARP variety of the alleged neopagans, but the grim, fatalist paganism of Santa Muerte and the Wotanist sects. The old-time paganism where things get killed. This may in fact be humanity's default setting. A careful reading of history probably backs that up.

Suddenly, the demon-haunted nights of ancient Mesopotamia seem relevant again. Where exactly does Babalon end and Lilith begin?


Our mythic history is filled with ambiguous figures offering us technologyparticularly rebellious figures like Prometheus (a Titan) and Semjaza (an Angel), but even more established figures such as Hermes, Cadmus, and Osiris, the civilizing forces of the ancient world. 

There's always been a shadow side to these figures, speaking to our desire to return to Edenic innocence.  

The common denominator is that the figure who is a teacher of actual practical techniques with which to improve the human condition, not just abstract philosophies or spiritual dogma, is never really completely trustworthy. These characters are something we seem to have mixed feelings about, and always have.

But Osiris and Cadmus have more in common with Prometheus and Semjaza than one might think at first. Osiris, the civilizer, got pretty messed up himself by Set, who came to represent authority when he took the throne. Afterwards Osiris became a figure of judgement, leaving all the nurturing to Isis. 

Another way of looking at it is that Osiris became the King of Hell.

Cadmus was punished by Zeus for killing the Dragon of Mars and condemned to spend eternity as a serpent, in much the same way as the Serpent in the Garden was cursed by Deus to crawl on his belly for leading Adam and Eve to the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. The parallels between the two narratives could fill a really boring academic treatise.

Hermes himself would often use his bag of tricks against the gods- authority, that is- on our behalf. In some ways, Hermes could be said to be a rebel himself, in that he was willing to bargain, to cut deals, to work magic with us, all away from Olympia's all-seeing eye. 
But at the same time Hermes was never to be entirely trusted. He had a devilish streak all his own.

Even so, Hermes certainly seemed to be more interested in human beings than the other Olympians which is why he was seen as a rock star in the ancient Mysteries.

Prometheus not only gave fire to humanity but also taught the civilizing arts and sciences. For those favors Zeus dreamed up a particularly sadistic torture, the sick, kiddie-raping bastard. Semjaza and his band of Hell's angels were tossed into the pits for doing pretty much the same. Again, the offense here was going up against the established order, which in the ancient world's conception of the universe was the same as upsetting the cosmic order.

The mandate of Heaven. 

Then, as now, there was an ambivalence about this process and an ambivalence towards science and technology in general. Science and sorcery were one and the same back then, after all.  

And truth be told, science doesn't have an unblemished track record when it comes to creating human suffering.

Machines and engines of war were undoubtedly known to the authors of Enoch (the Assyrians were masters of them), and the skills that the Watchers taught their human followers were the literal double-edge sword; war became a much nastier affair than it had been, or at least it seemed to be in the ancient legends. 

With technology came sieges, ruined cities and dead babies. It would only get crazy worse when the Romans came to town with their artillery (you saw Gladiator, right?).

So Enoch makes special mention of the bloodshed that followed on the heels of the fallen angels' technology as the reason for the archangels stepping in to send the Watchers off to Tartarus. Or so the story goes. Enoch neglects to mention what favors the Archangels ever did for us.

So if Lucifer-- in whatever ancient incarnation you choose to perceive him, take your pick -- was condemned and or exiled in an age when earthly and heavenly authority were seen as contiguous, he's bound to be freed in an age when authority is increasingly seen necessarily as corrupt and illegitimate, no matter where you sit on the ideological spectrum.

I'm more and more convinced of this having discovered who he really is, how far back his history goes (at least twenty-five centuries before Jesus) and how exactly he was called on by magicians and sorcerers for thousands of years- Sumerian, Akkadian, Babylonian magi, even Jewish exorcists recognized his elemental power. 

Lucifer was a god of the people, not the temples or the kings. This is a covert tradition.* 

He was called on when shit got severe, when nothing else seemed to work. When you were fucked. His spells make Norwegian Death Metal sound like the Berenstain-friggin'-Bears, even today.

His fearsome rep is well earned, believe me. Not a god to be trifled with.

Then, as now, it seems that this current is not only aroused during times of crisis, it actually thrives on them. Crisis points are actually when the subroutine is activated.

And appropriately enough, the hacker who exposed the Clinton email scandal (and many other members of the elite) calls himself "Guccifer." If that isn't a sign of the times I don't know what is. 

There's even a Guccifer 2.0 now.


Technology- knowledge- is the defining standard of power of our time, and so the struggle against the Mandate of Heaven in the future will be over technologies, or more concisely, systems of knowledge. 

Yet we're seeing technology having a devastating effect on human intelligence and basic competence. This is exactly what I warned Timothy Leary about back in 1993 when he was going around hawking virtual reality. I told him that the more people immersed themselves in virtual environments the less they would be able to function in the real world.

He got very angry at me over this but this recent "adulting" theme has proven me right. Young people who are whizzes on their smartphones but can't boil an egg or drive a car has become kind of a joke, but it's not really funny if you want to sustain a functional civilization.

This ties back to the question of human evolution, which not only makes no sense in relation to all the other animals on the planet but has no actual internal logic either. Threats, intimidation and harassment help keep most biologists quiet but the gaps are there, they're glaring and only getting worse. 

We won't even go into the face-punching absurdity of cavemen genetically engineering wild wheat into a usable food crop.

And perhaps most glaring of all, our science and technology seem to have an anti-adaptive aspect, in which they encourage us to de-evolve. 

And they also seem to discourage us from spiritual pursuits, which has a proven historical track record of demographic collapse for cultures that embrace the scientific at the expense of the spiritual. This goes back to Ancient Greece at the very least, and probably long before.

This too might be at the core of our ambiguity towards technology. It's certainly at the core of many traditional societies' briefs against Western Culture. And they have a point.

Whatever we think or do, there is a War in Heaven, as Gordon puts it. People in high places are fighting over these very same issues. I think a lot of powerful people have come to realize that the technocratic utopia that dominates Western thinking now is a mirage and trying to reach it will only end in tears. 

That doesn't mean these people are on your side. But it does mean that things may be opening up in very interesting ways in the near future. This may or may not have to do with space weather, which seems to be shifting, finally. But I do think things are about to change and change hard.

*This we can tell by the glaring difference between the paucity of available texts and the near-monotheistic devotion to him described in those we actually do have.