Monday, April 24, 2023

RPG-ULTRA: Hey Kids, Wanna Get Possessed by Nephilim?

So I've been fixating on two disparate yet convergent streams of thought these days. The first you're familiar with, that being that the ultimate purpose of MKULTRA et al was to prepare vessels for entity possession. 

The second is that RPGs have been used by certain factions to instill deeply dissociative states in people for various purposes, some of which may involve entity possession. 

So imagine my surprise when an RPG did all of the above, more than thirty years ago.

I mean, it can be argued that a ton of RPG games - tabletop or digital - have been doing exactly this all along, but not being a gamer myself I was stunned to see how explicit this particular game was/is.

Nephilim is a role-playing game about powerful elemental entities reincarnating into human beings. 

The players take the roles of these beings as they adapt to their newly symbiotic existence and learn the secrets hidden behind veils of obscurity and mysticism, seeking the path toward enlightenment, Agartha. 

The game contains much symbolism, primarily related to the Hermetic tradition. 

Nephilim is a game based on the idea that since ancient times there have been spirits without bodies who, given the right circumstances, can take over the body of a human and use it until it dies, then try to find another body. 

These spirits are the Nephilim. 

It seems whoever designed this game knew their occultism, and seemed to have a definite agenda in mind. 

Players get to choose one of five types of Nephilim. Within each of these types are different species of Nephilim. Each type of element or "Ka" has different strong points. 
Fire Nephilim (Pyrim) tend to be aggressive, Earth Nephilim (Faërim) are caretakers and healers, Air Nephilim (Éolim) are intellectuals, Water Nephilim (Hydrim) relate to change and movement and Moon Nephilim (Onirim) are secretive and manipulative. 
They are also defined by the major Arcana they choose to follow. 

And here's the big clincher, right out on Front Street:
The spirit of the Nephilim takes over the body of a human and tries to gain the skills and knowledge the human has, while avoiding the Immortals' enemies. 
The Nephilim's ultimate goal is to attain Agartha, a form of spiritual illumination. Other races have a similar goal. 

Agartha being a big thruline from the Theosophists to the Thule Society, of course. 

This game pretty much threw every occult trope you can think of into the mix and invented a few of its own.

Nephilim can be set in any times from ancient Egypt to present day or the future. 

Besides the Nephilim, the players can play Selenim ("Vampires" of the Dark Moon, an element created by an ancient race that is unstable and corrupts Nephilim) or Ar-Kaïm (Astrological unstable mutants, introduced in the Third Edition). 

And you also get some Nineties-vintage occult conspiracy tropes as well, straight of Baigent and Leigh. Just inverted, or whatevs:

Several human secret organizations know of the existence of the Nephilim. Most of these organizations oppose or hunt the Nephilim, but some are sympathetic to their cause. The Knights Templar is one of the primary sources of antagonists for Nephilim, who along with the Rosicrucians supply the most organized opposition. 
The Order of the Black Star possess many magical secrets, but are fewer in numbers and less likely to team up against Nephilim.

Like I said, you got the whole kit-and-kaboodle in this game, spiced with was some would regard as a very alluring pitch:

Science is an Illusion, History is a Lie. In ages past you lived many times. Your slaves built the Great Pyramid to honor your death; you died for the sins of Jerusalem; you lost your head suggesting they eat cake.

You are Nephilim – demi-god, prophet, saint, & magician from the mythic past.

Again you incarnate, to continue your ancient struggle for enlightenment, and against the plots of occult societies who seek to enslave you and steal your magic.

I get the sense this wasn't very popular stateside, but the makers did land a major American endorsement. Well, it's a major endorsement if you're a Wiccan, I mean:

“In over 20 years of studying the western Mystery Tradition and playing roleplaying games, I have never before encountered a game system that so skillfully blends real-world occult knowledge with an exciting and compelling roleplaying game.” 
-- DONALD H. FREW Wiccan Elder, High Priest, & Magus

Dude. Come feel the 90-proof Nineties. From a French-language site:

Nephilim's inspiration comes from books such as Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Ecco, the Weight of his Regard by Tim Powers and all the books that can be found in the occult and esoteric department. This game gives you the opportunity to embody a Nephilim, an inhuman creature composed of magical energies linked to the five elements: Water, Air, Moon, Earth, Fire.

Wow. That brings back memories.

This bit here is all ripped straight out of the Theosophy rulebook, especially Theosophy of the Alice Bailey school rulebook: 

Long ago, when the Earth was dominated by the Saurians, creatures of the Moon and creators of the Black Moon, the Kaim appeared. Born from the fields of pure magic that roam the Earth, they opposed the Saurians. Emerging from the confrontation, the Kaïm developed their own society which soon experienced several fratricidal conflicts.

Then came the creation of Atlantis which ushered in a Golden Age for its occupants. Men served as guinea pigs and subjects of study for researchers who hoped to discover the secrets of the solar element. Only not everyone agreed on the method to use and if some saw in Man only a tool, others decided to educate him. 

It was then that Atlantis sank, destroyed by an Orichalque meteorite in which the ancient guinea pigs forged weapons that gave them victory over the Kaim. Under the onslaught of the cursed metal, the Kaïm were imprisoned in stasis. Fallen, having lost most of their powers, they became Nephilim. Others, sacrificing their elements to the Black Moon, transformed into Selenim and gaining insensitivity to orichalcum they could finally oppose Men.

Did the writers realize they were lifting left and right from Bailey's Dzyan verses? Or has all of this become so embedded in geek culture (via Lovecraft) that you can't pull the two apart? I'm leaning towards the latter, but remain open to contrary viewpoints.

Either way, I'm getting a Scientology vibe from all of that. And why not? These chaps threw everything else they could get their paws on into their gumbo. The difference being that they seem to want players possessed by Thetans (or Nephilim or whatever).

This is all brand new to me, so I don't know who the market for this game was. Was it made for occultists dabbling with gaming or was it for gamers dabbling with occultism? 1992 was probably a bit early for the American market with this stuff, but maybe not for France. 

After all, this is essentially Morning of the Magicians seasoned with some ultraterrestrial entity habitation:

Since that time, the Nephilim return randomly from time to time, leaving their stasis to rediscover their lost knowledge and attain Agartha: Enlightenment. For this they go through the three circles of Magic, Kabbalah or Alchemy and participate in occult struggles (search for the Grail, the Golden Fleece, etc.). 

In order to facilitate their quest, the Nephilim have the possibility of integrating one of the twenty-two Major Arcana, each under the symbol of a tarot card (Mat, Sun, Emperor, Death...). In doing so, they thus join a secret organization made up of other Nephilim from which they share the objectives and can draw knowledge and material support from it.

But again; this thing doesn't pussyfoot around when it comes to the business at hand. In many ways this is the Platonic ideal form of the role-playing game, since it stomps all over the nerdboy Tolkienisms of Dungeons & Dragons and goes straight for the occult mind-control jugular:

Stasis is the magical prison of the Nephilim. When they leave it they are forced to incarnate in human bodies through which they act on the world, influencing the course of history, pursued in their quests by human secret societies such as the Templars, the Mysteries, the Rosicrucians and the Synarchy. 

These groups seek to destroy the Nephilim or gain their powers. But at the end of the millennium, the Nephilim are waking up en masse and as the apocalypse approaches, the struggles between occult factions are intensifying.

Synarchy, FFS! Was this thing cooked up by the Memphis and Mizraim boys, or maybe some Order of the Solar Temple types moonlighting for a few extra francs? I'd almost even think it was some kind of Francophonic Left Behind or something, aside from the, y'know, BEING POSSESSED BY THE SPAWN OF FALLEN ANGELS.

But show me an occultist who's thematically consistent in anything and you'll show me someone who isn't actually an occultist.  

And it wouldn't be apocalyptic without a Siren, right?

When creating a character, players choose their simulacrum (name given to the human being used as the host body), their favorite element, the periods during which they incarnated and their metamorph: a chimerical form (phoenix, mermaid, etc.) corresponding to their dominant element and determining the physical modifications that their presence will, in the long run, impose on the simulacrum.

And as you'd expect from something ripping Alice Bailey off with such wild abandon, Nephilim also tied into some Lovecraft game module or other.  

Black Moon Rising Over Innsmouth: A Scenario Kernel

The astrological signs and portents reveal that a particularly nasty Moon-Ka plexus will occur underwater a few kilometers (miles) off the coast of an isolated coastal town called Innsmouth. If the Nephilim character does not want to reveal the actual reason for visiting the town, perhaps the investigator group needs a vacation; what better place than a quiet seaside town, far from the worries of the city?

Upon arrival, the investigators may find the natives somewhat cold and unfriendly, for they are unused to visitors. All will no doubt seem fine at first, but the team will soon discover the presence of the Men in Black and perhaps the Deep Ones...

Wait: the Men in Black? What do they have to do with any of this? Did Kenneth Grant or some other wet-brained nutcase write this thing? Because this bullshit here reads like it's straight out of Beyond the Mauve Zone:

Consider the possibility that the Men in Black are actually the minions of the Templars. Though the Templars in the area are few in number, they have gained powerful allies. A generation ago they made a pact with the Selenim of the Sea nearby, who may or may not be recognized as Deep Ones by the investigators. 
Periodically the Men in Black will kidnap and brainwash one of the locals, perhaps planting a false memory of being abducted by a UFO; they will then turn over the person to the Deep Ones for their amphibious simulacrum breeding program. The Deep Ones gain assistance in their goal of creating a simulacrum equally at home on land as in the water, while the Templars are provided with magical assistance not normally accessable to their kind.

And just like Kenneth Grant himself, whoever came up with this part of the game can't keep track of their own flibbedy-floo. 

Another possibility is that the Men in Black are a ruse by the Templars to draw in an investigator team in order to capture them, and harvest the magic of any Nephilim members. One nasty twist would be for there actually to be a Deep One colony nearby, and have them invade the town while the investigators are being held, forcing the Templars to release them so that they may together combat the Selenim menace. The Templars are treacherous, so the investigators had better be prepared to make their escape.

Or, perhaps it turns out to be a quiet vacation, as nothing becomes of the Moon-Ka plexus. Maybe that astrological lore roll was a fumble after all. Time enough to research a few neglected skills.

Phew. Someone better get a hold of Nick Redfern and see if he can make some sense of this. This is truly wild, especially given its point in the timeline.

Has anyone ever played this game? I'd love to hear some first-hand reports of it. It's been difficult getting any comprehensive information on it, given its vintage. Are there any more contemporary games like this? Have you ever played them?

Please drop me a line and give me the skinny.

In the meantime, you might want to come on over to the SSI and talk with your fellow gamers -- former and current -- as well as your fellow seekers. We just had a rollicking RPG livestream that I think everyone would get a lot out of, gamers or otherwise.

click on the Moon for details

For as little as $3 a month and access reams of information that will entertain, enlighten and fortify your spirit in these troubled times. 

Come for the scholarship, stay for the fellowship.

And don't forget, the second AstroGnosis Conference is coming up fast and furious, and I'd love to see you there. 

Here's the skinny, straight from the source...

After Aeon Byte’s  highly successful first event, we turn our sights from the stars to the rulers of fate and the stars.
Meet the Archons.
The Gnostics provided a stark panorama of stellar overlords who ruled fate and oppressed freedom. Are the Archons the ruling gods, fallen angels, extraterrestrial invaders, or unattended psychic shadows? All of the above and maybe even more?
Can the Archons be overcome?
Expert speakers will address these questions and the very idea of iniquity itself from a Gnostic/Hermetic worldview. And we’ll have fun too!
Get the tools and information in this exclusive event that includes panel discussions, social events, and mini workshops. Partly held on John the Baptist Feast Day that will let the sunshine in.
Presented By Aeon Byte Gnostic Radio: June 23-24, 2023

Don't forget to let me know if you're going to be there so I can get your Secret Sun Swagbag ready in time!

Click here for more info!!!