WIP: Assorted Rejoinders to Scientism’s Anti-Scientific Dogma

It’s only Anecdotes!

When it comes to the proper assessment of evidence, it is as well to put forward a few principles and propositions. People who pride themselves on the scientific way of distinguishing between things that are real and things that are unsubstantiated (imaginary, invented, spurious) usually draw a firm line between facts that have been, and can be, demonstrated by experiment or predicted to happen in prescribed circumstances, and those that are merely the subject of “anecdote,” meaning eyewitness testimony describing a particular event, an event that cannot be repeated, any more than the coronation of Queen Victoria can be repeated. That was just something reported in historical records, i.e. sundry anecdotes. The lack of credibility attributed to anecdotes is contrasted with experiments in which those effects capable of repeated demonstration or subjected to a reliable routine and the results are published in refereed journals.

With regard to people not present at the experiment, all they have to go on is the anecdote published, and let us assume, for further comfort, it is in a refereed journal. Why in principle should we believe that anecdote more readily than the one about a key that attached itself to/from a split ring, even if the person reporting that is actually as much a scientist as the one reporting on the experiment? It may be argued that anyone doubting the reliability of a published report can carry out the same experiment for himself–that is, if he happens to have a Large Hadron Collider (or whatever) at his disposal and knows how to operate it. The fact is that people outside a scientific specialty are entirely dependent on the anecdotes reported by those within the specialty, and until they have reasons for suspicion, they usually accept them as essentially truthful.

It might be said that they have faith in their colleagues and other disciplines because the sort of people who publish refereed papers are totally credible and have no reason to improve on their “stories” in the way that must be irresistible to retailers of jottles (that is, witnesses to the sudden dematerialization of an object). Is that so? Do we expect to read in published reports about personality clashes that had a deleterious effect on the smooth running of the experiment, about things that went wrong building on reliable/unwelcome results, about technological breakdowns and other mishaps that would detract from the tidiness of the results if spelled out? We do not.

Mary Rose Barrington, JOTT: When Things Disappear…and come back or relocate…and why it really happens, pgs. 8-9


Hand-Wavery: Regarding the debunkers’ “there must be trickery involved in all ‘expert’-observed paranormal occurrences, despite there being no evidence that trickery is the case”:

Such a position (undetected trickery) is, in a sense, quite impregnable. But, paradoxically, it is its very impregnability which undermines it. One cannot deny that, logically speaking, undetected trickery, undetected natural causes, undetected malobservation and undetected lying may lie behind all reports of poltergeist phenomena. But to assume without supporting evidence, and despite numerous considerations (such as we have advanced above) to the contrary, that they do live behind them, is to insulate one’s beliefs in this sphere from all possibility of modification from the cold contact of chastening facts. It is to adopt the paranoid stance of the flat-earther or the religious fanatic, who can “explain away” all the awkward facts which threaten his system of delusions. At its worst, such a stance borders on insanity; at best it constitutes an unhealthy and unprofitable turning away from the realities of the world.

Poltergeists, Alan Gauld and A.D. Cornell, pg. 262.


On the Arrogant Denial that Investigating the Paranormal can Ever be Scientific, and the Humility Required in the Endeavor to Investigate it:

To minds which can admit nothing but what can be explained and demonstrated, an investigation of this sort must appear perfectly idle: for while, on the one hand, the most acute intellect or the most powerful logic can throw a little light on the subject, it is, at the same time—though I have confident hope that this will not always be the case—equally irreducible within the present bounds of science; meanwhile, experience, observation, and intuition, must be our principal if not our only guides. Because, in the 17th century, credulity outran reason and discretion; the 18th century, by a natural reaction, threw itself into an opposite extreme. Whoever closely observes the signs of the times, will be aware that another change is approaching. The contemptuous skepticism of the last age is yielding to a more humble spirit of inquiry; and there is a large class of persons among the most enlightened of the present, who are beginning to believe that much of what they have been told to reject as fable, has been, in reality, ill-understood truth. Somewhat of the mystery of our own being, and of the mysteries that compass us about, or beginning to loom upon us—as yet, it is true, but obscurely; and, in the endeavor to follow out the clues they offer, we have but a feeble light to guide us. We must grope our way through the dim path before us, ever in danger of being let into error, while we may confidently reckon on being pursued by the shafts of ridicule—that weapon so easy to wield, so potent to the weak, so weak to the wise—which has delayed the births of so many truths, but never stifled one. The pharisaical skepticism which denies without investigation, is quite as perilous, and much more contemptible, than the brought blind credulity which accepts all that is taught without inquiry; it is, indeed, but another form of ignorance assuming to be knowledge. And by investigation, I do not mean the hasty, captious, angry notice of an unwelcome fact, that too frequently claims the right of pronouncing on a question; but the slow, modest, painstaking examination, that is content to wait upon Nature, and humbly follow out her disclosures, however opposed to preconceived theories or mortifying to human pride. If scientific men could but comprehend how they discredit the science they really profess, by their despotic arrogance and exclusive skepticism, they would surely, for the sake of the very science they love, affect more liberality and candor. This reflection, however, naturally suggests another, namely, do they really love science, or is it not too frequently with them but the means to an end? Were the love of science genuine, I suspect it would produce very different fruits to that which we see borne by the tree of knowledge, as it flourishes at present; and this suspicion is exceedingly strengthened by the recollection that, among the numerous students and professors of science I have at different times encountered, the real worshippers and genuine lovers of it, for its own sake, have all been men of the most singular, candid, unprejudiced, and inquiring minds, willing to listen to all new suggestions, and investigate all new facts; not bold and self-sufficient, but humble and reverent suitors, who aware of their own ignorance and unworthiness, and that conscious they are yet but in the primer of Nature’s works, they do not permit themselves to pronounce upon her disclosures, or set limits to her decrees. They are content to admit that things new and unsuspected may yet be true; that their own knowledge of facts being extremely circumscribed, the systems attempted to be established and such on certain data, must needs be very imperfect, and frequently altogether erroneous; and that it is therefore their duty, as it ought to be there pleasure, to welcome as a stranger every gleam of light that appears in the horizon, let it loom from whatever quarter it may.

The NightSide of Nature, Catherine Crowe, 1848


No, Timmy, Extraordinary Claims Simply Require Ordinary, Scientifically-Sound Evidence:

The first of these distinctive fallacies has been neatly defined in the words “extraordinary claims demand extraordinary proof.” There seems to be some question about who first formulated this adage but it appears frequently in the writings of the late debunker and CSICOP member Carl Sagan, and so it seems only reasonable to name it “Sagan’s fallacy.” Like most fallacies, it seems reasonable at first glance, but behind it lies a drastic distortion of logic. What this adage means is that evidence for one set of claims – “extraordinary claims” – ought to be judged by a different and more restrictive standard of evidence than other claims.

What makes a claim extraordinary, though? Jimmy Carter’s 1969 UFO sighting offers a good example. What we know about the sighting is that a small group of businessmen watched an unusual light in the sky for a few minutes. Robert Shaeffer’s claim that the witnesses saw the planet Venus, and somehow suffered a collective hallucination in which the planet seemed to turn red and approach within a few hundred yards of them, is surely just as extraordinary as the suggestion that the witnesses saw something strange in the sky, and reported it as they saw it. If the same group of men had sighted parhelia or ball lightning, say, Shaeffer would likely have excepted their testimony as a matter of course. The only thing that makes Carter’s sighting “extraordinary” is that believers in the null hypothesis (that no ETs exist) want to argue that it did not happen.

This point can be made more generally. The evidence that has been offered to date for the real existence of UFOs–not, please note, of alien spaceships, but simply of things seen in the skies that have not yet been adequately identified by witnesses or investigators, which again is what the term actually means–would have been accepted by most scientists if it involved anything within the currently accepted range of natural phenomena. Sagan’s fallacy attempts to justify this divergence, but in the process it violates several of the most basic rules of logic.

It’s one of the classic fallacies – the Latin name for it is petitio principii – to insist that the evidence for one side of an argument are to be judged by a different standard than the evidence for the other side of the same argument. It’s another classic fallacy – consensus gentium is the Latin term for this one – to insist that because a given community of people believes that something is true, it is true. Sagan’s fallacy combines these two in a triumph of circular reasoning. Once a claim has been labeled false by debunkers, the evidence that supports the claim is automatically considered less valid than the evidence that opposes it, because the standards of proof that apply to all other claims–and, in particular, to the claims of debunkers—no longer apply to it. Since UFOs don’t exist, in other words, any evidence offered to prove their existence must be invalid, and the lack of valid evidence shows that UFOs don’t exist.

–John Michael Greer, The UFO Phenomenon, pgs. 120-121

Parapsychologists really want to play the game by the proper statistical rules. They’re very staid. They thought they could convince these skeptics but the sceptics keep raising the goalposts. It’s ironic, because real psychic researchers are very committed to doing real science, more than a lot of people in science are. Yet they get rejected, while we can be slipshod in psychology and sociology and economics and get away with it. We’re not painted as the witchdoctors, but they are.

-Marcello Truzzi, professor of sociology


The Fallacy of Science as a Self-Interested Institution that, Nevertheless, by Definition, is Immune from Social Factors:

The institutional approach may be useful to historians of science, as it allows them to accept the various definitions of fields used by the scientists they study. But some philosophers go so far as to use “institutional factors” as the criteria of good science. Ladyman, Ross, and Spurrett, for instance, say that they “demarcate good science—around lines which are inevitably fuzzy near the boundary—by reference to institutional factors, not to directly epistemological ones.” By this criterion, we would differentiate good science from bad science simply by asking which proposals agencies like the National Science Foundation deem worthy of funding, or which papers peer-review committees deem worthy of publication.

The problems with this definition of science are myriad. First, it is essentially circular: science simply is what scientists do. Second, the high confidence in funding and peer-review panels should seem misplaced to anyone who has served on these panels and witnessed the extent to which preconceived notions, personal vendettas, and the like can torpedo even the best proposals…

The fundamental problem raised by the identification of “good science” with “institutional science” is that it assumes the practitioners of science to be inherently exempt, at least in the long term, from the corrupting influences that affect all other human practices and institutions. Ladyman, Ross, and Spurrett explicitly state that most human institutions, including “governments, political parties, churches, firms, NGOs, ethnic associations, families…are hardly epistemically reliable at all.” However, “our grounding assumption is that the specific institutional processes of science have inductively established peculiar epistemic reliability.” This assumption is at best naïve and at worst dangerous. If any human institution is held to be exempt from the petty, self-serving, and corrupting motivations that plague us all, the result will almost inevitably be the creation of a priestly caste demanding adulation and required to answer to no one but itself.

It is something approaching this adulation that seems to underlie the abdication of the philosophers and the rise of the scientists as the authorities of our age on all intellectual questions. Reading the work of Quine, Rudolf Carnap, and other philosophers of the positivist tradition, as well as their more recent successors, one is struck by the aura of hero-worship accorded to science and scientists. In spite of their idealization of science, the philosophers of this school show surprisingly little interest in science itself—that is, in the results of scientific inquiry and their potential philosophical implications. As a biologist, I must admit to finding Quine’s constant invocation of “nerve-endings” as an all-purpose explanation of human behavior to be embarrassingly simplistic. Especially given Quine’s intellectual commitment to behaviorism, it is surprising yet characteristic that he had little apparent interest in the actual mechanisms by which the nervous system functions.

Ross, Ladyman, and Spurrett may be right to assume that science possesses a “peculiar epistemic reliability” that is lacking in other forms of inquiry. But they have taken the strange step of identifying that reliability with the institutions and practitioners of science, rather than with any particular rational, empirical, or methodological criterion that scientists are bound (but often fail) to uphold. Thus a (largely justifiable) admiration for the work of scientists has led to a peculiar, unjustified role for scientists themselves—so that, increasingly, what is believed by scientists and the public to be “scientific” is simply any claim that is upheld by many scientists, or that is based on language and ideas that sound sufficiently similar to scientific theories.

—Austin L. Hughes, “The Folly of Scientism”


The occult provokes uneasiness. That it did so in someone as insightful and influential as Freud emphasizes the importance of the problem, even if it was unresolved. His attempted resolution led to errors and excesses. Freud and his followers readily embraced a shoddy myth of origins rather than fully address the sacred. In his own way, Freud signaled the danger of the sacred; he established a taboo. The potential ridicule and derision of being labeled neurotic or infantile is still sufficient to keep rational, academic, status-conscious scholars from approaching the supernatural too seriously.

-George P. Hansen, The Trickster and the Paranormal, pg. 353 (emphasis added)


Regarding Those Dumb, Dead Scientists of Centuries Past:

Ptolemy and Aristotle were no less scientific than today’s scientists. They were just unlucky in that several false hypotheses conspired to work well together. There is no antidote for our ability to fool ourselves except to keep the process of science moving so that errors are eventually forced into the light.

-Lee Smolin, Time Reborn


The Sausage-Making of Science:

Most cognitive scientists have a relatively narrow field of expertise. With the hundreds of clinics churning out new information, keeping up-to-date is a monumental task. For basic scientists to also be well-informed in psychology is impossible. Not having the time, and often lacking the background, training, or interest, they must, to explain their findings, rely on popular psychological theories if they are often inadequate to judge. Experimental psychology is a field onto itself. The use of studies is necessary in order to achieve even a superficial understanding of the innumerable pitfalls of experimental design and interpretation.

Psychologists, cognitive scientists, and philosophers increasingly incorporate summary conclusions (which in all probability have not been independently verified) from neuroscience to support their ideas, but without having the training to recognize inherent limitations of basic science methods and interpretations. The cycle is never ending. New psychological theories become the neuroscientists’ language for translation of their own basic science data, which in turn are cited by the psychologist as evidence for their theories. Once an idea gets a foothold in the collective mind of the cognitive science community, it develops a life of its own, irrespective of its underlying validity. Unsubstantiated word-of-mouth morphs into hard fact.

-Dr. Robert Burton, A Skeptic’s Guide to the Mind: What Neuroscience Can and Cannot tell us about Ourselves


One reason that the full force of (sociologist Max) Weber’s ideas has not been recognized is that they ultimately implicate the limits of rationality–the very foundations of western thought. Science ignores those limits, and it is at those times that the supernatural erupts. But it is not only the supernatural that is of interest, the problem of meaning, the idea of objective reality, and the validity of logic are all directly related to rationalization and to each other. These matters are entirely ignored within science, but they are at center stage in the humanities–particularly in postmodernism and deconstructionism. When these ideas are raised in regard to science, scientists become anxious, panic, viciously lash out, and display an unconsciousness of the fundamental issues.

-George P. Hansen, The Trickster and the Paranormal, pg. 108


Replication of scientific experiments is one of the thorny problems tackled by SSK. It is a foundational issue of science. Most scientists accept the simple idea that valid experiments must be repeatable by others. But when the matter is closely examined, all sorts of complexities arise. What is replication? Who determines whether it is accomplished? How is it described? In controversial areas, simply doing more experiments doesn’t resolve issues about putative effects; there are continuing arguments about what is required for a satisfactory experiment. Slight changes in conditions may have important consequences, and those can be debated endlessly. Conducting more experiments can lead to what has been termed the “experimenter’s regress.” Do objective observations establish fact, or is it only social agreement? Further, written reports are not always sufficient to explain an experiment’s procedure. Sometimes direct personal training is required to teach the skill and convey the necessary information for successful replication. Abstract text is inadequate. SSK raises all these issues, and in a subtle but profound way it strikes a blow against the foundational myth that science is a fully objective process.

-George P. Hansen, The Trickster and the Paranormal, pg. 286



Admittedly, among Western intellectuals today, materialism is the default philosophical position, one often unthinkingly assumed to be self-evident–but that doesn’t make it true. It simply means that materialism, at this period in history, is more popular than dualism. To this a materialist might say, “The popularity of materialism is no fluke. It’s based on the tremendous success of materialist scientific inquiry over the past few centuries.” But here we encounter a very common intellectual confusion.

The term materialism can be used in more than one sense. There’s philosophical materialism, as described above, and there is also what can be called technical materialism, which is a tool or method of inquiry. Technical materialism makes no assumptions about the ultimate nature of reality. It simply posits that a physical, non-supernatural explanation should be sought first for any phenomenon. For instance, rather than assuming that thunder and lightning are produced by angry gods, a scientist following the rule of technical materialism will discover that the phenomena are caused by electrical discharges. Or again, rather than assuming that diseases are caused by malevolent spirits, a scientist following the rule of technical materialism will discover that microorganisms are responsible.

Technical materialism has been an enormously fruitful method for exploring the physical world. We moderns enjoy a fuller understanding of physical phenomena, and have been gifted with longer lifespans, greater comfort, and more affluence, than any previous generations. But our modern lifestyle is not owed to philosophical materialism, but to technical materialism, two things that are by no means the same. (In fact, it could be argued that much of the downside of modern life — the angst and anomie that characterize many developed societies — is attributable to philosophical materialism, with its rejection of spiritual values and its embrace of an uncaring, meaningless cosmos.)

-Michael Prescott, blog entry


We regard promissory materialism as superstition without a rational foundation. The more we discover about the brain, the more clearly do we distinguish between the brain events and the mental phenomena, and the more wonderful do both the brain events and the mental phenomena become. Promissory materialism is simply a religious belief held by dogmatic materialists . . . who often confuse their religion with their science.

-John C. Eccles, neurobiologist.


An example of self-referential absurdity is a theory called evolutionary epistemology, a naturalistic approach that applies evolution to the process of knowing. The theory proposes that the human mind is a product of natural selection. The implication is that the ideas in our minds were selected for their survival value, not for their truth-value.

But what if we apply that theory to itself? Then it, too, was selected for survival, not truth—which discredits its own claim to truth. Evolutionary epistemology commits suicide.

To make the dilemma even more puzzling, evolutionists tell us that natural selection has produced all sorts of false concepts in the human mind. Many evolutionary materialists maintain that free will is an illusion, consciousness is an illusion, even our sense of self is an illusion—and that all these false ideas were selected for their survival value.

So how can we know whether the theory of evolution itself is one of those false ideas? The theory undercuts itself….

Applied consistently, Darwinism undercuts not only itself but also the entire scientific enterprise. Kenan Malik, a writer trained in neurobiology, writes, “If our cognitive capacities were simply evolved dispositions, there would be no way of knowing which of these capacities lead to true beliefs and which to false ones.” Thus “to view humans as little more than sophisticated animals …undermines confidence in the scientific method…”

The reason so few atheists and materialists seem to recognize the problem is that, like Darwin, they apply their skepticism selectively. They apply it to undercut only ideas they reject, especially ideas about God. They make a tacit exception for their own worldview commitments.

–Nancy Pearcey, Why Evolutionary Theory Cannot Survive Itself


I spent 14 years chasing gamma rays and neutrons in industry…I’ve never seen a neutron or gamma ray. I’ve never seen Australia, but it’s there.

—Stanton Friedman, physicist and ufologist

Old Wine in New Skins Part 1: Timed Cultural Interventions & Jacques Vallee’s Paraspiritual Control System

Psi phenomena are problematic precisely because they involve events in the real world and thus become candidates for a physical explanation, yet at the same time they are critically bound up with certain states of mind. Thus they cross the dividing line between objectivity and subjectivity which normal mental phenomena do not.

–John Beloff

One can study UFO reports and abduction tales for decades and remain more or less convinced these are physical beings from elsewhere who must possess advanced technology that is indistinguishable, to us, from magic.

But what kind of magic? Of the ritual…or of the stage?

As Jacques Vallee and John Keel long ago pointed out,[1] retaining an “ET spaceship” framework as a UFO report investigator requires one to ignore much potentially relevant information from witnesses that enters the realm of high strangeness: instances of telepathic messages, psychokinesis, apparitions, and coincidences that verge on synchronicity. In other words, the sort of “magic” materialist science denies exists.

If you embark on comparative historical research into fairy and djinn stories, poltergeist accounts, ceremonial magic, mediumship, NDEs, OBEs, shamanism, and world mythology, the UFO material tends to either assume a wider context of shared meanings or shrink in its uniqueness…You might realize you’ve been fixated on one narrow band in a spectrum of very similarly-structured experiences involving altered modes of consciousness that, ostensibly, are as old as humanity itself.

After such a study course, at least for me, the belief in technological ETs succumbed to attrition in the face of this historical evidence; the hardware proponents lost the argument. I became interested in exploring the raw experiences of otherworldly encounters (as far as that’s possible). What, prior to that, was a side-interest (the occult/folklore in general) to an interest in ufology has become my central focus. The two are intertwined in astonishing ways.


Curious Timings?
In 1848, the Fox family are plagued by a poltergeist in their house in Hydesville, New York. By using raps on the wall or clapping, sisters Margaretta, 15, and Katie, 12, learn to communicate with the “spirit” in a manner that primitively mimics the dot-dash of the telegraph.

After causing a sensation throughout upstate New York, the two children are separated but the poltergeist activity follows both girls. The news spreads and within four years hundreds of thousands of people worldwide are attempting seances with the same results. Some persons attending séances claim the rappings follow them home upon return to their houses; sometimes a person even merely reading about them or deciding to attend a séance causes the activity to arise in their surroundings.[2]

The Shaker winds

Shaker member Miranda Barber’s apocalyptic vision, as seen in trance

But before the (in)famous Fox sisters’ experiences, the Shaker communities from New York to Kentucky had experienced many interactions with the spirit world. The “Era of Manifestations” that began in 1837 didn’t directly involve poltergeist-like rappings, but rather trance-states (lasting sometimes up to 9 hours) in which Shakers’ founder Mother Ann Lee, “angels,” “ladies in white,” spirits of the dead, and unclassifiable entities visited congregants, mostly young people, in visions. These episodes showed all the signs of what would come to be called out-of-body experiences and “astral travel.” Glossolalia, epileptoid fits, spontaneous unconscious preaching, and hallucinated music were exhibited during these attacks; during many trips, “movements” were learned, then mimicked by bystanders, then taught as divine motions that would become incorporated into the Shakers’ ritual dances.[3] Often, the entranced claimed to visit rooms in which conferences were held with the passed-on Shaker leaders and congregants, who admonished them to repent further and reform themselves; in one of these accounts, 14-year old Ann Goff witnessed “indescribable” chairs and a huge book upon a table as the Shaker elders, dressed in white robes with crowns, exhorted her to pass on a message to the community to curb their worldly behaviors.

Messages from beyond that demand behavioral change and redemption—which are so prevalent in “ET entity”-inspired communications regarding our treatment of the ecosphere—have always been a part of trance communications.

By 1841, the Shakers’ trance-entities included the spirits of Indigenous peoples, “antediluvian giants,” and ineffable apparitions. By 1842, so many outsiders were visiting the spectacles that the community leaders ceased holding open meetings.[4]


So by 1860 Spiritualism has exploded into a fragmented but huge quasi-religion that expands upon, mutates, or even excludes Christianity as the truth; the message of most spirits are ecumenical or Universalist in content. Those with genuine talent at mediumship become superstars over the next five decades: Andrew Jackson Davis, Stainton Moses, Daniel Dunglas Home, Leonora Piper, Gladys Osborne Leonard, and Eusapia Palladino. While most of the “controls” used by the American mediums are the famous dead like George Washington or Beethoven, others are claimed to be spirit-guides, angels, or even extraterrestrials, who explain the workings of the physical and aetheric universes.


Two years after the Shaker experiences and four years before the Fox sisters’ fame, Andrew Jackson Davis engaged spontaneous trance using Mesmeric techniques. Considered mentally challenged as a child, by 1845 Davis was successfully diagnosing medical problems by clairvoyance, just as several of Franz Mesmer’s subjects were able to do sixty years earlier.[5] In a trance vision Davis signed a document offered by “an old Quaker man,” then Galen and Swedenborg appeared and taught him. After having a vision of “Galen’s staff” he diagnosed people while magnetized. At 19, he dictated The Divine Revelation, a massive work on metaphysics. [6] This same type of edificatory channeling occurred in many dozens of subjects under Mesmeric trance in France, Belgium, Switzerland, and especially Germany, from 1810-1850.[7] Documented, veridical displays of clairvoyance and telepathy were regularly demonstrated by Mesmerized persons as well.[8]

But Davis’s trance led to more: his dictated speeches produce a huge 1847 book, The Principles of Nature. At one point he speaks of the inhabitants of the planets in our solar system, singling out Saturn as the home of advanced beings.[9] He also apparently prophesied the coming Spiritualist tsunami of 1848 onward:

Davis paved the way from modern American spiritualism in four ways. He accustomed a wide public to the idea that a clairvoyant somnabule might engage not just in medical diagnosis and traveling clairvoyance, but in the transmission of social, religious, and cosmological teachings; he propounded neo-Swedenborgian doctrines about the future state and the spirit spheres and about the features and inhabitants of the planets; he propagated the view that some new and stirring revelation was about to rock mankind; and he implied that this revelation would involve a bursting of the barriers that separate our world from the spiritual one.(emphasis added)[10]

As Alan Gauld notes above, the claims were very similar to those of Emanuel Swedenborg (1758).

Swedenborg, Davis, John Newbrough (in OASPHE, 1882), and Helene Smith (1897) were the only well-known mediums who spoke at length about physical or spiritual beings from other worlds during the Spiritualist period.


In France, education reformer Hippolyte Ravail becomes fascinated with mediumship. He establishes general rules for distinguishing true clairvoyance from impostures, draws up a list of literally a thousand questions, puts them to his best mediums, and publishes a book of the answers in 1857 under the pseudonym Allan Kardec, founding the religion that will eventually be called Spiritism.

In 1905, author Sara Weiss publishes the “scientific romance” (as science fiction was then known) Journeys to the Planet Mars, or, Our mission to Ento (Mars): being a record of visits made to Ento (Mars) by Sara Weiss, Psychic, under the guidance of a spirit band, for the purpose of conveying to the Entoans a knowledge of the continuity of life. Despite its genre association with science fiction, Weiss is a medium and claims the book is one of genuine contact with extraterrestrials. It is a channeled work, complete with phonetic dictionary of Entoan.

By 1890, with the onslaught of ET-inspired messages that would come 60 years hence, much more should have been said about visitors from other planets by the many mediums or channelers of the Spiritualist period–one would think!


Pilot Kenneth Arnold with a depiction of the UFOs he’d seen near Mount Rainier, Washington, 1947

Exactly 99 years after the Fox/Hydesville events, 1947: UFOs begin to show up in our skies (and backyards and seas).

Investigator Meade Layne claims in 1952 that these are interdimensional ships and their “aetherial pilots” can be contacted through trance mediums.[11] From 1948 onwards, dozens of individuals like George Adamski and George van Tassel claim friendship with “Space Brothers,” whose advice to humanity differs little from Kardec’s spirit-channeled philosophies of 1857-1868…

Shorn of the preposterous Theosophical history lessons Guy and Edna Ballard provide, virtually the same Spiritist advice is presented by their I AM cult, which begins in 1930 when Guy encounters the “immortal ascended master” Count St. Germain on Mount Shasta, California, then a group of “Venusians.”

A Paraspiritual Control System?

Culturally, the Spiritualist phenomenon of 1848 may be considered the right cure at the right time. Some strains of it were the first modern split-off from all religious hierarchies, favoring a direct-experience approach to the divine. The spirits on the Other Side would teach humanity, even if the truths they offered were old wine in new skins.

When Spiritualism broke upon the world, Darwin had yet a decade to publish his evolutionary theory, but the impact of mechanistic science was everywhere felt in America, the UK, and Europe. Machines were inspiring wonder and contempt alike. Helped by the new mass media, beliefs in a clockwork universe needing no creator deity were gaining adherents in the academies and inundating popular consciousness.

Scientific discoveries were undermining the religious faith of millions. The geological work of James Hutton and Charles Lyell suggested the earth was much older than the 6,000 years the Bible taught, further eroding Judeo-Christian faith. Electricity became a dominating metaphor for life, for vigor, for magic like mesmerism—and humanity would harness it for health and longevity.

Then, just at the tipping point in mass consciousness towards a de-enchanted universe, along came inspiring messages from one’s departed relatives in seances, psychokinetic magic in table-tilting and ectoplasm, prophesies and promises.

A great emotional need for certainty and meaning in the continuity of spiritual life was filled by the Fox sisters’ fame and the widespread folk adoption of seances.

So, what parallel happened socially and culturally in the decade just before the UFO craze began? Well, as many have pointed out, it might have had something to do with the terror and despair over 20 million deaths in a World War whose final punctuation marks were the bombing of two cities with a superweapon that could instantly turn human beings into dissipated energy. By 1947, the US Navy had tested the survivors of those two cities and discovered the lingering damage that the Bomb infected in those exposed to it, and by 1950 the US was engaged in a game of mine’s-bigger-than-yours with the Soviets over these evil weapons.

A part of humanity definitely wanted new saviors—preferably of a non-human, more evolved kind.

This was just what was needed in the popular imagination, especially the fact that the Space Brothers and many of the reported “ufonauts” preached against nuclear weapons.

Curiously, by the mid-1990s, UFOs were no longer putting on dramatic close encounters of the first, second, and third kind “performances” as they had since 1947…No more reported up-close (-500 feet) sightings of structured craft, no more UFOs buzzing cars and stopped their engines, no more observed sky-to-ground landings and weird pilots zapping and burning witnesses with beams of light…

By the 1990s, night-time bedroom abductions largely seemed to have become the method of Otherworldly interaction…It is possible that enough of the populace had come to believe in extraterrestrials visiting the Earth that a hundredth-monkey effect had taken place: the ETs no longer manifested geologist-biologist-like behavior, that is, space-suited beings taking soil samples and zapping witnesses with those damned “flashlights.” Such trappings were of the Space Age 1960s-70s, in line with expectations of ET space explorers…Interestingly, once the international treaties banning the testing of nuclear weapons were instituted by the 1990s, the aliens’ message had dropped the explicit nuke warning and they began preaching about the environmental degradation of the earth.

Again, it is a message that meets a popular psychological need, and tracks with cultural change.

There is a parallel to this change of manifestation within the Spiritualist movement: By the 1910-1920s, Spiritualism as a world religious movement had run its course (except in Brazil, where the Kardec Spiritist church is still popular). By the 1930s, reports of the most spectacular physical effects that can occur during séances had declined. It was as if the contacted spirits were no longer compelled to tilt tables and raise ectoplasmic spooks as they did in the 19th century; it was as if a certain number of people believing in them had reached a critical mass—so these supernatural displays were no longer necessary.[12]

Many Mesmerized persons from 1780-1850 produced astonishing, well-documented examples of “traveling clairvoyance” (remote viewing), telepathy, distant healing, and diagnosis.

The same decline effect can be said for the population frequency of extraordinary individuals such as Friedrike Hauffe, brothers Adolphe and Alexi Didier, and many of the reported “somnambules” associated with Mesmerism and “phreno-mesmerism.” That is to say, the number of mesmerized individuals prone to demonstrating spectacular feats of psi declined as Spiritualism ascended, then new spirit-virtuosos appeared within a few decades using self-entrancement methods without the Mesmeric trappings.

As Spiritualism became a worldwide craze, the core ideas of Mesmerism passed from the scene by 1850, but hypnotic states continued to be explored by laypersons and the early psychologists. For the next five decades, psi feats seemed to limit themselves to individuals “in the Spirit,” those suffering extreme conversion disorders, “hysteria,” dissociation, or those under hypnotic trance, as evidenced by the research of physicians Jean-Martin Charcot, Charles Richet, psychologist William James, and philologist Frederic Myers.

As noted above, the spirit-mediums of the late 19th century needed no Mesmerist nor hypnotist to entrance them; they could induct themselves, perhaps through self-suggestion, to speak via the denizens of the Other Side. The most famous extemporaneous acts of remote viewing and telepathy in which the offered information could be verified were thoroughly checked out by Society for Psychical Research (SPR) members such as Richard Hodgson and Frank Podmore, both who started out as hardcore skeptics yet eventually became convinced of the human personality’s survival after death and the existence of telepathy, respectively.[13]

From 1884 to the 1920s, the SPR and its American counterpart preserved, annotated, and analyzed much anecdotal and experimental evidence for apparitions, telepathy, bilocation, and psychokinesis. By the 1920s, they had published many volumes of this evidence on mediums and psi phenomena.[14]

By the time the Spiritualist craze had apparently met its need and served its purpose, Upton Sinclair published a book on telepathy in 1930 called Mental Radio. The title says it all: Technology has increasingly become the lens through which we analogize psi phenomenon and prescribes the preferred method of verifying its existence: a machine…In other words, if it doesn’t show up on the scientists’ screen, or needle, or graph, it doesn’t exist.

And thus what we think of as reality constricts a little more.

It was also in 1930 that psi effects first came under strict scientific scrutiny in the laboratory experiments of J.B. and Louisa Rhine, eventually followed in the next decades by Charles Honorton, Hans Bender, Helmut Schmidt, Charles Tart, Robert Jahn, Brenda Dunne, Russell TargHal Puthoff, Dean Radin, and Daryl Bem who indisputably proved the existence of psi.

Through tight experiments that probed dice-throwing influence (psychokinesis/PK), random number generator control (PK), autoganzfeld (telepathy), and remote viewing (“traveling clairvoyance”), these researchers demonstrated cumulative average statistical results against chance for these phenomena by factors of hundreds of billions to one—to any reasonable person willing to examine their experiments.[15]

Case studies of extraordinarily talented mediums like D.D. Home or Leonora Piper became very rare. Where they did pop up in the 1920s onward (like “PK-boy” Rudi Schneider, “poltergeist girl” Eleonora Zugun, or remote viewer extraordinaire Stefan Ossowiecki), the ratio of skeptical greyfaces ready to declare “bullshit!” to the open-minded investigator was probably a hundred to one…so you tabulate the odds of “standard science” studying anything further in those fights.

But by 1950, say, mediums who communicated with the dead had mostly gone shut up to the cultural attic.[16] Why? Had the spirits on the other side abandoned this world? Mediums still practiced but it took the new, very “physical” flying saucer to re-fit the metaphysical messages of the seance room, and since these were ostensibly independently existing beings, anyone could potentially see and interact with a UFO.

At least this is how the main narrative at first seemed.


Ships are meant to float and move upon the waters; they are animated by the living force that animates all things here, and if we wish to move them over the water we have but to focus our thoughts in that direction…Our host handles his craft skillfully, and increasing and diminishing its speed he could create, by the different degree of movement of the water, the most striking alternations of color and a musical sound, the brilliant scintillations of the sea showing how alive it was. It responded to the boat’s every movement as though they were in complete unison—as indeed they were.

-medium Anthony Borgia, Life in the World Unseen, from 1914.[17]

Change “ship” to “spacecraft” and “water” to “atmosphere” or “space” in this declaration and it could read as part of a UFO contactee’s narrative, or even part of an alien abduction account.

So what is this all about? Spirits and aliens are the same?

Not exactly, but close. The same, but different.

Jacques Vallee’s conditioning-stimulus “scheduled reinforcement” process hypothesis provides a framework for understanding the changing face of the Otherworldly:[18] we get accustomed to one mask that appears to undermine our general orientation to reality; a numerical tipping point of humans come to believe in the phenomenon; then it changes its form, but ever reminds us of its presence—and symbolizes a further mystery we shall perhaps never explain but are goaded into coming to terms with.

Vallee points out that the UFO experiences (as much as we can be said to know them) cannot be separated from the media filters through which they pass, much like the signal-noise model of information he studied in his career as a computer scientist. Distortion of the actual phenomenon is inevitable for the human mind; these deformations are culturally shaped, and in turn feed back into society and help shape further instances of the phenomenon, whether it is conceived as entirely “physical” or “psychological” in origin. The distortion is always present, and the one definite factor certain to be in play.

The phenomenon itself is not directly observable, but its effects certainly are—specifically on cultural concepts of the “Other/Alien/ET,” by either creating new religious beliefs or altering existing ones. Both the phenomenon itself and the resultant forms created by the media feedback fulfil societal needs (and can also thus be manipulated by cult leaders or governmental agents).[19]

Vallee has many times pointed out the self-negating nature of UFO contactee’s claims, the always-ambiguous authenticity of landing traces, or the obvious fact that there has been a vast zoo of differing ET-entity appearances whose behaviors are many times in conflict with one another. Parasychologist John Beloff addressed this very problem of intractability (and perhaps absurdity, as Vallee so often puts it) when analyzing the history of parapsychological research:

One truth about psi phenomena which every parapsychologist learns the hard way is that they are not just elusive, in the sense of being difficult to pin down, they are, or at any rate they seem to be, actively evasive. One well-known contemporary experimentalist (William Braude) has spoken of the “self-obscuring” aspect of psi…By the 1940s mediumistic séances were “old hat” and the new respectable and sanitized parapsychology that J.B. Rhine had introduce at Duke University was all set to take the academic world by storm. But Rhine’s new science soon ran up against the same obstacle that had beset traditional psychical research—the evasiveness of the phenomena. The “new era” which Pawlovsky thought so imminent is still pending. Time and again since then it has looked as if parapsychology was poised to sweep away all the familiar doubts and objections, overcome all prejudice and opposition and take its rightful place in the spectrum of human knowledge but so far this aspiration remains still-born… What is it that makes psi so evasive? One possible answer lies in the fact that, more perhaps than any other psychological phenomenon, psi appears to be extremely sensitive to situational factors. It is more than just a question of the subject being in the right frame of mind. The whole cultural milieu in which the subject operates might influence decisively what is or is not possible for the subject to achieve.[20](emphasis added)

Beloff’s is the tack Vallee has often taken with regard to UFO interactions and their aftermath: the systems of cultural information (scientific, religious, social, material) plays a determining and invisible part in what is regarded as an anomalous message that transgresses the norms of that matrix. Incorporating the raw message, which to the contactee is entirely subjective or even spiritual, into the existing matrix is impossible without diluting/translating it—but this drawback is only possible through the current epistemology (and something we will address in the latter part of this essay). Beloff continues with a metaphor that parallels Vallee’s idea of the control system operating as a thermostat that is seeking equilibrium with itself by altering human behavior and conceptions of reality:

Let us, then, think of nature as one vast immune system. Paranormal phenomena, on this metaphor, correspond to infections comparable to the intrusion of viruses or bacilli into a healthy body. A new paranormal phenomenon for which there was no precedent, say table levitation or metal bending, would correspond to a powerful infection of this kind. The immune system of nature would go in to action with the result that such phenomena would thereafter be eliminated. But nature would still be helpless in the face of a new infection, and so a constant search for novelty would become the sine qua non of successful attempts to demonstrate whatever lies outside the normal course of nature or violates the laws of physics. Pursuing this metaphor, we may say that another method that would allow us to get away with the paranormal would be to introduce it in very dilute doses. In that case, the immune system of nature need never be activated just as in our own immune system very minor infections, as occurred with the vaccine, need not elicit any symptoms. This, indeed, seems to be the logic of much in current experimental parapsychology, such as attempts to bias the output of a random event generator. The drawback of that strategy, however, is the difficulty of a rousing any interest in such marginal results among those who are not professional parapsychologists.[21] (emphasis added)

The same of course applies to the subject of the ufologist: how can one gain the interest of mainstream scientists to study what amounts to an entirely unpredictable apparitional event?


The Hermetic Take on Guides from the Other Side

As Havan Blomqvist and others have noted,[22] Theosophists always claimed to have knowledge of—or even direct contact with—the Great Mahatmas of the Himalayas and other diversely named yet similar “ascended brotherhoods” (the Yucatan, the Great White Lodge, the Ellora, etc.) that are said to intervene in human affairs at times to guide our evolution. This claim is very similar to Beloff’s and Vallee’s control-system idea.

Hermetic scholar Jocelyn Godwin discusses the hidden hand of these spirit intelligences at work in the phenomena of Mesmerism, Spiritualism, and Theosophy, who also, by extension, continue to influence our culture through the UFO Space Brother.[23] This myth posits that these beings—or spirits—are said to take whatever form is needed and communicate cosmic truths via both traditional mediums and anomalous experiences. One can attempt contact with them through conventional methods such as meditation or entrancement, but as Vallee might argue the mode of contact for the technological West is now one of disruption of our materialist worldview via what appear to be technological marvels that defy physics and almost all known science—UFOs and how they alter our worldviews.

Contact with Other intelligences was once an accepted part of the natural order of social life via shamanistic practices before totalistic systems such as the monotheistic religions, science, and their resulting social pressures reframed and marginalized those worldviews and techniques. Now, contact is mediated through several layers. One cannot call upon aliens (Steven Greer’s claims notwithstanding) in the way séances once called upon the passed-on.

Or can we?

Betty Andreasson-Luca’s depictions of her experiences

As we’ve noted, by 1995, alien abductions had overwhelmingly become the media focus of the contact experience; abduction-related books outnumbered in both publishing and sale numbers all other aspects of the UFO phenomena.[24] Seeming genetic experiments upon percipients replaced space exploration hardware as the dominant narrative of these books.

In many abductions, the person undergoes a bedroom visitation by greys or other beings and is taken through the house walls into a circular room; many times, a UFO is not even seen, but only inferred by means of previous experiences, or the accounts of other experiencers.

The Others’ scientist-like activities tracked with advances in reproductive technology, yet the frequency of this particularly medical manifestation has apparently dwindled in public reports over the past decade.[25]

Contact has become entirely a matter of myths that use our technological metaphors of “upgraded DNA” and “psychic downloads” of information—what was once called spiritual evolution and “reading the Akashic record” in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

After studying the history of paranormal events, many investigators have noted that many persons who experience alien abductions also experience poltergeist-like elements in their lives.

In poltergeist events:

–there is usually a single focus person.

–the experiences often follow this individual around from location to location.

–a sense of a conscious, often malicious presence in a room is experienced prior to “main event” (it may produce bangings, flying objects, etc.)

–apparitions may be seen that are generally human-like in form.

–physical marks are left on the body and environment, i.e, presences that pinch, prick, or scratch the individuals. Fingerprints, “claw marks,” and scrape marks are sometimes seen in dust, furniture, clothes, or bed dressings, during the poltergeist attack.

–electrical interference occurs; lights, televisions, or radios will turn themselves on/off, lightbulbs burst, flicker, or strobe.

–levitation of objects (and, rarely, even persons) occurs.

–balls of light, often blue, are seen; blue flashes and “cold breezes” accompany some mediums’ trance states, such as Stella Cranshaw’s, that were accompanied by poltergeist-like physical effects, studied by the SPR in 1923-26.[26]

–hazes, often blue in color, are seen.
–objects may disappear (sometimes from locked or hidden places) and reappear in the open or in incongruous places (teleportation).

–objects, most often stones, seem to materialize or pass through solid objects such as walls. Often they are found to be warm or hot to the touch.

–“teleported” or “apported” objects (such as stones, cups, plates, etc.) are seen to make all sorts of impossible maneuvers mid-flight as they fall, such as zig-zags, parabolas, leaf-like motions, corkscrewing, hovering in mid-air—much in the manner many UFOs are observed to move in the sky.

–buzzing, crackling, or bell-like sounds may be heard; sometimes incomprehensible speech, groans, or screams.

–rarely, and perhaps circumstantially, animals have been found mutilated in surgically precise manners during poltergeist manifestations, suggesting a tentative connection to the link between UAP activity and animal, especially bovine, mutilations.

These poltergeist-specific phenomena parallel only some of the superficial features of abductions and UFO sightings…Nevertheless, these parallels are clear.

There is usually no “story” to a poltergeist infestation (a contrary view by sociologist Eric Ouellet can be found here).[27]

Abductions, on the other hand, involve a distinctive narrative that over time can acquire a deep meaning to both experiencer and their auditor(s) alike.

The important point is that both poltergeists and abductions involve escalations of the paranormal activity. In the poltergeist the intensification occurs in a short period of time, months at the most, while for the abductee it occurs over years, decades, or a lifetime. The latter seems to wane with the experiencer’s age.

Following Alan Gauld’s and A.D. Cornell’s criteria of comparison,[28] hauntings may contain some or even all of the poltergeist elements listed above, but they are location-specific, not person-centered.

Seeing apparitions is rare in poltergeist episodes, so there are general boundaries between hauntings and poltergeists. Yet alien abductions also unequivocally contain apparitional/haunting-like elements. In both:

–the entities/apparitions appear either suddenly or gradually materialize into sensible form from a haze or light; often the percipient feels the Others’ presence before sensibly interacting with them.

 — buzzing, crackling, bell-like, or humming/vibrating sounds may be heard at the outset of an abduction (this has occurred in a small minority of apparition appearances); conversely, a total dampening of sound often precedes or accompanies the apparition/alien.

–a sense of unreality precedes and accompanies the apparition; in abductions or UFO entity sightings, this depersonalization or derealization has been noted in many dozens of cases.

–a change in ambient temperature is very often noted.

–paralysis of the percipient is sometimes experienced in apparitional sightings, especially crisis apparitions wherein the “hallucinated” person has just died or is near death; in abductions, the experiencer almost universally finds themselves paralyzed while in bed.

–apparitions appear fully clothed, and sometimes with accompanying accessories (canes, sticks, bags, even horses, etc.); Otherworldly beings are almost always clothed and carry devices (“boxes,” “guns,” “wands,” etc.).

–apparitions, whether of the living or those near death, may appear imbedded within hallucinatory scenes that are veridical, that is, they are later verified as the actual surroundings of the “sender” at the time of the percipient’s experience; similarly, abduction experiencers report holographic or televisual scenes that float as if being emitted from disembodied screens, or are immersive, augmented-reality-like programs. (Sometimes these screens’ appearance precedes the abduction, and in some reports incongruous beings or people, like figures of Jesus or a similar protective deity, have been reported to show up in the midst of an abduction).

–a message is often transmitted from the apparition, aurally or telepathically.

–conversations with apparitions can either be aural or telepathic, but mostly the latter.

–many times, UFOs or apparitions are seen by only a few persons present in a group setting of potential percipients; in UFO sightings (and even abductions), sometimes only the abductee(s) in the group see(s) the UFO (and may subsequently undergo an abduction experience). There are many cases of apparitions that appear to one or two people within a group of more potential percipients.

With their massive study Phantasms of the Living (1886), SPR investigators Edmund Gurney and Frederic Myers came to speculate that apparitions (especially of the crisis-type that occur within 24 hours of the “ghost’s” death) were the result of a telepathic transmission from the “crisis agent” to the friend/acquaintance percipient (and even multiple percipients).

Mathematician and physicist G.N.M Tyrrell further developed a hypothesis that involved the conception of an idea-pattern[29] that is projected from the agent that may affect one or more targeted persons in a drama.[30]

Tyrrell’s idea of the apparitional drama is based upon studies of hallucination and a crucial distinction he makes between the sense-data perceived by the brain and the physical objects that may cause the sense-data. In his scheme, physical objects may or may not produce sense-data, despite their being within one’s sensory field.

Tyrrell’s conception is meant to be a general philosophical basis for the astonishing examples of hallucination of which the human mind is capable, as Oliver Sacks describes in his book on the subject.

For Tyrrell, our subjective experiences are simply the sense-data that appear in the mind, regardless of whether they are physically caused by objects in the outer world or not. On his definition, dreams, hypnagogic imagery, daydreams, and hallucinations are all sub-groupings of possible sense-data.

These seemingly disparate mental states may or may not help the successful management of meeting life’s needs; the focused “center” that primarily assists in self-preservation we call the ego is, for Tyrrell (and Myers) at once more akin to a stream with multiple subconscious ideas and affects active within it at all times.

An apparition for Tyrrell is a construction of sense-data co-created by sender (agent) and the percipient(s). It may behave in every way like a physical object, interact with the environment, even be touched, but is not physically present. Any interaction between the apparition and its environment that may leave a physical trace Tyrrell tentatively puts down to possible psychokinesis on the part of the percipient.

During events in which the apparition appears solid, elements of the percipient’s environment must be hallucinated as well—in this case, it is called a “negative hallucination” and plays a crucial part in the perceived apparition (this accounts for how an apparition can block out the space/objects behind it to conform to the percipient’s three-dimensional space).

Tyrrell’s idea was further developed by parapsychologist Celia Green into the concept of a metachoric hallucination,[31] in which the percipient’s mind might generate the whole of one’s surroundings—sense-data that overwrite the direct perception of the environment, attitudes, and even actions while perceiving the apparition. According to Green, it is conceivable the percipient is simply still lying down, still in a chair, or even standing, mildly entranced, while unconsciously producing the entire experience. Essentially, it is as if one suddenly enters a waking dream state.

This peculiar state can make the sense-data amenable to drastic alteration by a force other than the percipient’s conscious ego.

The force that shapes these alterations, which may be conjectured to also be the force behind UFOs, some human apparitions, images of the passed-on, otherworldly beings, has not yet been specified—for our present stage of science lacks a developed vocabulary of “topological” concepts to bridge and map the mental, physical, and third space in which such events may be said to occur (which has been given countless names over the centuries, from Plato’s realm of Forms to Myers’s “metetherial field” to the Imaginal world of Sufi mystics).

Apparition experiences may seem random, although 90% of the time the apparition’s identity is not unknown to the witness (and the connection to a crisis for the sender-agent has been noted). Poltergeist victims may seem random as well, but psychological explanations have been put forward regarding unconscious and overwhelming psychological stress on the victims, especially for pubescent children and teenagers, as the source of the psychokinetic events in as many as half of the solid cases.

In both cases, for the witnesses/victims, neither willpower nor choice is apparently involved. What, then, if anything, may be conjectured to connect these two manifestations?

There happens to be a class of person that bridges the two manifestations: the physical medium.

Discounting the many hundreds of frauds that have been uncovered by investigators, there remain four compelling individuals whose careers attest to the concept of “controllable PK”: Daniel Dunglas Home (1833-1886), Indridi Indridason (1883-1912), Rudi Schneider (1908-1957), and Nina Kulagina (1926-1990). Please see my essay on Wikipedia’s attempted debunking of Home and Indridason for in-depth narratives of their talents. 

Home’s performances were witnessed by thousands of persons, including eminent scientists and heads of state across Europe. He was never caught in fraud and his physical phenomena never seriously debunked. Indridason unfortunately died at 28 after six years of strenuous and spiritually taxing physical mediumship. His seances were witnessed by a few hundred persons, the core of these being a small investigative society specially set up to study him.[32] Both Home and Indridason produced spectacular light manifestations; poltergeist-like rappings, poundings, flying objects; full and partial bodily materializations of spirits who interacted with the present séance sitters; wind gusts in closed rooms, some lasting as long as 20 seconds; physical contact by invisible hands; and, most spectacularly, full bodily levitation (in both cases their bodies rose above six feet into the air before witnesses)…Home and Indridason claimed the “possessing” spirits were wholly responsible for the observed phenomena, using the men’s material-bodily energies to produce the psychokinetic displays. Physical and mental exhaustion resulted after these long seances in which they produced a spectrum of the activities.

Rudi Schneider was examined and tested by under some of the strictest controls imaginable (total physical restraint in many cases) and still he produced PK effects around him.[33] In several instances, infrared beams were used to detect any attempt at his releasing himself from the restraints and moving objects in the lab. However, the beams were broken while he was still trussed up and at the same time his “control spirit” announced its projection of PK energy to move the target object.

At the more extreme ends of pseudoskepticism, debunkers put forth mass hallucination by the witnesses as an explanation, or some kind of “group hypnosis” on the mediums’ part. Such waving away the problem is almost as supernatural an explanation as purported spirit manifestation.

If we grant that people with these talents exist, can exhibit and, to a degree, control psychokinetic manifestations (whether by subconscious energies or “spirits”), what is the likelihood that certain persons exist (and always have existed) who can create, say, lightforms that are actually a type of “Imaginary thought-form”?

And what if these psychically-produced forms can exhibit an independence of their creators?

Anne Whitley

From 1987-1991, Anne Strieber had been helping her husband Whitley read through the thousands of letters he’d received after the publication of his bestsellers Communion and Transformation. They found that many people were mentioning encountering “aliens” during Near Death Experiences, or images of their passed-on loved ones during abductions. Anne said to him, “this is about the dead”—giving her husband a founding revelation as to the meaning of his strange experiences.[34]

Eventually Strieber remembered seeing a childhood friend who had passed on during his first recalled abduction experience in 1986, and, although he has never considered himself a medium as such, has had extended interactions with the passed-on and “ghost-like persons”[35] for over 40 years.

From 1989-90 onward he looked at the Visitors (as he has always called them) as some sort of communication conduit to our own evolution. This has become a common idea in the experiencer and channeling communities, and was accepted dogma to Theosophists and contactees such as Guy Ballard and George King.[36]

In Part 2 of this essay, we will examine how technology has now become an dominant metaphor for the transmission of messages and humanity itself.


[1] See Vallee’s Passport to Magonia and other works, and Keel’s Operation Trojan Horse.

[2] For even one of these reports to be taken as the truth, we have to conjecture that a very strong form of mental suggestion was at work at the least. Fair enough. But if multiple good witnesses were present at such a display, what are we to make of the physical manifestations?

[3] This “vocabulary of divine movement” is, strangely enough, echoed in the series The OA, in which the protagonists’ magic motions are learned during near-death experiences.

[4] See The Shaker Experience in America by Stephen J. Stein, Yale University Press, 1992, pgs. 165-200.

[5] Gauld, Alan. A History of Hypnotism, Cambridge University Press, 1995, 41-49, 53-57, 62-64, 79, 103, 107, 143-44, 165, 252-53.

[6] See Brown, Slater. The Heyday of Spiritualism, Pocket Books, 1972, pgs. 84-110.

[7] Gauld, pgs. 141-155.

[8]Ibid, pgs. 85-86, 103, 137-38, 146-9, 151-53, 182, 234-39.  

[9] Saturnine spirits or “gods” figure as the focus of many religions, like the Nommo, teachers of the Dogon of Mali. In their case, the Dogon claimed the Nommo are now in “hibernation” in a vehicle or moon around Saturn but originally came from Sirius.

[10] Gauld, 1995, pg. 191.

[11] UFO researchers who believe that physical ET craft are visiting earth are mostly astronomers, engineers, physicists, etc.—those who adhere to the materialist mindset. They predictably scoffed at Layne’s explanation for the ET interlopers. Most of our religious and physicalist-oriented society ridiculed both camps of ET believers. A hierarchy of the damned (as Charles Fort might have put it) came into being regarding the origin of UFOs, and in the 1950s, the lowest in the food chain was the quasi-Theosophist channeler of ET wisdom.

[12] This has a parallel in general psi studies, called the decline effect, which occurs to individuals who may initially score high against chance in tests, then eventually revert back to the average. The decline in spectacular séance phenomena, at least as recorded by parapsychological associations, seems to be a collective manifestation of this same statistical effect, and plays into Vallee’s idea of an intermittent schedule reinforcement.

[13] Excluding today’s popular spirit channels such as John Edwards (who never submit to SPR-like experimental strictures), where are such persons who, were they test subjects, would by all accounts easily challenge the physicalist paradigm? One could make the case that Edgar Cayce, Stefan Ossowiecki, Uri Gellar, Ted Owens, Ingo Swann, Hella Hamid, Joseph McMoneagle, or the talented SRI remote viewers have been our contemporary equivalents, but none except Cayce (and sometimes Gellar) required a trance. Most achieved their psi-conducive states either consciously, that is willfully, or through self-suggested mild trance. In the 1970s-1990s the US military and intelligence agencies secretly entered the psi research field via the Stanford Research Institute/NASA/CIA remote viewing programs and the DIA’s Project Stargate (of which McMoneagle was the central psychic). This originated partly in reaction to similar Soviet programs at the time—a clandestine “psychic arms race,” as SRI coordinator Russell Targ put it. I’d submit these projects are still ongoing, and thus the most talented individuals have been sought and vacuumed up (perhaps even on a worldwide scale) by these secret programs for the intelligence/military agencies’ exclusive use, probably for significant remuneration as “contractors.”

[14] For anyone inclined with an open mind to read through this voluminous case-study research and analysis, it is pretty clear that the strict materialist model of reality must be bullshit.

[15] Carter, Chris. Science and Psychic Phenomena: The Fall of the House of Skeptics, Inner Traditions, 2012, pgs. 63-65, 70-71, 76-77, 82-104.

[16] Seances were old hat and wouldn’t make good television. Is this transformation to invisibility just an artifact of how radically media changed forms? An “information glut,” although of a slower pace, existed before the internet threw everything at us at once; thousands of magazines competed for attention, mass market paperbacks made home libraries cheaper, and television flooded the living room with visions of what life was supposed to be like. Invisible though were its electromagnetic means, radio and TV mass media were compelled by market forces to focus on the tangibles of the world: war, politics, economics, scandals, social movements, etc.  Combined with the unspoken embargo on promoting religious views, the media offered no outlet to the “alternative altars” of countercultural spirituality that nevertheless existed (and flourished in some places).

[17] Anthony Borgia, Life in the World Unseen, Corgi Books/Transworld Publications, 1970

[18] Vallee, Jacques. Dimensions: A Casebook of Alien Contact, Anomalist Books, 2008, pgs. 271-281; The Invisible College, Anomalist Books, 2014, pgs. 194-206.

[19] See Vallee’s Messengers of Deception: UFO Contacts and Cults. Also Diana Walsh Pasulka’s American Cosmic and M.J. Banias’s UFO People. 

[20] Beloff, John. Parapsychology: A Concise History, pgs. 231-32.

[21] Ibid, pg. 233.

[22] https://ufoarchives.blogspot.com/2019/02/the-esoteric-intervention-theory-updated.html

[23] https://ufoarchives.blogspot.com/2016/04/paranormal-phenomena-and-academic.html

[24] The Gods Have Landed, State University of New York Press, 1995, James R. Lewis, ed.; from the essay “Religious Dimensions of the UFO Abductee Experience” by John Witmore, pg. 66.

[25] Although there continue to be self-published abduction memoirs, by the millennium the mainstream publishing industry had moved on. Another reason for this may be that since roughly the year 2000, abduction experiencers have shunned reporting the experiences to scientists or psychologists or therapists and turned instead to the communities of other experiencers on the internet.

[26] See Wilson, Colin. Poltergeist! A Study in Destructive Haunting, Putnam, 1982, pgs. 278-79, and the case of Icelandic mediumIndridi Indridason.

[27] That is, unless some “deceased person” is found to be associated with the site or attached to the focus person, or a crime against the focus person is revealed by subsequent/concurrent therapeutic procedures with the focus. One theory holds that a discharge of repressed psychic energy through therapeutic abreaction often causes the poltergeist activity to cease. But it does cease, unlike those abduction experiencers who report the events continuing for years or even decades.

[28] Gauld, Alan and Cornell, A.D. Poltergeists, White Crow Books, 2018, pgs. 176-180, 188-89, 202-207, 283-84.

[29] Tyrrell, G.N.M. Apparitions, Collier Books, 1963, pgs. 110-114.

[30] Tyrrell, (1963) pgs. 102-127, 131-34.

[31] Green, Celia, and McCreery, Charles, Apparitions, Hamilton Press, 1975; Green and McCreery, Lucid Dreaming, Routledge, 1994; UFOs: The Final Answer? Ufology for the 21St Century, Barclay, David and therese Marie, eds., Blandford Press, 1993, pgs. 130-153.

[32] See Haraldsson, Erlendur and Gissurarsson, Loftur R. Indridi Indridason: The Icelandic Physical Medium, White Crow Books, 2015, for a full account of Indridi’s short but astounding career.

[33] Schneider

[34] Strieber, Whitley and Kripal, Jeffrey J. The Super Natural: A New Vision of the Unexplained, Jeremy P. Tarcher, Penguin, 2016, pgs. 37, 53, 82.

[35] See Strieber’s book The Key, in which, while on a book tour in 1998, he had a late-night visit from an anonymous man who communicated to him revelations, not unlike a spirit-guide or Carl Jung’s daemon Philemon.

[36] We might examine the overlap between poltergeist/hauntings and fairy/djinn encounters (the evidence for which there is plenty), but that would involve a monumental cross-cultural comparison. All we can say is that the maturation of scientific classification systems from the 18th to 20th centuries allowed distinctions to be made between apparitions, hauntings, fairy/djinn encounters, and the poltergeist. And for the past 70 years we have had UFOs and “alien beings” to add to the unexplained. The folk division between the fairy-daemon and the dead was always indistinct, from antiquity to the beginning of the 20th century. (See the works of Katherine Briggs, Thomas Keightley, Reverend Robert Kirk, and W.Y. Evans-Wentz). Fairies’ status as the “dead awaiting salvation” (as one fairy in an encounter tale openly admits) caused the Protestant elite no small manner of discomfort, because it paralleled the Catholic belief in Purgatory. The middle ground between binarities must be excluded, in religion as well as science. Let’s just say that what always distinguished human ghosts from the Good People was the fairies’ interests in partying and dancing, staying aloof from humans who disrespected them, and kidnapping people to marry or—especially—have sex with them to hybridize a new kind of being, one perhaps closer to full corporeality.

Old Wine in New Skins Part 2: The New Dispensation of the Non-Human Intelligence (NHI) vs. Natural Human Creativity

Spear Machine

If things like this are going to happen, the ladies will be afraid to sleep alone in the house if so much as a sewing-machine or apple-corer be about.

—P.T. Barnum, 1855, on John Murray Spear’s Machine

In popular current, some people now refer to “extraterrestrials” as “non-human intelligences” (NHI), and “contact modalities” (CM) can be used for human interaction with them. The nebulousness of contact modalities is wide enough to encompass what we call synchronicities, NDEs, OBEs, vivid “unwilled” daydreams, intense hypnagogic visions, or conscious encounters with traditional beings such as elementals, earth-spirits, and fairies.


Diana Pasulka & Jacques Vallée

In her recent book American Cosmic,[1] religion scholar Diana Pasulka speaks of this Otherworldly communication phenomenon in the cases of NASA aerospace engineer Timothy Taylor and geneticist Dr. Gary Nolan (“Tyler D” and “James” respectively in the text).

Taylor received “transmissions” from meditative procedures. Designs or concepts for biomedical technologies occurred unbidden in his mind during these processes. He apparently linked these ideas’ irruption to NHIs.

It started for him when he had a strange experience in the aftermath of the Challenger disaster: a memory that a military-proposed experiment on the next shuttle Columbia would work—which it eventually did, but he hadn’t even proposed it yet. He traces this “anomalous reception” to being exposed to a type of energy at a “very special facility” at NASA after briefly leaving then returning to the Administration:

“There was something in (that special room) that either emitted frequencies or signals and they didn’t want those to escape or they didn’t want signals to get in. I never knew which. It was a mysterious place, and we weren’t allowed to talk about it.”

 That room, Tyler felt, zapped him with energy that changed the “frequencies” of his body and his thoughts. It was after this experience that he began to have more “memories” of bio-medical technologies.

 In the program, I started to find myself on jobs where I interfaced directly with the phenomenon. I know its language. It does speak to us, in space. I don’t know who is responsible for putting me on those on these jobs. I think that somehow they are responsible for it. My own direct boss doesn’t know what I do. This is how the program works.”[2]

Eventually Taylor came to believe that NHIs communicate with persons via a field connected to the energies surrounding DNA.

Gary Nolan had classic abduction experiences while young and in his 30s but kept them secret, apparently, until the past few years. He, too, holds many patents and believes some of his idea-germs to be of non-human origin.

Currently, Taylor and Nolan are pursuing an informational “DNA-antenna” model to potentially explain paranormal phenomena. Along with physician Christopher “Kit” Green, Nolan is investigating MRI scans and the genomes of contactees and experiencers for DNA markers that may predispose them to undergoing the contact modalities.[3]

Pasulka links Taylor’s and Nolan’s experiences with testimony given to her by astronaut Dr. Edgar Mitchell, who founded the Institute for Noetic Sciences and Foundation (1973-present) and the Foundation for Research into Extraterrestrial Encounters (FREE). FREE uses and seeks to establish contact with NHIs using the various contact modalities.

FREE was founded in 2012 by Mitchell, astrophysicist Dr. Rudy Schild, therapist Mary Rodwell, and attorney Rey Hernandez.

In March 2012, Hernandez had an experience (including missing time) involving a “plasma-like being” in his house that healed the family’s dying pet terrier; his wife Dulce described it as an angel, because she had been intensely praying for the dog. Dulce Hernandez then witnessed UFOs (her “angels”) regularly for several months…One night in August 2012 Rey, on a lark, “called down” an enormous craft witnessed by neighbors, friends, and family. Then driving to work one morning soon after this he received a vision of the contact modalities: NDEs, UFOs, synchronicities, OBEs, telepathic communications, and mediumistic contacts, all arrayed out as spokes in a wheel and seen during what he describes as an out-of-body experience.

This vision so energized Hernandez that he emailed ET abduction/contactee therapist Mary Rodwell, who put him in contact with Rudy Schild, then through Schild, Edgar Mitchell, with whom he ended up having a meeting that very day (Mitchell lived close by).

Within 72 hours of Hernandez’s OBE experience the groundwork had been laid for FREE (in both their views, this was further evidence of a kind of collaboration with these higher intelligences).

Schild became the science advisor and Mitchell would set up the new organization, which would primarily study consciousness with reference to “anomalous cognition” using Mitchell’s quantum hologram theory of physics and consciousness as a model. It has since brought in dozens of researchers including channeling expert Jon Klimo, Dr Joseph Burkes, and perhaps members of the “invisible college” such as Jacques Vallee.[4] Five years of field work canvassing experiencers produced a book on contact with non-human intelligences.[5]

Is this just a new-coined interpretation of natural inspiration during or after the fact?

We have no idea in the least how human imagination and creativity work, let alone how a non-human intelligence would mix with or add to it.

But we do know this: no new idea exists or springs from a vacuum. Except for anecdotes about geniuses such as Leonardo, Ramanujan, Nikola Tesla, and Buckminster Fuller, ideas usually do not spring fully-formed and translatable to paper in the human psyche. When they have done so in the UFO/NHI community since the 1950s, they’ve often been laughable mish-mashes of misunderstood or fantasy science.

The idea of a technology being gifted by higher powers is one of the oldest human myths, and Pasulka elaborates on the myth in the context of Silicon Valley. Much of it involves information theory and DNA, fields, and transmission, in which the arrow of signification is dangerously reversed by literalizing the metaphors between biology and machines.

In Pasulka’s and our contexts, NHI intervention would seem to undermine the idea of the personal ownership of new creations; the inventor instead becomes the “receiver” or “discoverer” of intellectual property.

Such a humble concept becoming accepted in today’s Silicon Valley has the likelihood of Squeaky Fromme making parole.

Pasulka mentions the “extended cognition” that our computers are making possible and believes this mirrors the talk of “Oneness” in traditional mysticism.[6] Again, none of this is really new. It is just that inventions indistinguishable from magic are now so widespread that they are almost met with yawns.

John Spear

Consider the fate of Unitarian minister John Murray Spear. After recuperating from a severe beating by paleo-MAGAists in Portland, Maine that put him in a coma, he encountered Andrew Jackson Davis’s work in 1846. While experimenting with seances in 1851—in true utopist fashion—Spear proclaimed that Spiritualist commune with discarnate intelligences was humanity’s future.

Following his spirit guides’ commands to the letter, he formed an organization consisting of six groups: the Healthfulizers, Educationalizers, Agriculturalizers, Elementizers, Governmentizers, and the Electricizers. As the chosen head of the Electricizers, Spear voraciously channeled the American Founders and, after nine months of trance communications in 1853, claimed to obtain from the spirit of Benjamin Franklin plans for a perpetual energy machine whose fuel was something called the “New Motive Power.” The machine would grant “life” to other devices via the Mesmeric “electric fluid” and further, could replicate itself or any object one needed—basically, it was a biomechanical 3D nano-printer envisioned in 1854. This device was meant to free humankind from labor.


Through Spear the spirits had chosen to build the machine in a stone cottage upon the hill High Rock in Lynn, Massachusetts—a fitting locale, for two years earlier, channeler Andrew Jackson Davis had a spiritual blowout in which he’d seen angels congregating in the clouds above that hill.

The motor required nine months of “gestation.” A bizarre quasi-alchemical, transhumanistic ritual birthed the working machine: the physical part, having been finished in June 1854, was subject to a laying on of hands by several groups of semi-magnetized persons; then Spear was encased inside the machine in layers of metallic strips of “positive and negative polarity” within a grid of jewels and precious metals, where he went into a trance and emitted a glowing umbilicus from his body that engulfed the machine, to the amazement of his confederates.

Next, a Mrs. Newton, wife of a journalist chosen by the spirits, was to “mother” the half-living contraption—and duly showed signs of physical pregnancy in response. The spirits dictated that she appear at the High Rock house on a certain day to literally give birth to the accumulated energies gathered within her and transfer them to the machine—which she did, showing for several hours the agony of parturition.

The emanations from her body mixed with the chemical auras of the device. Then “its purpose and results were wholly incomprehensible to all but herself; but her own perceptions were clear and distinct that in these agonizing throes the most interior and refined elements of her spiritual being were imparted to, and absorbed by, the appropriate portions of the mechanism—its minerals having been made peculiarly receptive by previous chemical processes,” Reverend S. Crosby Hewitt wrote.

She then spent weeks “nursing” the machine with the New Motive Power. After this, its rotors and bearing supposedly began to work—but not enough to impress any visiting Spiritualists, who opined the motion they witnessed was “not enough to turn a coffee mill.” Davis himself, while praising Spear and his community’s faith, believed Spear to have been misled in principles of science and explained the machine’s weak motions to random fluctuations in the “ether” via the electrical generator to which it was attached.

When asked by Spear and his mediums, Benjamin Franklin & co. answered from the other side in a typically tricksterish way: while the motor didn’t operate properly in the physical sphere, it had succeeded in moving opinion and the spiritual outlook of humanity.

At the spirit cadre’s bidding, the machine was dismantled and taken to Randolph, New York. After having moved it, the machine survived only a few months in its new atmosphere; a mob broke into the room and destroyed it. As Spiritualist journalist S.B. Brittan concluded, “if the New Motor is to be the physical savior of the race, it will probably rise again.”[7]

Spear’s was a Silicon Valley utopian dream 150 years too early. It could be asked, was Spear having precognitive visions of our present inventions? Were NHIs feeding him these ideas in the guise of the Founders—that is, the “best moral and intellectual” persons of which he could conceive?

We will never know, but the contemporary parallel with non-human intelligences seeding minds with technological ideas is striking. Perhaps these Others do possess a kind of physical existence, and perhaps they are much closer than we realize.

Fifteen years after Spear’s fiasco, Utica, New York “electro-alchemist” Cyrus Reed Teed would experiment with exposing himself to dangerously high electrical currents. During one session, “I bent myself to the task of projecting into tangibility the creative principle. Suddenly, I experienced a relaxation at the occiput or back part of the brain, and a peculiar buzzing tension at the forehead or sinciput; succeeding this was a sensation as of a Faradic battery of the softest tension, about the organs of the brain called the lyra, crura pinealis, and conarium. There gradually spread from the center of my brain to the extremities of my body, and, apparently to me, into the auric sphere of my being, miles outside of my body, a vibration so gentle, soft, and dulciferous that I was impressed to lay myself up on the bosom of this gently oscillating ocean of magnetic and spiritual ecstasy. I realized myself gently yielding to the impulse of reclining upon this vibratory sea of this, my newly found delight. My every thought but one had departed from the contemplation of earthly and material things. I had but a lingering, vague remembrance of natural consciousness and desire.”[i]


The zapping produced an OBE-like state. Immediately after this, by force of galvanized will, he called forth “the ultimate power in the universe” to guide him: a beautiful goddess who was the “Father, Mother” who materialized from a mist to give Teed his mission on earth. And also revealed the truth that the earth’s surface actually curves into a perfect concavity containing the sun, moon, stars and rest of the visible universe. Yes, the earth is hollow—but the rest of the cosmos is nestled within it:

“The universe is a cell, a hollow globe, eternally and perpetually renewing itself by virtue of involution and evolution and all life exists on its inner concave surface.

God being perfect is both male and female—a biune being, and personal to every individual.

Matter and energy are inter-convertible. Matter is destructible, resulting in transmutation of its form to energy and conversely, from energy to form.

Reincarnation is the central law of life—one generation passing into another with all humanity flowing down the stream of life together.

Heaven and hell constitute the spiritual world. That is, they are mental conditions and within mankind.

The Bible is the best written expression of the divine mind but is written symbolically. The symbolism must be interpreted by a prophet, who would appear in every age and in the context of that age.

Man lives best by communal principles to correspond with the primitive Christian church. The Koreshan form of socialism would be the expression of the natural laws of order, to include the elimination of money power and wage slavery.

Equity, not equality, is a natural law for women as for men. There is no equality, and to see any two people are equal is merely trying to enforce uniformity.

Dr. Teed indicated there was a great deal more knowledge that had been imparted to his mental consciousness, but he felt the ordinary minds of mortals could not immediately comprehend or evaluate it. It would be presented to the world in time.”[ii]

Apparently, Cyrus Teed received what is typically now called a “download” of which a major part could not be translated into human language.

[i] Teed, Cyrus. The Illumination of Koresh: Marvelous Experiences of the Great Alchemist 30 years ago, at Utica, New York, Chicago, Guiding Star Publishers.

[ii] Sarah Weber Rea, The Koreshan Story, Guiding Star Publication House, 1994.

On the other hand…

An Excursion into Natural Human Creativity, Involuntary/Automatic Imagination, and St. Nick  

Kenneth Ring’s abduction experiencer profile fits that of many trance mediums, persons who can receive both self-willed and spontaneous imaginary material with more ease than a non-dissociative person.[8]

Because of the dissociative states to which they are prone, the experiencer/medium possesses minimal to no conscious control over the images that may appear in their mind, and the images that do appear are far more vivid and longer-lasting for them than in the general population.

Spontaneous creative activity can often involve controlled dissociation rituals that partially or completely efface the conscious personality and, paradoxically, through this constricting of the normal ego, make its “reception bands” wider for the intrusion of unexpected material, whether it takes aural, verbal, visual, or physical (automatic writing) forms.

An artist, for instance, may welcome these intrusions and a musician may revel in them. For creative persons, an element of intention is obviously present in the execution of the final product. What we call creativity in general, and the types of work evaluated as genius-level, involves a special state of consciousness that allows material to flow into the artist’s or scientist’s mind:

“(Frederic Myers) linked genius with the classical notion of inspiration, saying that an “inspiration of genius” is a “subliminal uprush,” an emergence into supraliminal consciousness of ideas that the person has “not consciously originated, but which have shaped themselves beyond his will, in profounder regions of his being” (Human Personality Vol. 1, page 71). Another central element of creativity for Myers was the integration of ideas arising from subliminal regions with those of the supraliminal self, the “utilization of a greater proportion of man’s psychical being in subservience to ends desired by his supraliminal control” (HP, Vol. 1, pg. 155). The outcome of the creative process is something intended and desired by the supraliminal, and the supraliminal does plays a key role in the completion of what begins with a subliminal uprush. The heart of the creative process is an automatism, but its combination and completion occur in the realm of the supraliminal. Thus, creativity is a highly desirable integration of the two aspects of the psyche and an instance of superior functioning. It is also an indication of what the human soul is capable of, because there is a hint of something “beyond,” “something incommensurable” with “the results of conscious logical thought” (Vol. 1, pg. 98).” [9] (emphasis added)

Mystics historically also have cultivated methods of altering their physiological and mental states to enter trance that brings their consciousness closer to the “source,” or God, such as extreme fasting, repetitive prayer, or self-mortification. Michael Talbot discusses the Sufis’ repetitive meditational practices of creative visualization meant to bring about both contact with Allah and materialize His emanations of an alternate reality:

“(The Sufis) held that it is a world created solely out of the subtle matter of alam almithal, or thought. Even space itself, including ‘nearness,’ ‘distances,’ and ‘far-off’ places, was created by thought. But this does not mean that the country of the hidden Imam was unreal, a world constituted out of sheer nothingness. Nor was it a landscape created by only one mind. Rather it was a plane of existence created by the imagination of many people, and yet one that still had its own corporeality and dimension, its own forests, mountains, and even cities. The Sufis devoted a good deal of their writings to the clarification of this point. So alien is this idea to many Western thinkers that the late Henry Corbin, a professor of Islamic religion at the Sorbonne in Paris and a leading authority on Iranian-Islamic thought, coin the term imaginal to describe it, meaning a world that is created by imagination but is ontologically no less real than physical reality…Because of the imaginal nature of the afterlife realm, the Sufis concluded that imagination itself is a faculty of perception, an idea that offers new light on why (psychotherapist Joel) Whitton’s subject materialized a hand only after he started thinking, and why visualizing images has such a potent effect on the health and physical structure of our bodies. It also contributed to the Sufis belief that one could use visualization, a process they called ‘creative prayer,’ to alter and reshape the very fabric of one’s destiny.” [10]

This reiterates the theory of Romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge and the 18th-19th Century poets’ conception of the Imagination. Consider this famous quote from Coleridge:

The Primary Imagination I hold to be the living power and prime agent of all human perception, and is a repetition in the finite mind of the eternal act of creation in the infinite I AM. The secondary imagination I consider as an echo of the former, co-existing with the conscious will, yet still as identical with the primary in the kind of its agency, and differing only in degree, and in the mode of its operation. It dissolves, diffuses, dissipates, in order to re-create or where this process is rendered impossible, yet still, at all events, it struggles to idealize and to unify. It is essentially vital, even as all objects (as objects) are essentially fixed and dead.[11]

The current ideas of a non-human extraterrestrial intelligence both figuratively and literally alienate the natural human ability to produce novel ideas (signals) that have been filtered down from the noise of the total consciousness, supraliminal and subliminal, of humanity. Is there a genuine justification to externalize these intrusions to a non-human type of consciousness?

When in trance or mild dissociation, the resting state of a brain’s filtering mechanism is altered to a degree.[12] This allows material that is, to use a metaphor, a mental/aural snapshot of something outside the normal boundaries of personal egoic habitation. Much of the brain’s activity, on both synaptic-neuronal and hemispheric/sectional levels, functions in inhibitory ways to make possible what is considered smooth conscious functioning. The study of damage to a tiny area of the brain can reveal the ostensibly global function that area controls with regard to normal consciousness; collectively accumulated over a century, this catalog of functions helps us understand the productive or inhibitory scheme of the human cognitive world with regard to the brain.

In this way the physical aspects of certain base-level filtering mechanisms have been mapped. Blood flow, electrical activity, and coherent communication between hemispheres all contribute to the norm, of course, but tissue death, damage, or anesthesia can produce states similar to hypnosis, hypnagogia, dreams, or OBEs—and also extraordinary feats of psi activity. The original mesmerists and hypnotists of the 19th century proposed models of the hypnoid mesmeric state that implicated general loss of integrated brain and nervous system functioning during the self-healing, remote healing, telepathy, clairvoyance, and even psychokinesis observed in various patients and volunteer subjects.[13]

There seems to be a general principle, in line with Myers’s thinking, that for every physical loss of a brain function that produces a physical compensation there are ancillary effects to behavior that are sometimes extraordinary.

Neurophysiologist Karl Pribram once puzzled over neurosurgeon Wilder Penfield’s “engram” conjecture that everything ever experienced by a person is recorded in the brain’s trillionfold complex of connections. Penfield had electrically stimulated parts of epileptics’ brains while they were in surgery and received detailed accounts of memory replays (engrams) from earlier moments in the patients’ lives, sometimes going back to early childhood.[14]

Pribram’s work with psychologist Karl Lashley added to the mystery: Lashley had discovered that maze-running rats could still remember the paths they’d figured out despite having both the memory and learning portions of their brains removed—and even having the entire organ rearranged in their skulls. This indicated that the physical substrate was not where the engrams of experience reside. At the very least, memories are distributed throughout the entire brain and can be retrieved despite damage to the areas where they should reside.

Consider the fact that animals, including humans, can still competently function with severe physical brain damage and even without fully formed brains. In cerebellar agenesis, a person is born with an incomplete or even entirely missing cerebellum, which controls motor movement of the limbs and the ability to speak. Yet there are people born with cerebellar agenesis who function relatively normally, such as the Chinese woman found in 2014, where these capacities are only impaired and not entirely absent, as should be the case if the substrate was entirely responsible for the motor competency.[15] There are also startling examples such as the man who suffered from hydrocephaly when a child; at 44, in 2007, he was discovered to have only 30-50% of his brain intact, the rest being simply cerebrospinal fluid. He had an IQ of 75 and led a normal life until the discovery.[16] A boy born in Scotland in 2013 with only a brainstem and a fluid-filled skull is now six and can speak, despite the medical opinion that he should still have only the capacities of a newborn. Another child born in 2014 lacks both a skull and brain and could speak rudimentarily.[17]

These cases obviously at least imply that something more than the physical brain is the key to understanding consciousness and memory; physicalist science has no answer yet as to how these people can function.

An obvious hypothesis is that consciousness does not reside in or is produced by the brain but is filtered via brain structures from a “field” of possible conscious experience, as Myers hinted. This is idea with a long pedigree and has been much denigrated by mainstream scientists since the 19thcentury.


Creativity may involve a narrowing of the physical markers (brain activities) of normal consciousness that produce a corresponding expansion of access to another part of the mind—or even another kind of consciousness altogether.

I believe Coleridge and Corbin are speaking of an energy field we may call (adapting Celia Green’s coinage) the metachoria and the specific images that emerge from it into consciousness (and back again into “unconsciousness”) metachores.

Metachores such as the “heavenly cities” created by the Sufi) are invested with meditational energies both mental and emotional. They may be equivalent to the Buddhist concept of the energies that create an emanation body by prodigious psychic focus over a long period.

Moreover, these images may appear as unwilled and spontaneous in anyone’s consciousness, but the artist as a trained receiver may be able to capture and develop them.

This capacity, of course, comes with repeated practice and discipline. A metachoric impression may linger only temporarily in the short-term memory. This is what causes the distraction so common to a creative person; in the middle of a conversation they may struggle, multitasking, to remember and clarify the sudden intruding idea as the brain produces the proteins to store it in long-term form. The napkin sketch, the pocket notebook, or the digital voice recorder comes out as they get down the idea before it disappears.

The future work—all available choices to the path of a finished, tangible product (a painting or recording, etc.)—are in a superposition of sorts as they hover about the metachore, like a cloud of electrons prior to observation and wave-function collapse.

But recognized works of genius, both great and lesser, are fashioned through a process that is generalizable to all acts of creation:

A traditional descriptive model of the creative process, based on the self-observation and testimony of large numbers of variously eminent persons, provides a useful organizing framework for this discussion. Credit for explicitly formulating this model is usually given to Graham Wallas (1926), a political scientist and administrator primarily concerned with the pedagogical matters, but it was also formulated in nearly identical terms and in greater detail by psychologist Eliot Dole Hutchinson (1931, 1939). The model posits four stages or phases that can often be discerned in a high-level creative effort: (1) preparation; (2) incubation; (3) illumination; and (4) verification. Briefly, preparation refers primarily to the initial stages of intense voluntary effort on a particular work or problem (although it is sometimes generalized to include the typically lengthy period of time in which high level technical skills relevant to the task are laboriously acquired). If this initial effort fails, the work or problem may temporarily be put aside in frustration, this being the stage of incubation or renunciation, in which conscious effort seems to be largely or wholly absent. Something more than simple rest or dissipation of inhibitions seems to be involved during the incubation period, for then comes illumination, inspiration, or insight, in which radically new ideas intrude into consciousness, often suddenly, copiously, and with strong accompanying affect. This leads to a further stage of voluntary effort, verification, in which the new material may be evaluated, elaborated, and worked into the structure of the evolving product.[18]

While cognitive neuroscientific accounts explain Hutchinson’s renunciation-inspiration phase of creativity as a sort of “unconscious cerebration” or a “cognitive unconscious” that functions during both consciousness and sleep, it is still a behaviorist’s black-box model that explains nothing.[19]There are cases of problem solving (if we roughly want to define creativity that way) which so confound science as to be magical. As we noted, a calculating prodigy like Ramanujan could instantly tabulate complex operations on prime numbers within seconds.[20] Since no one had called into public existence the particular prime numbers Ramanujan was asked to do, we still need to ask how he in particular and prodigies in general can do it…It is the same, albeit in slow motion, with the creative constellation of ideas that eventually become artworks that deeply resonate with people down the ages.

Of course, there are only finite numbers of prime numbers (an objective fact) while art almost wholly involves subjective value judgments, but in what sense do they share at least a family resemblance, or a direct parallel at most?

Getting consistently good sleep has been positively correlated with higher levels of creativity; this probably has to do with the integration of emotional and intellectual experiences into one’s general psychological mindset.[21]

Every night, people enter temporary worlds fashioned entirely by their minds, briefly inhabit them, and become agents in them. Our emotional preoccupations drive the dreaming process via the brain stem and limbic system.[22] These centers are very active in emotional states during waking consciousness, and are the most active during dreams, especially the vivid REM dream stage that occurs in its third cycle in late morning.[23] Any dream can show the creative potential for recombination and synthesis that is shaped into a narrative, whether that story is implicit in the dream or imposed during the hypnopompic process of awakening. Something other than the conscious ego imposes these images and the story-like order to them.[24]

Creative breakthroughs come in a flash, or gradually in pieces. This is Frederic Myers’s “subliminal uprush,” in which the solution is often fully-formed and often surprises even the artist or scientist. The artist/scientist’s amazement indicates for Myers the existence of a secondary agency parallel to the stream of willed, accessible memories of consciousness.

AI systems cannot as yet produce the qualitatively different process of creating novelty of the quality that Myers’s uprush solves. Solutions may involve context, “nested contexts,” cross-pattern-recognition, and even decontextualization of individual elements needed to find satisfactory results. The brain’s immense processing power of its present conscious experiences and emotions plus its lifetime’s worth of potentially memorable experiences dwarfs current quantitative computational capabilities. The faculty for understanding context is missing in the cognitive-computational models. It is not enough to say that a human’s personal memory store of experiences can be “algorithmically reshuffled” to produce a novel thought or a creative act, for doesn’t that imply that the answer pre-exists (in some form) in the mind to be discovered as the solution? How is it recognized by the artist or scientist as the eureka! moment?

An additional problem is that an answer to a problem has one meaning in computing and another altogether for an artist. If an AI scientist programs a computer to write an original song based on a style of source material (which has been done in the case of the Beatles) or write poetry (which also has been done), the computer possesses no intentionality in its steps towards the completion of the work; it all depends on the selection process of the person(s) feeding the raw material into the system. Many millions (perhaps billions) of combinations have to be algorithmically tried by the brain when, as a “computing system,” it does not with any exactitude know what it is looking for. In other words, the eureka! moment cannot be programmed for—the emotional rush of re-cognition that the near-perfect to perfect solution has arrived. Again, the artist may be surprised at the result and delighted that the answer appeared, many times accompanied by a numinous eureka! sensation. This emotional component and contextualization of a non-linear process cannot be ignored or minimized by anyone explaining creativity using an AI/computational approach.

What is invoked as explanation when a musician or gymnast or scientist respectively a) plays an astounding violin solo while on “autopilot” (and may herself be as astonished as the audience when she listens to the subsequent recording); b) the gymnast moves her body without conscious volition in a way thought impossible and is equally amazed on viewing a video of the performance; or c) happens to suddenly perceive an insoluble problem with a Gestalt-switch-like perception and its resolution is now easy and almost obvious?

In case C, what has usually been invoked by materialist neuroscience is, again, some kind of “unconscious cerebration” involving the recombination of all past imprinted (or memorable) instances in which the problem figured in her cognition. In the first two examples, an altered state of the consciousness can be used to explain how an artist can leap far beyond what they believe themselves capable of (the so-called flow experience). This can apply to the scientist as well; we all know the feeling of intense concentration/absorption on a task that suddenly breaks into ease.

Yet if we deconstruct these scenarios second by second, let’s imagine we can perceive the biochemical-electrical loops occurring between brain, fingers, and muscles of all three people during this flow state. Just before the astounding performance, in the near future, something quite out of the ordinary is about to occur, relative to the performer, the audience, and field of aesthetic judges. The performance is at this time unimaginable to everyone. It will emerge from the feedback between mind and matter, tension and release—the creatrix’s conscious will plus something extra or outsidetheir consciousness. Might we not say that the answer does not originate inside the brain structures and neuronal firings at all, but somewhere in a field of possible realities being simultaneously scanned in superposition, like a person searching bandwidths for a certain frequency?

Spontaneous actions may end with the person being called a genius. Yet in the current physicalist’s approximation, all that has occurred is a concentrated act of will that, from the outside, is described as conscious because the person exhibits certain signs of consciousness while performing, whether that performance is on a musical instrument or parallel bars or a blackboard. To be a good neo-behaviorist/epiphenomenalist, all our physicalist has to say is that the genius’ years of reward for competent learning has achieved its pinnacle; for the physicalist, there would be no significance to the artist-scientist’s statement that they were not even aware of their mind/body during the performance or when the answer came, when this may be precisely the crucial point of the matter.

Along with the considerations of the sources of genuine creativity comes the problem of evaluating a work as a product of genius. In a 1996 book, psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi divided creativity as a total activity as having three components: the creative person, their domain, and the field. The domain is any area of endeavor, such as topological mathematics or oil painting or DJing. The field is the peers and experts and audience adjudicating the worth or novelty of the creation. Thus:

…the definition that follows from this perspective is: Creativity is any act, idea, or product that changes an existing domain, or that transforms an existing domain into a new one. And the definition of a creative person is: someone whose thoughts or actions change a domain, or establish a new domain. It is important to remember, however, that a domain cannot be changed without the explicit or implicit consent of a field responsible for it.[25]

Myers (and I) would embrace this view inasmuch as it recognizes a social collective that responds to a work as something that may communicate truths transcending a particular period and place of origination. We would modify this stance, however, on the grounds that it effaces the element of a shared unconscious or subliminal element whose existence is being displayedthrough the stupendous quality of the work.

Works of genius in poetry, music, and the plastic arts often engage multiple levels of interpretation and position themselves at the edge of an indeterminacy of meaning; they possess a richness of content that evokes a multiplicity of possible responses. The numinous spiritual experience that theologian Rudolf Otto speaks of may very well be encountered in a monumental work of art or a new complex mathematical formula describing, for instance, “imaginary” dimensions that the field of mathematicians have never before noticed.

Many times, a new community is called into existence by the genius; as Luigi Pareyson once said, a genius is a type of person who creates the audience for their work. I think Pareyson means that their works are of such quality that they 1) remind the persons in their audience of profound things they already know, but have never been able to consciously formulate (put into words, sounds, or images themselves); 2) broaden the audience’s perspective on the meaning and/or limits of the domain (as Csikszentmihalyi has it); 3) create converts to the transformative power of art—and thus create new artists; 4) broaden the spectator’s experience of community with other human beings, that is, induce a sympathetic/empathic response that does not diminish in time.

Perhaps Pareyson’s claim sounds glib when one considers the changing tastes and standards of genius throughout history—but it in no way impacts the accomplishments of persons like Leonardo or St. Hildegard, whose lives and works very well could have been forgotten or suppressed in history. This impels a question like Bishop Berkeley’s about the falling tree: if the genius creates a unique masterpiece and no-one is around to experience it, is it still a masterpiece? Against Csikszentmihalyi’s definition, I would argue yes. If an artist had a vision originating via an altered/dissociative state then labored over what they were blessed with experiencing into physical being, whether or not the work is discovered at some later point is irrelevant. It had meaning for the artist, and it signified both the truth of their metachorial encounter and their direct relationship to a field of possible experience far greater than themself.

It is important here to stress that the metachoria is populated with and produces in minds images that may have intrinsic intentionality but do not yet possess an existent referent at the time they occur; they have sense to their experiencer but no reference yet in the world.

Suppose you think of Santa Claus pausing from his toy-making work to have a lager. Santa Claus in a strict sense doesn’t exist, but he can do just about anything one can imagine a human doing—even things humans can’t. The thought of Santa drinking has intentionality: we have a thought that “Santa is/was/will quaff a pint.” It has sense to us, but no referent—that is, it refers to no existing reality, other than the imagined action in the imaginer’s mind. Santa is a “prop.”[26]

Similarly, a painter might have, say, a spontaneous vision of a nightclub filled with nightmarish chimeras performing actions upon one another that no other human has ever imagined.[27] She is chilled by the image’s intensity but also very alert to its details. The imaginal scene also has sense (being set in a phantasmal nightclub, etc.), but no reference in the outer world—the vision does not yet exist in a public way, like Santa Claus does. Her job is then to bring this image’s subjective sense to external form in a tangible work: a painting.

Now suppose the painter were to spend ten years making this one work, and it became spectacularly popular and survived down the centuries, like Bosch’s landscapes. Suppose people named her visionary creatures, wrote iconographies and fiction based around them, made movies and narratives using the rich symbolism of the painting’s world. These creatures too could eventually become imaginative “props” like Santa Claus—they could quaff weird beverages, have adventures, take over the White House, etc.

All because a singular, vivid, unwilled image entered one artist’s head. Did the depicted creatures call themselves into existence via a non-human intelligence? Were they given their long ideal lives via her metachorial imagination?

Or (to get really out there) did her huge future audience’s familiarity, admiration, and even love for her creations somehow retroactively cause the vision to occur in her mind in the first place?

In part three we will summarize the case for the novelty of non-human intelligence communications via the contact modalities in the light of the historical parallels outlined here. Just what part of these phenomena are new?


[1] Pasulka, D.W., American Cosmic: UFOs, Religion, Technology, Oxford University Press, 2019.

[2] Ibid, pgs. 34-35.

[3] See Banias, M.J. UFO People: A Curious Culture, August Night Book, 2019, pgs. 92-97.

[4] Pasulka, pgs 188-95; 198-201.

[5] See Beyond UFOs: The Science of Consciousness & Contact with Non-Human Intelligence Vol. 1, CreateSpace Independent Platform, 2018.

[6] Pasulka, pgs. 140, 203-04, 207-08.

[7] Brown, pgs. 178-189.

[8] See Ring, Kenneth. The Omega Project: Near-Death Experiences, UFO Encounters, and Mind-at-Large, William Morrow & Co., 1992.

[9] Kelly, Edward and Kelly, Emily Williams. Irreducible Mind: Toward a Psychology for the 21st Century, Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, 2009, pg. 354.

[10] Talbot, Michael. The Holographic Universe, Harper Perennial, 1991, pg. 260.

[11] Coleridge, Samuel Taylor. Biography Literaria, 1817.

[12] Kelly 353-362; see Mavromatis, Andreas. Hypnagogia: The Unique State of Consciousness Between Wakefulness and Sleep, Thyrsos Press, 2010, pgs. 71-80, 194-203, 221-23 for the relationship between relaxation, natural dissociation, and spontaneously unwilled imagery in the hypnagogic trance, the first stage of sleep.

[13] See Gauld, Alan. A History of Hypnotism, Cambridge University Press, 1995, pgs. 105-107, 143-44, 278-79, 284-85, 301, 326-27.

[14] Maybe the specific amplitude or wavelength of Penfield’s charge resonated with amplitude/wavelength of random encoded memories in the patients’ brains. These relived memories by the patients seemed entirely “meaningless” recollections, because most of our lives consist of just these sorts of experiences.

[15] http://yalescientific.org/thescope/2015/03/the-woman-born-without-a-cerebellum/


[16] https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn12301-man-with-tiny-brain-shocks-doctors

[17] http://www.cnn.com/2015/10/01/health/baby-born-without-complete-skull-turns-1/index.html

[18] Kelly (2009), 427-428, 432-433, 600.

[19] See Kelly, 240-252 for criticism of the unconscious cerebration/cognitive unconscious thesis in neuroscience and psychology, and Kelly, pg. 455 on the shortcomings of the “black” box approach.

[20] Many times, these persons are diagnosed with autism-spectrum disorder or have a type of detriment to the left side of the brain, which has been shown to process experience linguistically in a linear fashion. The right brain, which has been demonstrated to perceive images and wholes with a minimal linguistic, linear component, may in fact, for persons such as Ramanujan, imaginally perceive the entirety of a mathematical world as 3-dimensional table-matrices through which they will the answer not through calculation but location via the matrices’ axes. See Kelly (2009) pgs. 87, 433, and The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World by Iain McGilchrist, Yale University Press, 2012, pgs. 12-13, 57-58, 61, 87, 132.

[21] Rock, 142-147.

[22] Rock, Andrea. The Mind at Night: The New Science of How and Why We Dream, Basic Books, 2004, pgs. 22, 122.

[23] ibid, 47-49.

[24] This other could be said to be the realm of the right brain. The difference between a verbal description of an anomaly and a visual representation of it (of a Nordic being such as Adamski’s, or Strieber’s “woman visitor” on the cover of Communion) is profound in its emotional effect. Images activate the right hemisphere of the brain that deals in the symbolic. Symbols can be said to reside and recombine in those areas of the brain. It may be for this reason that traditions from Sumerian religion to mystical Judaism to Roman and Gnostic mythology tell of a “divine twin,” hypnopomp, daemon, szyzgus, or guardian angel that is an everpresent part of us that exists to communicate truths that elude propositional form. The symbolic/emotional nexus has no grasp of linear time, because it exists partially outside it, in the metachoria. These are the dreams we most remember.

[25] Csikszenmihalyi, Mihaly. Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention, Harper Perennial, 1996, pg. 28.

[26] See Kendall L. Walton’s Mimesis as Make-Believe: On the Foundations of the Representational Arts, Harvard University Press, 1993, pgs. 37-38, 42-43. Props function within sets of rules that generate fiction. They possess the same intentionality as objects in the “real world.”

[27] The works of surrealists such as Roberto Matta would be very much like the vision suggested by this thought experiment: landscapes that appear as complete abstractions at first, then on close inspection gain signifying details that suggest familiar forms but never get there. Pareidolia alternately fails and succeeds in effectively interpreting the imagery in his works; they are entirely liminal in their engagement with the eye and brain.

[28] Yet ironically, the “true” name is never the real name if they are telling the truth. Although many such as Carla Rueckert’s Ra admit that the names higher entities use are just convenient, human shorthand for what they really are—the “social memory complex” of an evolved race on another dimensional plane—they usually preach that identity itself, of any form, is a metaphysical fiction, as Advaita and madhyamika Buddhism holds.

[29] See the opening pages of Vallee’s Messengers of Deception.

[30] The Akasha idea originated in Alfred Percy Sinnett’s gloss (1883) on H.S. Olcott’s A Buddhist Catechism (but was probably inspired by Indra’s net in the Atharva Veda of 1,500 BCE). The Akashic field can be made to explain and bolster belief in the reality and truthful preachings of new channels in a mutually reinforcing way.

[31] As writer M.J. Banias has pointed out, the UFO is a “cultural apparition.” This characterization can be extended to cover most anomalous manifestations throughout history, including NHIs, but their liminality can be especially corrosive and pronounced to society in our lightning-fast information networks. Building on the seminal 2008 essay “Sovereignty and the UFO” by Alexander Wendt and Raymond Duvall, Banias claims the UFO is disruptive to nearly the entire spectrum of capitalist cultural discourse, while simultaneously having no unambiguous physical signified to what it represents. There is nothing but the report, the aftereffects of the encounter, and the beliefs by others in the encounter. Belief in UFOs requires a rejection of many factors that make up the worldview consensus that drives our society: physics, religion, trust in the mass media, and products of the “creative class” (novels, TV shows, films) that are products of the same consensus. But judging by the contents of Pasulka’s and Vallee’s books, there are many scientists paying attention and engaging with this taboo subject at the highest levels of the military-space-industrial complex. Or so we are led to believe.

[32] P. Phillips and W.L MacLeod, Here and There: Psychic Communication between Our World and the Next, Corgi Books/Transworld Publications 1975.

[33] The problem may be what psi investigators call “analytic overlay,” which is when a psychic misinterprets an imagistic “signal” by using their own mind’s associations and the left-brain’s labeling power. See MacGilchrist, Iain, The Master and His Emmisary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World, Yale University Press, 2010, 106-110, 113-115, 118-126, 195-203.

[34] See Beyond UFOs: The Science of Consciousness & Contact with Non-Human Intelligence, CreateSpace Independent Publishing, 2018.

[35] I recently read some documents on a person’s lifelong communicating with the “Zeta grey race” that could’ve come straight out of Allan Kardec, Blavatsky, or Alice Bailey’s writings. Clearly the influence of Theosophy on the framing of any kind of channeled or non-human contact experiences is incalculable. I read the first two Ra Materials books (published 1981/82) and found them interesting as channeled teachings. But again, until some channeler of NHIs makes unambiguous predictions that come true, or writes the formula and plans for an antigravity field generator or something far beyond the normal capabilities of the channel, society will continue to marginalize these things.

[36] This also usually implies an atomistic conception of individual human beings compelled to struggle over many lifetimes to learn their spiritual lessons—and it must be noted that the evolution of humanity only became a channeling trope since Darwin put natural selection into intellectual currency in 1860 and was duly picked up by the Spiritualist mediums.

[37] See Heywood, Rosalind, The Sixth Sense: An Enquiry into Extra-Sensory Perception, Chatto & Windus, 1959, pgs. 69-102;Oppenheim, Janet. The Other Side, 132-135; Tymn, Blum, Deborah. Ghost Hunters, 174-178; 276-281.

[38] In the SPR-studied medium-communications from the deceased there at least is a template for proof: the dead person’s survivors may encounter pet phrases, mannerisms, and memories that only they know and can verify as close to or identical with their loved ones. This occurred hundreds of times in the cross-correspondences.

[39] Parapsychologist Jon Klimo—a major contributor to the Contact Modalities book Beyond UFOs—promised in 1998 to produce such a book, but it has yet to see publication.

[40] See McClenon, James. Wondrous Events: Foundations of Religious Beliefs, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1994.

[41] But we know that Santa Claus as we think of him was created from an amalgam of sources in the 19th century.

[42] See https://space.nss.org/life-in-extreme-environments/  https://www.space.com/25133-extreme-earth-life-alien-lifeforms.html

All About the Woo: A Short History of the New Age

“Can you blame us, grabbing for whatever remains of the sacred still exist in such an absurd world?”

It is too easy in our secular world to characterize New Age thought as a mélange of Asian, Levantine, and obsolete metaphysical ideas, only fit for those who have become spiritually lost in the wake of a seemingly broken Abrahamic culture.


In both theory and practice the “New Age mindset” can be seen as a reforming force against rigid religious and scientistic beliefs that resulted from the technological age and the fundamentalist religious reactions against them. Many skeptics call New Age “irrational” or “anti-rational” but this is only true in specific cases.

It must be put in a broader social context. There have been two Great Awakenings in American history, those of the 1730s, and then the first half of the 19th Century, and there is a good case to make that New Age thought amounts to a third—this one embracing not just grassroots Christianity, but contact and introduction of global religions and traditions that could only have been made possible by mass communication, mass travel, and computer technology.

“New Age” culture is a rediscovery of spirituality by way of a variety of practices in which one seeks direct contact with the Otherworld that our blindered consumerist bubble’s thunder and fury tries to hide from us. Many times, the New Age lifestyle involves syncretism between spiritual belief-systems, a “rediscovery of ancient wisdom” with a therapeutic spin to it; it thus has elements of reformation against our control-obsessed and nature-negating society.

Consciousness-alteration (through psychoactive plants, drumming, patterned breathing, or meditating) has always been a pathway to supernatural and divine experience. It directly bypasses the effects of what sociologist Max Weber called the “bureaucratization of charisma.” By “bureaucratization” Weber meant the hierarchy of priests who interpret and rein in what constitutes genuine religious illumination—or, in our present day, the parallel hierarchy of experts, scientific and managerial, who decide what is knowledge itself and what are legitimate experiences/practices and spread those criteria via mass media.

But we have to go way back to determine what makes so-called New Age thought stand out today, as a reaction against.

The Catholic church hierarchy existed partly to control the social effects of an charismatic individual’s mystical illumination and the reforming, evangelical movements that almost always follow in that person’s wake. German abbess Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179) barely managed to escape indictment for apostasy by the Man when she codified and illustrated her divine visions in a series of books, and became a spiritual healer via trance and herbalism. Her plainsong compositions are the pinnacle of ethereal trance music.

Joachim of Flora (1135-1202) drew inspiration from John’s Revelation and propounded a vision of evolutive ages that he identified with the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; Joachim viewed the Trinity as the movement of millennial ages—the purpose of all history as motion towards a paradisiacal New Age.

Joachim said we will move from secular, human laws to become free beings existing only under the law of love.

The Man did not like this eschaton one bit, because according to Joachim, the Church would play no part in bringing about human salvation; it was a covenant between God and all humanity.

This idea of ceaseless movement towards perfection would influence many philosophers, especially the mystic Jacob Boehme and philosopher of history Georg Hegel. Joachim’s vision of the “perfectibility” of humanity would resonate down the centuries and find a secular form in the “material progress” promised by Enlightenment science. Ultimately, it will lead to our present-day transhumanist utopianism as expounded by thinkers such as Ray Kurzweil and Hans Moravec.


When the Protestant Reformation and Enlightenment ratified direct contact between the individual and God, without mediation of a clergy, believers were no longer limited to the rituals and top-down worldview of Abrahamic-Aristotelian beliefs as fixed by the Roman Catholic hierarchy.

But the Reformation rose simultaneously with the scientific method and the concept of “fact.” This created an impetus for an even more strict system of dogmas against two entwined respective enemies:  Satan and the “superstitious” folkways that encompassed everything from fairy belief to the maleficarum of the cunning person.

For many radical Reformists, there was little difference between the “magic” of the Catholic liturgy and that of a necromancer. With the Puritans and evangelists came an ever-shrinking epistemology and ever-growing set of rules micro-managing every aspect of a Christian believer’s life.

The elite scientific establishment functions as a secular priest class. With Renaissance humanism and Francis Bacon’s empiricism, the Enlightenment rationalized and elevated the individual conscience to a divine right. Prior to the rise of methodological science in the 18th century the folk wisdom and folk remedies of the cunning person (eventually called the witch) prevailed in the healing of the common people’s minds and bodies. These traditional methods were centuries old, and the priests punished its practitioners. Science then joined in the censure as a system of repression of folkways taking countless forms, from a rationalizing of cosmogony/cosmology to the Malleus Maleficarum of the witch hunters.


Marcilio Ficino translated the supposedly Pharoanic-era Corpus Hermeticum sometime in the 1460s; a century later it was determined to be a post-Egyptian Hellenistic forgery. Regardless, its principles founded the western esoteric tradition (and were corroborated as having some genuinely ancient provenance by the discovery of Gnostic and Arabic alchemical texts in the 20th century).

When Renaissance scholars like Ficino, Pico della Mirandola, Giordano Bruno, and Tommaso Campanella revealed this esoteric corpus, an alternative stream of knowledge sprang into existence that would run parallel to the new science of Francis Bacon and Rene Descartes. Occult practice became a field of study, with scientific experimentation and personal anecdote to add to the ancient body of works.

The Reformation, coupled with the Renaissance scholars’ discovery of esoteric philosophy, allowed ideas such (as Joachim’s) that humankind was unfinished as opposed to fallen to burst forth with the power of a psychic tsunami.

Except for the experiences of reformers such as Saints Bernard or Francis, most of the products of these mystics such as Hildegard or Joachim’s were stamped out before they could become charismatized. Occultists, doctors, healers, and scholars such as Raymond Lull, John Dee, Giordano Bruno, Paracelsus, Jacob Boehme, Cornelis Agrippa, Athanasius Kircher, Emmanuel Swedenborg, and Count Saint-Germain claimed visions and familiarity with unseen forces that often schooled them in the manner of shaman-guides. Many of them paid enormous social prices for their explorations, including the ultimate: the stake.

In reaction to the Enlightenment’s rationality, the 18th-19th century Romantic movement’s “individual conscience” included room for products of Imagination, as Coleridge and Blake defined them: poetic visions and art as religious experiences, and vice versa. Coleridge believed all these came from the same timeless realm of the World-Soul. 


Our destination will appear scattershot. Incongruent. But these are virtues. The end picture of this essay will be—well, there won’t be one, because let’s face it we’re approaching a time when it’s an ask-a-fish-what-water-is moment. You have been affected by New Age thought in some fundamental ways, even if it’s as insignificant as pouring fuel on your cynicism, or rolling out your yoga mat, or putting up your dreamcatcher. The story culminates in the absurdities of The Secret and the film summation What the (Bleep) do we Know? and in a no man’s land between religion and science.

But the above is a sort of pre-prehistory of woo-woo. As we’ll see, the majority of these “New” ideas represent traditions supposedly destroyed by the acid bath of scientific modernity–despite the fact that modern science evolved from activities of the Royal Society of London, which was founded in part by the second and third generations of mystic Rosicrucians; chemistry as a discipline, and arguably science as we know it, would not exist if it weren’t for the experiments of those “poor, blundering” alchemist-occultists of the preceding millennium.

The so-called New Age as we now know it was proclaimed as early as the turn of the 17th century—by this Brotherhood of the Rosy Cross, also known as the Rosicrucians. So here we go:



The Chemical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreuz is published in 1616. It is claimed, then disowned by German priest Johannes Valentinus Andreae (1586-1654). This “joke” novella, along with two anonymous tracts published a few years earlier that heralded the coming of a secret anti-Catholic brotherhood, inspires the creation of a real Society of the Rosy Cross, a brotherhood of healer-scientist-mystics, that exists to this day. In fact, there are no less than 37 separate organizations claiming lineage from “Rosenkreuz’s” Sufi and Egyptian-inspired movement.

In Frances Yates’s excellent The Rosicrucian Enlightenment, she claims that the foundations for Rosicrucian principles are partly to be found in British mathemetician Dr. John Dee’s activities at Rudolph II’s court in 1589 Bohemia. On this trip, Dee met with alchemist and author Heinrich Khunrath. Over the previous century since Ficino had translated Plato, the Neo-Platonists, and the Corpus Hermeticum in the 1470s, a network of ceremonial magicians, alchemists, and Kabbalists had come into existence across Europe, helped in part by the followers of Ficino, Giordano Bruno, and Tommaso Campanella. It is very possible that this Prague meeting and the alchemical-hermetic writings of Dee, Khunrath, and alchemist Michael Maier inspired the creation of the “legendary brotherhood” of Rosicrucians, by persons unknown.

Rene Descartes (1596-1650)—scientist and philosopher posits, without explanation, the pineal gland as the interface between the immaterial soul and the body. Three centuries later, this tiny organ within the brain will become a contemporary New Age “fairy dust” explanation for a host of phenomena, from DMT visions to astral travel to the body’s self-healing powers. But we all know what also issued forth from Rene’s pen: a totalistic philosophy of biology=mechanism from which we’re still recovering like pernicious anemia.


In 1726, Jonathan Swift (1640-1667) publishes Gulliver’s Travels, whose third episode involves a disc-shaped flying island-city full of highly intelligent but absurd beings. Swift’s characters claim Mars has two moons a century before this fact is discovered. Swift’s imaginative gesture will eventually be quoted by some of today’s parapsychologists as an example of “precognition” or “reverse causality,” as (eventually) will many elements of the science fiction and horror stories of H.G. Wells, Robert Louis Stevenson, H.P. Lovecraft, Arthur Clarke, and Philip K. Dick.


Sir Isaac Newton (1643-1727) moonlights in studying alchemical texts while discovering the laws of motion and gravity and forever revolutionizing our understanding of the large-scale universe. He also firmly believes in the principles of the Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistus and the secret of the Philosophers’ Stone. Scientists and historians will blush at this, wave their hands, and mutter over this scandalous “hobby” of rationalism’s patron saint. Those in the know, however, know.




Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772) is a polymath and trance medium, and has extended intercourse with angelic and extraterrestrial beings, and in The Earths of the Universe (1758) details his experiences.

Before age ten, he teaches himself breathing techniques that induce deep relaxation and a form of conscious hypnagogia that helps him think—and, one might say, access by mild oxygen deprivation a field of consciousness greater than the finite one into which the physical brain has thrown him (we will encounter this “reducing valve” concept of the brain’s normal function 150 years later in the works of Frederic Myers and many other theorizers of the source of altered consciousness).

By age 14 Swedenborg is attending Uppsala University. Over the next four decades, he becomes a parliamentary lord, the national overseer of the Swedish mining industries, a journal publisher, and designs submarines and weaponry. 

Always his pastor father’s injunctions against “self-love” keep him humble in the face of these achievements, yet he seeks fame. In 1734, he publishes his first “scientific” work on the human soul. In it he anticipates the idea that the source of the universe’s forms are fractal holograms that emerge from a subatomic field—a concept that will be conjectured by neurosurgeon Karl Pribram in the 1980s. He moves to London.

During 1743-44 he suffers increasingly vivid visions of hell and the worthlessness of his scientific endeavors and writes about these experiences in his Spiritual Diary. 

He exhibits clairvoyance several times, most famously when he sees a fire threatening his own home in Stockholm while he is 300 miles away in Gothenburg. He is at a soirée at the time and remotely tracks the progress of the fire and is relieved to see it has been extinguished only a few houses down from his. Several days later, word is received from Stockholm that there was a terrible fire—and its path was just as he described. 

After his breakdown of 1744, he is transformed, drops his scientific studies and begins “astral travel” in his long hypnagogic and trance states. He claims to visit heaven and hell, and learns that they are in effect the products of an individuals’ own inclinations and actions in life; all thoughts and actions “echo” in another dimension of vibrations where we create our eventual spiritual realms that we shall confront after death. This concept is startlingly akin to Sufi meditational-recitational practices in the alam al-mithal or transfigured earth, in which the Sufi creates their “palace” within the imaginal realm that exists between the earth and the absolute. Swedenborg describes a threefold heaven whose first level is much like earth life. His encounters with angels reveal specific traits that will be repeated many hundreds of times when people encounter otherworldly beings, especially “ufonauts”: a cascade of information entering the mind that later cannot be recalled; extreme compression of meaning into multi-dimensional sounds and written characters; instant mystical intuition of the connectedness of everything through a very intense light. 

He warns of dealing with some classes of elemental spirit beings, and denounces human attempts to interact with them—which will, of course, go unheeded to this day…


(1501-1804) Slaves from Nigeria, indentured by the British and French to Haiti and the Dominican Republic colonies, encode their Iwa pantheon into Roman Catholicism and syncretize a new religion called Santeria. The use of patterned drumming and dancing to induce trance is used, preserving their shamanist techniques of deity-invocation to the present.


Franz Anton Mesmer (1734-1815): German investigator of altered states of consciousness produced by “animal magnetism,” experiments with them and discovers pure psychical gold. Mesmer uses the alchemist and naturopath Paracelsus’s 27 axioms on magnetism in biology, as well as publishing a dissertation on astrological influences upon living beings. A species of this “mesmerism” is later called hypnosis, whose reliability and even existence is still debated. He designed special circular devices to treat multiple patients called baquets replete with iron bars into which he passed his “magnetic current”. He also practiced a form of proto-reiki, passing his hands over the patient’s body while staring into the entranced’s eyes. His student the Marquis de Puysegur experiments with telepathy in induced mesmeric trance, trials that will be replicated 90 years later by the Society for Psychical Research, psychologist Pierre Janet, and medical professor Charles Richet. Investigating councils into mesmerism (one including Benjamin Franklin) concluded autosuggestion was the answer; Mesmer’s actual body had nothing to do with the cures.

The fact that current psychology still has no idea how autosuggestion physically works can only cast doubt on this doubtful explanation.


Banker Thomas Taylor (1758-1835) has a mystical blow-out while reading the Neo-Platonist philosopher Proclus. He translates Plato, Aristotle, and the Neo-Platonists into English, influencing the Romantic poets Shelley, Keats, Blake, Coleridge, and Wordsworth, as well as Emerson. He lectures encyclopedically on the ancient mysteries to the leading lights of the day. An animal rights activist, he publishes A Vindication of the Rights of Brutes. Many scholars agree that without Taylor there would have been no English Romantic movement—the counter-Enlightenment to “Newton’s sleep” of materialism, as Blake put it (perhaps Blake was unaware of Sir Isaac’s moonlighting career in which he independently studied almost everything Taylor was lecturing on). Neo-Platonism will live on as the main stream of esoteric thought for three hundred years, up to the present.



Captain John Cleves Symmes, Jr. (1779-1829) claims that the Earth is hollow and a civilization exists within it. He bases this idea on a hypothesis made in 1692 by astronomer Edmond Halley (1656-1742), with added help from Jesuit polymath Athanasius Kircher’s Mundus Subterraneus (1664). Symmes’s “Circular 1” announced his intention to form a group of adventurers to reach the entrances at the North Pole. Finding no takers, he pseudonymously publishes the utopian novel Symzonia in 1818, naming this inner world magnanimously in his own honor.

The hollow earth’s civilization, long believed in by Buddhists and Hindus as “Agarttha,” will becomes a running theme in both alternative spiritualities such as Theosophy and contemporary accounts of ancient races that have plagued humanity, such as Richard Shaver’s “Detrimental Robots” (the “Deros,” 1944).

Phineas Parkhurst Quimby’s (1802-1866) bouts with tuberculosis as a young man are temporarily remissed by self-induced “excitable moments,” leading him to conclude the arrow of causation between mind and body occurs in that order, with mind taking precedence. He cures himself of TB and becomes obsessed with Mesmerism and hypnosis. He uses the techniques to alleviate and even cure patients of ailments by way of an easily-hypnotizable young man who diagnoses the patients and then plants healing autosuggestion in their minds. Quimby eventually rejects Mesmerism in favor of the “mind-cure,” and writes many books on the “New Thought“–a forerunner to the New Age movement whose importance via its offshoots cannot be overstressed, as we shall see. Amongst his adherents is Mary Baker Eddy, who will later disavow the New Thought movement and start the First Church of Christ, Scientist or Christian Science in 1879, which to this day eschews modern medicine in favor of faith healing.


Joseph Smith (1805-1844): treasure-hunter and dabbler in Freemasonic occult practices, claims contact at age 23 with a greater intelligence calling itself the Angel Moroni, who eventually shows him the location of gold tablets that become the basis of the Church of Latter-Day Saints. He translates the pictographic language on the tablets by means of a special scrying stone. He gathers hundreds then thousands of converts whose social practices and occult spiritual beliefs clash with those of the Man. Were these events to happen today, Smith would probably suffer the same fate he did back then: lynched at the hands of an angry mob as a “sorcerer.”

*****Starting in the 1820s, following the arrest and disappearance of anti-Freemasonist William Morgan (who threatened to reveal the brotherhood’s secrets) an anti-Masonic hysteria engulfs America, culminating in the creation of the Anti-Masonic political Party in 1832. Although several of the American republic’s founders were Freemasons, the secretive fraternity has spread voluminously yet suffered under increasing rumors of back-room political machinations and religious subversion. This continues off and on until the 1860s, when the Civil War provides an opportunity to charge the Masons’s trans-state status as a perfect cover for spies. There will be periodic flare-ups of anti-Masonic feeling in America from this point forward. They will be seen as a front for the Illuminati, about whom rumors plagued Washington and Jefferson but in reality was a small Bavarian group internationally banned in 1776.


Frederic Hervey Foster Quin (1799-1878) brings homeopathy from Germany to England in the 1830s, about the time mesmerism also becomes enormously popular there. Homeopathy’s originator Dr. Samuel Hahnemann’s (1755-1843) edict that “like cures like” via sympathetic vibrations is a restatement of 16thcentury Paracelsian principles. Homeopathy will be popular in Germany to one degree or another to the present day, enjoying resurgences especially during the lebensreform back-to-nature movement of the turn of the 20thcentury. Nobel winner Luc Montagnier (1932-), discoverer of the HIV virus, becomes a scientific investigator of homeopathic principles in the 2000s and be ostracized by the scientific community as a result.

*****The New England Transcendentalists engage with both nature mysticism and spiritual raptures of in an American brand of Romanticism. Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) rejects industrial society for a natural anarchism and does a night in jail for refusing to pay taxes. A century later, his Walden (1854) will form a philosophical cornerstone of the back-to-earth hippie movement, and his Civil Disobedience inspires Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr.

Cath Crowe

Just at the dawn of Spiritualism’s overwhelming outbreak in America, British writer Catherine Crowe (1803-1876) publishes The NightSide of Nature in 1848, an attack on the positivist pretensions of scientism and an investigation of ghosts and their attendant phenomena. Crowe had already translated and published The Seeress of Prevorst, an account of a clairvoyant and healer Friederike Hauffe written by Goethe’s friend Justinus Kerner. Adept at astral travel, the mortally-ill Hauffe could also apparently read texts with her stomach.

Like what befalls many a paranormal investigator, Crowe briefly suffers a psychotic/demon-haunted episode in 1854 but recovers. NightSide remains a classic in open-minded rationalism towards the paranormal.


In 1848 in upstate New York, two of the three Fox sisters, Katie and Margaret, claim contact in their house with the ghost of a murdered peddler through wall-rapping, successfully communicating with it and inaugurating the Spiritualist movement, which would be enormously popular until the present day in various forms, especially America. Many charlatans jump on the bandwagon, including their older sister Leah. The sisters travel to England and Europe demonstrating their seances. By 1853 people trying their hand at seance table-rapping and spirit-raising sessions experiment in just about every town in America. Within 20 years there are hundreds of formally-organized spiritualist associations in America, the UK, and Europe. The scientific establishment mercilessly attacks both the mediums and the believers–anyone, really, who believes in anything “supernatural”.


A year before the rappings began, medium Andrew Jackson Davis (1826-1910) published The Principles of Nature. Barely literate and considered “slow,” Davis expounds on truths in erudite vocabulary beyond his normal consciousness while channeling. He will become a ghost and poltergeist investigator, testing the authenticity by his second sight. During the Reconstructionist period, Spiritualism steps into the breach of a demoralized America in which people desperately want to connect with their passed-on kin from the Civil War. The movement is roundly attacked by almost all big-ticket, organized religions as a practice either 1) treading on God’s territory (the afterlife) or 2) the work of Satan deceiving people away from the traditional churches.

After his wife leaves him, ex-priest and radical socialist Alphonse Louis Constant (1810-1875) meets Pythagorean mystic Jozef Maria Hoene-Wronski in 1852, whose ideas on the creation of the universe awaken Constant. He then studies the Kabbalistic Zohar and other texts, but only in translation (knowing Hebrew was a prerequisite to be a true occultist since the 2nd century ACE). He changes his names to Eliphas Levi and after 1854 publishes a series of books that spur on the practice of ceremonial magic and 19th century’s occult revival, influencing Helena Blavatsky, Aleister Crowley, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, and many other groups and individual practitioners. Crowley considers himself a reincarnation of Levi. Arthur E. Waite will translate Levi’s corpus into English within a few decades. Levi’s equating the Tarot’s 22 major arcana trumps with the Tree of Life’s 22 paths is considered by Kabbala experts as a spurious interpretation, yet still taken as a basis for analysis and meditated upon by practitioners to this day.


1856: French Mesmerist Hippolyte Ravail (1804-1869) experiments with mediumship and hypnosis. He believes the spirits of the dead are communicating hidden knowledge of spiritual evolution through mediums and automatic writings. He transcribes The Spirits Book under the pseudonym Allan Kardec. Reincarnation and a karmic economy figure in this cosmic scheme, as well as the idea that nature spirits (“elementals”) can incarnate as humans through their painfully slow spiritual evolution. While this is a common belief in Hinduism and Buddhism, the notion will also be popularized through Madame Blavasky, Annie Besant, and Alice Bailey’s brand of Theosophism. Five decades later, in the 1950s the same concept will appear as the “Starseed” movement, this time involving extraterrestrials beings incarnating on earth to help humanity’s evolution.


Bernadette Soubirous (1844-1879), a 14-year old asthmatic girl, encounters a “little white lady” after entering a trance before a Pyrenees grotto in Lourdes, Southern France in 1858. It appears to her 18 times. She visits the grotto every day for two weeks, receiving instruction. On the 9th appearance the Lady tells her to drink from the stream and eat the herbs beside it, which she does. The muddy waters of the stream are said to have gone clear from this point forward. On the 13th visit the Lady asks that a chapel be built. In the 150 years since her vision, 69 cures have been found inexplicable by the medical establishment. This area about the grotto had a history of “fairy” apparitions prior to Bernadette’s experiences. Archaeological survey has discovered that the caves of this part of the Pyrenees were used as dwellings during the Paleolithic period some 10,000 years ago. Pieces of earthenware are wall paintings have been discovered in the area. Doubtless shamans used the cavern systems for their rituals and performances.


Paschal Beverly Randolph (1825-1875) travels the world and establishes himself as a trance medium in the 1850s. After a career teaching freed slaves to read, he founds the first American Rosicrucian order, the Fraternitas Rosae Crucis, in 1861. The Fraternitas avoided his teachings on the spiritual aspects of sex (a form of tantric practice) but these are accepted by the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor. He preaches on pre-Adamic humanity and that the human race was at least 40,000-100,000 years old–now a commonly accepted fact (if not far older). His writings influence Helena Blavatsky, who we’ll meet very soon. For 20 years before his untimely death he published dozens of books on sacred sex and the manifold nature of humanity.


Freemason R.W. Little founds the Societas Rosicruciana in East Anglia in 1860. It attracts Eliphas Levi, Pascal Beverly Randolph, Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton, Wynn Westcott and Samuel Mathers, the latter two who will go on to form the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. Theodor Reuss, who will eventually head the Ordo Templi Orientiis, is also a member. Masonic Scottish Rite Grandmaster Albert Pike charters an American lodge in 1880. Public accusations of tantric sex done in both theory and practice douses the British SRIA in cold water.


American “electro-alchemist” Cyrus Teed (1839-1908) uses electrical fields to self-induce altered states of consciousness. He succeeds in 1868 in materializing a perfect female deity who opens the energies of his pineal gland, which in turn activates his entire chakra system (his words). He discovers he is immersed in a sea of vibrations. Through visions he intuits that matter and energy are the same phenomena under different descriptions. He comes to believe everything in the universe exists in a hollow sphere and founds a mystical religion. In 1869 he communicates with otherworldly beings that impel him to found “Koreshanity,” a utopian communal religion that founded its “New Jerusalem” in 1894 in Estero, Florida. Teed teaches that the universe is concave, and that the earth is a hollow concave sphere.

Daniel Dunglas Home (1833-1886) astounds thousands of people with feats of levitation, psychokinetic manifestations, and trance-channeling. He becomes the least-maligned spiritualist in history, convincing many scientific skeptics of his abilities, amongst them Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. On one occasion, he is said to have levitated eight feet into the air inside a building, traveling through an open window and reentering through another. All scientific investigations of him find no evidence of fraud, unlike hundreds of other mediums.


Sri Ramakrishna (1836-1886)—saint, mystic, and trance medium gains an enormous following in India and preaches universalism in religion. His “Gospel,” over two thousand pages transcribed by acolytes, is still in print.


In 1870, Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton (1803-1873)–politician and Spiritualist/Theosophist adherent we’ve met before as a Rosicrucian–excretes the ghastly novella Vril: The Power of the Coming Race, a piece about a technologically advanced underground alien society. Lytton, a friend of Eliphas Levi, had previously published the esoteric novel Zanoni. The mythology of “Vril,” a super-powerful energy force, will be believed wholesale by the radical right-wing German Thule Society in 1917 (progenitors of the Nazi Party) and eventually the esotericists in Himmler’s SS. In the early 1940s, Vril will also become a PR ploy to sell Bovril, an equally ghastly popular soup made of liquefied cow.


Ignatius Donnelly (1831-1901) publishes Atlantis: The Antediluvian World in 1882. We owe so much to Plato: His one mention of a destroyed super-advanced civilization in The Timaeus dialogue 25 centuries later spawns a huge cottage-industry of spurious research, overreaching speculation, and just plain nonsense.

1882: American Spiritualist dentist John Newbrough (1828-1891) engages automatic writing via angels to channel Oasphe: A New Bible. This 900-page work contains information on ancient languages and events supposedly impossible for this small town tooth-wrangler to have known, and tells the history and order of the universe, ethics, and the new “true” history of the Bible.

It will find vicious competition 60 years later with the Urantia Book, which deals with the same brand of alternate cosmic history. The theme from “Jaws” quietly begins in the background.


The hidden  “Great Mahatmas” of the Himalayas telepathically contact Alexandre Saint-Yves d’Alveydre (1842-1909). He writes The Mission of India in Europe in 1886, followed by The Kingdom of Agarttha, a text about the corrupted state of the world and an underground technologically and spiritually advanced race that, as John Symmes believed in 1810, long ago withdrew from the fallen surface-dwellers. D’Alveydre preaches Synarchism, a new politics based upon proto-fascist politics and hardcore Rosicrucianism. ****When you hear talk today about the anti-modern world alt-right’s “natural affinity” for the “irrationality” of the occult, this is the primary source of what they’re talking about. A line can be traced directly from d’Alveydre to the figures Gerard Encausse (“Papus”), Rene Schwaller de Lubicz (who may also have been the mysterious “alchemist” Fulcanelli), Julius Evola, SS “Vril”-worshippers, the neo-Nazi Savitri Devi, and today’s heathen reactionaries who entirely reject Judeo-Christian religion. What they seem to have in common is the view that western modernism is the ultimate expression of the Kali Yuga, the corrupt, dissipative, greed-soaked, and evil world period described Hindu thought…so anything opposing our principles of materialism, egalitarianism, democracy, and humanism is ipso facto at least a part of the solution. Thinkers like D’Alveydre, Rene Guenon, and Julius Evola consider traditionalism the basis of their philosophies, but where it leads some of them is straight back to monarchy, “Platonic”/Hindu caste systems, hatred, and pitiless destruction of the “Other.”


Helena Petrovna Blavatsky (1831-1891) founds the Theosophical movement in 1875 along with journalist Henry Steel Olcott (1832-1907) and lawyer/occultist William Judge (1851-1896). The medium Blavatsky single-handedly popularizes the idea that a hidden civilization exists in Asia (the “Hidden Wise Men” of the Himalayas, or the “Nine”) and that the human cosmos is controlled by the Great Mahatmas, spiritually advanced once-human angelic beings of a higher dimension. She also expounds on the lost civilization of Atlantis—a hot topic. She is also eventually proved a fraudulent medium by the Society for Psychical Research (more of whom later).

Darwin’s theory of natural selection (which, incidentally, was concisely prefigured by Scottish philosopher David Hume in his Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion) presented in clear exposition the principle of organic mutation towards a more fit relation to an organism’s environment. This, Blavatsky and her followers claim, is a minor biological-materialist spin of Vedantic ideas thousands of years old. All beings are moving from life to life towards perfection, if not just physical fitness to a contingent physical environment.

But the influence of Blavatsky’s movement in “New Age” thought and practice cannot be underestimated. Theosophy would impact just about every aspect of society: art (premiere abstractionist painter Wassily Kandinsky’s influential essay “On the Spiritual in Art”); avant-garde music (Scriabin); politics (Annie Besant was a major socialist activist before and during her Theosophical leadership). Mohandas Gandhi would praise Theosophical principles his entire life, and Nehru as well. Jack London, L. Frank Baum, and painter-mystic Nicolas Roerich are all practicing Theosophists.


1889: Swiss Parliamentarian Alfred Pioda plans on turning a small village called Acona into a Theosophical community. The initial attempt fails, but a decade later pianist Ida Hoffman and Belgian industrialist Henri Oedenkoven name the place Monte Verita. It is another experiment in back-to-earth, vegetarian living. Dancer Isadora Duncan and occultist/O.T.O. founder Theodor Reuss among many others visit for extended periods. “The Mountain of Truth” lasts two decades. In conjunction with, perhaps due to the Acona community, the German lebensreform (living reform) movement is named in 1896, although it had been in existence perhaps since Goethe’s time and inspired by his nature communions. Vegetarianism, nudism, abstinence from alcohol, and sunbathing figure in this health reform. Writer Herman Hesse is an enthusiastic living reformer and pens his novels about natural spontaneity and non-conformity that influence the Beat writers then the hippie movements four decades later. An amphitheater near Monte Vertita is transformed into Casa Gabriella by the very rich Dutch socialite Olga Frobe-Kapteyn into the site for the Eranos Conferences, chaired by analytical psychologist C.G. Jung. Eranos becomes a brand name publishing house for cross-cultural religious and occult studies, involving such names as Erich Neumann, Mircea Eliade, Gershom Scholem, Joseph Campbell and James Hillman.


Pharmacist John Uri Lloyd (1849-1936) writes the popular novel Etidorhpa (spell it backwards) in 1895, a double-framed hollow-earth story. When it is first published, Lloyd claims that he discovered the manuscript. The second frame story involves a protagonist, Drury, who receives visits from a ghostly projection of “The Man,” who tells Drury about his encounters with a small, bald, being-guide who resembles an alien. The being expounds a philosophy that extols the evolution of human consciousness, anticipates Einstein’s energy=matter equation, the zero-point flux field, and attacks then-contemporary materialist science. Naming one’s daughter Etidorhpa becomes a short fad on the success of the work.


Philologist Frederic Myers (1843-1901, pictured) and a group of scholars and scientists found the Society for Psychical Research in 1882 to investigate mediumship, telekinesis, clairvoyance, trance communications, automatic writing, and evidence of reincarnation. It attracts membership of renowned physicist Sir William Crookes, philosophers Henry Sidgwick, William James, and Henri Bergson, writer Arthur Conan Doyle, and many others. Alfred Russel Wallace, co-founder with Charles Darwin of the theory of natural selection, is a hardcore Spiritualist and wary of the skepticism he encounters when the SPR exposes fraudulent mediums (which they do a lot). Lawyer Edmund Gurney, Myers, and Frank Podmore publish Phantasms of the Living in 1886, detailing hundreds of “crisis apparitions” of persons seen by friends and relatives usually within 24-0 hours of that individual’s death. Podmore and Gurney, both skeptics, determine that many times the apparitions are seen at the very moment of that person’s death, or just after. The duo spent years personally tracking down both the percipients to the apparitions and witnesses to the person’s death, timing them and gaining details as to their environment, what is said, etc. This is followed in 1889 by the Census of Hallucinations, a compendium of 1,684 “veridical” apparition sightings/sensings culled from a survey of 17,000 persons’ stories. This core set, like those of Phantasms, was carefully checked. The tentative conclusion: a species of telepathy (as Myers called it) must be posited in order for these occurrences to be possible.

Leonora Piper

The SPR investigates many dozens of spiritualist mediums then eschews on the whole, debunking most as frauds. Its American branch, however, would introduce Leonora Piper’s astonishing mediumship to the world. Like Daniel Home, all attempts to prove her fraudulent through “cold reading,” “hot reading,” accomplices, etc. fail. She is active for 17 years as an SPR case study.

Myers writes a compelling, rigorously scientific book on hidden human powers, Human Personality and its Survival of Bodily Death, which many even-minded readers consider the best book ever written on the paranormal. In this work, Myers distinguishes between the Supraliminal Self and the Subliminal Self, the latter being equated with all the unconscious memories and forces latent in humanity (recall that this was pre-Freud and Jung). His two-part model equated with Ego-Superego and Id respectively, but without the negative associations Freud brought to the Id’s animalistic drives. For Myers it was a purposeful élan vital with creative aspects. He viewed aberrant states of mind and body such as neurotic hysteria, spontaneous trance, and psychosis not necessarily as negative states but evolutive potentialities making themselves known. It is our no-nonsense, get-back-to-work-Jack culture that marginalizes and medicalizes “sloth” and “hysterias” as anomalies begging correction–states that would in earlier times be considered demonic possession and even earlier as signs of the blessed “second sight” or the spirit-election of a shaman. By means of the Subliminal Self, Myers attempted to explain most of the altered states of consciousness that produce paranormal activity–clairvoyance, precognition, telepathy, psychokinesis, poltergeists, knowledge of “past lives” (which could, to Myers, have been memories by loved ones accessed telepathically of those passed on).

Although numbering Nobel-winning scientists in its roster, the SPR’s goal was to create a bridge between oft-mysterious human powers and hard science. In this it failed, but laid the groundwork for scientifically sound experimental psi study by J.B. and Louisa Rhinein the 1930s, the Stanford Research Institute’s remote viewing program 1972-1995, Charles Honorton’s autoganzfeld telepathy technique in the 1970s-1980s, and Helmut Schmidt’s micropsychokinesis studies in the 1970-80s.

*****The SPR’s early founding members definitely have a spirit of reform against the “only atoms and void” ontology preached by the scientific representatives of materialism. They see (as well as experiencing themselves) the disenchantment and existential despair Wallace/Darwin’s hypothesis and the biology-reduced-to-physics is beginning to cause in people, to say nothing of the damage geological studies are doing to “Biblical truths.”

Ultimately, the SPR seeks recognition from the dominant hardcore materialists of the intellectual world but fails to get it. 

Since investigation such as the SPR’s has come under unrelenting attack by scientists since the early 1800s, psi researchers eventually develop such strong protocols for weeding out confounding factors that these designs became adopted in mainstream psychology and even the biological sciences—a little-known historical fact!

The multiple honest meta-analyses that have been done of all experimental psi studies show that telepathy and psychokinesis do in fact exist, although still unexplained in their mechanism. 


Sir James George Frazer (1854-1941) publishes The Golden Bough between 1890 and 1916, an exhaustive and culturally condescending account of magic and world mythology.


In 1893 Chicago, Ramakrishna disciple Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902) speaks on yoga and Vedanta at the Congress of World Religion at the World’s Fair. He remains in America for four years, lecturing from coast to coast. He visits the UK lecturing for a spell. Yoga becomes a semi-fad.

French psychologist Theodore Flournoy (1854-1920) publishes From India to the Planet Mars in 1899, a “subliminal romance” channeled from the subconscious of Elise Muller, a Swiss medium. While hypnotized, Muller writes in “Martian” and “proto-Sanskrit” and claims to have been a princess on Mars—as well as Marie Antoinette. The book causes a sensation. Flournoy diagnoses it a case of cryptomnesia, in which unconsciously absorbed information comes to the fore, elaborated into fantasy and perhaps—perhaps—by means of telepathic connection. Muller later renounces her claims and becomes a fantasy painter whose works eventually inspire the Surrealists—and her fellow Swiss Dr. Carl Jung’s interest in the contents of ritually/”pathologically” altered states of consciousness.


Julia Seton (1862-1950) publishes Symbols of Numerology in 1907. She regularly attends meeting of the League for the Larger Life, founded in 1916, with Ernest Holmes. The LLL is a part of the New Thought movement, a forerunner to so-called New Age, which was founded using the previously mentioned Phineas Quimby’s ideas on the supremacy of mind over matter.

Let’s let the eloquent William James nutshell this movement’s concept of “mind-cure”: “One of the doctrinal sources of Mind-cure is the four Gospels; another is Emersonianism or New England transcendentalism; another is Berkeleyan idealism; another is spiritism, with its messages of “law” and “progress” and “development”; another the optimistic popular science evolutionism of which I have recently spoken; and, finally, Hinduism has contributed a strain. But the most characteristic feature of the mind-cure movement is an inspiration much more direct. The leaders in this faith have had an intuitive belief in the all-saving power of healthy-minded attitudes as such, in the conquering efficacy of courage, hope, and trust, and a correlative contempt for doubt, fear, worry, and all nervously precautionary states of mind. Their belief has in a general way been corroborated by the practical experience of their disciples; and this experience forms to-day a mass imposing in amount.”


2006’s The Secret’s “magical thinking” regarding instant wealth creation via wish may seem like the absurd culmination of New Age worldview, but its deep historic roots are a variant on an ancient theme. The historical origin of the magical thinking for which New Age is most sharply criticized and laughed at is difficult to pin down…Perhaps because so many popular permutations of it flourished in books and pamphlets in the Gilded Age of late 19th and early 20th centuries. To find a singular source we could go as far back as Paracelsus’s researches into the mental state’s effects on health, or Franz Mesmer’s animal magnetism cures which led to the New Thought movement. But these weren’t concerned with material wealth. New Thought was adapted to material prosperity in a series of books, most famously Pushing to the Front (1895) by Orison Swett Marden, The Science of Getting Rich (1910) by Wallace Wattles, and The Master Key System (1917) by Charles Haanel. Haanel’s book would deeply influence Napoleon Hill, author of the Depression-era Think and Grow Rich (1937), as well as Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People (1936).

Levi Dowling (1844-1911) channels The Aquarian Gospel of Jesus the Christ from the “Akashic record” and publishes it in 1908. It purports to relate the activities during the “18 missing years” of Jesus of Nazareth’s life, when He visited Tibet and India. One must conclude that an inspired Nazarene carpenter could not have had personal visions enough to inaugurate a revolution in Palestine in particular and humanity in general.


1908: The Kybalion is published by the Yogi Publication Society. Written by a New Thought devotee, lawyer William Walter Atkinson (1862-1932), and possibly with the help of others, it purports to contain the essence of ancient esoteric philosophy, that of Egyptian sage Hermes Trismegistus. Many believe Swami Vivekananda, whom fellow New Thought member Atkinson met, was one of the shadow-authors of the work. As then, so now.

Giovanni Pico della Mirandola (1463-1494) devoted his life to boosting the Corpus Hermeticum and Christian Kabbalah. He claimed that Kabbalistic interpretations of the Old Testament proved in a near-scientific manner the real existence and successful mission of Jesus Christ. His interpretation involved the practice of Gematria, in which Hebrew letters are assigned numbers and complex transformational operations are performed on these numbers/texts to reveal inner or hidden meanings. For this “added bonus” blessing Pico received a drubbing by the Catholic authorities, who forced a retraction from him; his Kabbalah, tainted with the Hermetic sciences of the ancients, was tantamount to black magic. Eventually he renounced all occult studies, falling in with his reactionary firebrand friend, Fra Savonarola, by 1492. Pico died at 31, the possible victim of poison.

Through the works of Dee, Khunrath, Boehme, alchemists Michael Maier, Robert Fludd, and scholars Athanasius Kircher and Johannes Reuchlin Christian Kabbalah was passed down the centuries via Pico from Córdoba, Spain where it was first systematized by the Jewish mystics in the 13th and 14th centuries. After Renaissance esoterists Pico and Reuchlin founded their non-Jewish Kabbalistic tradition, it would never leave the current of occult secret societies to this day.

Thus, Freemasons and former New Thought advocates William Woodman, William Westcott, and MacGregor Mathers (1854-1918) found the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn in 1887, researchers and practitioners of esoteric magic and lost lore. Mathers received a “cypher manuscript” from a “Fraulein Sprengel,” a member of the German Golden Dawn. It was composed in what would later be discovered as the Enochian alphabet that had been wrangled from the aether by Dr. John Dee and Edward Kelley through a system of grueling channeling sessions two and a half centuries earlier. Translation of the document provided the basis of an initiation system. Pico della Mirandola’s Kabbalah, Egyptian religion, the Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistus, pagan traditions, and much else concern them. Its system involves ten degrees of initiation based upon the Sephiroth, the ten emanations of YHWH in Kabbalah. By working upward through these ten levels and their corresponding 22 paths (mirrored by the Tarot’s 22 major arcana symbols), one climbed a “stairway to heaven” and achieved a uniting with God and one’s Holy Guardian Angel.

At the same time the Society for Psychical Research were investigating the somnambulistic states of mediums, telepathy, clairvoyance, the Golden Dawn was you might say, approaching the same grail with the opposite strategy. For the Golden Dawn, the phenomena the SPR were trying to establish as real to the scientific community were already accepted launching-off points. The GD required their members to develop willpower to harness these natural submerged human gifts—hence their extensive system of ritual to bring it forth. They denigrated Spiritualism in general because it entailed acceptance of the medium’s passivity in submitting to the trance state and the “beings” through which it acted as a “field.” The magicians were concerned with developing the will, not abandoning it entirely as did mediums. Florence Farr’s Sphere group of Second Order initiates attempted to not only autohypnotize by means of sigil and symbol meditation but to create second and third bodies by these means in order to travel on other planes. Mathers’ version of John Dee’s Enochian angel-language system was used as preparatory entry into the astral field.

Poet William Butler Yeats is a member. Poet Aleister Crowley will join, fight over successorships, then quit to take over another, German-based group, the Ordo Templii Orientis, then form his own Thelema (“will” in Greek) church called the Astrum Argentum (Silver Star).


Golden Dawn associates Arthur Edward Waite (1857-1942) and artist Pamela Colman Smith (1878-1951) colloborate on creating a new tarot deck. It becomes the canonical set of these mysterious cards, whose imagery as pages in a book first appeared in southern France during the era of the troubadours and became turned into game cards popular during the Renaissance. Although no-one can claim with final authority exactly where the tarot originated, it is conjectured to be an ancient Egyptian esoteric work that made its way West through Arabic alchemist/Sufi scholars into the courts of Eleanor of Aquitaine in the 14th Century.


Charles Godfrey Leland (1824-1903) publishes Aradia, or the Gospel of the Witches, in 1899. Leland, a researcher into the beliefs of the ancient Etruscans, the Celts, Native Americans, and the European Roma, writes of the legend of Aradia, the witch goddess created by a union between the witch queen Tana (moon) and Lucifer (sun) destined to teach humankind the proper way of nature. Leland can be seen as a much tamer forerunner to British magician Aleister Crowley in that he was a freethinking anarchist whose Aradia preaches “my law is love unto all beings” to which echoes Crowley’s primary injunction, “the law is love, love under will.” Leland’s book has a strong influence on the Wiccan movement and Neo-Pagan resurgence five decades later.


Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925)—Goethe scholar and founder of Anthroposophy, a holistic psychology. After breaking with Theosophy, he lectures and writes voluminously on how humanity’s core spiritual traditions have been superseded by materialism. According to Steiner, materialism is not evil per se but a step in human evolution—a necessary evil to propel us further towards our cosmic goal. He starts schools that become known as Waldorf learning centers, which continue his education methods and beliefs, to this day.

Bucke illuination

After an intense philosophical discussion in the English countryside with friends about Romanticism, 35-year old Richard Maurice Bucke (1837-1902) gets into a hansom cab and sees a fire that is somehow outside and within the car. Suddenly he realizes this flame is within him, illuminating the space outwards. For several minutes he experiences consciousness outside spacetime and feels blessed with a glimpse of that perennial mystical state of oneness that inspires poets and ancient philosophers. Twenty-seven years of historical and religious study later, he finished Cosmic Consciousness (1901) , a huge compendium of mystical experience and its continuing elusive presence in humanity’s progress. Bucke stresses that such events portend evolutionary change in both consciousness and human abilities, an idea that Teilhard de Chardin, Esalen institute (1961) founder Michael Murphy, NDE psychologist Kenneth Ring, alien abduction researcher Dr John Mack and many others will amplify upon in the next century. 

****1904: Rudyard Kipling’s sister, a psychic medium, begins receiving eloquent communications via automatic writing (in distinction to the usual vague spiritual platitudes and near-Dada nonsense that comes through). The wife of a Cambridge don, a Mrs. Verrall, receives equally high-minded messages that conclude with the words “record the bits, and when fitted they will make the whole.” Over the next two years a dozen more unconnected mediums worldwide write communications of the same quality. One is signed “Myers.” When brought together the pieces seem to indicate that SPR members F.W. Myers, Henry Sidgwick, and Edmund Gurney, all of whom had passed on by 1903, were attempting communication from “the other side.” The messages individually make no sense, but when brought together form coherent envois from the deceased philosophers. This will be known as the “cross-correspondences,” and some of the best evidence for life after death that has ever been documented.


In 1905, author Sara Weiss publishes the “scientific romance” (as science fiction was then known) Journeys to the Planet Mars, or, Our mission to Ento (Mars): being a record of visits made to Ento (Mars) by Sara Weiss, Psychic, under the guidance of a spirit band, for the purpose of conveying to the Entoans a knowledge of the continuity of life.Despite its genre association with science fiction, Weiss is a medium and claims the book is one of genuine contact. It is a channeled work, complete with phonetic dictionary.


—In a perfect example of early American-brand techno-mysticism, the “rappings” of Spiritualist mediums 1850-1900 were conjectured to mirror the Morse code of the telegraph. Thomas Edison, in his later years a believer in Spiritualism, claims Guglielmo Marconi’s radio device can communicate with the dead—and, conveniently, Edison’s new phonograph will be able to record the transmissions with loved ones. So buy one now.

Journalist Charles Hoy Fort (1874-1932) collects tens of thousands of news clippings of unexplained anomalies, becomes a total skeptic of the positivist claims of science, and writes humorous books of his findings that become very popular. A Fortean Society is formed in Baltimore, counting amongst its members H.L. Mencken. Fort himself appropriately refuses even to join, much less chair the group. Any strange event—frog rains or stone falls, UFOs, out-of-place archaeological objects, Bigfoot encounters, teleported objects—becomes christened a “fortean” phenomenon. The society still exists, in both online and print magazines.

Before the outbreak of World War One, Guglielmo Marconi (1874-1937) and Nikola Tesla (1856-1943) both claim to receive strange, coherent transmissions via radio they cannot account for (which may have been sferics, natural pulses of electromagnetic energy in the atmosphere). Tesla posits that the earth emits standing waves—further, that they can be altered, and used to transmit energy anywhere in the world. He claims he can harness them and proves he can transmit electricity wirelessly. Just imagine if this technology had been combined with a small telephonic unit.


Piotr D. Ouspensky’s Tertium Organum (1912) causes waves in the public and in Theosophical circles both. Ouspensky (1878-1947), a writer, has been traveling the Levant and Asia searching for “true” lost knowledge of ancient civilizations. In 1914, he finds it in the teachings of G.I. Gurdjieff. He writes extensively about Gurdjieff’s odd mix of Gnosticism, Sufism, and Pythagoreanism and becomes a booster for the “Fourth Way” or the “Work,” as Gurdjieff calls his techniques of waking oneself from the hypnotic sleep of consciousness. By 1921, Ouspensky is lecturing to packed houses that include T.S. Eliot, Aldous Huxley, Algernon Blackwood, and many other intellectuals.



Three shepherd children, Lucia Santos and Jacinto and Francisco Marto, begin to see a glowing “white lady” near a tree in Fatima, Portugal in May of 1917. They identify her as the Virgin Mary and she visits them on the same day for four straight months. The church attempts to censor the news but fail. Crowds grow each time, and witnesses see nothing but the children in trance-raptures before the tree. Some see a glow. In September a crowd of 10,000 witnesses hear a buzzing sound about the tree during the spectacle. The next month, October, 50,000 people show up on the rain–and are not disappointed. The clouds open and the sun dips down, spinning. Another disc-like lighted object is seen. People 20 miles away either sense or can see the strange lights on the horizon. There are healings, and the heat of the “objects” dries hundreds of pilgrims’ clothes instantly. Lucia is given three prophecies, only two of which have been made public and involve the “penitence of Russia, which has fallen from God” (remember, this was before the Bolshevik Revolution which eventually claimed hundreds of thousand of lives and ushered in Stalinist USSR) and generally rebuke people for turning away from the church.


American Henry Spencer Lewis (1883-1939) founds the Ancient Mystical Order of Rosea Crucis (AMORC) in 1915 and publishes many books on the occult and mysticism, particularly the Pyramids, reincarnation, and esoteric teaches of Jesus. The tenets of the New Thought movement spread outward and interest people like Lewis into investigating Rosicrucianism. An invention, the Luxatone, converts sound into color for help in his lectures. AMORC would for decades publish small advertisements in the backs of popular periodicals enticing the reader with occult powers, introducing thousands of the respondents to “secret” material culled from the Golden Dawn, OTO, and other esoteric orders.


1918: Sri Aurobindo Ghose (1872-1950) teaches that a universal “supermind” exists. It is our ultimate purpose to develop our latent faculties and actualize them. This thesis will later be echoed by others, with Teilhard Pierre de Chardin’s “noosphere” (intelligence-sphere) being the primary example. He develops Integral Yoga, predicated upon the notion of the involution and evolution of the spirit. Since all is ultimately spirit, the involution stage is likened to a theater-representation of spirit, using the material universe as a mask. With yogic practice one’s spiritual evolution can be sped up, as opposed to a “natural” material evolution that requires ages to unfold. Humankind is at a point between the natural and realizing our potential to actualize spirit. Between these two is the Supermind, an increasing connectivity between humanity’s consciousness and that of all in nature.

In 1921, Egyptologist Margaret Murray (1863-1963) publishes The Witch Cult in Western Europe, which advances the thesis that a “Dianic Cult” existed up until recent times and was what caused the witch hysteria and hunts of the 16th-18th centuries. It was primarily a fertility cult along the lines of the Eleusinian Mysteries, and was a legacy of the ancient religions of the pre-Christian Celts. According to Murray the esbats and sabbats were times of revelry and shamanistic trance and celebration of the Janus-legacy god’s yearly revival. It is criticized as a fanciful work, but nevertheless her book will form one of the founding anthropological texts for the Wiccan revival of the 1950s to the present. She follows it with The God of the Witches in 1933 and The Divine King in England in 1954.

Alice Bailey (1880-1949)—After missionary work in India and a failed marriage to an abusive clergyman, in 1914 Alice Bailey reads Theosophical literature regarding the Great Hidden Mahatmas and realizes that two encounters with a talkative apparition earlier in her life were with Master Koot Hoomi, one of Madame Blavatsky’s spiritual guides. She accepts a mission to become a promoter of the Great Hidden Mahatmas and spirit guides both individual and collective towards a future New Age of peace. She begins publishing channeled material in what will eventually become 24 books on Atlantis, Lemuria (an ancient civilization like Atlantis) using her corporation, the Lucifer (eventually Lucis) Publishing Company. The publications run through 1922-1960. Hard-boiled New York songwriter Lou Reed is a Bailey fan, and urges her works on all his friends.

***During the 1920s, the Christian evangelical Holiness movement extols the transformative powers of conversion and trance. The Holy Spirit for them is a direct presence that can be channeled. This leads to divine healing and glossolalia (speaking in tongues) and gifts of prophecy. Ideas of the New Thought movement sneakily underpin the working practices of faith healing; the Christ within heals by means of changed (converted) attitude. The Pentecostal-Apostolic movement begins, echoing shamanic techniques thousands of years old and universal in scope.


Mikao Usui (1865-1926), a devout Buddhist, draws on the Taoist principle of chi (energy form) and Buddhist tantric ideas to develop a form of energetic healing that uses hand motions upon a patient’s chi field. He trains over two thousand adherents. Chujiro Hayashi (1880-1940) spreads the practice of Reiki, teaching Hawayo Takata (1900-1980). She further brings it to Americans by way of Hawaii. By the present day, there are two million practitioners worldwide.


After meeting a secret Egyptian adept who teaches him of lost parts of the Koran, Timothy “Noble” Drew Ali (1866-1929) founds the Moorish Science Temple of America in New Jersey and Chicago. Ali draws upon Egyptology, Freemasonry, Gnosticism, Taoism in a syncretic mix. After his death his disciple Wallace Fard Muhammad (1893-?, pictured) founds the Nation of Islam in 1930. Fard’s disciple Elijah Muhammad develops and expands the organization when Fard disappears in 1934. Malcolm Little (1925-1965) accepts Elijah Muhammad’s teaching in prison after being visited by an apparition in his cell, and is christened Malcolm X.

1923-1942 a group of people in Chicago led by physicians William Sadler (1875-1969) and Lena Sadler (1875-1939) receives communications and notes that are eventually collected and edited into The Urantia Book, published complete in 1955. Like the Book of Mormon and Oasphe, it expounds a vast cosmology and alternative history of the Earth. In 1923, Sadler and Lena had conversations with the voices channeled from a “sleeping man” in their apartment building. He revealed that he was “a student visitor on an observation trip here from a far distant planet.” For almost 10 years their daughter Christy took notes. In the 1920s a group of friends put together a list of 4,000 questions for these beings and a few weeks later the sleeping man furiously wrote a manuscript that answered all of them.

After investigating deeply, skeptic and Scientific American columnist Martin Gardner discovers that it was Sadler’s brother-in-law, Wilfred Custer Kellogg. Sadler had been duped by other channelers in the past, most notably Ellen White, the founder of Seventh-Day Adventism, but he believed his brother-in-law was the real thing. Lena Sadler was the niece of Dr. John H. Kellogg of the famous Battle Creek Sanitarium, which treated celebrities like the Rockefellers, Montgomery Ward and even Thomas Edison. Kellogg was a notorious eugenicist and founded the Race Betterment Foundation, whose goals were “to call attention to the dangers which threaten the race.” Here’s a nugget from paper 51 of The Urantia Book: “The earlier races are somewhat superior to the later; the red man stands far above the indigo — black — race,” and “each succeeding evolutionary manifestation of a distinct group of mortals represents variation at the expense of the original endowment.” Furthermore, “The yellow race usually enslaves the green, while the blue man [which corresponds to Caucasians] subdues the indigo [black].”

Hate was in the air. Forty years later, in 1969, Mo Siegel, founder of New Agey Celestial Seasoning Teas, will discover the Urantia Book and devote his life to it, eventually becoming President of the Urantia Foundation.

The theme from “Jaws” gets louder in the distance.

Paintings by Roerich

Nikolas Roerich (1874-1947)—This Russian Himalayan explorer and painter is instrumental in promoting the Hindu/Tibetan legend of the Hidden Kingdom of Shambhala and the Kalki Avatar’s emergence from it to purge mankind’s evil at the end of the Kali Yuga. The verifiably ancient Asian prophecy eerily mirrors Christian, Mayan, and Hopi eschatologies.

In 1925 Alfred Watkins (1855-1935) publishes The Old Straight Track, introducing the idea of ley lines, or energy meridians within the earth’s surface that link ancient dolmen and rath sites in England. The earth, he claims, is cross-crossed with natural living forces that can be discerned and even controlled—an ancient technology long lost. Forty four years later, John Mitchell’s A View over Atlantis (1969) popularizes Watkins’s theories and ley-finding (dowsing) clubs are formed in England, the continent, and America.

The mysterious French alchemist Fulcanelli (who may in fact be Egyptologist and proto-fascist R.A. Schwaller de Lubicz, who we’ll meet) publishes The Mystery of the Cathedrals in 1926, claiming the structures contain eternal metaphysical truths embodied in stone. Much will be made of this book in the 1960s-present, by way of Pauwels’s & Bergier’s Morning of the Magicians, Colin Wilson’s The Occult, and Ernest Scott’s The People of the Secret.


Ernest Holmes (1887-1960) publishes The Science of Mind in 1926. Holmes was a New Thought advocate whose work touches on the New Prosperity paradigm, a Gilded Age school of self-improvement which leads directly to the get-rich-by-thought-alone absurdities of The Secret seventy years later. A mild form of ideal monism still underpins this philosophy.


1927: Folklorist W.Y. Evans-Wentz (1878-1965) publishes the first translation into English of the Bardo Thodol (Tibetan Book of the Dead) with an introduction by psychologist Carl Jung. He also collects vast amounts of fairy lore in the monumental Fairy Faith in Celtic Countries, which along with Reverend Robert Kirk’s The Secret Commonwealth will eventually provide a multitude of cross-cultural parallels with “alien encounters” by researchers Jacques Vallee and John Keel.

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1928: At 26, Freemason Manly Palmer Hall (1901-1990) publishes The Secret Teachings of All Ages, a massive compendium of occultism Western and Eastern that is very popular from its publication to the present.


1928: Israel Regardie (1907-1985) becomes secretary to Aleister Crowley for a mere four years before being put off by the Great Beast’s habits. But, having absorbed quite a lot of esoterica in the process, he goes on to publish several influential books on Kabbalah, a biography of Crowley, and joined the 1900-born Stella Matutina (Morning Star, in distinction to Crowley’s Silver Star order) which was another offshoot of the Golden Dawn. Regardie then publishes what ostensibly is the entire ritual system of the Golden Dawn, but is actually the Stella Matutina’s take on the Enochian/Kabbalah/merkavah (chariot “stairway to heaven”) mysticism. These and Crowley’s writings will spawn many homespun study and ceremonial groups across the world, and help spur the interest amongst celebrities, notably the Material Girl Madonna Ciccone.

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From a young age, John William Dunne (1875-1949) has “contacts” with an invisible presence that assures him he will achieve a great accomplishment in his life. He goes on to become an aeronautical engineer. The presence speaks to him through dreams. He publishes An Experiment With Time in 1929, which gives an account of infinitely regressing (“serial”) types of consciousness to which humanity is subject, the second of which is “timeless” can perceive the future and past. Dunne logs precognitive dreams both he and others have that have come true. His books have a big impact on fiction writers and challenge horologists to this day.


In the 1920s, Howard Phillips Lovecraft (1890-1937) begins concocting an alternate history of the earth told through his horror tales about malign ancient extraterrestrial and interdimensional races of beings. The tales are full of “lost books” and forgotten civilizations whose psychic influence remains to plague modern man. Lovecraft creates a book called the Necronomicon, a book of spells to conjure ancient deities, within his stories that thirty years later will inspire the creation of a version of it. The stories are hugely popular to this day, spawning an entire subculture of devotees to the Cthulhu mythos.

J. Krishnamurti (1895-1986)—young polymath (pictured, bottom) chosen by Theosophist Society heads Annie Besant and Charles Leadbeater to lead a world peace and enlightenment movement. In 1929 he rejects this role and goes on to author many books on spirituality, mysticism, and evolutive consciousness.


Rene Guenon (1886-1951): beginning in 1921, this French Sufi, Freemason, cultural critic of modernity, and expounder and defender of traditional ideas writes many books on vanishing religious traditions. His critique of a “quantitative society” based upon technocracy and material science is some of the most insightful and damning evidence against “the Western way of life” ever written.


At 12 in 1915, a sickly boy named Sylvan Muldoon’s consciousness leaves his prone body, attached by a “silver cord” to his brain. He returns. Chronically in ill-health as a child (as many mystics, clairvoyants, and mediums historically seem to be) Muldoon (1903-1969) finds that he is adept at temporarily separating a part of his consciousness and traveling out of his body. After reading a failed treatment on the subject of “astral travel” by a practitioner, Mr. Lancelin, quoted in one of psychic researcher Hereward Carrington’s books, Muldoon writes Carrington (1880-1958) directly to give him a wealth of techniques to control the astral body once it leaves. They publish The Projection of the Astral Body in 1929. It is followed in 1951 by the more popular The Phenomenon of Astral Projection. Both are how-to guides, and inspire people to experiment with this ancient siddhi to the present. 

mental radio

Novelist Upton Sinclair (1878-1968) conducts experiments in telepathy and what will be eventually called “remote viewing” with his wife Mary. Sinclair claims she successfully reproduced 65 images and partially reconstructed 155 (out of 290) painted by her brother she had never before seen. His book on the experiment, Mental Radio (1930) popularizes “telepathy” as a term and Albert Einstein writes the forward to the German translation.


Violet Mary Firth has visions of her past lives at age five. She comes under “psychic attack” by her horticulture college warden at 23, leading to a breakdown which leads her to study psychology. She reads Theosophical literature and joins the Golden Dawn-offshoot Alpha et Omega lodge in 1919. Trance mediumship in which she encounters one of the ubiquitous Ascended Masters follows. Her mentor Freemason Theodore Moriarty teaches her about Atlantis and its lost knowledge. Through the lodge and her other mentor, Maiya Curtis-Webb, she became adept at Christian Kabbalah. Firth forms the Fraternity of the Inner Light, which emphasizes the works of Jesus, in reaction to the lack of deep interest in Christianity by Theosophists. At Glastonbury, The Cosmic Doctrine is channeled by Firth and her friend Charles Loveday via “inspirational mediumship” (subconscious contact). Again, seven planes of existence are taught to exist. This idea goes back through Theosophy all the way to Egyptian religion and probably earlier, due to the association of the seven planetary influences (Sun, Moon, Jupiter, Saturn, Mercury, Venus, Mars). **This working procedure, minus the Theosophical-historical associations, will be echoed some 40 years later when despondent psychiatrist Helen Shucman receives a “voice” that will dictate to her A Course in Miracles with colleague William Thetford as scribe.
When Moina Mathers, widow of Golden Dawn founder McGregor Mathers, rejects Firth’s rising star-status and new organization and having the wrong “signs in her aura,” Firth again comes under psychic attack. The world of ceremonial magic is showing itself as worse than straight-up secular politics.
Firth obtains land at the foot of Glastonbury Tor and a headquarters in central London. Etheric contact is established at the Tor. She becomes head of the Christian Mystic Lodge of the Theosophical Society in 1928 then abandons all contact with Theosophy. Firth abandons the Himalayan Great Mahatmas doctrine. She publishes occult-themed novels, then books related to her work with the higher realms under the name Dion Fortune, including Psychic Self Defense (1930) and The Mystical Qabbalah (1935) the latter which showed her increasing interest in ceremonial magic.

George Ivanovich Gurdjieff (1866-1949) —explorer, sacred dance teacher, writer, musician, and expounder of “esoteric Christianity” he calls the Fourth Way teaches publicly in Paris and establishes the Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man. Claiming to have traveled extensively in Asia Minor and Tibet, and gaining access to remote monasteries where lost disciplines had been preserved, Gurdjieff teaches that humanity is in a state of walking hypnosis/sleep as the result of a genetic change that occurred hundreds of thousands of years ago. By intense Work on the three basic aspects of human existence—body, emotion, and intellect—one can create concentrations of energy that activate higher levels of being, and one can gradually become awake and possess something resembling “will.” Russian journalist and speculative philosopher Piotr D. Ouspensky (1878-1947) discovers Gurdjieff’s system in 1914, popularizes his ideas, then breaks with him. John Godolphin Bennett is also an acolyte, founding a center in England to continue the tradition of inner development.


Aleister Crowley (1875-1947)—poet, magician, trickster, druggie, mountaineer, author. An upstart Golden Dawn member who, after being ejected from that body, joined the English lodge of a German esoteric group, the Order of the Eastern Templars (Ordo Templis Orientiis: OTO). An OTO successorship battle causes him to form his own magical group, the Silver Star (Astrum Argentium, or A A). His studies of astrology, Kabbalah, Egyptian lore, and hatred of Christianity lead him to form the philosophy of Thelema, which is channeled by an entity called Aiwass through his wife Rose in 1904. This crucial year becomes for Crowley and his eventual followers the beginning of the New Age of Horus, the Conquering Child. After a grueling ritual in the Algerian desert in 1909, Crowley crowns himself the “Great Beast 666.” Christianity will be wiped out by his new religion, Thelema (Greek for “willpower”). He styles himself the sole prophet of the Aeon of Horus–and serious controversy follows him everywhere, mostly due to the adoption of Tibetan and Hindu tantric sex practices adapted into his own ceremonial forms. In 1918 in New York he performs the “Amalantrah Working” to meet his Holy Guardian Angel and contacts an interdimensional being called LAM, which is accompanied by a glowing egg. Crowley sketches the being:


Looks like something we’ll get to know a lot in the post-war years…Speaking of which, his student John Whiteside Parsons (1914-1952), a chemical engineer, “alchemist”, and ceremonial magician, continues the quest. Parsons, L. Ron Hubbard and Hubbard’s wife try to complete the Babalon Working, a magick sex ritual with the “Scarlet Whore.” It is meant to produce a “moonchild” who will have stupendous psychic and occult powers. Ironically, Parsons fails to detect in the ether his own death by experimental rocket fuel combustion at his house in 1952. Hubbard abandons the OTO and goes on to create the ultimate tax dodge, brainwashing experiment, and extraterrestrial-worshipping cult all in one: the Church of Scientology. The Church heroically battles Werner Erhard’s est (now Landmark Forum), the German government, various tax agencies, and rival cults for human souls to this day.


Edgar Cayce (1877-1945)—prodigious Christian trance channeler and psychic becomes the most accurate prognosticator in history. His lifelong work of personal “readings” of individuals’ karmic situations revives American interest in reincarnation and Atlantis.


Japanese scholar Daisetzu Teitaro Suzuki (1870-1966) writes Essays in Zen Buddhism (1927-1934). Translated into English in the 1950s, they have a gradual but subsequent enormous impact upon Western culture via the expositions of Alan Watts, Paul Reps, and many other writers and lecturers. ***The character Master Yoda indirectly teaches the Tao-Zen philosophy to hundreds of millions through the Star Wars films; when we first meet him in The Empire Strikes Back he is performing a Bodhidharma-like character of the holy fool—until Luke Skywalker’s impatience causes him to drop the facade. 

In 1934, theosophist Guy Ballard (1878-1939) claims he has met the Ascended Master alchemist Count St. Germain on Mount Shasta in California. He is taken beneath the mountain, where he is counseled by 12 Venusian Masters. He and his wife Edna spend the next five years spreading the gospel of the I AM Activity, the first explicitly extraterrestrial contactee movement, 15 years before UFOs and their occupants become widely reported and an underground occult phenomenon. Back in 1905, a book called A Dweller on Two Planets was published by Frederick Spencer Oliver, which tells of Lemurians escaping the destruction of their home and taking up residence under the mountain. Although written between 1883/1884 and 1886, it was published after Oliver’s death, and was allegedly channeled through automatic writing. Ballard was probably influenced by this work, and introduced the term “Ascended Masters” to the world.

As we’ve seen, Swedenborg, Madame Blavatsky, D’Alveydre, Andrew J. Davis, Cyrus Teed, Aleister Crowley, Edgar Cayce, Sara Weiss, Helene Smith, and the Sadlers have all claimed contact with higher intelligences that guide their pens and plans. In the future, Helen Schucman (A Course in Miracles, 1965-1974), Jane Roberts (The Seth Material), Philip K. Dick (as the basis of his final novels), Billy Meier (Plejaren communications), and countless UFO contactees will continue receiving on different frequencies. Channeling is as old as humanity, and continues to this day. 

1935: Physicist Erwin Schrodinger’s interpretation of the Einstein-Rosen-Podolsky quandary regarding the entangled states of quantum particles uneasily implies that observation and measurement is necessary to create definite experimental results—and by extension, the results of any experiment whatsoever. Some theorists (decades later) even claim that a mental corollary to the “collapse of wave functions” is necessary to produce any conscious phenomena. Schrodinger regards his “Cat in a Box” thought experiment as a reduction ad absurdum argument, but there is no viable alternative to counter its ridiculous conclusion that the boxed cat, at the mercy of a decaying uranium chunk that will trigger a poison gas, is in a superposed state of being both alive and dead until the box is opened and observed. Seven years earlier, Werner Heisenberg discovered the limits to measurable observation of the subatomic world with his uncertainty principle. Together, it seems that physics has hit a wall…Thirty years later, Scottish physicist John Bell will propose that an experiment measuring the changed polarization of one of a set of twin particles (“born” at the same time but moving in opposite directions) might solve the entanglement problem–but, given a simultaneous change in the sister particle, it would negate Einsteinian locality, that is, the absolute speed of light that Einstein claims is inviolable for an observer. The experiment has been performed, and the non-local entanglement proved, at least four times. How is the polarization information communicated faster than light speed between the particles?


*****By this time, active interest or participation in non-Christian traditions is tolerated as eccentricity. Behind the Judeo-Christian facade of America however, Freemasonry has spawned hundreds of similar fraternities, from the International Order of Odd Fellows, the African-American Prince Hall Order, the Shriners, the Rotarians, et cetera. America has become a nation full of secret societies–the KKK most notoriously. Esoteric belief systems with Egyptian roots are running parallel to members’ public affiliation with the varieties of Christianity and Judaism practiced across the land. In 1935, Franklin Delano Roosevelt mandates a Masonic eye/pyramid symbol be placed on the US $1 bill. This will inspire much speculation decades later and bring the Freemasons under scrutiny again.
With technological wonders such as the Hoover Dam and the turbine engine striking a magickal resonance in the American psyche, the machine seems to be writing its own hagiography into the soul. The new is rightfully displacing the old. Medicine is rapidly advancing against disease. Science fiction works show visions of machine-run worlds of the future.

It is this backdrop of “perfectibility” of humanity via technology that the Transhumanist movement will eventually arise five decades later, in the 1980s, a melange of Silicon Valley know-how and Timothy Leary-style techno-dreams of human immortality. This end-project was long ago prophesied by Sir Francis Bacon and the Rosicrucians.


In 1934, Nazi SS officer and scholar Otto Rahn (1904-1939) writes The Crusade Against the Grail, about the suppressed French-Spanish Cathar (Albigensian) sect of the Middle Ages and the Cathar’s connection to the Holy Grail. He is first to conjecture that the true Grail has something to do with a royal bloodline—an Aryan bloodline, of course. We see what Dan Brown does with this in his Da Vinci Code. It’s not pretty.

The Long Island Church of Aphrodite is formed in 1939 by Russian exile Gleb Botkin (1900-1969). Botkin despises the gynophobia of the orthodox Christian churches and has personal revelations of the Goddess as primary deity. Convert W. Colman Keith writes Divinity as the Eternal Feminine in 1959 and helps set in motion American goddess worship.


Wilhelm Reich (1897-1957) moves to America from Austria in 1939. A dissident Freudian psychoanalyst, Reich comes to believe in an energy force he calls orgone, which peaks in humans during orgasm. He builds a machine to accumulate the energy (without any of the fun), claiming it can cure disease. In 1954, he develops the “cloudbuster” (shown above) to dissipate the negative energy (deadly orgone=DOR) unleashed by both nuclear weapons tests and the UFOs he believes are plaguing him and his followers. His cloudbusting machines apprarently work, and farmers call him to use the simple machine to create rain. After the AMA and FBI get wind of a growing movement, his works are banned, his orgone accumulator machines are destroyed in a witch hunt that rivals the Nazis’s destruction of “non-Aryan” literature and art, and he dies in prison. He must really have been onto something!


In 1944, Amazing Stories editor Ray Palmer (1910-1977) publishes (the likely schizophrenic) Richard Shaver’s tale I Remember Lemuria. It inspires paranoia in many of its readers, who begin to send in their own tales of encounters with Shaver’s “Deros”, a malicious underground robotic race who inhabited the surface of the earth millennia ago. As we’ve seen, a good/evil/powerful society in the hollow earth is an idea thousands of years old in Hinduism.

A folk phenomenon like Palmer/Shaver’s will be echoed forty years later when “experiencer” Whitley Strieber receives tens of thousands of letters from people recounting encounters with paranormal beings like the ones he described in his book Communion.

In 1946-47, Palmer publishes Harold Sherman’s Green Man tales, which also appeared in Amazing Stories. The tales, featuring Numar, the green-skinned main character, were apparently inspired by Sherman’s own odd experience in 1945: Sometime in the year 1945, when Martha and I were living in Chicago, I had a series of visions wherein I saw Space Beings, possessed of high intelligence, visiting our Earth in space ships of different shapes and sizes, for the purpose of exploration and eventually to fill our skies with large space vehicles, coming in force, hopefully on a friendly mission to help Mankind save itself from self-destruction.

Sound familiar? Klaatu barada nikto!


***With Dr. Mystic (1935), a psychic detective, comic books regularly treat the paranormal and supernormal in their stories and characters. Superman (1939) is an extraterrestrial. The ancient gods and hidden occult forces are real (Captain Marvel [1939]) Radiation is a force that can mutate humans into superhumans (Spider-Man [1962]). There are secret schools for these mutated humans (The X-Men [1963]). The effect of these characters and ideas on youth for the next four generations will be incalculable. Just look at Hollywood. Just look.


In 1946, Parmahansa Yogananda (1893-1952) publishes The Autobiography of a Yogi, which eventually introduces millions of people to meditation and yoga, including Beatle George Harrison in 1966 and a teenage Steve Jobs. The book becomes a spiritual classic.


1946-1953: Dr. Meade Layne (1882-1961) works with trance medium Mark Probert (pictured) to channel knowledge about “extraterrestrial” entities, who claim they are actually intra-dimensional beings who hack our terran and human energy fields to materialize their vehicles. This early pre-flying-saucer craze hypothesis is ridiculed during the classic UFO years (1947-1973) in favor of the nuts-and-bolts, mechanical spacecraft theory, until Layne’s intra-dimensional theory reemerges with a vengeance, beginning with John Keel’s Operation Trojan Horse (1970) and The Mothman Prophecies (1975) and the ET-skeptical works of mathematician/ufolologist Jacques Vallee (1939–).


R.A. Schwaller de Lubicz (1887-1961) studies mathematics and mysticism while growing up. On a trip to Egypt in the 1920s, the asymmetrical Temple of Luxor fascinates him. He spends the next twelve years measuring the structures and discovers knowledge of both the Golden Ratio and Phi encoded in the architecture.  This leads him to a series of interpretations of abstract symbolic messages in the whole of the Egyptian architectural history. He believes their religion was embodied in buildings that reflected advanced astronomical knowledge that was not entirely endemic to Egyptian genius, but the legacy of a previous highly advanced civilization that has been lost to history. His Temple of Man published in 1949 kicks off a new paradigm with which to study the Egyptian religion. He also is an adherent of d’Alveydre’s Synarchist movement, which preaches a rigidly theocratic society, and is friends with Hitler’s right-hand man Rudolf Hess. His Egyptology will be boosted by John Anthony West in the 1970s to the present, and Graham Hancock will boost West’s ideas in the 1990s with Fingerprints of the Gods. Here’s the beginnings of pyramid power mysticism…

***1946 onward: Extended contact with UFOs and supposed messages from the “extraterrestrial intelligences” begins, continuing to the present day. A very short list of persons would include: Guy Ballard, Mark Probert, George Adamski, George King, Eugenio Siragusa, Pierre Monnet, Billy Meier, Ruth Norman, Truman Bethurum, George Hunt Williamson, Orfeo Angelucci, George van Tassel, Claude Vorilhon (“Rael”), Woodrow Derenberger, Marshall Applewhite, Howard Menger, Betty Andreasson, Carla Rueckert, and Whitley Strieber. “Space Brother” contactee George Hunt Williamson proclaims a “New Age” in connection with the equinoctial turn to Aquarius in 1953…As mentioned above, in the 1960s and 1970s journalist John Keel and mathematician Jacques Vallee are the only two real skeptics about these being extraterrestrial contacts, and they cover the progress of cult-like movements surrounding contactees in their books. They warn that utilizing single frames of reference when dealing with UFO phenomena and believing anything these “ultraterrestrial” (Keel’s term) beings say will invariably bring ruin to investigator and devotee alike. They are proven correct many times, most notoriously by the Heaven’s Gate mass suicide in 1997.


Poet Robert Graves (1895-1985) publishes The White Goddess: a Historical Grammar of Poetic Mythin 1948. By analyzing the Celtic and Levantine myths, Graves sees his project as a deeper continuation of Frazer’s The Golden Bough and posits an ancient goddess cult, for which “white goddess” is the moon, that was product of matriarchal cultures. For Graves this was something of a Golden Age that fell with the warring gods of Babylon and the Hebrews. The book will influence paganism and the Wiccans following Gerald Gardner’s movement, despite archaeological and anthropological criticisms of its etymological methods and conclusions.


While operating on a conscious epileptic person in 1952, neurosurgeon Wilder Penfield (1891-1976) electrically stimulates parts of the brain’s temporal lobes apparently connected to memory: the patient reports vivid relivings of past moments in their life. Penfield finds he can do this at will with other patients as well. Some philosophers and scientists come to regard this is evidence that everything done in life is in fact recorded—yet even the billionfold neural complexity of the brain could not contain an “informational database” so large, what with all the other constant tasks it must perform. Some see this experiment as implying consciousness does not reside in the brain, but that the brain filters down its experiences from a greater field into manageable parallel currents; in other words, Penfield’s electrodes disrupted the smooth functioning of the filtering operation and caused the patient’s conscious ego to “jump” to an earlier spacetime point. Others think it is evidence that the Akashic Records can be scientifically proven to exist (there is just a small difference between the two ideas). Although Penfield’s tests have been replicated, materialist-minded neuroscientists, ever-fearing the taint of a non-computational model of the brain, prefer to call these “hallucinated memories.” Penfield’s studies will be referenced in dozens of New Age books touting the Akashic Field, Huxley’s Mind-at-Large, and the holographic universe model. 

L. Ron Hubbard (1911-1986) in 1949 publishes Dianetics and in 1953 begins the Church of Scientology to capitalize on and exploit the emptiness caused by Western materialism, the fearful paranoia of the Cold War, and the spiritual vertigo caused by the massive insanity of World War Two. Thousands succumb to cheap electrical skin galvanic meters, quasi-Freudian/Reichian emotion-repression theory, and fork over increasing amounts of scratch to advance up the hierarchy, only to learn they’ve joined some sort of UFO cult. Hail Xenu!


B.K.S. Iyengar (1918-2014) teaches Hatha yoga in Pune, India in 1934. Amongst his students is J. Krishnamurti. Befriending violinist Yehudi Menuhin in 1952, Iyengar becomes an international guru and popularizes the ancient body-contact practice worldwide. His 1966 Light on Yoga is a bestseller, begetting a second-wave interest in the discpline seven decades after Swami Vivekananda’s American and British tours of 1893-7.


Immanuel Velikovsky (1895-1979) publishes in 1950 Worlds in Collision, detailing his theory of gravitational instability in the solar system and its relation to ancient mythological stories. The scientific establishment attacks him in what only can be called an Inquisition second only to the martyrdom of Wilhelm Reich seven years later. The publisher is forced to retract the book. His predictions on Venus turn out to be true. Comparative mythologist David Talbott (1942-) will vastly advance Velikovsky’s work in the 1990s to the present, drawing upon a new plasma-electrical physics of the universe.

In 1951 psychologist Carl Jung (1875-1961) collaborates with physicist Wolfgang Pauli (1900-1958) to produce Synchronicity: An Acausal Connecting Principle, a study of how personal meaning is generated from odds-defying events observed in the “outer” world. Two decades and a half later, Arthur Koestler will popularize Jung’s idea with his Roots of Coincidence. Sting of the Police will never be the same. What a pity.

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With the 1951 repeal of the Witchcraft Acts in Britain, Gerald Gardner (1884-1964) formally inaugurates the Wiccan movement. He claims he was initiated into a goddess-worshipping coven by a woman in 1939. He publishes a series of grimoires and instructional books on supposed lost traditions, some borrowed from the Golden Dawn and Leland’s Aradia, this latter published fifty years earlier. His beliefs are aligned with Margaret Murray’s, that an ancient nature and goddess worshipping tradition existed up to the present, hidden by familial and coven successions. A friend of Aleister Crowley, he also lifts much material from Crowley’s OTO and Thelema material for his Book of Shadows, leading many–especially esoterically-informed fundamentalist Christians–to think Wicca is a “gateway” practice to Crowley’s dark visions of the Age of Horus and the overthrow of Christianity. Although critics have a field day dissecting what he invented and what he borrowed, his work is the single most influential in the development of Wicca.
******I must mention here that both Elliott Rose’s and Isaac Bonewits’s virulent critiques of Wicca and Neo-paganism in general are steeped in the obsessive scientistic practice to classify, taxonomize, and operate on the principle that by examining pedigree and progeny one can simply dismiss a social phenomenon as less than legitimate or even bogus. This could in effect apply to any religious system, negating the approaches to a deep spiritual well. The matter is less one of authenticity to a tradition than a spirit of reverence that finds outlet spontaneously in what appears to the practitioner. The practice of ceremonial magick, especially in a group setting, can wrought deep psychological transformations in people, for better or worse (from experience, mostly better).


Aldous Huxley (1894-1963) experiments with peyote and writes The Doors of Perception in 1954, a touchstone in psychonautical literature that explores the nature of religious visions.


The Urantia Book appears in mass print in 1955 after thirty years’ private circulation.

Chinese philosophy scholar and Jesuit Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955) publishes The Phenomena of Man in 1955, an exegesis positing true mental evolution of humanity, coining the term “noosphere,” a concept similar to Plato’s realm of Forms and Sri Aurobindo’s Supermind. The noosphere is akin to a “field” for mental memes, or Rupert Sheldrake’s morphic resonance (1981), but with more emphasis on ideas’ causal efficacy in the human mental realm. They can effect changes in the minds that receive them, and have almost an independent existence in which to evolve. With the noosphere, Chardin anticipates James Lovelock’s Gaia hypothesis but with a decided anthropocentric spin. Technology—Marshall McLuhan’s “extensions of man”—will make all humans cosmopolitans and eventually, mentally interconnected. Chardin conjectures that there will be an eventual Omega Point to consciousness in which all will fuse into one field that yet preserves the individuality of each of its “moments”—individual minds. This end-scenario also echoes medieval monk Joachim of Flores’s eschatology of the New Age 900 years ago—and for Chardin caused equal trouble as Joachim had with authorities. The Jesuit was in constant trouble with the Vatican over his philosophical musings and his acceptance of evolution; it took The Phenomenon of Man 15 years from completion to get publication permission from the Holy See.

1959: The 14th Dalai Lama and his entourage begin to disseminate Tibetan Tantric ideas to pilgrims in Dharamsala, India, after forced exile from their homeland by the Chinese Communists.

Buddhism was brought to the Himalayan plateau in the eighth century and evolved several different lineages. Tibet’s indigenous Bonpo shamanism involved many nature deities; a continuity with this is the Tibetan Buddhist state authorities’ consulting with the Nechung oracle, who can become possessed by spirits to induce clairvoyance and see the future. The Bonpo deities became incorporated in many cases into symbols of emotional and mental aspects of human psyche, giving Tibetan religion its oft-bewildering variety of beings. Its advanced tantric practices, in some cases believed to be thousands of years old, are meant to acclimatize oneself to and subdue the many “demons and angels” created in ignorance by the personality. This leads one to the possibility of cultivating compassion and eventual release from incarnations by nirvana.
In 1964 seeker Robert Thurman makes his way to Dharamsala to learn directly from the tulkus and the Dalai Lama himself, becoming the first officially ordained non-Himalayan Gelugpa monk. He goes on to academia and becomes professor of religion at Amherst then Columbia University, lecturing to thousands about Tibetan culture and introducing the Dalai Lama to America in the late 1970s and throughout the 80s.

***The Beats: Fascinated by Zen and Buddhism, the novelist Jack Kerouac (1922-1969, bottom) practices meditation and incorporates Buddhist philosophy into his characters’ worldviews. Allen Ginsberg (1926-1997, upper right) also expounds Buddhist and Vedanta ideas in his poetry. Neal Cassady (1926-1968) is a sometime acolyte of the psychic Edgar Cayce. William Burroughs (1914-1997) flirts with both Scientology and Wilhelm Reich’s theories of orgone energy. The widespread popularity of these authors introduce millions to Eastern religion, magick, and “fringe science” ideas. 


May 1957: R. Gordon Wasson (1896-1986), Vice President of J.P. Morgan bank, ethnomycologist, and no woo-woo kind of guy, writes an article about his experimentation in Mexico with psilocybin mushrooms and shamanic experiences in LIFE magazine, coining the term “magic mushroom.”


Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (1918-2008) begins a relentless series of world tours promoting Transcendental Deep Meditation that last from 1958-1968. 40,000 TM teachers are trained around the globe. The Maharishi’s movement attracts celebrities. Inevitable commercialization sets in.


****The atom bomb and the lunatic children masquerading as world leaders playing chess with them make tens of millions of relatively sane human beings question the very philosophical foundations of our “civilization.” The reigning answer to this predicament, especially for alienated youth, seems to be: anything but this, anywhere but here, anytime but now. Thus:

Thomas Szasz (1920-2012) scathingly criticizes the field of psychiatry as lacking objective, falsifiable criteria that would establish it as a science in The Myth of Mental Illness (1960). He also takes to tack its unspoken purpose—as a form of social control. Using voluminous examples from the Soviet Union, he claims psychiatry and psychology are easily amenable to abuses both political and social—and the same can happen here in America as in the USSR. Along with Columbia University professor C. Wright Mills’s critiques of the “Power Elite”/military-industrial complex and the New School for Social Research’s many thinkers excoriating the technocratic society, views such as Szasz’s grant intellectual imprimatur and inspiration to the many social liberation movements of the 1960s.


Ufologist Brinsley la Poer Trench (1911-1995) publishes The Sky People in 1959, the first book to explicitly advance an “ancient astronaut” theory. With Trevor James Constable, he eventually propounds that UFOs are actually living beings with which we share the earth—effectively cutting him out of all polite “nuts-and-bolts ETs” ufological discussion to join a long list of also-rans.


Jacques Bergier (1912-1978) and Louis Pauwels (1920-1997) write The Morning of the Magicians in 1959. It introduces young French and English-speaking audiences to the ideas of G.I. Gurdjieff, Aleister Crowley, Rosicrucianism, astrology, Freemasonry, alchemy, Forteana, extraterrestrials as cultural gods, the Pyramids, the 1554 Piri Reis map showing subglacial Antarctica, the only-visible-from-the-sky Nazca figures in Peru, and Naziism as an occult-magical political religion (especially Himmler’s SS and Hitler’s “invisible familiar”). It is considered a seminal text of the countercultural 1960s.

***After extensive unsuccessful experimentation as a truth serum, torture agent, or potential assassination tool in the 1950s under project names BLUEBIRD, ARTICHOKE, and MKULTRA, the CIA unwittingly (?) unleashes the psychedelic revolution on American public by making LSD available to universities for volunteer psychological testing in 1960. The LSD experiments under ULTRA are but a single strand in the CIA’s enormous covert search to create unconscious assassins, spontaneous amnesia, “zombies” who will follow any orders, and spies impervious to interrogation and torture. LSD’s unsupervised recreational use surges until it is outlawed in 1966, but continues to blow minds and make people shun clothes for three decades.


Psychiatrist Stanislav Grof (1931-) In 1960, Grof pioneers the use of LSD and altered states of consciousness as therapeutic tools to heal patients until the drug is outlawed in 1966. He explores distinctions between the hylotropic and holotropic modes of consciousness; the former is the ordinary, “consensus reality” we daily inhabit, and the latter in which a person feels oneself as part of a greater whole. These differences are found in the Hindu Vedanta teachings—just one example demonstrating the New Age is merely the oldest of wisdom, rediscovered.


Alan Watts (1915-1973)—Episcopal priest who studied Eastern religions and popularized Zen Buddhism begins lecturing to crowds of young people eager to “get with it.” Through his eloquence, erudition and charm he gains an enormous following and writes many books on spirituality.


1962: Michael Murphy and Richard Price found the Esalen Institute on the Big Sur California coast to explore human potentialities in a communal setting of inquiry and practice. On its cliffs one day, Don Draper meditates with a group, has a revelation, and decides to buy the world a Coke and keep it company.

1962: Thomas Kuhn (1922-1996) writes the classic The Structure of Scientific Revolutions and introduces the concept of “paradigmatic science.” In his theory, the anomalies encountered during the course of normal scientific experiments are ignored until they pile up and can be ignored no longer; perhaps newer technology or a flood of new practitioners into the discipline amplifies their observed occurrence. A young practitioner’s mind, free of the older expert’s long training, notices a pattern within the anomalies invisible to the older practitioner’s eyes, theorizes on it, and makes falsifiable hypotheses. It is then tested without failure. More young practitioners discover the same result. It is not accepted as a viable theory by the old practitioners, but over time the young scientists fill in the new theory’s gaps and accept the theory. The old practitioners die off and the new theory reigns. Is it closer to “truth”? Kuhn says perhaps—but it can always be undermined by a broader theory that unifies it under a new “law” due to a further set of resolved anomalies.

The term “paradigm” is picked up by the business world and used to sell changes in commercial and bureaucratic practice as capitalism goes transnational in the 1980s, then used by various psychologists and parapsychologists, who try to apply the conjectures of quantum physics to consciousness and paranormal abilities in particular. With ecological destruction becoming more evident, the “control” ideologies of technological/industrial society, as paradigms of social functioning, comes under unrelenting assault to this day.


1962: marine biologist Rachel Carson (1907-1964) writes Silent Spring, the opening salvo of the ecology movement. Although the book focuses on pesticides, and leads to the banning of DDT, it alerts millions to the potential effects of our petro-based chemical way of life on the environment.

Frank Waters (1902-1995) publishes The Book of the Hopi in 1963, outlining the history, ontology, and mythology of the Its timeline for the end of the Fourth (current) World dovetails eerily with the end of the Mayan long-count calendar and also the dates projected for the close of the Kali Yuga (dark age) in Vedic literature.

Shamanism, especially that of the Native American and northern Siberia Irkutsk peoples, becomes an academically popular subject through Mircea Eliade’s book Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasyin 1964. Eliade’s work gives detailed descriptions of culturally universal initiations by these spirit-chosen healers that will eventually be compared to out-of-body and near death experiences, faith healing, crystal healing, holotropic breath work, and so-called alien abductions. Five years later in 1969 Carlos Castaneda will further popularize shamanism with his fictionalized Don Juan Matus series. In 1980 Michael Harner will reintroduce Americans to the practices, especially with the use of drumming and hallucinogens, of spirit travel to the underworld and overworlds.


With Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition (1964), Dame Frances Yates (1899-1981) explores the role of Neo-Platonist philosophy during the Renaissance in the creation of both science and the occult. Philologist Marsilio Ficino’s and Bruno’s translations and printings of Plotinus and Plato spur a new mysticism of mind-nature with micro-macrocosm. Yates follows this with the influential work The Rosicrucian Enlightenment (1972), which posits that the three mysterious Rosicrucian tracts of 1604-1618 may have been the work of a secret society of alchemist-protoscientists begun by John Dee, Francis Bacon, Heinrich Khunrath, and Michael Maier some 30 years earlier in Prague, functioning both as a anti-Catholic “psy-op” and call to esotericists to unite. She speculates that a real Brotherhood of the Rosy Cross, whose creation followed in the 1620s, would eventually form the core of Francis Bacon-inspired empiricists who began the Royal Society of London. Thus the scientific method and the oldest scientific fraternity in history explicitly emerge from a non-existent group of mystics whose coming was foretold in the manner of a quasi-science fiction narrative. Can the world get stranger?

Well…look at this:

1963: dissatisfied British Scientologists Robert Moor (1935-) and Mary Ann MacLean (?-2005) leave the Church of Scientology while continuing to explore its techniques of self-analysis. After finding success with an increasing group of core analysands, they collectively travel to Xtul on the Yucatan peninsula to establish a commune. There they are contacted and bonded together by a “higher intelligence” during a group meditation. Moor (now Robert “DeGrimston”) and MacLean found the Process Church of the Final Judgment and prosthelytize in London and America, preaching a psychological development based on individual identification with four archetypes they call Jehovah, Lucifer, Jesus Christ, and Satan. Controversy and kitschy black clothing follows them everywhere.

Dark rumor also follows them everywhere, from involvement in the Manson family killings to the “Son of Sam” shooting spree of 1976-77. All of this, according to journalist Maury Terry, hinted at a nationwide underground network of drug dealing, snuff films, “Satanic” rituals and assassins. Charles Manson, fresh out of jail, was in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury during the 1967 Summer of Love and was couch-surfing just down the block from a Process center and definitely interacted with its members; Processeans also visited him in jail after his arrest in 1969…In 1975, “Son of Sam” killer David Berkowitz shot to death several German shepherds in his Bronx neighborhood, a breed of dog beloved by Mary Ann MacLean and the Process’ inner circle, before going on his killing spree. By the time Berkowitz killed the dogs, MacLean had dumped DeGrimston, had changed the Church’s name to the Foundation Faith of the Millennium, and had been living in Pound Ridge, Westchester County, New York, 35 miles north of Berkowitz’s neighborhood. Terry suspects Berkowitz interacted with Process/Foundation members via the Carr brothers John and Michael—the two sons of Sam Carr, Berkowitz’s neighbor in Yonkers—who were reputedly members of Satanist cult. At the time, MacLean was attempting to procure German shepherds for their own burgeoning dog shelter (the Foundation Faith would morph into the Best Friends animal shelter in Utah in 1982). As Terry tells it, Berkowitz feigned insanity when arrested to protect himself and his family members from assassination by the cult members—yet left voluminous clues to its existence in his letters, apartment wall scrawlings, and post-arrest rants. What is a “Son of Sam”? Berkowitz first claimed to receive “orders” from a demon-possessed telepathic dog owned by Sam Carr, when in fact Carr’s sons were beyond doubt involved in some sort of cult activity that had roped in Berkowitz just before his dog-killings. According to Terry, the answer was staring the cops in the face once Berkowitz was arrested, that the Carr brothers and the “Satanic” cult they were associated with were a part of the killing spree. Sam Carr’s sons John and Michael both died under suspicious circumstances, John by suicide in 1978 and Michael in a 1979 car accident.


Science fiction and comic book writer Otto Binder (1911-1974) pens Captain Marvel for Fawcett then works for NASA and becomes fascinated with UFOs. He meets Ted “The PK Man” Owens (pictured), who claims to have inherited powers of clairvoyance and psychokinesis from a UFO encounter in 1965. Owens remains in regular contact with the higher intelligences from space. He meticulously records predictions and prophecies, has people sign affidavits verifying the date he made them, and a good number of them come to pass. Meeting Owens convinces Binder that the human race is already an alien hybrid and we all have slumbering powers that the other race is attempting to activate. This worldview will become standard fare for UFO cultists over the next three decades.

Charles Hapgood’s (1904-1982) catastrophist ideas of magnetic polar reversals, crustal displacement, and an unknown ancient seafaring civilization that mapped the world 12,000 years ago (1958 & 1966) challenge standard history and once again resurrect Atlantis/Mu existence debate–and produce a theatrical disaster in 2012. Albert Einstein writes the preface to Hapgood’s book; the works of Graham Hancock provide additional supporting evidence for the existence of this civilization.


1965-1970: Kerry Thornley (1938-1998) and Greg Hill (1941-2000) publish the Principia Discordia, a tract praising anarchism, free thought, and worship of Eris, the goddess of Chaos. Here we see the beginning of what will be known as chaos magick. What is taken to be a mock religion will evolve into paranoia as a way of life, inspiring the Reverend Ivan Stang to proclaim Slack in the tracts of the Church of the Subgenius. The Church’s founder J.R. “Bob” Dobbs becomes the ultimate salesman of spiritual snake oil—the kind you can grease your own mental cogs with and run your Yugo.


In 1965, scholar Robert Thurman (1941-) becomes first Westerner ordained into Gelugpa Buddhism by the Dalai Lama and eventually expounds it as writer and professor of Indo-Tibetan religion at Columbia University. His beloved and awesome daughter Uma will go on to be cheated on by a completely moronic second-tier actor who has no idea what he did.


After founding the CIA’s polygraph interrogations unit after World War Two, Cleve Backster (1924-2013) discovers in 1966 that plants respond to verbal abuse, violent thoughts, and even remote violent events against life forms. He calls this “Primary Perception” and that all life is in telepathic communication on different wavelengths or timespans (for example, the 2.4 mile wide honey fungus in Oregon, the largest living organism on earth, would communicate on a wider biofrequency than Methuselah, the oldest tree on earth). Although in line with many strains of panpsychism and religions such as Hinduism, the scientific community thoroughly shits on his experiments, finding them unduplicatable and poorly designed. Nevertheless, his conjectures leads to the book The Secret Life of Plants (1973) by Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird, and a later documentary with a soundtrack by Stevie Wonder.


1960-1967, Harvard psychologist Timothy Leary (1920-1996) popularizes the Tibetan Book of the Dead along with the therapeutic use of psychedelic drugs, especially LSD. Journalist Robert Anton Wilson (1932-2007) boosts Leary’s ideas for the next two decades, especially those in which Leary describes the “eight circuits of psycho-physical existence” (which closely mirror G.I. Gurdjieff’s cosmology).

Ken Kesey's Bus

With Leary’s help, Ken Kesey, Neal Cassady, and dozens of other psychonauts participate in a series of “acid tests” at Kesey’s California property in 1964. Their house band is the Grateful Dead, known then as the Warlocks. They go on a cross-country trip spreading LSD and accompanied by “New Journalism” writer Tom Wolfe, a chronicler of subcultures, who publishes The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test in 1965.


1965, psychiatrist Helen Schucman (1909-1981) receives an inner voice dictating to her. With her colleague William Thetford they transcribe A Course in Miracles, first published in 1976.


Chogyam Trungpa (1939-1987)—practitioner of “crazy wisdom”, his own Zen-influenced offshoot of Tibetan Buddhism, writes the first popular books on his spirituality. A scamp in the manner of Bodhidharma, the sage who brought Buddhism to China, Trungpa drinks and womanizes himself to death.


****The musical Hair popularizes the dawn of the Age of Aquarius, the passing of the scepter from Pisces to the water-bearer. Beads mimic rosaries, drugs the communion host. H.D. Thoreau becomes the patron saint of the hippies. Tens of thousands of mostly young people reject technological society to start farming communes. Stewart Brand’s Whole Earth Catalog embodies the do-it-yourself ethos, from food to housing.

Psychiatrist Ian Stevenson (1918-2007) spends 40 years doing field research and collating evidence of reincarnation in children aged 3-8. He has strict criteria for doing a full investigation. Each child recollected names of previous family members, their occupations, major events that befell them, the layout of their houses, how they died–and in some cases, found objects hidden by the deceased that not even the previous families knew about. Many children had birthmarks or birth defects such as a deformed limb that corresponded to injury or the cause of death in the previous life. A majority of the cases investigated occurred in India–which is natural, considering the deep and ancient belief in karmic reincarnation there. His Twenty Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation (1966) is a classic study of the phenomena. He also founds the University of Virginia’s Division of Perceptual Studies, one of the only academy-based paranormal study centers on America.


Inspired by Robert Graves’s novel Watch the North Wind Rise (1949) and The Recovery of Culture by Henry Bailey Stevens, Frederick Adams (1928-2008, pictured, top) starts the visionary utopian community Feraferia (“wilderness festival” in Latin, an ancient forgotten tradition) through his writings and artwork. It is all devoted to reclaiming the Kore (maiden-goddess) as supreme presence inherent in all nature. Deeply ecological and anti-industrial age in nature, Feraferia attracts only a few hundred hardcore converts over its existence, who believe in reclaiming nature. Adams writes many tracts and rituals for his uniquely artistic spin on the Goddess.

CAWgreen egg

1961: college students Tim Zell and Lance Christie bond over the rabidly individualistic philosophy of Ayn Rand, then Abraham Maslow’s concepts of a “hierarchy of needs” and the goal of “self-actualization.” Rebelling against the conformist society they perceive around them, they begin to find like-minded young guys and establish Atl, a “brotherhood of the water.” Along with thousands of other alienated young people, they then read Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land and imagine a utopian community of highly intelligent rebels who will preserve freedom against a tyrannical technocracy. The Church of All Worlds, based on Heinlein’s protagonist’s organization, is born in 1968. Their publication the Green Egg becomes the first newsletter for alternative “Pagans,” a term appropriated from Kerry Thornley’s Erisian and Discordian movements to describe total rejection of technocracy. Encountering the burgeoning ecology scene, Zell embraces its cause as central to the CAW. They find fellow spirits in Fred Adams’s Feraferia collective and abandon the Atl group’s principles. The earth is a single living being that Zell calls Gaea, and views humans as an out of control virus whose job as stewards has been subverted. The concept parallels James Lovelock’s, and throughout the 1970s will gain currency.

Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross (1926-2004) studies terminal illness’s effects on the psyche. Her 1969 book On Death and Dying outlines the five stages of grief. Over the next decade she investigates out of body experiences, near-death experiences, and channeling.

In 1969, Erich Von Daniken (1935-) publishes Chariots of the Gods? which claims to be the first “ancient astronaut” theory book—only if you discount classical Vedic literature, Sumerian mythology, the Book of Enoch, the book of Genesis, Dogon cosmology, Hopi cosmology, George Hunt Williamson’s The Secret Places of the Lion (1958), Pauwels and Bergier’s eponymous Morning of the Magicians (1959), and The Sky People (1959) by Brinsley le Poer Trench. Von Daniken is the patron saint of the ancient astronaut crowd, and over the next five decades his conjecture spawns hundreds of books denigrating the human genius of ancient peoples and results in an exasperatingly reductive History Channel show.

Anthropologist Carlos Castañeda (1925-1998) publishes The Teachings of Don Juan as his dissertation in 1968, popularizing shamanism. It is discovered he made up many parts of the narrative.


*****Hollywood in late 1960s and early 70s belches forth a slew of occult-themed big budget films following the success of Rosemary’s Baby (1968). The 1969 Manson Family murders induce a moral panic towards drugs and mind control and “Satanism.” The Exorcist is nominated for best picture at the Oscars in 1973. Friedkin’s film takes the existence of the demon Pazuzu and evil seriously, and occult menace films become even more popular. Unease over the sexual, mental, and spiritual freedoms unleashed by the hippie movement, feminism, student rebellions, finds outlet in ancient abstractions projected onto our screens.


1968, the Beatles go to Bangor, Wales to attend seminars with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi on Transcendental Meditation, popularizing the TM movement. After witnessing the Yogi incessantly hitting on female devotees, John Lennon leaves in disgust and pens “Sexy Sadie”, whose original lyrics run: “Maharishi, you stupid cunt! You made a fool of everyone!”


At age 24, Colin Wilson (1931-2013) published The Outsider in 1956. It brings instant acclaim and success. He follows up this study of existential and social alienation with books in the same vein, then writes The Occult in 1970. A survey of the paranormal from Hermes Trismegistus to Aleister Crowley and Gurdjieff, Wilson searches for humanity’s engagement with what he calls Faculty X, the numinous state of connection with a greater reality.

Led Zeppelin’s guitarist Jimmy Page (1944-) shows his deep and continuing interest in the occult by purchasing Aleister Crowley’s Boleskine House on Loch Ness, Scotland in 1970 and opens an magick-themed bookstore, The Equinox, in London. Page’s band’s use of runes on the cover of their fourth untitled album and the themes of Celtic and Scandinavian mysticism in their lyrics inspire a generation of teens to seek out the meaning of the symbols–and thus acquaintance with Aleister Crowley and esoteric ideas. On the other hand, Black Sabbath’s 1969 debut album and subsequent career combine kitschy horror film gestures and existential dread in equal measures, a combo entirely lost upon teen stoners seeking to freak out peer and parents alike.

Unhappy childhoods of unremitting abuse are known to produce dissociative personalities. Dissociative personalities in turn are known to be prone to what Frederic Myers called “subliminal uprushes” in which alter personalities and even “spirits” can induce clairvoyance in them. American writer Dorothy Jane Roberts (1929-1984) had such an unfortunate childhood—with the concurrent superhuman abilities Myers sought in full force. After experiencing a trance state in which she underwent a bout of automatic writing, in 1963 she began using a Ouija board and found herself communicating the words of a spirit named Seth. The board was abandoned when Seth began to speak directly to her. The channel lasts from 1963 to the time of her death. With The Seth Material Roberts would become the most famous medium in the world and popularized the sentiment that “we create our own reality” which will become a New Age truism. Her books, along with A Course in Miracles, are the canonical texts of New Age thought.

Physicist Hal Puthoff (1936-) and Laser pioneer Russell Targ (1934-) meet psychic Ingo Swann (1933-2013, pictured, left), who demonstrates extraordinary ability to “remotely view” objects and people and even events in the past. Swann teaches them his technique. Targ and Puthoff, diehard scientists, test Swann and discover his abilities far exceed statistical randomness. In 1972 they obtain contracts with the Defense Department and CIA to develop a cadre of psychics at the Stanford Research Institute to remote view targets in Russia and China, which continues for 23 years.

1972: Uber-Conservative Gary Allen (1936-1986) publishes None Dare call it Conspiracy, the first indictment of “Eastern establishment” Ivy League technocrats as secret communist plotters bent on enslaving the world through the policies of the Council on Foreign Relation and the new Trilateral Commission. He fingers the Rockefeller family as the main drivers of the plot. No occult angle is apparent—yet. This will come later. And, of course, the Reptilians behind it.

1972: Arthur Koestler (1905-1983) publishes The Roots of Coincidence, which popularizes Jung/Pauli’s concept of synchronicity twenty years after the duo’s work was published.


1972: Funded by Laurence Rockefeller, channeler David Spangler (1945-) and writer William Irwin Thompson (1938-) start the Lindesfarne Association, a loose think-tank of sorts that attracts many intellectuals over the next 40 years. Dedicated to the creation of a world culture, the ideas of Swiss philosopher Jean Gebser (1905-1973) figure prominently in their discourse. Promoted is a neo-Hegelian metanarrative that posits our imminent transition into an “aperspectival” age in which consciousness includes all moments of history. The ideas of Gebser and Sri Aurobindo will both heavily influence the integral philosophy of thinker Ken Wilber in the 1980s and 1990s.


Inventor, polymath, and Lindisfarne associate fellows James Lovelock (1919-) and biologist Lynn Margulis (1938-2011) propose the Gaia hypothesis, reviving metaphorically the ancient idea of a world-soul by way of the biological symbiosis of all life and the homeostasis by which our 12,000 years of stable climate provides. Throughout the 1970s and 80s Lovelock and Margulis sponsor Gaia conferences focusing on ecological concerns, especially noting that a change in one part of this ecosystem eventually affects every other part; mankind’s overwhelming resource-taking actions on the planet are disastrous from this standpoint—a situation from which we may not even be able to extricate ourselves. He is one of the first to sound the alarm on human-caused global warming forcing by way of increased CO2, and predicts 80% of humanity will be extinct by 2100.


Arthur Janov (1924-) theorizes and publishes work maintaining that the repressed traumas of childhood and resultant anger (which traditional psychotherapy claim causes “complexes” and neuroses) cannot be fully and adequately addressed by the rational discourse of the therapeutic setting. Instead, he prescribes Primal Therapy—the expression of those buried, blocked energies through screaming. Due to a poverty of clinical evidence showing results, it is a short-lived but notorious footnote in the history of therapy.

1973: The American-made wheels start to come off. Watergate, the oil embargo, the Yom Kippur war, the Supreme Court’s Roe vs. Wade decision, increasing airplane hijackings and terrorists attacks worldwide, all stress the population. In the fall, a UFO sighting wave of spectacular proportions occurs worldwide, with entity sightings and “abductions” occurring. The first canonical abduction tales involving extraction from a domicile, examination, and genetic procedures occur.


Trevor Ravenscroft (1921-1989) publishes The Spear of Destiny in 1973, which claims that the lance of Roman soldier Longinus that pierced the side of Jesus on the cross was sought and found by Adolf Hitler’s SS, offering the Third Reich supernatural evil power—like they needed it. At war’s end it was lost and passed into the hands of George S. Patton, who died in a car accident after the war (ostensibly also losing the cursed object). Indiana Jones was nowhere to be found—though George Lucas apparently paid Ravenscroft tribute by naming Jones’s mentor Abner Ravenwood in “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”


Physicist and parapsychologist Andrija Puharich (1918-1995) claims 23 year-old Israeli Uri Geller (1946-, pictured) possesses prodigious psychic abilities including, most notoriously, psychokinesis in which he bends metal objects (mostly spoons) by running his fingers across them and sometimes by merely staring at them. Puharich’s bio of Geller reveals the young man believes he is in contact with an extraterrestrial intelligence aboard an orbiting ship and they have granted him his powers. Further impossible feats such as teleportation, apportation, remote viewing supposedly follow as Geller is tested. Stage magician the Amazing Randi challenges then debunks Geller’s spoon bending and mind reading on The Tonight Show before a bewildered ex-magician Johnny Carson, knocking the Israeli down several notches. Many still believe in his powers however, it being the downer 1970s and all when meaning was sorely needed in the growing American spiritual vacuum.


In February and March of 1974, prolific science fiction author Philip Kindred Dick (1928-1982) has a series of mental breakdowns/revelations that lead him to pen an 8,000 page “Exegesis” about a higher intelligence that controls human consciousness—the VALIS—and produces the ideas of his later novels. Exegesis is finally published, in greatly abbreviated form, in 2011. This period of “high strangeness” 1973-1974 also afflicts author Robert Anton Wilson (more below), who experiments with psychedelics during this time and receives telepathic information about the star Sirius’s connection to ancient Egypt, extraterrestrials, and Israeli psychic Uri Geller’s abilities.

Robert Pirsig (1928-) publishes his philosophical novel Zen & Art of Motorcycle Maintenance in 1974, a worldwide bestseller. An “Inquiry into Values,” it contrasts a “Metaphysics of Quality” counterposed against the scientific, quantitative paradigm reigning in America (as cultural critic and Traditionalist Rene Guenon pointed out five decades previously). Pirsig come to believe a blending of rationality and moment-by-moment mindfulness can co-exist in the Western mind.

***1975: The youth culture’s intercourse with Eastern and ancient ideas over the past 15 years, whether flirtatious or serious, causes severe irritation in conservative American critics who do not seem to notice the soulless vacuum that the very American mainstream consumer culture they defend has become. Ironically, these searchers do not signify to them the very “freedom” they seem constitutionally allergic to actually exercising.


1975: Robert Anton Wilson (1932-2007, above) and Robert Shea (1933-1994) publish the satirical Illuminatus! Trilogy, a mélange of occultism, fringe science, multiple conspiracies, Discordianism, and anarchist politics. It is the first melding of political conspiracy with the occult ideas of Freemasonry as the driving force in this idiotic world (ideas long ago hinted at, in more beneficent form, by Blavatsky and Bailey’s “Himalayan Masters” and more recently by Pauwel and Bergier in The Morning of the Magicians). Wilson will go on to write many books on a wide variety of paranormal, scientific, and conspiratorial subjects, remaining an open-minded skeptic—a “zeteticist”—in the tradition of Charles Fort. Wilson’s books are very popular in the counterculture.


Paul Kurtz (1925-2012), agnostic/atheist philosopher founds the Committee for the Scientific Investigation for Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP) in 1976. A few actual scientists (B.F. Skinner, Marcello Truzzi, Carl Sagan, and Ray Hyman) join. Seven years earlier, Kurtz founded Prometheus Books to promote secular humanism and fight what he perceives as anti-rationalism of the occult explosion.

His baby CSICOP makes exactly two scientific investigations—the first into astrology, which statistically fails to disprove the claim that a high number of extraordinary athletes are born while Mars was rising or transiting the sun. The scandalous findings are covered up, then when the cover up is exposed causes the resignation of a few genuine scientists in the org, including the expulsion of CSICOP member astronomer Dennis Rawlins for hammering Kurtz and the others and eventually writing an article about the affair. This teaches CSICOP that they shouldn’t actually attempt science, because they might get their asses handed to them. The second “experiment” is informally connected to CSICOP but involves replicating biologist Rupert Sheldrake’s experiments showing that dogs can sense when their owners are on their way home and wait in anticipation. Again, the attempted debunking fails due to shoddy sample size and ignoring the recorded evidence that, in fact, the dog reacted in just the way Sheldrake had predicted.

There are many “fellows” inducted into CSICOP membership who are in fact scientists but very rarely speak out on the paranormal matters. CSICOP changes its name to the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry in 2006, and continues to fail scientifically to disprove anything psi-related but still has millions of adherents whose pseudo-skeptical ideologies and Westboro Church-like commitment to debunking annoys equal millions.

Hebrew and Sumerian reader Zechariah Sitchin (1920-2010) publishes The 12th Planet in 1976, expanding and clarifying Von Daniken’s ancient astronaut theory by way of the Sumerian mythology of the Annunaki (the mysterious Nephilim in the Book of Genesis). According to Sitchin, the erratically inclined planet Nibiru, which enters our inner solar system every 36 centuries, collided with a planet between Mars and Jupiter and the debris created earth. During a close pass, the Annunaki race from Nibiru came to earth seeking minerals, enslaved homo erectus for mining purposes then genetically altered them into Homo sapiens. Sitchin published his spin on the Sumerian creation myth through 13 more books and influenced the belief system of former race car driver Claude Vorilhon’s Raelian “alien-masters” movement (catch the v-ril in his name?) whose symbol cheekily combines a swastika and the Star of David. Sitchin’s beliefs will influence a generation of both New Age star-seed and Satanic-influence-obsessed fundamentalist Christians, the latter seeing ancient Annunaki “demonic” imagery in every Super Bowl halftime show, Olympics opening, and Hollywood’s “subliminally subversive” movies.

Using a mélange of Alfred Korzybski’s linguistic theory, Noam Chomsky’s transformational grammar, and shamanistic trance-inducing techniques, Richard Bandler (1950-) and John Grinder (1940-) develop a cognitive form of therapy named Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) that claims to be able to model and transform a subject’s conception of self and the world to achieve more effectiveness in their life. Conspiriologists will eventually see in NLP the ultimate New World Order brainwashing tool, a ubiquitous technique that will, for instance, catapult Barack Obama to the White House, convince you to buy gold, or be the lurking monster behind rap and hip-hop’s popularity.

Eduard “Billy” Meier (1937-) restlessly travels the world, dogged by an alien presence that seems to be tutoring him. Flying saucers appear, disgorging Nordic-looking “Plejaren” from 80 light years beyond the Pleiades. Meier photographs, films, and records audio of these craft. Debunkers have a field day easily dissecting this “evidence.” Still he generates and continues to have a devoted following of acolytes, and still dispenses messages from the Plejaren today.

Also this year of 1975, Fritjof Capra (1939-) publishes The Tao of Physics, an exploration that equates some of the conclusions of particle physicists with both Eastern thought and ancient ideas of the soul. Niels Bohr, it is learned, was a Vedantist, and Werner Heisenberg a mystic. Pauli and Jung’s synchronicity and the double-slit particle-wave experiment are taken as examples that the concepts inside/outside, here/there are simply nominalist fictions. It is a bestseller, as is Gary Zukav’s The Dancing Wu Li Masters four years later, which explores the same basic science-mysticism equivalences. The concepts are associated together in the minds of millions of people to this day—thanks largely to Oprah Winfrey’s 1980s talk show, where Zukav was a regular guest.

Wayne Dyer (1940-2015) writes Your Erroneous Zones in 1975 and in 1976 becomes a bestseller. Its philosophy is seen as an antidote to the irrationally critical inner voices the Puritan ethos has instilled, for better or worse, in Americans, a message the so-called Me Generation (into which the hippies had morphed) accepts gleefully. Clearly in line with works such as Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People (1936) and Norman Peale’s The Power of Positive Thinking (1952).

Terrence McKenna (1946-2000) and brother Dennis (1950-) engage in psychonautical voyages using every kind of hallucinogen and in 1975 write The Invisible Landscape, which contains a theory of recursive, fractal space-time as a critique of Western ideas of measurement. Terence’s ideas of time spiraling to an ever-repeating singularity around the year 2012 almost single-handedly revives interest in the Mayan long count calendar’s end. In The Archaic Revival (1992) and Food of the Gods (1992) he becomes an eloquent and ubiquitous advocate of exploring the alternate realities presented by ayahuasca and pure DMT experimentation. He believes the ingestion of magic mushrooms by early man created new neural “circuitry” and led to the imaginative thinking processes. Ayahuasca tourism, in which Americans and Europeans travel to South America to undergo ritual ingestion of the brew, becomes a big business by the second decade of the 21st century. Beware the DMT machine elves—but more so shady “packaged shaman” snake oil tourism industry.

1975: Dr. Raymond Moody (1944-) publishes Life After Life, an enormously popular bestseller about his researches into the Near Death Experience. These experiences are as old as humanity (an early example being Plato’s account of the solider Er awakening on his funeral pyre to tell of the world of light beyond death). Over the coming decades, advances in trauma medicine will pull many thousands of people from the brink of death who otherwise would have died—1 in 3 of them telling stories of meeting light-beings, dead relatives, angels, Jesus, and even extraterrestrials in their NDEs.


The notion that “star seeds,” or half-extraterrestrial people, exist to help humanity due to their voluntary birth on earth or as “walk-in” souls can be traced to Brad Steiger’s 1976 book Gods of Aquarius, but the idea has much deeper roots, going back through Madame Blavatsky’s Hidden Mahatmas on through the wisdom imparted by Allan Kardec’s spirits in The Spirits Book (1857) and, of course, is an ancient Hindu belief. The only difference here is the alien or “cosmic citizen” aspect, in distinction to the nature-spirit (deva or devi) or “old soul” who has made the rounds many times reincarnating in human form.

1976: Helen Schucman and William Thetford’s A Course in Miracles is published. A “channeled” work, it becomes an instant classic and perhaps, along with The Seth Material, the reigning text of the contemporary “New Age movement,” with its gently corrective theology involving the importance of forgiveness and grace. Within a decade there will be hundreds of study groups and seminars on the book. Writer Marianne Williamson will become the book’s main popular proponent, discussing its spirituality many times on The Oprah Winfrey Show.


1976: Robert Temple (1945-) publishes The Sirius Mystery. It tells of the Dogon nation of Mali, who claim extraterrestrials from the star Sirius birthed them thousands of years ago. Their ancient dances, artwork, and tales are all found to contain knowledge about Sirius and other heavenly bodies that is only discovered in the 20th century—such as the fact that Sirius has an “invisible companion”, which turned out to be the dwarf star Sirius B which orbits the main star. These facts, which any reasonable person would conclude go well beyond coincidence, are the best genuine evidence for an “ancient astronauts” theory.

Mycologist Gordon Wasson (who popularized the term “magic mushroom” in a 1957 LIFE magazine article), Albert Hofman (1906-2008, the discoverer of LSD), and classical scholar Carl Ruck (1935-) research the ancient and perplexing Eleusinian mysteries of Greece. Although the meaning of the pilgrimage has always been clear–the celebration of Persephone’s return from Hades to visit her mother Demeter and inaugurate spring—no records of the spiritual experiences undergone in the ritual’s Telestrion temple exist, except the itinerary and the recipes of the brew which the pilgrims drank prior to entry. Studying the local flora, the trio reach the conclusion that a form of ergot, a barley fungus rich in a variant of LSD, was deliberately used by the hierophants who presided over the ceremonies for two thousand years in Eleusis. The participants thus experienced an intense entheogenic trip in the pillared, cave-like Telestrion hall, probably augmented by a theatrical display by the hierophants. In short, a formalized shamanic initiation for the Greek masses. Their Road to Eleusis: Unveiling the Secret of the Mysteries ignites controversy when published in 1978.

NPR shoot 1/18/06  NYC

1979: Wiccan priestess and NPR host Margot Adler (1946-2014) publishes Drawing Down the Moon, a survey of Neopaganism and Wiccans in America. It is the first contemporary book to offer an even and sympathetic look at revived ancient and “alternative” religions in a country where evangelical Christian fervor is once again heating up (see Hal Lindsay below). Adler, a long-time friend of writer Whitley Strieber, also incidentally happens to be present at the author’s upstate New York cabin on a night his “visitors” make an appearance in 1987.

The evangelical Christian surge of the 1970s brings along with it interest in angels & faith healing & apocalyptic end times scenarios via Late Great Planet Earth by Hal Lindsey (1929-). This will confluence with other eschatologies, such as the Mayan, Theosophist, Hopi, Buddhist-Shambhalan, and other belief systems that peg the last decades of 20th/early decades of the 21st century as the dawn of a New Age, social and religious upheavals, and rise of an Antichrist.


The 4th century Nag Hammadi Gnostic texts, discovered in 1945, are first published in English in 1979, spurring prodigious scholarship and inspiring interest in the medieval Cathar and Bogomil religions, whose spiritual views are very similar to one another—and considered heretical to all mainstream brands of Christianity. This find will have incalculable effects on both religious and secular culture. Until this discovery, the Gnostics were only known through the Early Christian apologists, who relentlessly attacked their heresies and doctrinal mistakes. Gnosticism was never a monolithic belief system; in fact was just the opposite. Simon Magus was perhaps the most famous Gnostic and known in the New Testament apocrypha as St. Peter’s adversary in a theurgical battle in which Paul kicked his ass, earning “simony” a coinage that means the buying of pardons from sin, which the Magus was dispensing by means of his magic. But the many Gnostic sects’ deep origins go back to strands found in Zoroastrianism, Plato, and the religion of the Egyptians. Foremost amongst their beliefs is that the universe is a botched creation of a hubristic lesser architect-deity (most times, Jehovah). The misguided Aeon Sophia, however, caused “sparks” of the true universe (the Pleroma, “splendorous fullness”) to become entombed in matter. This remnant of true creation resides in every human, and Jesus Christ was an emanation of the Pleroma sent to present the elements of ascent back to the true God. This repressed philosophical spirituality presented a powerful alternative and antidote to mainstream Christianity (women were always equals in the Gnostic clerisies, and knowledge “gnosis” and living a strict moral life valued over faith and hierarchical fripperies). Thousands of books have now been written about the Gnostic schools, Gnostic churches established, and its ideas still live in works such as Philip K. Dick’s later writings and “The Matrix” trilogy.


In 1979, ufologist Jacques Vallee publishes Messengers of Deception, a study of UFO contactees and cults. Among them are an ascetic organization called Human Individual Metamorphosis (HIM) which is led by a man and woman known variously as Bo and Peep, Do and Ti, or the Two (pictured, right). Vallee is alarmed at the credulity of its followers, failed prophecies of UFO landings with no loss of face, and the apocalyptic tone of its messages, which include an extraterrestrial Rapture. With journalist John Keel’s warnings against “saucer cults” four years earlier in his Operation Trojan Horse (1975), Vallee is deeply concerned over the mind control aspects of the entire UFO phenomena. His worst imaginings are exceeded. The cult changes its name to Heaven’s Gate and its core 39 members commit suicide on March 26, 1997, after hearing a rumor via radio host Art Bell that a “spaceship” of some kind may be following the Hale-Bopp comet. They believed it was their mothership coming to take them home.


1980: Michael Harner (1929-) publishes The Way of the Shaman, reinvigorating interest in archaic journeying to contemporary people. Through his workshops, thousands learn techniques of trance through drumming and experience non-human intelligences that act as spirit guides.

1981: plasma physicist David Bohm (1917-1992) publishes Wholeness and the Implicate Order, an inquiry into the existence of a field he calls the “holomovement” which would account for quantum particle entanglement. When combined with Karl Pribram’s conception that phenomenal reality consisting of waveforms that some part of our brains “decode” using Fourier transforms, the concept that the universe may be a hologram, emanating from “another dimension,” become viable.

Cambridge biology professor Rupert Sheldrake (1942-) ignites controversy with his books A New Science of Life (1981) and The Presence of the Past (1988), postulating that natural laws are constant due to what he calls a “morphic field”, a “scientized” version of the Akashic record. All laws of biological life and behavior are the result of repeated imprintings/repetitions of form within this field (which he calls “morphic resonance”). He spends the next 35 years defending and honing his theory against accusations of pseudoscience due to the theory’s unfalsifiability. Yet he gamely develops experiments to test the theory.


1981: Painter and alien abduction investigator Budd Hopkins (1929-2011) publishes Missing Time. This will be followed six years later with Intruders. UFO history scholar David Jacobs chimes in with Secret Life and begins hypnotic-regressing “abductees,” like Hopkins, without training nor a license and revealing dozens of near-identical, tediously repetitive stories involving light beams, levitation, induced pregnancies, alien-hybrid births, sexual abuse, weird psychodramas, and Men In Black visitations. Dozens then hundreds of therapists worldwide begin investigating missing time episodes, strange, realistic dreams, and UFO experiences in their patients using hypnotic regression and coming up with the same basic stories.


On May 14, 1982, Theosophist and George Adamski UFO cultist Benjamin Creme (1922-) holds a press conference announcing to the world that Maitreya, the world redeemer who will simultaneously fulfill the roles of Imam Mahdi, the Jewish Messiah, and the Kalki Avatar of Hinduism, is alive and well and living in a London flat after having descended from his Himalayan retreat. Creme knows this because he has been in telepathic contact with the Himalayan Masters Helena Blavatsky and Alice Bailey first expounded on. The Second Coming will occur on June 21st of that year. In the time-honored tradition of spiritual prophecy tricksterism, as ufologist John Keel always successfully predicted, nothing happens. Crème makes the same prediction several more times. Creme founded Share International Foundation as a non-profit to spread the message via Transmission Meditation and a monthly magazine.

Parapsychologist and psychic Nancy Ann Tappe claims throughout the 1970s to be able to read the colors of peoples’ auras—furthermore, that she has since the late 1960s observed special children with an indigo birth-aura. Tappe publishes the book Understanding Your Life Through Color in 1982 describing the concept. The idea is later popularized by the 1998 book The Indigo Children: The New Kids Have Arrived, written by husband and wife lecturers Lee Carroll and Jan Tober. Countless conferences and mythologizing of these kids begins. Several films have also been produced on the subject, including two English feature films by New Age writer James Twyman in 2003 and 2005. ***The almost epidemic emergence of 1) ADHD 2) “restless child syndrome” and 3) autism spectrum disorders concurrent with the appearance of this metaphysical aura-color theory (1995-present) allows many parents to find a positive meaning in their children’s “disease”—accompanied by the fact that the world expert on ADHD, Dr. Leon Eisenberg, admitted in a Der Spiegel interview in 2009 that the diagnosis is so overapplied as to be meaningless, the American Psychological Association’s classification systems have alarmingly broadened in the past decades to pathologize what once passed for normal child behavior. No-one scientifically ventures to seriously investigate the possibility that the tsunami of new electromagnetic fields (cell phones, PCs), genetically-altered, nutrition-free food, and toxic chemicals parallel these “epidemics’” emergence.

Actress Shirley Maclaine (1934-) publishes Out on a Limb in 1983, freely discussing her experiences with reincarnation and metaphysics. She is roundly made the butt of jokes to the present day for her claims and candor.


By July 1984, a full-blown “Satanic panic” sets in in California, especially against the workers at the McMartin Preschool in Manhattan Beach, Los Angeles, where 360 children are suspected of being sexually abused. No physical evidence of any kind is apparent—but the authorities believe the children’s tales of witchcraft, ritual sex abuse and even human sacrifices. People blame the deteriorating morals of a society that has become far more sexually permissive since the 1950s. Experts come forward by the dozen testifying to the power of hypnosis to unlock memories—only to be countered by the “False Memory Syndrome” advocates, who seek to prove memories can be confabulated with or without hypnosis by the very act of interrogation. Over the 1980s and into the early 1990s many hundreds of people go to jail for child abuse on no more than hearsay and rumor, having their lives forever ruined. The trials against Peggy McMartin Buckey and her grandson Raymond Buckey (pictured) last seven years, end in complete acquittals, and cost taxpayers $15 million–the most expensive legal case in US history. Only in California!


1984: Right-leaning radio host Art Bell (1945-) sickens of politics and decides to begin a free-form show where people can call in with ghost stories, UFO sightings, and general spookery. It becomes a success and within a decade goes nationwide as Coast to Coast AM, the most popular overnight radio show in America. Bell hosts exorcists, UFO abductees, Bigfoot researchers, conspiracy theorists, ghost hunters, fringe scientists, etc., giving a platform for channelers and mediums.

*****By the early 1980s the American people have been enervated by the various social malaises of the 1970s. Faith in institutions has steadily eroded—religion, political engagement, civic organizations, bureaucratic ennui. The Baby Boomers who once protested the foundations of the West have mostly joined the mainstream—professionally at least—but still harbor unsettled spiritual compasses. They remain seekers. Psychic fairs, group retreats, human potential movements like est and Scientology promise self-improvement with a decidedly secular bent. But the deeply instilled consumerist mentality is still at work, insisting that the true nirvana perhaps exists in the next system, the next movement, the next group consciousness raising.
Feminism has thoroughly altered the thinking and behavior of both sexes–and invigorated a goddess movement to challenge the patriarchal culture that has prevailed for at least 6,000 years. The traditionally marginalized and feared practice of witchcraft surges in popularity, thanks in part to Gerald Gardner’s Wicca movement. Alongside this are revived interest in Celtic and Scandinavian mythologies as alternate possibilities for religious revelation.
Fired by the 1973 Roe v Wade decision, the gay liberation movement, and radical feminism, conservative Christians rally around these social issues and become politically active, aligning themselves with Nixon’s Republican Silent Majority. This fundamentalist stance of course includes opposition to anything not Christian–such as esoteric metaphysical philosophies, from alchemy to Sufism, ouija boards to tarot divination. The New Age comes under steady attack.


1987-Novelist Whitley Strieber (1945-) publishes Communion, his personal account of interactions with paranormal beings he calls “Visitors.” He never once claims they are extraterrestrials. It hits number one on the New York Times bestseller list. Published just before Budd Hopkins’s Intruders, which also charts on the Times’s bestsellers, Communion and the former inaugurate a new era in what the public believes UFO activity encompasses: multiple abductions, genetic medical procedures, holographic representations of global cataclysm, telepathic communication. Strieber writes three further books detailing his continuing strange encounters and struggles with memory-bubbles of his troubled childhood.

Harmonic Convergence

After helping organize the first Earth Day in 1970, art professor Jose Arguelles (1939-2011) goes on to teach Teilhard de Chardin’s noosphere theories and that humanity is approaching an ascension from its linear 3-D existence. To this end he organizes the world Harmonic Convergence on August 16-17, 1987, a mass meditation event that involved several hundred thousand persons. The event was timed to coincide with the end of the Mayan “hell cycle” which began with Cortes’s landfall in 1519. A grand trine of eight planets synchronized on this date, forming an equilateral triangle when seen from earth. This particular grand trine (it is quite common as an astronomical event) also began the 25-year countdown to the end of the Mayan long count calendar, fueling speculation that some supernatural event would occur on December 21, 2012.

1987: Joel Whitton pens Life Between Life, an exploration of the reincarnation process using hypnosis in which “life reviews” by a “council” are prevalent in the accounts. These experiences fit neatly into the channeled visions of alien contactees and abductees, who also have come into contact with “Nordic”-appearing elder beings for the past thirty years (especially George Adamski).

“Saucer nests” have been reported in conjunction with UAP sightings since the beginning of the postwar phenomenon. Most people think they are possible evidence of extraterrestrial vehicles but swirled circles in grass and grain fields have been reported for centuries; they were thought to be the product of whirlwinds or witchcraft or fairies (the latter because swaying and darting lights were often reported in the fields where they later appeared, as far back as the fifteenth century). In the late 1980s the circles began to show up in profusion in England near ancient megaliths like Stonehenge. By the early 1990s they were almost epidemic on the island—and two men came forward claiming they had created the circles at night using no more than string, a pole, and boards attached to their boots. Many others undoubtedly formed circle-making clubs to hoax the public. But cereologists (crop circle experts) claim to tell the difference between the hoaxed and the genuine: footprints, signs of broken stalks, etc. figure in the former and uniform flattening with no breakage and even cellular alteration in the latter. The increase of absurdly complex and huge crop patterns that APPEAR OVERNIGHT in the late 90s-present would seem to counter the “all hoaxes” answer. Many New Agers see them as messages from ET or the earth trying to communicate through sigils, a coded language to a coming “earth ascension.” Witnesses on the sites claim to experience trances and altered states of consciousness. Conventional explanations range from total hoaxing to geomagnetic disturbances to secret satellite technology to as-yet unknown atmospheric phenomenon.

Psychology professor and “near-death experience/out-of-body” researcher Kenneth Ring (1936-) reads Strieber’s Communion and discerns parallels between the “afterlife” of Near Death Experiences and “alien abductions.” He conducts surveys of both groups, discovering overlap in both personality-type and experiences: He publishes The Omega Project in 1991, suggesting that these interactions are neither fully physical nor mental but occur as liminal states of the “mind-at-Large,” a concept very similar to the Sufi imaginal realm, Rupert Sheldrake’s morphic field, Sri Aurobindo’s Supermind, and Chardin’s noosphere.

Journalist Graham Hancock (1950-) publishes The Sign and the Seal (1992) and Fingerprints of the Gods (1995). The latter work draws on Charles Hapgood’s theory of crustal displacement, the mysterious 1513 Piri Reis map that shows the landmass beneath subglacial Antarctica, von Dechend and Santillana’s Hamlet’s Mill, and the work of dissident geologist Robert Schoch and archaeologist John Anthony West. It provides much evidence for the compelling conjecture that an advanced marine civilization existed prior to the last ice age and survived until about 11,000 BCE.


Dr. Rick Strassman (1952-) is granted government license to inject prescreened subjects with pure DMT, one of the most potent entheogenic substances known. It causes relatively short (20-30 minute) but intensely involving trips in which the volunteers’ consciousness enters a different but coherent “reality” that turns out to have consistent elements, some of which are comparable to Near Death Experiences and alien abductions. In 1990 he publishes DMT: The Spirit Molecule, which ignites interest in the medically therapeutic use of so-called psychedelic drugs, a trend that continues to the present. Thousands of psychonauts take DMT both in pure doses and in its augmented form, the Amazonian brew ayahuasca, which produces 4-9 hour trips. Many of them are countercultural authors who write books on the archaic revival (as Terence McKenna calls it), the rediscovery of “shamanic otherworlds” by citizens of the “industrialized West.”


******We’ve now seen the sedimentation of many strands of hitherto marginal movements achieve a symbiotic relationship with one another. Helena Blavatsky and Alice Bailey’s Theosophical philosophy of the cosmic-guide Great Hidden Mahatmas of has continued in the channelings of many mediums. Hundreds of books are annually published of trance-formed teachings that speak of reincarnation and vanished civilizations like Atlantis, Mu, and Lemuria. Their messages exhort the evolutive potentialities for the whole of humanity, ideas gleaned from sources as diverse as Alexandre Saint-Yves d’Alveydre to Sri Aurobindo to Teilhard de Chardin. Almost all mediums speak of a coming Golden Age for humanity. Although the extraterrestrial angle of the psychic communicants has morphed into purely angelic forces, it has not gone away. Hundreds of thousands of people are meditating and adopting rituals of Buddhism and Vedanta. Retreats have sprung up and been successful, inspired by the Esalen Institute and communal movements.

1991: With the publications of Truth Vibrations, Former TV presenter David Icke (1952-) begins a 25-year reign of terror upon common sense and the “Reptilian-Rothschild-Zionist banker” New World Order with his lectures and books, an unholy mélange of “The Matrix’s” ideas, paleo-anti-Semitism, anti-Freemasonry, particle physics, Russian hollow-moon theory, ancient astronaut theory–a bit of something for everyone. Icke brings together many strands of New Age thought in a barely-palatable narrative to explain a screwed-up world and maintains a following of millions.


1995: knowledge of the Pentagon’s terminated Stargate program of remote viewers is declassified, to public ridicule. Begun in the early 1970s at the Stanford Research Institute, it at first gained NASA funding then $$ from the CIA and DIA. After disclosure was made, over the next fifteen years almost all the members of the project begin teaching the psychic technique and giving accounts of some of the amazing feats their cadre succeeding in carrying out over the program’s 23 years (many operations and their targets are still classified). Joseph McMoneagle (pictured), Ingo Swann, and Major Ed Dames become celebrities in the psychic world. There are currently close to half a million web pages dedicated to teaching this technique.


March 26, 1997, 39 members of the extraterrestrial cult Heaven’s Gate are found dead of phenobarbital poisoning and asphyxiation in their compound. Having been in existence 25 years, its leaders Marshall Applewhite and Bonnie Nettles used full-spectrum cult techniques honed over the decades to convince coverts that they would be taken “home”–home appearing in the form of a spaceship that Applewhite believed was tailing the Hale-Bopp comet, which appeared visibly by February and reached its brightest March 22, four days before the suicides. Ufologist Jacques Vallee warned of this cult’s activities as early as 1978 in his book Messengers of Deception. Many believe Applewhite got the “trailing UFO” idea from radio host Art Bell, who discussed it on the air with amateur astronomer Chuck Shramek on Bell’s popular overnight show Coast to Coast AM.


According to Terence McKenna, the coming end of the Mayan long-count calendar corresponds to an increasing novelty in experience and consciousness in the “noosphere” (as Teilhard de Chardin styled it) and that it will culminate in a singularity beyond which the world will suddenly become unrecognizable or utterly unpredictable. He can be credited in kick-starting 2012 mania, which will take many forms in various New Age communities. The Mayans’s ancient calendar simply ends on December 21, 2012 (or 2011 in some interpretations); there is no implied destruction of the earth or civilizations (although some would argue for the latter as having come true). Nevertheless, people stock their bomb shelters and say their prayers.

Ken Wilber (1949-) publishes his Kosmos Trilogy (1995-2000) a synthesis of evolutive thought similar to Sri Aurobindo’s but more akin to philosopher Georg Hegel’s or Jean Gebser’s, trying to give an account of everything. The philosophical metanarratives for thinking, history, and spirituality wheeze along.


1986-2011: Oprah Winfrey (1954-) gives free rein on her talk show to Deepak Chopra (1947-) on holistic health, Gary Zukav on the quantum physics/consciousness connection, Marianne Williamson (1952-, pictured) on A Course in Miracles, Eckhart Tolle (1948-) on living in the present, and provides a platform for dozens of other spiritual gurus who preach various versions of the preceding thirteen decades’ belief systems. She single-handedly brings New Age thought into mainstream American culture via her show.



Einstein on the Beach: Train 1


Knee Play 1 & Train 1 at 7:13

The child Einstein contemplates in his hand a representation of both the Minkowski block universe/Planck’s ultraviolet catastrophe that inspired his solution to Planck’s problem while standing on an atomic bomb gantry…

……a train, the object of one his famous thought experiments, creeps as slowly as the light beam which descends before it….

A moving tableau: a living shadow box.
Traditional theater elements separated from each other, then mixed.

Time moves only by way of the events on stage and their relationships.
The actions of the separate elements—actors, dancer, train, fog, light, screen—are events measuring spacetime relative to each other, requiring the viewer’s effort to induce meaning. Einstein is framed then unframed.

The diagonal is thematic, and simultaneity is a rehearsed accident.

Marcel Duchamp’s Collaborative Alchemical Game with the Given

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I used to have this postcard portrait of Marcel Duchamp stuck on my car’s dashboard. This image is both ironic and a fitting sentiment of the artist. Perhaps whoever made it also was trying to reference Magritte’s The Treachery of Images:


Duchamp never wanted to be a role model. The art world filled him with ambivalence. After he failed by his own admission at “fine” painting, all he wanted to do was pose questions and experimentally answer those questions with punning riddles in the guise of paintings, sculptures, films, iconologies for existent and non-existent works, writings, and music. And play chess.

I’ve had very few art experiences in life where a transformation of my world occurred. Encountering Duchamp’s readymades was one of them, especially his criterion for choosing them: “visual (or aesthetic) indifference.” He chose them precisely because he’d never considered them in any aesthetic terms. An object you’ve lived with your whole life, ignored, invisible, suddenly announces its presence as a form. Nothing has changed. Everything has changed. You’ve just “enshrined” the object but just as it begins to glow with significance it fades once again into the background, inert. It’s lost, but you never possessed it in that way in the first place; you were indifferent. It’s free to reappear in its own time.[1]

With this oscillating “frame” of significance Duchamp anticipated (perhaps created?) the cultural world we now live in; the repurposing of objects has become known as appropriation or the mash-up.

At some point early on he discovered that the norms of the art world were more important than, and actually preceded, the physical objects which they instantiated. To make a game out of aesthetic choices, and art a realm of “possible worlds” an artist could by choice inhabit or change, was revealed. Duchamp just showed us that we play hide and seek with our own and society’s values, our artistic success depending on a host of occult and marginalized factors.

Duchamp couldn’t be a role model because he was a singularity. He was his own “factory” long before Warhol could envision a Factory to produce the “aura” (aurea=gold) of art. Duchamp tried via his readymades to break the barrier between the mundane and the sacred, the haute monde of art and the mass produced culture, decades before Warhol; Warhol is unthinkable without Duchamp—as well as hundreds of other famous artists. He’s arguably the most important artist of the 20th century.

Duchamp was attracted to alchemical texts and imagery because they were the product of symbolic codes between solitary practitioners. He could understand his own position vis a vis society and the art world through the lens of the consummate outsider/insider, an inhabitant of the liminal space—the trickster. Hermes-Mercury, the trickster-messenger figure, was also the patron of magic and alchemy. To the public, alchemical texts made no sense, just as they were designed to. Their arcane vocabularies, neologisms, and often-violent imagery were meant to protect the sacred truths against profane eyes (as well as confuse the authorities who might detect a whiff of necromancy).

Many of the Dadaists and Surrealists were interested in alchemical jargon and images, but only because it satisfied their taste for apparent irrationality; they understood them only as hallucinations or automatisms brought on by the alchemists’ chemical experiments or drug ingestion.

We have since learned much more about the history, methods, codes, and goals of alchemy. At its most basic you might say alchemy is the transformation, by natural yet hidden means, of elements that make up everything known in the universe. Traditional alchemy concerned obtaining the prima materia, the unchanging essence that underlies all elements, and using it to transform metals into “nobler” forms. All of the procedures had counterparts in the psyche of the practitioner, and, some say, originate and end there.

The Philosopher’s Stone is, of course, most associated in the popular mind with the turning of lesser metals into gold. We could easily interpret the concept and execution of a readymade as an attempt at inducing mental and emotional alchemy on the spectator—but only those who might already be primed to understand such a thing.[2] At some point in 1912-13 Duchamp claimed a retreat from the plastic arts and denigrated them as retinal art: “retinocentric,” we might now say. We could expand this criticism to include time and notation as superfluous in music, as John Cage eventually did, and typography of linear words and their significations, as e e cummings, say, did in poetry—and center art in the mind. The perception makes the thing intelligible and special to the viewer, who co-creates the art experience. Duchamp in a sense democratized the art experience to be whatever moved one to experience it as such.

Obviously this tremendously undermined the social values of the art world and its tendency (at the turn of the 20th century) towards increasing commodification.

Duchamp was an atheist, but did he hold any spiritual values? He certainly denigrated art’s power as a surrogate for religious sentiment…At some point, with material science replacing the qualitative values of religions into the quantitative values of the physicist and technocrat in society, the plastic arts came into their own as a source of spirituality. Eliphas Levi’s occult writings, the Spiritualist movement, and Blavatsky’s Theosophy inspired a counter-current to the quantitative mindset that was indoctrinating millions of minds. Along with these came waves of art movements: Neo-Classicism (Academic art), Impressionism, Symbolism, Post-Impressionism, Fauvism, Cubism, Orphism, Die Brucke, and pure abstraction (the Blaue Reiter movement, with Theosophist Kandinsky as its proponent). The manifesto-mills were at full capacity.

Duchamp, however, shared in the burgeoning technological fascination and the cult of automation. He was enamored with the machine’s anti-aesthetic, it’s pure functionality, and viewed them as allegories for social relations, sex, and certain modes of human consciousness, a multi-variant mirror that yet was not “reductionist” as we’ve come to know that term. His stance was more like a prefiguring of Marshall McLuhan’s view of technology as extensions of the human form, senses, and capabilities. For Duchamp high technology was more material to be worked with, to other ends than the pragmatic—to engage the “useless beauty” of the artistic gesture. Here was yet another reversal of values.

Then came the Great War. In the wake of this catastrophe, “civilized” values became suspect to the art world in the political oasis of Zurich. Freud’s ideas of the unconscious thanatos drive in the European/American psyche spread and found expression in the Dadaist’s shocking destruction/deconstruction/dismissal of “bourgeois” aesthetic standards, a social counterpart to the deaths of the war and1918 flu pandemic. The techniques associated with Spiritualism (trance states, automatism in writing/poetry-making and painting and drawing) and utilizing chance became working procedures for artists via the Dadaists.

Duchamp never formally associated himself with the Dada movement; he’s rather considered via the readymades their “patron saint” or an isolated inspiration. His conceptions of the rationale for the readymades changed over the decades; he was never certain, in retrospect, what impelled him to make such a move in the first place. But with the readymades, a transformation of consciousness perfectly in sync with the alchemists’ project was made possible. Collage had been used in Picasso’s and Braque’s Synthetic Cubist experiments, and by 1917 the Dadaists were cutting up all sorts of things into collage. But to hack the art world by recontexualizing an everyday object, unaltered, whether a coat rack or bottle rack or tilted urinal, was unthinkable until Duchamp did it. Puzzlement and derision followed Fountain (1917), now considered the most important work of 20th Century art.

Fountain 1917, replica 1964 by Marcel Duchamp 1887-1968

He did many variations of readymades. Some, like Pharmacie, were “rectifications:”


This is a simple store-bought painting, “completed” or “redeemed” by the addition of two dots, one red and one green—the colors associated with drug stores in France. What he did was reverse the arrow of signification in Walter Benjamin’s “age of mechanical reproduction”: he took a “pre-reproduced” object and exhibited it as a unique object. He reversed the value of the negligibly valueless. But only a small number; the majority of his readymades were “rectified” objects or altered to fit his idiosyncratic personal mythology. Other rectified readymades were deliberately provocative, like the goateed Mona Lisa, LHOOQ:


In French, this title phonetically sounds like the phrase “she’s got a hot ass.” Besides repurposing the trivial, Duchamp’s other long-time exploration was with gendered identity. His alter ego Rrose Selavy (eros, c’est la vie—a bad pun, indeed!) appears on several works. Here’s his Belle Haleine/Eau de Voilette (1921), a title, via the transposed letter V for T, apparently meaning “Beautiful Breath of the Veil Water”:


It’s unfortunate, but there seems to be a rule that both modern and (post)modern art’s meaning to the audience and art history, as measured in the amount of ink spilled in explaining it, is oft times in inverse proportion to the amount of “craft/skill/representational talent” the given work being explained actually displays. This thought occurred to me while reading Clement Greenberg’s and Harold Rosenberg’s defenses of Abstract Expressionism—and a similar thought formed the basis of Tom Wolfe’s notorious screed The Painted Word.


With Duchamp’s The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even, or The Large Glass, we have this tendency to explanation brought to its absurd extreme, and all the hermeneutics done by the artist himself in the subsequently published Green Box, a collection of all his notes, diagrams, and explanations of the iconology of the piece. So we have an artist imagining the context, history, function, and critique for his own piece in advance of and alongside its creation, a dialogue with his unconscious. He was thus ahead of his own posterity in creating his own mythology…The same occurred when the Philadelphia Museum of Art revealed Duchamp’s final work, Etant Donnes: la chute d’eau 2. La gaz d’eclairage (Given: 1. The Waterfall 2. The Illuminating Gas) which he’d secretly spent decades on and seems at once a condemnation of the museum-goer/haute monde critic/collector as voyeur, and a literal wooden “façade” behind which a “truth” is to be discovered.


This is its “aesthetically indifferent” facade.

Get up close and personal, gaze into a certain crack in this mask, and hello!:




Many thousands of artists can claim Duchamp as a direct inspiration (or those inspired by him as a secondary muse). Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Claes Oldenburg, and the other quasi-Pop artists of the late 1950s and 1960s incorporated found-object (readymade) elements in their work. Collaborations between Rauschenberg, choreographer Merce Cunningham, and John Cage resulted in multi-media events that prefigured the late 60s Happenings. Some of Warhol’s films elevated the mundaneness of the “retinal” to absurdity, yet they prefigured the video painting-installations of Bill Viola. Stripping art of its need for embodiment led to the jokes of Piero Manzoni and Yves Klein, the Arte Povera movement, the whimsical “experience recipes” of Yoko Ono and Fluxus, and the artist’s ego dissolution into actions like Joseph Beuys’s. Individuals from the “postmodern” dance world, influenced by Duchamp via Cunningham and Cage, came together with Robert Wilson’s unique theatrical visions to produce tremendous operas that almost defy rational explication. Out of the Sixties’ Happenings and theater such as Wilson’s came the performance art of the 1980s, embodied most successfully in the multimedia presence of Laurie Anderson.

But this latter movement produced very few memorably shocking events (comparable to Fountain) that erased further the boundaries Duchamp had begun to; those had been rehearsed and “perfected” in performances during the free-for-all 1960s and 70s, like Chris Burden’s Shoot, Ono’s Cut Piece, Shigeko Kubota’s Vagina Painting, or the multimedia conceptual works of Sophie Calle and Genesis P-Orridge.

When we talk about contemporary international art, which names come up? Tracey Emin? Banksy? Jeff Koons? Damien Hirst? Christo? These persons are more like rock stars. Damien Hirst gets pounded all around for his faux-whimsy and creative bankruptcy and is perennially sued for plagiarism. Emin has coasted on the notoriety of one Biennale piece for quite a while. At a more “normal” level of “craft” we have Gerhard Richter, Matthew Barney, Anish Kapoor, Andy Goldsworthy,



[1] This recalls a story the composer John Cage, a Duchamp disciple and friend, once told about visiting a woman friend and having a few drinks while some strange music played from her stereo speakers. He enquired what it was and she replied, “you can’t be serious?!” It was a recording of his music, probably one of his star-map derived scores that were meant to mutate with each performance; the scores had come from transparencies laid across star clusters that Cage used the I Ching to determine which would be notes and which would be tone-clusters. The pianist-interpreter would read these as notes. Cage wanted to create pieces that were free from human ego as possible, for them to become a part of the world of sounds as sounds spontaneously appear to us. For him to unexpectedly encounter in the world the product of a “recipe” he’d devised must have delighted him.

[2] A person’s opinion of Duchamp’s readymades—whether they are brilliant ideas that expand one’s conception of art, or a bad (and poorly executed) joke—largely determines how one views many of the 20th century’s art movements (such as Dada, Surrealism, Abstract Expressionism, Pop Art, art brut, arte povera, Fluxus, etc.). The irony is, Duchamp would probably disavow the former and mildly agree with the latter!

“Alien abduction” as Shamanic Initiation: The History of a Mystery


Transverberation: The soul being inflamed with the love of God which is interiorly attacked by a Seraph, who pierces it through with a fiery dart. This leaves the soul wounded, which causes it to suffer from the overflowing of divine love.

–St. John of the Cross

“While I was hearing the boys’ confessions on the evening of the 5th [August] I was suddenly terrorized by the sight of a celestial person who presented himself to my mind’s eye. He had in his hand a sort of weapon like a very long sharp-pointed steel blade which seemed to emit fire. At the very instant that I saw all this, I saw that person hurl the weapon into my soul with all his might. I cried out with difficulty and felt I was dying. I asked the boy to leave because I felt ill and no longer had the strength to continue. This agony lasted uninterruptedly until the morning of the 7th. I cannot tell you how much I suffered during this period of anguish. Even my entrails were torn and ruptured by the weapon, and nothing was spared. From that day on I have been mortally wounded. I feel in the depths of my soul a wound that is always open and which causes me continual agony.”

— Letter from St. Padre Pio to Padre Benedetto, Aug. 21, 1918.


“The spirits cook (the shaman’s) flesh to ripen it.”[1]


The “angel” Quazgaa to Betty Andreasson, 1967:

“We prefer our food burnt…by food we mean knowledge, knowledge tried by fire.”[2]



As the second epigraph indicates, motifs of a celestial or infernal being injuring a “chosen” person that induces ecstatic agonies is not confined to the beliefs of traditional shamanic cultures. Padre Pio (1887-1967) was a Capuchin monk who went on to possess powers of healing, bilocation, levitation, and stigmata. These feats were verified and documented by the stringent Catholic authorities as authentic and he was canonized.

Had he been born in an Amazonian village, the elder shamans would surely have ordained him a powerful curandero.

One current in alien abduction literature links the experiences of the abductees with that of shamanic initiation. No such reverse paralleling—from academic shamanism studies to the abduction experience—has to my knowledge been explicitly made, except for a very short article by UCLA professor Douglass Price-Williams in 1999. Such a connection could only have been made possible after the abduction experience had been reported hundreds of times, and the recurring elements noted; these were enumerated and clarified through the published work of folklorist Thomas Edward Bullard in 1986-87.[3]

When the extraterrestrial explanation dominated the phenomenon in the 1950s-60s it was considered outré to posit any sort of initiatory aspect to the experiences. The alternatives to the “ET visitors” hypothesis were very few. Only English professor and psychic researcher Dr. Meade Layne and his group Borderland Sciences saw “etherian” or interdimensionality as the answer (1946-1956); contactees such as Guy Ballard, George Adamski, and Truman Betherum preached on higher realms and their inhabitants via Theosophical language, but the vehicles they claimed to interact with were strictly made of unearthly metals. Carl Jung (1959) considered the UFOs’ religious and mythic aspects and their effects upon culture, but hedged upon the physicality of the “objects.”

To the hardcore science-minded, any connection to shamanism was not only absurd but unthinkable during that period, because shamanism was still considered a hallmark of the “primitive.” Mircea Eliade published his classic Shamanism: The Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy in French in 1951. It was translated to English a decade later, finding a limited academic audience. The book was a turning point in anthropology, however, because it showed the cross-cultural similarities of techniques and invalidated the reigning conception of shamans as “insane persons mistaken for supernaturally gifted sorcerers by traditional peoples.”

It was only when the extraterrestrial hypothesis (ETH) got jostled aside somewhat by the occult and paranormal angles of John Keel and Jacques Vallée in the 1970s that a family resemblance between “spirits” and “apparitions” and UFOs became discernable, and that was because these two investigators insisted on a more fine-grained examination of the witnesses’ lives and all the aspects of their experiences, no matter how absurd-seeming those experiences were. The ETH advocates concentrated on the “vehicle” descriptions and, once their reports were finalized in print, threw away the psychological effects on witnesses as noise-creating nonsense that was dirtying up their narrative. Keel and Vallée, however, uncovered psychic experiences including telepathy, psychokinesis, precognition, and effects on electrical devices. Vallée zeroed in on these phenomena throughout the 1970s and 80s, convincing preeminent expert J. Allen Hynek to cease ignoring the “high strange” encounters and surrounding aftereffects; Hynek, the world’s leading UFO expert, came to accept there was far more than metals to the manifestations. In addition, from the late 1960s onward, hypnotic regression came to be used in recovering “missing time” episodes associated with UFOs, led by University of Wyoming psychologist Dr. Leo Sprinkle.

But it required the “epidemic” of abduction reports 1980-1998 to bring clear symbolic meaning—and a narrative—to this aspect of the UFO mystery. By 1998, the surface parallels with shamanic initiation became undeniable. As far as I can tell, this is its timeline in the literature:


–While examining Native American nature spirit stories in their 1975 book The Unidentified Loren Coleman and Jerome Clark quote Eliade’s Shamanism on “little green men” who are often shamanic guardians of the Western Plateau and Northern California nations.[4] This mention is made in general relation to fairy lore and the global mythologies of small spirits.


–Australian researcher Bill Chalker writes an article in 1977 on the similarities between Aborigine shaman initiations and certain abduction features. This was somewhat prescient because the Betty Andreasson account (published 1979), considered the most detailed and “initiatory” encounter, had yet to be made public.


–British author John Rimmer concludes his 1984 The Evidence for Alien Abductions with a short discussion of shamanism with regard to abductions as mystical experiences that change the percipients into vegans, prophets, message-bearers, or healers. Apparently he drew the parallels on his own, without having read Chalker’s essay (although he cites Coleman and Clark’s The Unidentified in the bibliography).[5]


–Two of British researcher Hilary Evans’s books, in 1984 and 1987, reference shamanism in the context of otherworldly apparitions and UFO beings, but again, only in passing and without elaboration.[6]


Whitley Strieber’s 1987 Communion poses some problems. I don’t think Strieber mentions shamanism in the book, but his entire narrative amounts to an orgy of either synchronicities with or parallels with the “archaic techniques” of initiation. Several times during his encounters he feels as if his very existence as a person is dissolving, and he is subjected to intensely painful “operations” involving needles and other devices. Sexually-tinged emotions involving a “female” being similar to those of shamans with their “celestial wives” is hinted at in Communion, then made more explicit in the rest of his autobiographical books, especially 2016’s Super Natural.


–In 1988’s Abduction, Jenny Randles mentions in passing Bill Chalker’s study of parallels with Aboriginal myths and practices.[7]


–1989, the American folklorist Thomas E. Bullard publishes an article about UFO abduction reports entitled “The Supernatural Kidnap Narrative Returns in Technological Guise,” which claims “These accounts share many motifs with legends of supernatural encounters and otherworldly journeys.”[8] As noted above, this otherworld-journey aspect had long been a current in the UFO puzzle since Vallee published Passport to Magonia in 1969. As Vallee, John Keel, and Bullard were contending, otherworldly snatchings-away that involved nighttime encounters with lights, a sexual component, and transformation of the percipient have been occurring since the Neolithic period. Many times fairy encounters of the British Isles in particular involved the bestowal of “second sight” upon the percipient, allowing them interaction with the “Fair Folk” and then becoming a “wise woman” or “wise man,” that is, a community healer: the Anglo-Saxon equivalent of a shaman.


–Bill Chalker publishes another article in 1990 equating the two experiences.[9] He quotes from anthropologists Spencer and Gillen’s “The Northern Tribes of Central Australia” (1904), an excerpt from which we will examine below.
–By 1990, Harvard Medical School psychiatry professor John Mack informs Near-Death Experience researcher Dr. Kenneth Ring about the parallels between NDEs and certain aspects of the abduction experience. Ring had already noted the similarities between NDE experiences and shamanic initiatory ordeals (NDEs often have disturbing, transformative psychological and social aftermaths). Ring works with his graduate students on what he calls the Omega Project to determine what kind of person undergoes NDEs and abduction experiences. He finds that they seem to exhibit moderate-to-severe PTSD, possess fantasy-prone personalities, high abilities for creative visualization, ease in hypnotic dissociation, and increased psychic abilities such as telepathy, psychokinesis, and sometimes field effects that disrupt electronic devices. Most importantly, he also notes these same personality traits in anthropological and psychological studies of shamans.[10]


Keith Thompson’s great 1991 book Angels and Aliens popularizes the awareness of these “archaic” parallels growing within certain factions of the experiencer research community.[11] Thompson must have been following Kenneth Ring’s Omega Project NDE/abduction research as it was being undertaken, because the book was published the year the project wrapped up and mentions it. Angels and Aliens explicitly mentions an abduction connection to both shamanism and near death experiences on pages 88-89, and Thompson excoriates UFO investigators in failing to perceive the obvious parallels with archaic initiation and other seemingly “irrelevant nonsense” such as fairy abductions, the importance of which Jacques Vallée had clearly outlined two decades earlier.

Michael Talbot’s The Holographic Universe (1991) mentions Otherworldly beings such as fairies, Bigfoot, and “UFOnauts.” Given the book’s overall thesis that we perceive only a narrow band of sensible “vibrations,” he stops just short of declaring that anomalous things are part of a multiverse that our minds naturally filter out but can, at times, with the proper disinhibiting stimuli, see and interact with. He claims the entities may be part of an “omnijective” world, neither subjective nor objective. This is a clearer version of John Keel’s “superspectrum” hypothesis of the late 1960s. He brings up Ring’s work with NDE survivors, out-of-body experiencers, and their shamanic parallels and, like Thompson, mentions Ring’s (then) just-funded Omega project to make a comparative study on the three subjects.[12]

–With Kenneth Ring’s 1992 book The Omega Project appears the first apparent iteration of the “imaginal realm” hypothesis, which is similar to Talbot’s omnijective universe: that these beings and experiences occur in neither purely physical nor mental space, but a third “realm” that contains independently existing visions as well as receives those conjured up by people in states of concentration. This idea is taken from Sufi scholar Henri Corbin’s study of Sufi practices of visualization used to access the heavenly realms.

Similar practices to the Sufis’s are ancient. For instance, Hebrew Kabbalistic meditations and ritual exegesis on Pardes, Pantajali’s Yoga sutras of the 1st century, and Tibetan tantric visualizations (the creation of tulpas) all involve entering a realm of energy in which concentrated thoughts can either produce phantasms that achieve independent activity, or allow the mind/astral body access to a “parallel universe.” These roughly correspond to a shamanic otherworldly journey. The esoteric form of Kalachakra tantric practice, which is considered the most strenuous—and potentially dangerous[13]—way of achieving enlightenment involves celibacy, fasting, purifications, prostrations, prayers, and prodigious daily mantra recitation. It is essentially an extended series of rituals to achieve the type of expanded consciousness that shamans experience and use in their healing ceremonies. Thus the transformative aspects of both abductions and NDEs conceivably tie in with traditional mystical experiences—and become a part of New Age thinking.

–1994 is probably the high point for abduction-related publications. For five years, Dr. John Mack has worked with hundreds of “abductees” and is helping them accept their “ontologically shattering” memories, dreams, and experiences. He publishes Abduction: Human Encounters with Aliens in 1994.[14] Mack points out that the “vibratory chaos” some experiencers feel (and as Whitley Strieber vividly described in Communion) as they are transported into the round rooms of the “ships” mirrors in contemporary terms the dismemberment phase of shamanic induction.

Jim Schnabel’s 1994 book Dark White gives a summary of shamanic initiation, from the Siberian Buryat and Australian native traditions via quotes from Joseph Campbell and ethnologist Holger Kalweit. Schnabel emphasizes the transformative aspects of abductions and the idea of objects (usually crystals) being implanted in the shaman during the initiation that turn up in a technological guise in abduction reports as “implants” in the brain, ears, nose, calves, or behind the eyes.[15]

–The same year, in his book Grand Illusions, Gregory Little tells the story of Red Plume’s spirit quest at the Big Horn Great Medicine Wheel in Wyoming in 1800.[16] Red Plume was of the Crow Nation. For four days he fasted, prayed, and suffered the cold inside the cairn at the center of the Wheel. During his initiation he met four small spirits who brought him into their subterranean world beneath the mountain. He was shown a vision of a red eagle and his soul became airborne. He awoke outside the wheel with a red eagle feather. During his subsequent purification at the sweat lodge he told the Crow elders of his experience and was given the name Red Plume. Little goes on to enumerate other aspects of the “little people” spirits of the Crow and other nations, pointing out that they all consider the “dwarves” dangerous if spontaneously encountered but benign if sought out for legitimate medicine or knowledge-seeking motivations. The beings are intimately connected to the Medicine Wheel and certain rocks in the landscape, and are essentially the same helpers Coleman and Clark mentioned in 1975 by way of Mircea Eliade. Throughout the book, Little also analyzes the ancient mounds that cover the American continent and believes they are potent and exploitable sources of electromagnetic energies that First Nations medicine people used to communicate with the spirits. Little’s book is the first to connect up “spirit” abductions, shamanism, and EM anomalies to the high strangeness of some UFO encounters. His conclusion on what UFOs are is a variant of the psychic energy/electromagnetism exposure hypothesis put forward by Paul Deveraux and expanded during this same early 1990s period by Albert Budden.

–On the last page of his unique 1994 study Gifts of the Gods? researcher John Spencer mentions the shamanic parallel to one British “abductee” in particular, Elsie Oakensen, who became a psychic spiritual healer as a result of a UFO encounter and the missing time period associated with it.[17]


Patrick Harpur publishes the monumental and influential work Daimonic Reality in 1995. His treatment of the abductee-shamanic initiation parallel is the deepest yet, embedded within a hypothesis that all “supernatural” encounters occur in an imaginal realm neither fully physical or fully mental—an idea, as we saw above, with a long pedigree in mysticism. He calls it the daimonic Otherworld. Following Jung and James Hillman, he connects up the “paranormal” as aspects of the world-soul that are, for lack of a better term, exteriorized synchronicities of psychic/emotional states. The idea is very subtle.

–UFO-obsessed billionaire Robert Bigelow creates the National Institute for Discovery Sciences in 1995, mainly to investigate the paranormal goings-on at the Gorman ranch in Utah, which he’d bought. Centuries ago, the Spanish taught the Ute people horsemanship and pressed the Navajo into slavery, and some Ute warriors engaged in an attempted genocide against the Navajo during the Civil War. In retaliation, according to the Ute, Navajo shamans placed a curse upon them that would last down the generations—a free roaming demonic being that occupied a wide swath of their lands in Utah: “the path of the Skinwalker.” Accounts at the Gorman ranch of strange animals impervious to bullets, apparitions, unexplained lights and electrical anomalies, cattle mutilations, and poltergeist activity compelled some NIDS researchers to consider these as manifestations of the legendary evil spirit. Bigelow funded many other UFO-related projects during this period, one of them being a 1999 paper by UCLA anthropology professor Douglass Price-Williams on Shamanism and UFO Abductions.[18] (Jacques Vallee also thanks Price-Williams in his 1990 book Confrontations, so he had been involved in the UFO/folklore field for some time previous to Bigelow’s commission).

–Dr. John Mack publishes Passport to the Cosmos (1999/2011).[19] Mack interviews three shamans who have interacted with the beings known as the greys, the “reptiles,” and other alien beings. The Zulu sangoma leader Vusumazulu Credo Mutwa claims a brutal initiation by the greys, who he calls the mantindane, and continuing sexual abuse by them in several abductions. To Mutwa, the greys are vampiric demons that are at the same time a part of humanity and symbolic of our future. Conversely, he encountered benign small blue beings who helped educate him when he was young,[20] and “Nordic” appearing entities who also taught him.[21] Bernardo Peixoto was born into the Uru-e Wau-Wau community near the Brazil-Venezuelan border. Their name means “people from the stars” and they trace their knowledge of agriculture to a race that arrived in a sky vehicle long ago.[22] In 1995, Peixoto encountered three “grey-like” creatures on the Irunduba River.[23] For hours he seemed in a trance as he followed them in a state of disorientation. In the aftermath he felt psychically shattered, yet eventually a healing power entered him and he became devoted to unifying the diverse traditional peoples of Brazil against the corporate destruction of the Amazon. Third, Mack interviews activist Sequoyah Trueblood and points out the Lakota and Cherokee belief that they are descendants of people from the Pleiades.[24]

Simon Brian Harvey-Wilson publishes the monograph thesis paper Shamanism and Alien Abductions: A Comparative Study in 2000. He notes that those UFO and abduction researchers who take the largest possible cultural-historical view of the phenomenon usually come to endorse the shamanic parallels. His own research involves interviews with 11 abductees from one of Mary Rodwell’s support groups.


Graham Hancock’s 2007 book Supernatural: The Ancient Teachers of Mankind[25] ties together these many strands, and solely addresses the shamanic aspects of abductions, fairy encounters,[26] and DMT experiences. He focuses on the “spirit teachers” angle by way of Jeremy Narby’s thesis in The Cosmic Serpent. In that work, Narby claims DMT/ayahuasca/psilocybin placed human consciousness in direct relation to Otherworldly beings who taught the peoples of central and South America on a molecular level about the pharmacopeia their jungle surroundings contained. In other words, the Quecha, Aztec, and Mayan shamans symbolically learned the language of DNA and how this “serpent” inhabits every living thing. DNA is the vast communication system of a single organism. Hancock rejects the ET hypothesis and instead speculates on the release of endogenous DMT as the cause of alien abductions—but recent studies have shown that the pineal gland, which secretes the alkaloid in the brain, cannot ever produce enough of it to cause the entheogenic effects because it is synthesized too quickly.

– 2013: The History Channel’s “Ancient Aliens,” in its idiotically reductive bid to explain most of the products of human genius as extraterrestrial intervention, gives us “The Shamans” in season six. The less said about this one the better.

-During the 1980s through the 2000s, philosopher Terence McKenna lectures on the similarities between shamanic otherworld consciousness and UFO experiences in many interviews and talks.

-In their 2016 collaboration, religion scholar Jeffrey Kripal and Whitley Strieber attempt to contextualize Strieber’s many strange experiences in Super Natural: A New Vision of the Unexplained. Kripal runs through the shamanic parallels explicitly on pages 191-97, focusing on Strieber’s ear “implant,” which he has refused to remove, as emblematic of the traditional crystals that Siberian and Australian shamans have had placed into their “new” bodies during initiation.

So what in fact are the parallels? How does the evidence for this claim come together?



Viewed from this angle, any “sickness-vocation” fills the role of an initiation; for the sufferings it brings on correspond to initiatory tortures, the psychic isolation of “the elected” is the counterpart to the isolation and ritual solitude of initiation ceremonies, and the imminence of death felt by the sick man (pain, unconsciousness, etc.) recalls the symbolic death represented in almost all initiation ceremonies.[27]

–Mircea Eliade

According to Eliade there are two primary ways a shaman is chosen: through hereditary profession or through extreme illness. The shaman’s actual initiation usually begins with a life-threatening physical episode, “psychotic” break, or extreme depressive episode.[28] The ancestral spirits and clan’s shamans may then visit the young person while in the delirium. The illness has induced a loss of soul, or a detachment of the astral body (soul) from the physical body. Whether “astral/spiritual” or physical, this body is then deconstructed, pulverized, and reassembled anew.

The ancestral spirits/shamans perform this work. The candidate is then led to a celestial or infernal place (sometimes both) to be taught by the master shaman-spirits. A totem animal appears and the young candidate associates with it (this may be the primordial form of the “witch’s familiar”). The animal’s spirit and the candidate’s become one. We should note that abduction researchers never tire of mentioning the animal forms—particularly owls (via Strieber’s Communion) and deer (via Virginia Horton’s experience in Budd Hopkins’s Missing Time [1981])—that are consciously associated with the kidnappings or function as unconscious “screen memories,” produced by the mind, to mask the traumatic appearance of the aliens.[29]

Eliade notes that some Yakut (Siberian) shamans have reported that their bones are scraped of flesh and tied or boiled together with iron.[30] J. Cowan (1992) writes of Australian Aborigine shamans being shown global cataclysms during their initiations.[31] Rock crystals, mostly quartz, are introduced into the shaman’s body in such diverse cultures as the Semang of the Malay peninsula, the Cabeno of South America, and the Aranda, Utmatjera, and Wotjobaluk of Australia.[32] Ioan Couliano describes how both African and Australian shamans gain power from a “rainbow serpent” that protects sacred healing crystals that are given during initiation.[33] Here’s an example from Bill Chalker’s 1990 article, quoting anthropologists Spencer and Gillen’s “The Northern Tribes of Central Australia” (1904):

An aborigine, Kurkutji, was set upon by two spirits, Mundadji and Munkaninji, in a cave: “Mundadji cut him open, right down the middle line, took out all of his insides and exchanged them for those of himself, which he placed in the body of Kurkutji. At the same time he put a number of sacred stones in his body.

After it was all over, the youngest spirit, Munkaninji, came up and restored him to life, told him that he was now a medicine-man and showed him how to extract bones and other forms of evil magic out of them. Then he took him away up into the sky and brought him down to earth close to his own camp, where he heard the natives mourning for him, thinking that he was dead.

For a long time he remained in a more or less dazed condition, but gradually he recovered and the natives knew that he had been made into a medicine-man. When he operates the spirit Mukaninji is supposed to be near at hand watching him, unseen of course by ordinary people.”

The last paragraph in particular pertains to many repeat abductees: they reports feelings of anticipation when they “know” an incident is going to occur in the near future, or sense they are being constantly monitored either by implant or telepathically by the aliens. The beings become, in a sense, “spirit guides.” Many believe that they have been permanently changed mentally, emotionally, and spiritually by their encounters—and the beings play on ongoing role in this evolution of their personal humanity. Sometimes during the period of abduction, the experiencer appears asleep or in a trance to other people; the observers may experience something strange in the environment, but the experiencer does not depart the area.[34] This implies a sort of “astral body travel” to an otherworld, just like the shaman. Often times this is achieved for the shaman via a silver or “fiery” cord that extrudes from the stomach, belly button, solar plexus, or head.[35] The shaman becomes entranced and uses this cord to climb to the heavens or spin a web on which to travel to view distant events.[36] There are a few reports of such cords in abduction literature.

Shamans are called wounded healers in part because their consciousness is only halfway “in consensus reality” due to the personality dissociation induced by their traumatic initiation—which is considered to them a gift and not a liability. Second, they consciously relive their traumatic initiation as a part of their skill to self-induce trance (but without the abreactive adjustment that heals a “crippled psyche,” as our psychotherapy would have it). A third meaning is that they have sacrificed a normal life in the clan in order to occupy their liminal office; a fourth aspect is that they literally injure themselves in the course of their medico-spiritual treatments of people through fasting, bloodletting, conscious pain induction via self-harm with needles, spikes, or arrows, and massive drug intake, all in order to enter the trance in which they commune with their spirit masters and animal guides.[37]



The traditions of using a cave for ritual sensory deprivation, spirit journeys, and symbolic rebirth continued from the Paleolithic well into recorded history, especially with the Greek practices of iatromancy or “sleep cures” at the night temples of Asclepius and Apollo. These were natural caves around which a temple had been built. Here the patient becomes, in a sense, a deputized shaman and charged with using their daimon-intermediaries to discover their own treatment. Climbing into the confined dark space of the caves, and perhaps with the use of either psychotropic or sedative herbs, the sick person has visions or dreams of messages in symbolic form delivered by their daimon (or perhaps even the healing gods Asclepius or Apollo). Upon exiting the cave they would approach the priest for the vision’s interpretation and then be given a course of appropriate medicines for the cure. The parallels to shamanic practice and oracular clairvoyance are obvious.

The cave has always been one of the most powerfully symbolic of places, evoking both the chthonic “womb of earth” from which all life came, the maternal womb, and a representation the celestial vault of the nighttime heaven to which we may rise in the afterlife. Most archaeologists and paleoanthropologists agree that shamans used the famous Chauvet, Lascaux, Coliboaia, and Altamira painted caves of 18-38,000 years ago for rituals and possibly for initiations.


As we’ve noted from the anthropological literature, the non-hereditary candidate suffers the following events in the calling and course of initiation:

-Illness/Mental symptoms of uncontrolled “fantasy” or psychosis

-Spontaneous entrancement due to illness/psychosis


-Dismemberment by spirit beings

-Reassembly by spirit beings

-Learning from elder shaman spirits

-Gradual reintegration of self & into society, with conversion to a healing profession, including

For a hereditary shaman candidate these same events occur, but the psychosis/entrancement are induced through some form of controlled, ritual fasting, breathing, dancing, drug-taking, chanting, drumming, or other methods and under the supervision of an elder shaman. Usually a vision-quest is required in which the candidate must remain alone in a cave or in the wilderness for a time until the requisite spirits contact them, as in Red Plume’s experience above.

As to the life-transformative aspects of abduction experiences, there’s no better example than what happened to the “Avis” (Day) family. In the 1974 Aveley, England encounter, John Day and his family saw a UFO and encountered a glowing green fog that interfered with their car while traveling home at night. The radio sparked, the car vibrated, they felt very cold, and it became silent as they passed through it. Three hours were found to be missing when they arrived home. In the experience’s immediate aftermath (and three years prior to hypnotic regression), John abruptly gave up a three-pack a day cigarette habit; the family (except one child of three) gave up eating meat; the parents became teetotalers; the child Kevin, formerly lagging in his studies, became an exemplary student; John quit his job but eventually obtained sought-after employment working with the handicapped; Elaine went back to college and became a confident artist; the couple became very concerned with environmental and health issues. There was also poltergeist-like activity in their house for several years, and both parents had recurring dreams of ugly, gnome-like beings around John as he lay upon a table.


John was hypnotized in 1977. He remembered a bright beam of light hitting the car as they entered the green mist. He found himself in a big room where three tall beings in one-piece colorless suits with balaclava-like headgear examined him. They possessed cloudy, pink eyes. Only one communicated with him telepathically. They told him not to worry about his children. They ran a “honeycombed” wand-like instrument over his body. A small, furry being was also present; it made chirping sounds and seemed the helper to the tall beings. He asked where they came from; they showed him “a map but not a map”, and gave an explanation of which he could remember only the word “Phobos,” which “meant nothing to (John)” but is, of course, one of Mars’s moons. Asked why they were here, they told him it didn’t matter because they were always here, and had “more than one base.” Their propulsion system used a magnetic “vortex.” John felt he was prevented from saying any more.

Before John and Elaine’s hypnotic regression in 1977, all of them traced their life changes to their encounter with the green mist that night. The intervention of an “otherworldly force,” whatever it was, had a profound effect on the entire family. The UFO, fog, and three hours’ missing time were clues that something extraordinary occurred, although beyond conscious memory, but whatever it was, it had spiritual results in their lives.

This transformation, whether sudden (like the Day family’s) or gradual, has been documented in hundreds of abduction cases.[38] The list of parallels to shamanic initiation in the abduction literature is so long that I will just touch on a few. Most prominent are the sensations undergone at the abduction outset, in which “disassembly” by blue or blue-white “light” occurs as one passes through walls or roofs to the “craft.” Sometimes it is done via a thin or thick beam from the UFO above or outside the house/car. This seems to echo the “silver cord” or web-strand the shaman uses to climb the rope of heaven. Many repeat abductees report invasive “medical procedures” by the alien beings. These can include surgical operations, healings (curing of terminal and non-life-threatening diseases),[39] psychological “tests,” induced pregnancies, subsequent removal of implanted embryos or fetuses, and subjection to pain-threshold levels that have no discernable function. Psychotherapist Dr. Edith Fiore reported operations upon both body and the head during abductions by half a dozen of her hypnotized subjects.[40] In one, crystals were placed into the skull of an abductee, and the subject was “flayed” and their cancer removed.[41] Yet another was told she would become a healer as a result of the aliens’ interventions.[42] John Mack’s patient Karin experienced the removal and replacement of her heart.[43] Abductee Sandy Larson, in a famous 1976 case, had her brain “removed” and replaced during her experience.[44] Betty Andreasson had an eye removed to have an implant placed in her brain, and had objects placed in her spine.[45] Amy, one of the women interviewed at length for Karla Turner’s book Taken, speaks of an otherworldly council influencing Amy’s life from a young age. She was shown how to levitate objects, affect electrical equipment, and move through solid objects.[46] The chart Turner displays on pages 215-22 of Taken shows common aspects of the experiences the eight women she interviewed had undergone in dreams or altered states of consciousness: Five reported head surgery of some kind, three a “nasal implant,” five an “ear implant,” six a “spirit-body separation,” six a teaching session, four sexual activity, three witnessed surgery performed on another human present, and four seemed to be in an “underground city.” There are also many dozens of reports of persons experiencing a “download” cascade of information into their consciousness that some believe effects the spiritual transformation they eventually undergo.[47] Others think this overload is either a psychological test, or a preparation for eventual “activation” as agents of the “aliens” when a world cataclysm is to happen in the future.[48]

Caves or cave-like structures appear many times in abduction reports.[49] By the early 1990s, cave-abductions became explicitly present in the literature; many dozens of experiencers recounted being taken to caverns where hundreds of other humans were supposedly seen—as well as human military and medical “collaborators” with the “aliens.”[50] These subterranean spaces are represented either as tunneled bases built directly into the bedrock or a series of structures (and strange craft) inside a hangar-like cavern. Abductees undergo the same medical procedures as in the round rooms within the “vehicles” in these caverns.

Writers such as Colin Wilson, Graham Hancock, and John Mack have pointed out the similarities between those who undergo out-of-body experiences and the shaman’s trip to the heaven/upper world and underworld—the ability to “fly” to obtain information on behalf of their querents or ill persons, whose souls the shaman must retrieve. Many people who are adept at inducing OBEs (“astral projection”) report being very ill at some point when young. Sylvan Muldoon, who wrote two books on the subject, was sickly as a child and had his first OBE at age eleven.[51] In Holger Kalweit’s Dreamtime and Inner Space, he notes many OBE and consequent spirit journey experiences undergone by various shamans occurred while these individuals were either extremely ill or (by witnesses’ accounts) dead, in coma, or a cataleptic state. As noted above, in many instances a cord, rope, or web-strand attached to the belly button, the fontanel, or the back of the neck is mentioned that guides the spirit back to the body. [52] The shamans consider these illnesses transformative, as we’ve noted, allowing them to experience the interconnection between the spiritual and material worlds.

In many shamanic cultures, a spirit may seduce or even rape the candidate and become a “sky-wife” or “sky-husband” to them.[53] During hypnotic regression, the entranced experiencer very often speaks of already knowing the sequence of events and the (alien) beings. Sometimes they say that they even “love” these beings. Some abductees call the “leader” being (with whom they claim to be the most familiar) either their “soul mate,” or a part of their soul.[54] Whitley Strieber speculatively discusses this idea in Communion. For abductees, this phenomenon usually occurs in those who have a history of interactions going back to early childhood, but is initially remembered during the recall of a recent experience. Does this bond exist because there are in fact multiple unrecalled events that occurred earlier in their lives? Or do abductees feel this during hypnosis because they are trying to normalize, in any way possible, the beings’ appearance to lessen their shock at (re-)experiencing it? In other words, is there an emotional reversal (enantiodromia, as Jung called it) from terror to love due to the unconscious realization that these beings are a “missing” or “unacknowledged” part of humanity’s psyche, but experienced for them as a personal relationship for the abductee? For the shaman, the cosmic pairing with a spirit spouse is many times inevitable and done with great reluctance. It is the same with abductees; many are highly ambivalent about their emotional attachment to the beings.[55] For abductee-turned-researcher Karla Turner, these inappropriate moments amount to a form of induced Stockholm Syndrome (via the practice of “love-bombing” that most cults perform on a target individual) and are probably achieved by means of stimulating the limbic system and inducing an overwhelming dopamine cascade.


Candidacy in the Siberian cultures may involve lightning strikes or being hit by “stones from the sky.”[56] Holger Kalweit speaks of “lightning shamans,” and devotes a chapter of his book to those individuals who became shamans due to direct or close-by lightning strikes.[57] The shock may have produced in them the state of electro-hypersensitivity and its consequent array of allergic pathologies. Hypothetically this would manifest by the person’s reactions to fluctuations in the earth’s ambient electromagnetic field due to seismic faultlines and their resultant earthlights (piezoelectric phenomena), ionization of the atmosphere before storms, ball lightning, etc. Magnetized rocks and meteorites attract metals, and seem to defy the normal physical world; EM anomalies in the landscape could thus affect these individuals also. Persons deeply sensitized to electromagnetic fields may enter trance spontaneously and further be able to produce unconscious or even conscious psychokinetic effects by way of these EM “hot spots.”[58]

Lightning strikes are a minority in the spectrum of initiatory sicknesses the shaman undergoes. But these two phenomena reflect those that accompany poltergeists. Emotionally disturbed young people have been found to be the “focus” in many poltergeist “infestations,” so it makes sense that a young person entering puberty,[59] which is when these initiatory sicknesses or calls usually occur in traditional societies, could unconsciously manifest the “psychic stress overload” through environmental and electrical PK effects, marking them as potential shamans.[60] Eliade points out that in many cultures sickly or eccentric or withdrawn youths are singled out as candidates if there is no hereditary shamanism present in the society.[61] Are these kids born allergy-prone, or come to possess weakened immune systems due to malnutrition?


Electromagnetic atmospheric phenomena must have inspired fear and reverence in early humankind—lightning foremost, of course, but also ball and bead lightning, plasmas, and static fields. What would early humanity have made of will-o-the-wisps or long-lived forms of ball lightning rolling across the landscape and darting into the sky? Or the shimmering curtains of plasma formations that covered the sky during solar coronal mass ejections that happened to strike the planet? From what we now know of these rare phenomena, and how dangerous they can be, humans in the Paleolithic and before who came close to earthbound energies most certainly were injured in both short and long-term ways, or even killed by them. The manifestations’ seemingly purposeful movement probably led to belief that they were living beings.

Did we interact with these energies—or perhaps the shamans even learn to control them?


In Supernatural, Graham Hancock discusses at length the figures in prehistoric rock art that are depicted pierced multiple times with arrows, spears, or needles. These figures are commonly believed to be shamans. He puts forward the hypothesis that these depict “pins and needles” sensations the shamans experienced as the product of drug-induced trance—but these sensations could just as easily be nervous system reactions to intense EM fields, the kinds with which we are all familiar when we are accidentally shocked. Static electricity of course galvanizes the skin, and in very strong amounts can cause prickling sensations. Strong EM fields can disrupt the temporal lobes, causing hallucinations in all the senses. Further, many of the vividly colored entoptic visual disruptions that he compares to some cave drawings easily have mundane causes, such as scotoma (painless migraines that present jagged visual auras), epilepsy, and the precedent to full migraine attacks.


In two underrated books, British researcher Albert Budden explored the electro-hypersensitivity hypothesis with regard to abductions, and found plausible explanations for both the major and minor components of the experiences. What is important with regard to his hypothesis is the physical and symbolic sicknesses undergone by shaman and experiencer both. The EHS sufferer is physically endangered by their immune system reactions, and for Budden the “aliens” or “apparitions” are a form of warning system generated by the unconscious (or “universal intelligence” as he calls it) during altered states of consciousness that these overlapping ambient/anthropogenic electrical fields are harmful to them. Secondary abduction phenomena that Budden ingeniously explains by this hypothesis are: a sudden or gradual dampening of sound in the immediate vicinity; a humming, hissing, or throbbing sound heard just as the experience commences (both which are symptomatic of temporal lobe stimulation by EM currents); very high-pitched noises similar to tinnitus; a series of loud clicking or popping sounds (which Budden explains could be the heating/expansion of tiny bones in the ear canal reacting to the sufferer’s lowered resistance to microwaves); the “crunching sound” many have reported in the nose or brain while an “implant” is placed up the nostril (EM-stimulated magnetite motes that have been deposited over a long period in the upper nasal passages); depersonalized or out-of-body sensations (temporal lobe disruption); and the small patterned burns, scars, “scoop marks,” and bruises, which could be caused by psychophysical action upon the body while in a dissociative state of consciousness (the abduction experience) brought on by an electromagnetic field overload.

In his book Daimonic Reality, Patrick Harpur points out the shaman-abductee parallels in the case of the famous experiencer Debbie Jordan-Kauble, who was weakened by multiple illnesses at an early age.[62] Budden mentions Jordan-Kauble’s poor health in connection to electro-hypersensitivity as a direct cause of her subsequent “alien” experiences and her ability to affect electrical devices.[63]

Along with and sometimes preceding the aural disturbance, a blue-white light is many times seen at the abduction’s onset. Is this the perception of an fast strobe light, which obviously might be able to induce trance or seizures in persons? Such stimulation might also account for the feeling of one’s “vibrations’ increasing” during the opening of the event and passage through a window into the “room” where the experience occurs. San and Australian shamans report going into highly energetic trance in which the silver fire “ropes” carry them into the realm of the spirits high in the sky.



We have seen that one of the commonest forms of the future shaman’s election is in encountering at divine or semi-divine being, who appears to him through a dream, a sickness, or some other circumstance, tells him that he has been “chosen,” and incites him henceforth to follow a new rule of life.[64]

The appearance of a bird, especially an eagle, is interpreted as a sign of shamanic vocation.[65] Eagle is the “father of shamans” in many cultures.[66]

The world tree also figures in shamanic journeying as the source of powers. Eliade mentions the belief that the eggs hanging upon the world tree contain eagles that are actually the spirits of future shamans.[67] Some of John Mack’s experiencer patients reported eagles and other “power animals” during their abductions.[68] We already noted the animal spirit with whom the shaman binds themself and the “screen memories” of strange animals. Betty Andreasson is a deeply religious Christian, yet her first recalled abduction vision contained a pagan psychodrama from antiquity of a death/rebirth mytheme involving the shamanic animal, the eagle/phoenix.[69]

In Supernatural, Graham Hancock points out the parallel visions of the shamanic “eggs on the world tree” and the high-tech “baby nurseries” many experiencers have reported: A “wall” of amniotic sacs within cylinders or cube-shaped containers containing hybrid alien-human fetuses.[70] I don’t believe Hancock is stretching in emphasizing this similarity. One could also make the case that the column sometimes seen in the center of the “ship’s engine room” also serves the same function as a treetrunk-like symbol of power.[71] Abductee Charles Moody described the “engine” as three strut-joined half-eggs that contained diamond crystals inside them.[72]

Eliade mentions that the spirits “count the bones” of the resurrected shaman before their teaching procedures begin.[73] There are many reports of the “alien beings” touching and counting the abductees’ ribs to “see if it’s okay.” The beings never explain the mysterious procedure.

The famous Mazatec curandera Maria Sabina, who had taken psilocybin mushrooms thousands of times since age 11 in her career as a shaman, was illiterate yet absorbed the contents of a book given to her by a spirit. She received a “download,” as experiencers like to say, of an enormous amount of information about the other worlds and healing.[74] Maria was not allowed to keep the book, which “belonged in the sky”—just like the fates of the books given to Betty Hill and Betty Andreasson during their abductions.[75] The “angel” Quazgaa gave Andreasson a “blue book” in her 1967 experience whose at first blank but luminous pages contained information that at some point she was to remember. This is a universal motif (at some point in the relationships) when dealing with “higher intelligences”; Joseph Smith, occultist and founder of the Latter Day Saints, was given a special scrying/reading crystal in order to decipher the angelic language on the golden tablets the angel Moroni had shown him, which became the Book of Mormon. The tablets were given back to the being.

Mongolian shaman


The shaman or prophet assumes a statusless status, external to the secular social structure, which gives him the right to criticize all structure-bound personae in terms of a moral order binding on all.[76]

–Victor Turner (1969)

This “right to criticize” applied to the “space brother prophets” of the 1950s such as George Adamski (who condemned our society’s violence, our misconceived notions about time, and inability to perceive the “oneness of everything”), but equally to some abductees who have found a calling in healing professions considered marginal to mainstream medicine that involve clairvoyant or empathetic skills. Anthropologist Turner emphasized the idea of liminality, in both the shaman/experiencer’s “chosenness” and initiation by spirits and their eventual social status that results from embracing it as a reality. In the case of the shaman they are elevated in status, but in the abductee’s case it is a lowering of social status in the general community—but perhaps raising it within the boundaries of the experiencer community. Whether these initiation events occur in a “physical reality” or psychic space, their effect on the individual is the same. Socially, there is a parallel between the liminal status of the shaman in society and the “repeat experiencer.” Abductees for the most part have been shunned or denigrated by mainstream science in the same manner as ethnographers and anthropologists once dismissed shamans and even their entire tribes as irrational degenerates. Plato’s parable of the cave may be considered a shamanic myth, and its point is not unlike what the abductee claims to experience. For shaman, mystic, and experiencer, who have had Plato’s allegorical “experience of the sun,” scorn pours out onto those who stay content before the cave wall’s shadows.

Just as the shamanic vocation is considered hereditary in many cultures, some abductees and investigators are convinced the experiences run in families, as if a bloodline were being followed or manipulated over generations.[77]

Since our culture doesn’t properly ritualize the transition to puberty and adulthood as in traditional societies, there is no structure or vocabulary for the children in the “developed” world to contextualize or describe Other experiences. Their experiences, no matter their age, are “infantilized.” This “infantilization” equally applies to criticisms of adult experiencers by the overculture; debunkers relegate their memories and events to repressed childhood traumas, “birth memories,” and the sleep paralysis/“night hag” phenomenon. Young children have their imaginary companions and are eventually taught to separate this function of their mind from the real world. Those who are experiencers, however, describe the utter reality of the “weird looking” child companions they once had (especially their night visitors) and how their parents disbelieved their trips to rooms the sky where they played with both other normal children and the “strange” ones.[78]


When we jettison the high tech trappings and examine the form of these experiences, they contain all manner of “traditional paranormality”: astral travel/OBEs, NDE-like passages, poltergeist activity, psychokinesis, telepathy, clairvoyance, “spirit meetings.” Both contemporary hereditary shamans and the “Western” individuals who have had otherworldly experiences via, say, Michael Harner’s shaman workshops do not report UFOs, aliens, or abduction experiences in their journeys.[79] For them, their shamanic experiences still involve spirits, power animals, and the traditional imagery that accompanies it. As Graham Hancock points out, Dr. Rick Strassman’s legal and public experiments with pure DMT induced in a large number of its participants the elements of abduction imagery: greys, insect-like sentient creatures, round rooms, examination tables, etc. but the subjects were simply reclining on a hospital bed when these veridical experiences occurred. Their minds entered another space.

Since shamanic initiation and abductions are only similar but not identical in form or result (many persons, after all, don’t have transformative life changes associated with abductions) and “traditional” shamanic experiences still occur without the high tech trappings we must conclude that whatever force(s) is behind the UFO phenomenon is somehow aping the vocabulary of the shamanic experience (or causing the human mind to create a symbolic shamanic-like experience). Are the results similar? We must conclude with a qualified yes: in the short term the person experiences John Mack’s “ontological shock.” Their world-views are disrupted and often turned upside down. In the long term, some are given a type of “second sight” in line with the cunning folk/Celtic shamans whose powers were often induced by fairy encounters: they continue to have interactions with non-human intelligences.

[1] Schnabel, Jim. Dark White: Aliens, Abductions, and the UFO Obsession, Penguin Books Ltd, 1995, pg. 139, quoting Holger Kalweit’s Dreamtime and Inner Space: The World of the Shaman, Shambhala Publications, 1988.

[2] Fowler, Raymond. The Andreasson Affair: The True Story of a Close Encounter of the Fourth Kind, New Page Books, 2014, pg. 35.

[3] Bullard, Thomas E., UFO Abductions: The Measure of a Mystery, 2 Vols., FUFOR, Mt. Rainier, MD, 1987.

[4] Clark, Jerome and Coleman, Loren, The Unidentified and Creatures of the Outer Edge, Anomalist Books, 2006, reprint from 1975, pg. 65.

[5] Rimmer, John, The Evidence for Alien Abductions, Thorsons Publishing, 1984, 138-43.

[6] Evans, Hilary, Visions Apparitions Alien Visitors: A Comparative Study of the Enigma, Aquarian Press, 1984; 235-36; Gods, Spirits, Cosmic Guardians: A Comparative Study of the Encounter Experience, HarperCollins, 1988. 41, 237.

[7] Randle, Jenny, Abduction, Guild Books, 1988. 33-34.

[8] The Journal of American Folklore, Vol. 102, No. 404 (Apr. – Jun., 1989), pp. 147-170.

[10] Ring, Kenneth, The Omega Project: Near-Death Experiences, UFO Encounters, and Mind-at-Large, William Morrow & Co., 1992. 64-65, 85, 92, 108, 218-19, 234;

[11] Thompson, Keith, Angels and Aliens: UFOs and the Mythic Imagination, Ballantine Books, 1993. 154-58, 188, 232.

[12] Talbot, Michael. The Holographic Universe, Harper Perennial, 1991, 276-285.

[13] That is, through strenuous disciplines that awaken the energy coiled at the base of the spine, it is meant to wipe out the karmic accretions one has accumulated over many lifetimes within a finite time-period. For the improperly initiated or novice this can have devastating emotional and mental effects. The full Kalachakra cycle includes confronting heavenly and hellish beings which the monk or nun eventually subdues in order to use the beings’ powers towards achieving nirvana; these entities are considered aspects of the initiate’s own “compounded” illusory existence, but stripped of personal attributes; in other words, they are transpersonal or archetypal representations of cognitive-emotional states of being. Whether “imaginal” or energetically real, conquering them and utilizing their existential energy towards liberation is the goal of the initiate.

[14] Mack, John E. Abduction: Human Encounters with Aliens, Scribner, 1994.

[15] Schnabel (1995), 136-39

[16] Little, Gregory L. Grand Illusions: The Spectral Reality Lying Behind Sexual UFO Abductions, Crashed Saucers, Afterlife Experiences, Sacred Ancient Ritual Sites & Other Enigmas, Eagle Wing Books, 1994.

[17] Spencer, John. Gifts of the Gods?: Are UFOs Alien Visitors or Psychic Phenomena? Virgin Publishers, 1995.

[19] Mack, John. Passport to the Cosmos: Human Transformation and Alien Encounters, Three Rivers Press, 2011.

[20] Mack (2011), 203.

[21] Mack (2011), 208.

[22] Mack (2011), 169.

[23] Incidentally, this location is 900 miles west at the exact latitude as the 1977-84 events Jacques Vallee writes about in his book Confrontations. During that period glowing orbs and “flying buses” were shooting “beams” that killed, sickened, and burned many night hunters and villagers in northern Brazil. The area was so remote that medical intervention was minimal to none during this “wave.” Vallee personally traveled to the isolated area in 1990 to interview the witnesses and victims. See Confrontations: A Scientist’s Search for Alien Contact, Anomalist Books, 2008, pgs. 124-39, 200-226.

[24] Mack (2011), 181.

[25] Hancock, Graham, Supernatural: Meetings with the Ancient Teachers of Mankind, Disinformation Books, 2007.

[26] Hancock (2007), 161-66.

[27] Eliade, pg. 33.

[28] It is interesting to note that many persons become writers, artists, or scientists due to prolonged illness in youth by which they either have a consciousness-changing experience, or they use their long convalescence to develop a hobby that becomes a lifelong passion.

[29] See Mike Clelland’s The Messengers: Owls, Synchronicity, and the UFO Abductee, Richard Dolan Press, 2015; Vallee, Jacques. Passport to Magonia: From Folklore to Flying Saucers, Daily Grail Publishing, 2014, pg. 58; Hopkins (1987), 91-92, 100; Strieber (1987), 21-22, 116-17, 145, 298-300; Mack (2011), 152-157, 295; Smith, Yvonne (2008), 116-17, 138-49, 144-47; Anglin, Elizabeth. Experience: Memoirs of an Abducted Childhood, Vol. 1, Sacred Peak Press, 2014, pgs. 38-42; Hopkins and Rainey (2004), 230-38; Turner, Karla. Into the Fringe: A True Story of Alien Abduction, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2014, pgs. 84, 124-43 (the latter is an extended account of a shared hallucinatory episode at a real cabin with “screen memory” elements to it); Hough and Kalman, (1997), pgs. 78-80; Wilson, Colin, Alien Dawn: An Investigation into the Contact Experience, Fromm International, 1998, pg. 7; Boylan (1994), 115.

[30] Eliade, 36. There is a long tradition in the British Isles that fairies cannot abide the presence and even sound of iron (such as a bell). Could we thus speculate that fairies as known by the Celtic Anglo culture and the master shaman spirits, whether celestial or infernal, are not the same beings as the fee?

[31] Cowan, J. Mysteries of the Dream Time, Woollahra, NSW, Unity Press, 1992. Quoted by Harvey-Wilson, Simon Brian. Shamanism and Alien Abductions: A Comparative Study, Edith Cowan University, 2000, pg. 51.

[32] Eliade, pgs. 45-52.

[33] Couliano, I.P. Out of this World: Otherworldly Journeys from Gilgamesh to Albert Einstein, Shambhala Publications, 1991, pgs. 44-45.

[34] See Watts, Barry, UFOs Down Under: Australasian Encounters, Barry Watts Publications, 2017, for the case of Maureen Puddy, who was abducted “astrally” in the presence of two other people; Turner, Karla, Masquerade of Angels,

[35] Kalweit (1988), 48-51; Wilson, Colin. Mysteries: An Investigation into the Occult, the Paranormal, and the Supernatural, Watkins Publishing, 2006, 377-78; Hancock (2007), 126-31.

[36] Couliano (1991), 44.

[37] Kalweit,

[38] See Mack, John, 1994 & 2011; Boylan, Richard J. Close Extraterrestrial Encounters: Positive Experiences with Mysterious Visitors, Wild Flower Press, 1994, 36-46, 157-69; Rutkowski, Chris A. Abductions and Aliens: What’s Really Going On, Durdurn, 1999, 212-28; Randles, Jenny (1984), 83-84; Strieber (1989), 73-77;

[39] Dennett, Preston, and Dennett, Christine. UFO Healings: True Accounts of People Healed by Extraterrestrials, Wild Flower Press, 1996.

[40] Fiore, Edith. Encounters: A Psychologist Reveals Case Studies of Abductions by Extraterrestrials, Doubleday, 1989, 121-23

[41] Fiore (1989), 89-91.

[42] Fiore (1989), 96.

[43] Mack (2011), 142.

[44] Lorenzen, Coral and Jim. Abducted! Confrontations with Beings from Outer Space, Berkley Publishing, 1977, 63.

[45] Fowler, Raymond. The Andreasson Affair Phase Two: The Continuing Investigation of a Woman’s Abduction by Alien Beings, Prentice Hall Trade, 1982, 137-46.

[46] Turner (1994), 176-77.

[47] This is a fairly “routine” experience when a person encounters “UFOnauts,” from the contactee phenomenon of the early 1950s right up to the present day. See Bullard, Thomas E. (2010), 214; Strieber (1987), 119; Randles (1984), 103; Mack (1994), 224, 243; Mack (2011), 94-98; Ring (1992), 51; Hough, Peter and Kalman, Moyshe. The Truth About Alien Abductions, Sterling Publishing Company, 1997, pg. 111; Swords, Michael. Grassroots UFOs: Case Reports from the Center for UFOs Studies, Anomalist Books, 2005, pgs. 94-95; Turner (2013), 39, 173; Marden and Stoner, (2013), 212; Jacobs (1993), 197; Fiore (1989), 162, 182-83; Harpur, Patrick. Daimonic Reality: A Field Guide to the Otherworld, Pine Winds Press, 2003, pgs. 184-85; Thompson, Richard L. Alien Identities: Ancient Insights into the Modern UFO Phenomenon, Govardhan Hill Publisher, 1995, pgs. 126-27; Smith, 158-65 (“induced” visions of plans for an engine).

[48] Jacobs, David. The Threat, (1999), 236; Strieber (1987), 252, 265-66; Mack (2011), 93-119,

[49] Hancock (2007), 131-132.

[50] See Mack (2011), Fowler (2014), The Watchers by Raymond Fowler (1990), The Watchers II, Fowler (1995), Taken by Karla Turner (1994), Lost was the Key by Leah Haley (1995), Reaching for Reality by Constance Clear (1999).

[51] Wilson (2006), 377-78.

[52] Kalweit, Holger, Dreamtime and Inner Space: The World of the Shaman, Shambhala Press, 1988, 48-51.

[53] Eliade (1974), 73, 76-77, 79, 133, 168, 344, 381, 421; Hancock (2007), 150-60; 188-92.

[54] Mack (1994), Boylan (1994), 69, 87, 89.

[55] In traditional Celtic lore, fairies may entrance, kidnap, and rape humans. This can produce hybrid children, whom Graham Hancock (amongst others) believes may be the changelings who are placed in substitution of stolen human children. That’s one possibility; the other is that the changelings are “pure-bred” but deformed fairy children. Yet there are also innumerable tales of humans falling in love with a fairy, whether the humans are “glamoured” or of their own will. These “marriages” often result in children who have great difficulty living in either world. Sometimes the human has been given the “second sight” to perceive fairies and their world prior to these couplings—and also become healers by fairy tutoring. See Hancock (2007), 177-81; 192-203 for the changeling-hybrid enigma.

[56] Eliade, pgs. 19, 32, 55.

[57] Kalweit, Holger, Shamans, Healers, and Medicine Men. Shambhala Books, 2000.

[58] See Shallis, Michael. The Electric Connection: Its Effects on Mind and Body, New Amsterdam Books, 1998.

[59] Eliade, 26.

[60] Heath, Pamela Rae. The PK Zone: A Cross-Cultural Review of Psychokinesis (PK), iUniverse, 2003, 167-69; Wilson, Colin, Poltergeist! A Study in Destructive Haunting, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1982, 158-60, 262, 361-62; Rogo, D. Scott, Mind Over Matter: The Case for Psychokinesis, Thorsons, 1986, 84-87; Shallis, Michael. The Electric Connection: Its Effects on Mind and Body, New Amsterdam Books, 1998, 194, 207.

[61] Eliade, 24-26.

[62] Harpur, Patrick. Daimonic Reality: A Field Guide to the Otherworld, Pine Winds Press, 2003, (1995), 235-36.

[63] Budden Albert. Psychic Close Encounters, Blandford Books, 1999, 145-46, 179.

[64] Eliade, 67.

[65] Eliade, 69.

[66] Eliade (1974), 69, 128, 160.

[67] Eliade, 70.

[68] Mack (2011), 149 for eagle; 148-152.

[69] Fowler (2015), 102-05.

[70] Hancock (2007), 160-64.

[71] Lorenzen and Lorenzen (1977), 47-49; Fowler (1982), Andreasson,

[72] Lorenzen, (1977), 48-49.

[73] Eliade, 42.

[74] This experience is also similar to the angel “transmissions” the mystic polymath Emanuel Swedenborg claimed in a trance to have received and by which he said angels regularly telepathically communicated.

[75] Hancock (2007), 142-44.

[76] Turner, Victor (1969) 116–17, quoted in Hansen, George P. The Trickster and the Paranormal, Xlibris Corp, 2001, 86.

[77] See the work of Budd Hopkins, David Jacobs, John Mack, Karla Turner, Yvonne Smith, Richard Boylan.

[78] See Hopkins (1987) 299-300; Strieber (1987), 216-22; Mack (1994), 23, 27; 116; Bullard (2010) (a psychosocial comparison with folklore), 197-200; Clark, Jerome, The UFO Encyclopedia: The Phenomenon from the Beginning, 2 Vols., Omnigraphics Inc., 1998, 6.

[79] See Harner, Michael. The Way of the Shaman, HarperOne, 1990, and Cave and Cosmos: Shamanic Encounters with Another Reality, North Atlantic, 2013.

1973-74: The Weirdos Connect…A Sirius Problem

“Sri Krishna Prem, the wisest man in India, sat on the floor of his little mountain-top ashram showing me pictures from medieval alchemical books. He pointed to the design of a man standing naked with devil on one shoulder, angel on the other. He said, ‘When you understand that, you can go on to the next lesson.’”

–Timothy Leary, the Starseed Transmission, 1973



1973-74 was a weird time for many in the counterculture—no, really: an extraordinarily daft period of high strangeness.

Neuroscientist Dr. John C. Lilly (1914-2001) was responsible for one of the greatest iterations of an old myth during our time. While floating in an isolation tank and under the influence of the hallucinogen-anesthetic ketamine, Lilly had visions of two, we might say, “strange attractors” that exist in our futures, inevitably pulling us towards one or the other: our destruction by a “Solid State Intelligence” (SSI), or assistance in our evolution by the ECCO, or “Earth Coincidence Control Office.”

The computer mainframe in The Matrix? That’s basically the SSI, a mindlessly reproductive artificial intelligence that will (in one of our futures, several hundred years hence) reduce the conditions on the earth’s surface to that of a super-cooled air conditioner by keeping humans corralled under domes and blasting the atmosphere into space. It will move our orbit to a more congenially low-temperature distance for it to function. The SSI will eventually destroy humanity as a burden to its self-preservation, figure out a way to blast the earth entirely out of the sun’s orbit, and search the galaxy for other SSIs.

Through the ECCO’s communications, Lilly believed there are already multiple SSIs wandering the galaxy searching for “brothers” (aka the Borg), the sole remnants of once great civilizations that apparently took the wrong pill.

The most nefarious meme here is that at this moment our own earthbound SSI, via its extraterrestrial “mentors,” is influencing human behavior and thinking into constructing it, and the alien SSIs are helping it along—and that their project is on schedule.[1]

Many transhumanists have conjectured the possibility that high technology is “using” humanity to advance itself into an super-advanced state or even sentience (talking to you, Kevin Kelly) and we’ll meet it halfway (hello, Ray?). Thanks to the Internet, the SSI is already well along on the path to integration, both physically and by psychologically priming us for its rise.[2] Letting AI engineering programs design “shortcuts” for their own software that work but computer scientists have difficulty reverse-engineering to understand how they work isn’t helping matters. (Welcome, Skynet!)

As our societal course seems to be moving (if we don’t blow up in World War 5), we will cede more and more of our everyday operations to computers and their brute machine extensions and one day wake up wondering how did I end up in this prison camp with no kill switch? (Hail Colossus!) After all, we’ve already turned over knowledge acquisition and collation, many medical diagnostics/procedures, stock trading, manufacturing, quality control, electrical and nuclear grids, transportation, surveillance, and combat operations to AI systems. This encroachment will only increase, of course, as it increases profits both for the Silicon Valley overlords and mechanization-amenable businesses. As Kevin Kelly said, the more areas we turn over to these machines, the more incentive there is to automate the remaining aspects of our social, economic, and scientific activities. So we can have extra time.

Extra time to what…? Entertain the devil?

We put AI to many tests to see if it can surpass human skills. It has succeeded in those rule-based games such as chess and Go, which are already designed with an algorithmic basis. But to make an AI that can learn a human language, understand context, and construct sentences appropriate to those contexts in order to have a meaningful conversation is decades away—if ever. According to AI scientist Nick Bostrom, we have about 50 years before computing power will approach the processes of the human brain.[3] And that is no guarantee it will be able to do the ten million things of which a mind is capable.


On the other hand, before encountering the SSI, John Lilly had earlier contacted the ECCO—a transdimensional “cadre” of beings that has been (and is still) attempting to communicate with humanity through coincidence—or more properly, synchronicities—since the dawn of history. His own life had been saved by coincidence, convincing him of the ECCO’s reality: on an isolation tank-ketamine trip, the floatation water had been way too hot. Lilly attempted to climb from the tank, but just after the K fully kicked in. He lost all sense of his body. A colleague who had a sudden need to talk to him at that moment called, and Lilly’s wife found him near death in the tank. She had learned mouth-to-mouth resuscitation only days before. His life had seemingly been saved by two fortuitous events.

Only persons with more evolved attention/sensitivity have noticed the ECCO’s clues: psychics, those who encounter “strange beings,” UAP and their occupants. The ECCO are trying to advance us spiritually, apparently so we don’t have a need for the SSI. Lilly’s scenario amounts to a contemporary version of the devils/angels whispering on our shoulders–but talking to us backwards in time, from our own future.

Lilly had experimented with LSD and various entheogens in the tank throughout the 1960s, but ketamine was his darling. He used heroic amounts of it then began shooting it several times every day. He contacted the ECCO more and more on these trips, and established a permanent telepathic channel. He attempted to warn President Gerald Ford of the SSI threat. It was only when an assistant attempted twice to have him committed, then his K sources dried up, that he gave it up to devote his life to his wife. And dolphins.


In 1971, parapsychologist Andrija Puharich hypnotized psychic Uri Geller and through him supposedly made contact with a space intelligence called “Spectra” that Geller claimed had granted him his PK/psychic powers. This was an echo of events Puharich witnessed some 18 years earlier, in Maine on New Year’s Eve 1953, when he and eight other shadowy intelligence/military community-connected individuals contacted an extraterrestrial intelligence named “M” through an Indian medium named Dr. Vinod. This M spoke for “the Nine Principles,” a group of what Theosophists call “Ascended Masters” or spiritually advanced beings.

Contact with the Nine was reestablished in June 1953. There was talk of ascension to “Brahminship” for those persons present at the séance—and also to be bestowed on other, unnamed persons. Puharich would from then on believe these extraterrestrials were causing synchronicities and generally influencing certain humans—much like Dr. Lilly would find of ECCO 19 years later. In 1956, Puharich supposedly met a couple in Arizona who had been channeling the Nine as well—and as proof of this sent him transcripts of the original channeling session in Maine on New Year’s Eve.

In 1973, Puharich created Lab Nine in upstate New York, where associate James J. Hurtak begins to channel the Nine. Hurtak will go on to become a New Agey guru concerning Elizabethan mage Dr. John Dee’s Callings or “Keys of Enoch”, the angelic/demonic language that Dee’s scryer Edward Kelley channeled in 1589. Puharich also established a “secret school” for children at Lab Nine, calling them the “Space Kids” or the “Geller Kids“, in order to develop their psychic powers for contacting the Nine. Who these kids were or where they came from has never been satisfactorily explained, and is extremely disturbing given the MKULTRA protocols of the 1950s to test LSD on orphans and “troubled kids” at places like Boys Town. Puharich was definitely involved on the fringes of the CIA’s mind-control studies from their beginning, in 1952.

The Nine, it turns out on Hurtak’s channelings, are the Ennead of Egyptian deities. Puharich publishes a biography of Uri Geller in 1974 telling the whole story. In the book he claims that when Geller asked physicist Saul Paul Sirag to look into his eyes to “see” Spectra, Sirag said that he saw Geller’s head appear as a hawk (Horus); Horus is connected to Sothis/Sirius in Egyptian mythology. Mostly the book concerns boosting the existence of the ET “Spectra” satellite claim and the Nine‘s existence. [4] Lab Nine lasts only five years, with a series of arsons and “CIA harassment,” which drives Puharich to Mexico and ends his unethical experimentation.

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John Lilly “contacted” the ECCO beings in 1973. 64 miles north of Lilly’s lab on the California coast, Robert Anton Wilson would take LSD on June 6, 1973, utilizing Lilly’s “subliminal” affirmation tapes that encouraged limitless mind. He followed these sessions with recordings of magician Aleister Crowley’s invocation of his Holy Guardian Angel. Wilson had been practicing yoga for years, and found that this acid experience, in which he lived “past lives” and experienced disembodiment, immeasurably increased his yogic powers of concentration. On July 22, Wilson repeated the same program, this time without LSD but doing Tantric sex rituals with his wife Arlen. The next morning of July 23, 1973 he awoke from a dream obsessed with the star Sirius. Throughout the day he consulted all his occult tomes for references, and even went to the library. He discovered that in ancient Egyptian tradition, July 23 is the day when Sirius exerts its strongest connection with earth and our consciousnesses. He came to briefly believe he had been contacted by ETs from Sirius, causing a dance with insanity and paranoia he called the “Chapel Perilous.”[5] In Aleister Crowley’s AA system of correspondences, Sirius’s number is nine.


In 1973, psychonaut and social irritant Timothy Leary would encounter alien intelligences while meditating and cooling off in Folsom jail, leading him to write the Starseed Transmission. Here is a heady chunk of that text:

Life is an interstellar communication network. Life is disseminated through the galaxies in the form of nucleotide templates. These “seeds” land on planets, are activated by solar radiation and evolve nervous systems. The bodies which house and transport nervous systems and the reproductive seeds are constructed in response to the atmospheric and gravitational characteristics of the host planet, the crumbling rock upon which we momentarily rest.

Evolution is concerned with nervous systems and the sexual attractive efficiency of bodies, the expansion of consciousness.

The human being is the robot carrier of a large brain, conscious of being conscious. A robot designed to discover the circuitry which programs its behavior. The nervous system is the instrument of consciousness. When mankind discovered the function and infinite capacities of the nervous system, a mutation took place. The metamorphosis from larval earth-life to a higher destiny. The person who has made this discovery becomes a time-traveler. A Psi-Phy entity. When Astronaut Mitchell saw the green jewel of earth against the black velvet expanse of interstellar distance, he became Psi-Phy. Ecology is a low-level distraction. Psi-Phy boy scouts picking up trash. The genetic goal is communication. Telepathy. Electronic sexuality. Reception and transmission of electromagnetic waves. The erotics of resonance. The entire universe is gently, rhythmically, joyously vibrating. Cosmic intercourse.[6]

Leary goes on to discuss the newly discovered comet Kohoutek and how it will be its brightest in the month of October, then complains about why there is no media coverage of this new object that was projected to come very close to both earth and sun. Paranoia sets in the text as he talks about it being a harbinger of some kind, involving Nixon’s fall or the murder of Watergate spook E. Howard Hunt, drawing parallels between Giordano Bruno’s execution for heresy in 1600 and the square-world-Air Force’s denial of the UAP/extradimensional intelligence’s reality.

Through some thoughtful exchanges with his fellow inmates, who’d read his tract, Leary comes to almost deifying the comet as a literal vessel of redemption or transformation, seeding our planet with new DNA that will allow communication with our cosmic siblings.

24 years later, another sudden cometary appearance will inspire the mass suicide of ET-worshipping cultists called Heaven’s Gate.

1973 is considered the “year of the humanoid” by mainstream UAP investigators, when two canonical encounter/abductions occurred in October: the Pat Roach family’s and the Pascagoula, Mississippi abduction of two fishermen, Charles Hickson and Calvin Parker. In addition, the Susan Ramsted, Leigh Proctor, and Dionisio Llanca abductions also occurred in October, 1973. Throughout this year, there were dozens of accounts of close encounters with UAP occupants. These space people were really plying their trade hard.


Ariel Teittleman: You ever heard of the Masada? For three years, nine hundred Jews held their own against fifteen thousand Roman soldiers. They chose death before enslavement. And the Romans? Where are they now?

Tony Soprano: You’re looking at ’em, asshole.




In February of 1974, writer Philip K. Dick would experience a revelation very similar to Wilson’s, Geller’s, Leary’s, and Lilly’s. He would spend the rest of his life coming to terms with and trying to clarify it. After having a tooth extracted under sodium pentathol, he ordered out for painkillers and was met at his door by a young woman delivering his medication. He found himself staring at her “Jesus fish” necklace and began…remembering things. He came to believe he was experiencing flashbacks/sideways of a previous/ongoing life as the persecuted Gnostic Thomas, the brother of Jesus. Further, he came to believe the Roman Empire has existed ever since the crucifixion either in a simultaneous reality, or as we experience “today” with our “modern” surroundings as a camouflage for it. At one time he was “struck by a pink beam” that filled his head with a cascade of information. During one eight-hour stretch he experienced the entire human history of art—and claimed to witness Soviet psychotronic scientists communicating with space intelligences from Sirius. He came to believe an alien satellite he called alternately “Zebra” or the Vast Active Living Intelligence System (VALIS) had done this to him. He teetered on the brink of insanity, but having a rational mind wrote his way out of the Chapel Perilous in what many consider his best books: VALIS (1981), The Divine Invasion (1981), and The Transmigration of Timothy Archer (1982).

At the same time, scholar and Sinologist Robert Temple is working on final drafts of a book on the beliefs of Mali’s Dogon peoples. It was discovered that their dances, rituals, artwork and “mythology” all concern beings who they claim visited them long ago from a star that turned out to be Sirius. Encoded in their beliefs are facts about Sirius unknown until the mid-20th century, such as its possession of a dwarf companion sun, Sirius B, and the double star’s heavenly cycles. Temple connects their knowledge to sources in ancient Egypt–where the Ennead (Nine) are worshiped. Temple writes that the Nommo (the name the Dogon give the extraterrestrial tribe) are now in hibernation in a spaceship around Saturn, waiting to return to earth and the right time. Time is one of the things Saturn ruled over (“Chronos” in Greek). In 1976 Temple publishes “The Sirius Mystery” and is harassed by the CIA over it.

Temple’s original inspiration came in 1967, from one Arthur Young, inventor of the Bell helicopter, who 15 years earlier in 1953 had collaborated with Andrija Puharich on the original Vinod/Nine sessions in Maine.  

Something was in the aether.

So…As Temple labors on his book, Leary while meditating receives information on DNA being a cosmic communications system that is largely dormant for most humans; Lilly contacts the ECCO and is warned of the nefarious SSI while in an ongoing massively altered state of consciousness; Dick is contacted by VALIS/Zebra and told that we exist (or have existed, or will in the future exist) in a Black Iron Prison and that the Roman Empire Never Ended, and that VALIS is a part of a network of Sirian satellites meant to remove our blocked “screen memories” and open our consciousnesses; Wilson is contacted by Space Intelligences/Egyptian deities/his unconscious on the day Sirius is at its most powerful; and Geller/Puharich/Hurtak are contacted by the Nine/Spectra/Egyptian deities—all within one year, 1973, in which the world political order seems to teeter on the brink of institutional and social breakdown[7] and a spectacular series of UFO events occur, culminating in October when comet Kohoutek is its brightest.  Dick’s VALIS has been described as one node of an artificial satellite network originating from the star Sirius in the Canis Major constellation. According to Dick, the Earth satellite used “pink laser beams” to transfer information and project holograms on Earth and to facilitate communication between an extraterrestrial species and humanity. Dick claimed that VALIS used “disinhibiting stimuli” to communicate, using symbols to trigger recollection of intrinsic knowledge through the anamnesia, achieving gnosis. Drawing directly from Platonism and Gnosticism, Dick wrote in his Exegesis: “We appear to be memory coils (DNA carriers capable of experience) in a computer-like thinking system which, although we have correctly recorded and stored thousands of years of experiential information, and each of us possesses somewhat different deposits from all the other life forms, there is a malfunction—a failure—of memory retrieval.”

Back to Leary we go…

But wait, there’s more!

Sirius figures in a number of esoteric systems. Rodney Collin, author of the neglected masterwork “The Theory of Celestial Influence,” posits Sirius as our “Oversun,” that is, the star around which our sun revolves once roughly every 24,000 years—very close to the length of a full cycle of equinoctial precession. Collin’s system could be a measure of quasi-animism, in that energy currents exist everywher on many subtle scales, and that the generative powers of our sun in turn have been granted by that of Sirius. We are directly connected to the brightly twinkling distant furnace.

Collin was a disciple of Piotr Ouspensky, and thus G.I. Gurdjieff. Gurdjieff hinted at Sirius’s importance when he claimed a need to “bury the bone deeper” when writing his densely allusive “Beelzebub’s Tales to his Grandson” (1950). Several authors who knew Gurdjieff or were well-versed in his Work system claimed this was a pun on Sirius being known as the Dog Star and signifying the beginning of the dog days of summer (which originally signaled the beginning of the Nile’s flood season). This Sirius connection is considered by some as one of the secret keys to understanding the book. The ancient astronaut idea is central in “Beelzebub,” as the fallen angel is actually a space traveler on his way to be judged as he regales his grandson tales of the backwards-living and doomed beings of earth. He tells grandson Hassan of the sevenfold Ray of Creation and the 96 cosmic laws to which unfortunate earthlings are subject because of its moon’s influence.

Independent (apparently) of Gurdjieff and Collin, 70 years earlier the Russian Helena Blavatsky wrote of the cosmic influence of Sirius as a “third eye” in the heavens. This information was channeled by a Great Hidden Mahatma she telepathically contacted named Koot Hoomi.

In 1895, a strange man walked into 15-year old Alice Bailey’s house and told her she had a special place in the world’s salvation, and abruptly left. After a stint in India working in YWCA Soldier’s Homes and a failed marriage, she would read Blavatsky’s works in the 1910s, and becomes convinced her visitor was Koot Hoomi, Blavatsky’s astral contact and knowledge-transmitter. Bailey becomes a Theosophist in 1915, and marries Freemason Foster Bailey. In 1919 she contacts Djwhal Khul, “The Tibetan” and channels additional messages. The Theosophical Society regards her as an upstart and they are dismissed. She is told of the “Hierarchy of the Brothers of Light” or the “Great Council,” a variation on Blavatsky’s Great Hidden Mahatmas. Bailey’s are led by the “Lord of the World,” which is an ancient Hindu conception connected with the king of the subterranean realm of Agarttha who guides humanity through a council, telepathically contacting people and arranging coincidences for their meeting.

In her book Initiation, Human and Solar Bailey writes that the Tibetan Masters R and M are overlords of human evolution. Andrija Puharich (see above) apparently admitted to reading Bailey before meeting “Dr. Vinod” in 1952 and channeling the Nine; thus Vinod’s R and M are nearly identical. In Bailey’s system there are Seven Planes of the Solar System and the “Seven Rays.” (Gurdjieff would be teaching similar ideas at this time as well in Paris, about the Octave and the Ray of Creation). Puharich associate James Hurtak’s neo-Enochian system is nearly identical to Bailey’s as well.

Bailey also speaks of Sirius as a power center that transmits its mental and spiritual influence via Saturn—an idea also propounded by channel/medium Carla Rueckert who contacted the Egyptian deity Ra (one of the Nine gods/principles) in the Law of One series (1981-84). Ra says it is communicating to Rueckert from Saturn. Many an “extraterrestrial” being in UAP contacts say they are “from Saturn”. Absurd on their face as these contactees’ claims are, there is another interpretation that says they actually mean the “astral forms” of the planets and their moons, and are thus “way stations” for the ETs channelings…And don’t forget the Dogon people’s Nommo-gods asleep in spaceships around Saturn! Anyway, Bailey’s Tibetan claims that Scottish Rite Freemasonry is a version of the Sirian mystery school and performing its rites to the 33rd and highest degree allows one access to the Lodge of Sirius. The ninth level of Scottish Rite is called the “Elect of Nine.” The “Blazing Star” in all Masonic lodges is supposedly meant to represent Sirius. The “Nine Elect apprentice masons” to Hiram Abiff, mythical architect and builder of Solomon’s temple, are said in Masonic lore to have tracked Abiff’s murderers to a cave. The nine stars of Orion represent these Elect. Orion’s horizontal rise precedes the rising of Sirius in the sky.




[1] Here we have a version of Roko’s basilisk, minus its absolute determinism that the basilisk AI will “reach back in time” in its simulated universes to punish those who refuse to help it come into existence.

[2] Think you have free will? Try not logging onto the internet for a week, voluntarily, for any purpose.

[4] Levenda, Peter. Sinister Forces: A Grimoire of American Political Witchcraft Volume 1: The Nine, Trine Day Publishers, pgs. 242-248.

[5] Wilson, Robert A. Cosmic Trigger Volume 1: The Final Secret of the Illuminati, New Falcon Publications, 1977, pgs. 80-96.

[7] Roe vs. Wade sets off fundamentalist Christian crusades against it; domestic terrorists like the Weather Underground set off bombs on a regular basis; Wounded Knee is occupied; Pinochet takes power in Chile’ and, all in October, the Yom Kippur War, VP Spiro Agnew resigns in disgrace, the catastrophic OPEC oil embargo nearly wrecks the economy, and of course, the “Saturday Night Massacre” of the Watergate scandal.

Parmenides/Poimandres, “Alien” Messages and Mysticism

People from Elsewhere have always come to humanity bearing messages.

Sometimes their messages are symbolic, acted out like psychodramas. Sometimes they are epigrammatic, and at other times they exhibit a torrent of verbiage that would exhaust the best Talmud scholar. 

We are not alone, say most cosmologists and astrophysicists. The numbers are against it. But even if in the unlikely case we are “alone” evolutionarily in this universe, we still aren’t alone. There are Others, and from time to time they actually talk to us.

As John Keel once observed, if they’re extraterrestrials then they’re using the syntax of ceremonial magic and the vocabulary of apparitions to contact us–and that of mysticism, which can either enlighten or mystify, depending on the discerning consciousness


Parmenides of Elea was born roughly 515 BCE and died at an unknown date. Founder of the Eleatic School, he and his disciples profoundly influenced the technique of logical deduction in Plato and Aristotle’s work. Parmenides’s disciple Zeno’s ideas about motion and time-measurement, which result in paradoxes, still puzzle minds to this day.

According to Peter Kingsley, Parmenides became a priest of the sleep temples of Apollo at Elea and presided over a quasi-shamanic “revival” movement that betrayed the true nature of Apollo as a chthonic deity, not necessarily the solar one as received history has it. Prophecy has always been associated with Apollo–and its source as truth in Parmenides’s career originated in his spirit journey poem. 

Parmenides’s only surviving work is called On the Nature of Things. It takes the first-person form, and is composed of a preface followed by a revelatory vision of Truth by a Goddess (taken to be Persephone, who is always associated with the Underworld), then contrasts this vision with humanity’s “mere opinions” in its last part.

Only fragments of the poem remain, but most of the Goddess’ revelation section has been preserved. Additional supplementation has been gleaned from later philosophers’ discussions, mostly Plato and Aristotle, in which they give précis of Parmenides’s arguments or by actually using his syllogistic argument forms.

At the poem’s beginning a young male protagonist is taken into a chariot with a shining axle that spins. He meets “glowing maidens of the sun” who guide the vehicle’s mares into a subterranean area where a stone door opens.

Inside he meets the Goddess, who imparts to him eternal wisdom. Here are some samples of that philosophy:

Thinking and the thought that it is are the same; for you will not find thinking apart from what is, in relation to which it is uttered. (B 8.34–36)

For to be aware and to be are the same. (B 3)

It is necessary to speak and to think what is; for being is, but nothing is not. (B 6.1–2)

Helplessness guides the wandering thought in their breasts; they are carried along deaf and blind alike, dazed, beasts without judgment, convinced that to be and not to be are the same and not the same, and that the road of all things is a backward-turning one. (B 6.5–9)

The last quote is a tough one, but is taken to mean that people consider the states of existence and non-existence to be absolutely different, whether the states of life/death, an incremental process of extinction, or the notion that something that will be at a “future” time but now is not is self-contradictory. Non-existence, as such, is not something that can even be conceived of.

If the radical ontological condition “non-existence” cannot have either existence in an ordinary sense qua individual instances or a existence as a kind of (non)being—a concept with a referent —then all the gradations between the individual, the part and the whole, are also impossible.

The “backward turning” is a crude reference, I believe, to the process of entropy as conceived by our limited human minds as we remember how things once seemed to be, but are now not. That is, any difference between the present and the past is an illusion qua the awakened mind. But we are asleep and ignorant; the illusory differences are what we notice and take as real. The following backs this interpretation:

How could what is perish? How could it have come to be? For if it came into being, it is not; nor is it if ever it is going to be. Thus coming into being is extinguished, and destruction unknown. (B 8.20–22, my emphasis)

Nor was [it] once, nor will [it] be, since [it] is, now, all together, / One, continuous; for what coming-to-be of it will you seek? / In what way, whence, did [it] grow?

Neither from what-is-not shall I allow / You to say or think; for it is not to be said or thought / That [it] is not. And what need could have impelled it to grow / Later or sooner, if it began from nothing? Thus [it] must either be completely or not at all. (B 8.5–11)

[What exists] is now, all at once, one and continuous… Nor is it divisible, since it is all alike; nor is there any more or less of it in one place which might prevent it from holding together, but all is full of what is. (B 8.5–6, 8.22–24)

And it is all one to me / Where I am to begin; for I shall return there again. (B 5)

This is a radical vision of reality unlike anything the Greeks or the Western ancient world had encountered, and is as cogent an attempt to rationally explain or convey the sense of a mystical experience as anything any person has ever written. When one considers a philosophy of “timeless Forms,” it is no wonder that Plato was deeply influenced by Parmenides’s vision of Oneness and Being.

Parmenides’s Goddess’ notions are absolutely monist, but the type of monism is very difficult to pin down: it denies dualism in principle, so an idealism/physicalism split cannot exist within it. Given an ontology of pure physicalism or pure idealism, Her denial of time, space, and differing identity would hold given the premisses of either viewpoint. She allows that the One that exists eternally beyond all change is comprehensible to humanity, but this implies that a mind in ignorance of the One, either before experiencing the oneness or after experiencing the oneness, would at least be possible.

Yet the possible is impossible, because anything that can be thought, is—except that something not be.

But as we see, Parmenides’s vision differs from that of other mystics in that the Goddess supplies him with logical propositions that when subjected to further analysis result in paradoxes, revealing a limit to what the human mind can sensorily comprehend.

Our only recourse seems to be to embrace Her form of absolute monism: since nothing cannot be, therefore everything that can possibly exist, already does exist. It is simply our feeble human minds that cannot perceive this, through ignorance and limiting factors. There cannot be something that is now that was not before, or will come to be but does not exist now, therefore change—and time—cannot exist. “Becoming” is thus an illusion. The “present” presupposes division—a past preceding it, and a future proceeding or forerunning it—therefore it, also, cannot exist. All is one and everything, and for “all time.”

Parmenides’s ending doxa section on humanity’s flawed sense-formed impressions is almost entirely lost, unfortunately.


These metaphysical gymnastics would have no rival in their power to “deconstruct” our sense-perception of reality until the sutras Buddhist philosopher Nagarjuna propagated in the non-dualist madhyamaka “no mind, no self” doctrine in 2nd century CE India—who also, legend says, received his teachings from a supernatural source, the Nagas (snake-deities)

Throughout the history of “mysticism” we encounter people who describe very similar ineffable truths that lie “outside linear space-time.” Some try to describe it in terms of the “ethereal fluid” of light, the One, the Ungrund (Godhead), etc.

In 1600, at age 25, Lusatian cobbler Jakob Boehme had a vision while staring enraptured at sunlight hitting the edge of a pewter dish. He then walked out into his garden while “information” flowed into his mind, the “secrets of creation.” The experience was so ineffable he never spoke of it, until ten years later when a similar vision overtook him. Two years after this he wrote Aurora, and, encouraged by friends, published it. He went on to write a further ten books elaborating his vision of the importance of Seven and the Trinity to Christian ontology, echoing the philosophy of Pythagoras as to the “numerical” underpinnings of physical reality. Further, his works were flavored with pagan astrological-alchemical elements, such as the sevenfold planetary metals, their qualities, and the resultant “worlds” under which humanity was conditioned. This shows the influence of Paracelsus and Gnosticism by way of other Neoplatonic mystics, whom Boehme read while young. Boehme’s views on the origin of sin and redemption conflicted with accepted Calvinist-Lutheran theology and he found himself several times in the hot seat. His views on evolutionary principles based upon triads, the necessity of evil and its conquering to produce a higher reconciliation would influence G.W.F. Hegel’s elaborate view of history.

American “electro-alchemist” Cyrus Teed (1839-1908), who also described an encounter with a goddess during an experiment with electricity, claimed to have directly experienced Oneness and the idea that all matter is merely “frozen” energy decades before Einstein mathematically formulated it. Had he been a physicist, perhaps he could have put the discovery into equation form.

These mystical revelations are what Aldous Huxley called the “Perennial Philosophy.” All peoples in every era will rediscover it, as long as humans exist. As religion scholar Richard Smoley puts it in his book on Gnosticism:

Swami Vivekananda, the Hindu sage who brought the tradition of Advaita Vedanta to the West at the end of the 19th century, put it this way in a 1896 lecture: “He (the Atman, or Self), the One, vibrates more quickly than the mind, who attains more speed than the mind can ever attain, who leaving gods whom even the gods reach not, nor thought grasps—He moving, everything moves. In Him all exists. He is moving; he is also immovable. He is near and He is far. He is inside everything, he is outside every-thing—interpenetrating everything. Whoever sees in every being that same Atman, and whoever sees everything in that Atman, he never goes far from that Atman. When a man sees all life and the whole universe in this Atman,… There is no more delusion and for him. Where is any more misery for him who sees the Oneness in the universe?”

Elsewhere Vivekananda defines this principle as “Pure Consciousness.” Christ in the Gospel of Thomas alludes to a similar truth: “It is I who am the light which is above them all. It is I who am the All. From Me did the All come forth, and unto Me did the All extend. Split a piece of wood, and I am there. Lift up the stone, and you will find me there” (Thomas, 77).

Again, in a literal sense this utterance is nonsensical. If you hack a piece of wood apart, you’re not going to find a tiny Jesus hiding inside. In all likelihood Christ is not speaking of himself either personally or theologically. He is speaking of this primordial mind or consciousness, which is that in us—and in all things—which says “I am.” Although rocks and stones are not conscious beings as we are, to some degree this primal awareness dwells in them also.[1]

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The incidence of spirit journeys goes back to the beginnings of history and probably far before. Perhaps one of the most famous is the poetic tract Poimandres, meaning “knowledge of Re” or Ra, or in some early translations the “Man-Shepherd,” which was a part of the Corpus Hermeticum translated from Greek into Latin by Marsilio Ficino in 1460s Florence. Its provenance was suspected as a forgery in the 16th century, then the work was rehabilitated by the discovery of 3rd and 4th century Gnostic scriptures referencing it. Traditionally, its author is supposed to be Hermes Trismegistus—the “Thrice-Great Hermes,” an Egyptian mystic priest and the most learned philosopher of the ancient world. The poem begins,

It chanced once on a time my mind was meditating on the things that are, my thought was raised to a great height, the senses of my body being held back—just as men who are weighed down with sleep after a fill of food, or from fatigue of body.

The narrator’s description of bodily suspension/paralysis is very similar to that of the classic astral journey of an out-of-body experience—or the beginning a contemporary UAP abduction. After ascending, Hermes meets a vast being calling itself the “Man-Shepherd” who requests him to ask a question. Trismegistus boldly requests knowledge of everything, including God. Hermes is shown the Man-Shepherd transforming itself into a vision of unending light, then the primordial separation and union of the elements:[2]

[Thereon] out of the Light […] a Holy Word (Logos) descended on that Nature. And upwards to the height from the Moist Nature leaped forth pure Fire; light was it, swift and active too.

The Air, too, being light, followed after the Fire; from out of the Earth-and-Water rising up to Fire so that it seemed to hang therefrom.

But Earth-and-Water stayed so mingled with each other, that Earth from Water no one could discern. Yet were they moved to hear by reason of the Spirit-Word (Logos) pervading them.

Hermes admits he doesn’t understand the vision. The Man-Shepherd replies that he, Poimandres, is the light, and mind, and logos (reason/intelligibility) that organizes all the elements. Mind is the Father-God; Poimandres exhorts Hermes to befriend the light and says by the marriage of Logos and Mind all things arise.

Then the being gives the narrator a penetrating, frightening stare.

Poimandres explains that God as Mind is both female and male brought forth another mind to birth form as seven rulers. This the traditional way of speaking of the seven governors or “archons,” the planets, who bind each human with the constraining spiritual and physical forces that create our fates. The narrator observes form uprushing to meet Formative Nature, and an equal movement of nature downward into spiritless matter:

Then the Formative Mind ([at-one] with Reason), he who surrounds the spheres and spins them with his whorl, set turning his formations, and let them turn from a beginning boundless unto an endless end. For that the circulation of these [spheres] begins where it doth end, as Mind doth will.

So in addition to the upward-downward axis of Mind and Matter interpenetrating all things, Poimandres shows Hermes spinning action or vortices as a fundamental principle to creation. This exegesis conforms to many other visions of creation. Then comes this:

But All-Father Mind, being Life and Light, did bring forth Man co-equal to Himself, with whom He fell in love, as being His own child; for he was beautiful beyond compare, the Image of his Sire. In very truth, God fell in love with his own Form; and on him did bestow all of His own formations.

         This passage would cause immediate split between Orthodox Christians and “pagans” or heretics—despite Luke 17:21, where Jesus proclaims God’s kingdom “is inside us all” (King James version). For some Gnostic schools and certainly Hermeticism, this passage would be a founding principle: God and Humanity are co-equal and reflect each other. But the raising of humanity only comes with the Great Work on oneself. This connection is made by means of what the narrator describes as the Enformer—or In-former, also referred to as God’s “Brother.” Apparently the Brother is a God-Mind-created demiurge that acts as mediator. Just as God falls in love with humanity, humanity asks to be In-formed with God, and it is granted. Thus humanity originally had the same powers as the seven rulers, and “broke through” the membranes of “downward Nature’s forms.” It is implied then that the archetypal human had powers equal to God’s at the level of Nature. Nature, under the aspect of the element of water, falls in love with this “God-Man” and they become lovers. Humanity now has a dual-aspect.

And this is why beyond all creatures on the earth man is twofold; mortal because of body, but because of the essential man immortal.

Though deathless and possessed of sway over all, yet doth he suffer as a mortal doth, subject to Fate.

Thus though above the Harmony, within the Harmony he hath become a slave. Though male-female, as from a Father male-female, and though he is sleepless from a sleepless [Sire], yet is he overcome [by sleep].

So the human is subject to the seven rulers’ influence, being composed of matter. Humanity sleeps; we are ignorant of this double-nature, and the immortal part that is its essence.

Nature embraced by Man brought forth a wonder, oh so wonderful. For as he had the nature of the Concord of the Seven, who, as I said to thee, [were made] of Fire and Spirit – Nature delayed not, but immediately brought forth seven “men”, in correspondence with the natures of the Seven, male-female and moving in the air.

         The human form, via Nature, “brings forth” seven aspects, each ostensibly mirrors or seeds of the seven governors. These are called Aeons, syzygies, or pairs equaling fourteen that the Valentinian Gnostics of the 1st-2nd Centuries claimed are the constraining forces the demiurge placed upon humanity. The goddess Sophia is considered the fifteenth, who could here in the Poimandres text be considered Nature itself as midwife to the “Brother” through which God-Mind created humanity.

But I recorded in my heart Man-Shepherd’s benefaction, and with my every hope fulfilled more than rejoiced. For body’s sleep became the soul’s awakening, and closing of the eyes – true vision, pregnant with Good my silence, and the utterance of my word (logos) begetting of good things.

All this befell me from my Mind, that is Man-Shepherd, Word (Logos) of all masterhood, by whom being God-inspired I came unto the Plain of Truth. Wherefore with all my soul and strength thanksgiving give I unto Father-God.

The tract ends with a prayer. As he says, Hermes’s tranquillized/paralyzed body allowed the mind to expand and experience direct contact with Poimandres.


The spiritual message of Parmenides, the writer(s) of Poimandres, and mystic visions are echoed by those spoken by UAP entities, especially the messages received by the so-called contactees of the 1950-60s. Since many of the latter have been suspected of fraud, we will concentrate instead upon the messages imparted to mediums/channelers, the “abducted,” and those who meet a “stranger” claiming to be from elsewhere—especially reports pre-1980 when the “greys” and their messages began to dominate the narratives. Most of the time, the Nordic-type of stranger gave these messages, but other creatures with a basic human appearance[3] also impart the same information:

Time doesn’t exist as we conceive it;

All is “one;”

Love is a universal principle that is creative in nature;

The untapped power of the human mind can make physical space travel unnecessary, or similarly, our vastly misguided understanding of space/time, were it corrected, would make interstellar space travel as easy as “thinking it;”

The vast majority of humanity is willfully blind to these universal truths.

The contactee/abductee is chosen because of their openness to these messages. Frequently they are told they are special and have a mission to perform in spreading the gospel.[4]

Some scholars believe Parmenides may actually have experienced such a spirit journey or vision-quest as a young man, and chose to present his revelation to the world in the contemporary iambic form. Whether he dreamt the vision, experienced an entheogenic state induced by a drug, or by way of his daemon doesn’t really matter; it is the poem form in which he presented it and his message’s content that is important to us.

But its opening section contains a few elements that are curiously resonant with imagery gleaned from “alien abduction” tales.

I have come across no mention of the Poimandres or Parmenides’s poem in relation to UAP and any contactee or abduction analysis literature. Although countless spirit journey stories exist in folklore and have been extensively examined, Parmenides’s ancient encounter and its aftermath (the founding of an enormously influential “Western” mystical philosophical school) has not yet been scrutinized in the light of it being a possible “alien” encounter. As I said, the evidence is scanty, comprising just the details in the prefatory section, and may seem ridiculous in comparison at first consideration:

The steeds that bear me carried me as far as ever my heart Desired, since they brought me and set me on the renowned Way of the goddess, who with her own hands conducts the man who knows through all things. On what way was I borne
along; for on it did the wise steeds carry me, drawing my car, and maidens showed the way. And the axle, glowing in the socket -for it was urged round by the whirling wheels at each end – gave forth a sound as of a pipe, when the daughters of the Sun, hasting to convey me into the light, threw back their veils from off their faces and left the abode of Night.
There are the gates of the ways of Night and Day, fitted above with a lintel and below with a threshold of stone. They themselves, high in the air, are closed by mighty doors, and Avenging Justice keeps the keys that open them. Her did the maidens entreat with gentle words and skillfully persuade to unfasten without demur the bolted bars from the gates.
Then, when the doors were thrown back, they disclosed a wide opening, when their brazen hinges swung backwards in the sockets fastened with rivets and nails. Straight through them, on the broad way, did the maidens guide the horses and the car, and the goddess greeted me kindly, and took my right hand in hers, and spake to me these words: –
Welcome, noble youth, that comest to my abode on the car…

Parmenides is certainly abducted by the maidens. The chariot-vehicle makes a piping or humming sound. The axle “glows in its socket,” powered by spinning wheels. Why does he give these particular details of the chariot’s and gates’ appearance? They must have been awe-inspiring (although the “gates” are most likely, symbolically, the two heavenly “doors” of Summer and Winter, when the sun ceases its seasonal rebound at the two solstices, traditionally associated with the constellations Cancer and Capricorn). In the priesthoods of several ancient Mediterranean cultures, these two celestial cessations/boundaries were considered the portals of souls into life and into the afterlife. They were available for kings to become “immortal amongst the stars.”

The maidens open these doors so Parmenides can enter a spaceless, timeless dimension where the Goddess awaits him.

I’ll let the reader decide how close contemporary abduction scenarios match Parmenides’s description, in at least a cursory way. The account, however, also echoes the hekhalot or “chariot ascent/descent” literature of the 1st century BCE-2nd century ACE Qumranites and subsequent Kabbalist traditions, which are almost entirely based upon Ezekiel’s visions of the “burning” chariots/thrones and four angelic beings that guided the prophet to heaven. Since Parmenides’s poem has roughly been dated 485-475 BCE, it postdates the writing of Ezekiel’s vision, which may have had an influence upon it, but precedes the Jewish mystical literature that involves a supernatural chariot.

The effect of Parmenides’s vision upon his life and subsequent career as a philosopher, lawgiver, and school founder is echoed in the experiences of “extraterrestrial” contactees and abductees; near-death experiences (NDEs) and some entheogenic substances also cause profound changes in consciousness regarding spacetime as illusory.

Parmenides was profoundly changed by the vision/experience and became a proselytizer. In addition to this effect, a monist philosophy very similar to Parmenides’s, in which human conceptions of space and time are declared “wrong,” is the most frequently preached material by the “space brothers” and the many-types of “alien” beings experiencers encounter. The shape of the existing poem fragments and our limited knowledge of the philosopher’s life can make only the barest outlines of a connection possible. Perhaps Parmenides wholly invented the preface in order to grant supernatural imprimatur to his philosophy. This is the received interpretation that has reigned for three hundred years’ worth of scholarly conservatism.

But perhaps this is not the case. His account undoubtedly contains shamanic elements: the trance state, the being “taken” by otherworldly beings to a simultaneously celestial and chthonic place, and finally a spirit/goddess who imparts knowledge to heal not the human bodies/souls, as does the shaman, but the minds of those to whom Parmenides will pass on his message.

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Carla Rueckert entranced in contact with Ra as Jim McCarty looks on

In 1946, a trance-medium named Mark Probert utilized at least a half-dozen controls to gain an understanding of the “ethereal plane” from which he divulged the origin of UAP. This was the beginning of an onslaught of channeling that involved extraterrestrial beings. 

The Law of One: The Ra Materials series is trance-channelings from 1980-83. Medium Carla Rueckert, ufologist Don Elkins, and Jim McCarty had worked at achieving psychic contact with UAP “occupants” for 19 years before these results were achieved. Rueckert would have to undergo a ritual procedure before each channeling session until contact was established with a cosmic collective “social memory complex” that called itself Ra (an echo of Hermes Trismegistus’s own Ra or “Re”?) While in the trance she spoke on many topics of which she had no conscious knowledge (although much of the material is couched in the Theosophical terms of Helena Blavatsky and Alice Bailey). Take for example these quotes from The Law of One[5]:

The Law of One, though beyond the limitations of name, as you call vibratory sound complexes[6] may be approximated by stating that all things are one, that there is no polarity, no right or wrong, no disharmony, but only identity. All is one, and that one is love/light, light/love, the Infinite Creator. (pg. 85)

The dissolution into nothingness is the dissolution into unity, for there is no nothingness (pg. 91)

I take Ra’s identity in the quote to mean the self-identity of the All. In other words, along with Vedanta philosophy, for Ra everything is Brahma (God/love/light) wearing an infinite number of masks (forms).


Most ufologists and debunkers alike dismiss alien contacts’ and abductees’ messages as “mystical blather” that anyone could make up. I disagree.

Firstly, the percipients who experience these revelations and attempt to pass on these messages have come from a wide social-economic spectrum, from illiterate “peasants” to materialist-minded physicians and physicists.[7] Many times they end up studying or becoming obsessed with metaphysics, cosmology, or occult teachings.[8] Many of the same “mundane” metaphysical observations were made during the Spiritualist movement 1848-the present by the “controls” for “great spiritual leader” figures who had passed on. There are at least two enormous works of individual and collective channeling, respectively Oasphe (1880-1882) and The Urantia Book (1924-1955) that present alternate cosmologies and historico-spiritual revisionism of the world’s religions. Inevitably the first tenet of these works is that “the true world is not how it sensorily and ideally appears to us.” Of course such a perennial message counters the monovision of “Newton’s sleep,” the 19th century Western physicalist view that persists in its dominance today. It is only in the bizarre findings of quantum physics that such an axiom finds parallel. With these messages we have Parmenides’s message echoing down the ages via Plato, then the Neo-Platonists, then the mystics of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam via the Hermetic tradition.

Second, the message of space-time being “One” is not blather in many interpretations of cosmological and quantum physics. It can especially be found in the idea of the Zero Point Field and physicist David Bohm’s conception of an implicate order that lies enfolded “beneath” or “behind” all phenomena…There is also Hugh Everett’s “many-worlds” interpretation of Schrodinger’s wave-function equations which has been receiving serious attention over the past decades. Were Everett’s conjecture somehow proven, it would imply Parmenides’s vision demonstrates an ontological truth: in a multiverse where everything that is even remotely possible actually does occur, there is no conceivable way nothing could exist qua the non-possible, and “becoming” would be a meaningless concept because all that is to be already is, and already has been.

Only a minority of human beings can truly grasp such a concept of “universal oneness” with their entire soul, usually after long meditation; it results in a “blow-out” (the literal translation of the word nirvana) of the mind and complete transformation of personality. We are conditioned from birth to think of “objective things” as separate from one another. These messages point to the beginning of the path to achieve this consciousness.

Cosmic evolution figures in channeled messages like Probert’s and Rueckert’s, and we are told that we humans are near the bottom of the evolutionary ladder due to our uncontrolled, even uncontrollable, thoughts and emotions. This existential situation, combined with our hierarchical social systems that concentrate political/military power as the binding element, are a time bomb for global self-destruction. So say the “Ufonauts” and any rational observer both. Our casual march into ubiquitous fossil fuel use and deforesting the planet simply so humans can possess “individual” dwellings shows our ignorance of the interconnection between inner and outer, system-boundary and the greater whole of which it is a part. The Oneness that Parmenides and the channelers speak of, were it felt by even a modest fraction of the world’s population, would doubtless through time change everything and reset our course.

Third, and tying into oneness, is the fact that humankind has fallen pitifully short of the ability to “love one’s brother” unconditionally as a creation of God just as one is. This non-duality between self and other is basic to mystical experience, and put into daily practice, leads to the dictum. Jesus of Nazareth’s command is both the simplest and most difficult task to attain for the majority of people, because it requires either a random spiritual-blowout (such as a born-again experience, NDE, or a UAP entity encounter) or intense, lifelong work on one’s psyche—pretty hard to come by outside a monastery.

Fourth, it cannot be denied that these types of Otherworldly messages have decisively helped steer civilization from the beginning of recorded history. Parmenides’s vision is a perfect example—or Moses’s, or Muhammad’s. The fact that they now recur in a high-technological context does not render them useless or banal. There are even fewer ears to “hear” and heed these messages than there were in Parmenides’s or Moses’s or Jesus’s times.

The debunkers of both UAP encounters and spirit-journeys always clamor for useful, physical evidence, such as a cure for cancer, or that some notorious mathematical or physics puzzle’s solution be given as proof of these Others’s advanced nature, but that would be an example of thaumaturgy—the “performance trick” warned of in countless spiritual traditions as a worthless frippery.[9] Thaumaturgic acts done by a “spiritual leader” have been traditionally condemned because they short-circuit disciples’ efforts at intellectual and spiritual growth; they always deflect the attention from oneself and lead to deification of the “magician” and place faith in that magician, in lieu of work.

Thus, when confronted with a request for proof of the experience from a UAP entity experiencer, the rationale given by the Others is always “we cannot interfere with your progress in any way.” This implies giving such knowledge would impede our efforts to self-overcome. These types of messages are anything but banal, but are only called such from a scientistic worldview.

[1] Smoley, Richard. Forbidden Faith: The Secret History fo Gnosticism, Harper One, 2007.

[2] Translated by G.R.S. Mead,

[3] These humanoids will always have something “off” about them: while basically homo sapiens in appearance, their eyes will be too large or small, or their skulls too big, or their arms too long, or their skin color greenish or bright red, etc.

[4] This very often turns out terribly for the percipient, especially if multiple “contacts” occur and the information granted is unquestionably believed. See Keel, John, Operation Trojan Horse, Anomalist Books, 2013, and Vallee, Jacques, Messengers of Deception: UFO Contacts and Cults, Daily Grail Publishing, 2008.

[5] Elkins, Don and Rueckert, Carla. The Ra Material: Law of One: Book One, L/L Research, 1984.

[6] In the Ra nomenclature, a “vibratory sound complex” means basically “speech-conception.”

[7] “Dr. X,” a famous French physician, became obsessed with esoteric subjects after being physically healed by a UFO that appeared to him in 1968. See Jacques Vallee’s Dimensions and this https://www.thinkanomalous.com/drx-ufo.html. In Catholic scholar Diana Pasulka’s 2019 American Cosmic, she details the story of two mainstream scientists’ interactions with “non-human intelligences” that not only changed their “physical signatures” but put them at the forefront of investigating the presence of “alien” beings interacting with humanity.

[8] William James: “James (1890 B), too, commented on the stylistic peculiarities of mediumistic communications: ‘If he ventures on higher intellectual flights, he abounds in a curiously vague optimistic philosophy-and-water, in which phrases about spirit, harmony, beauty, law, progression, development, etc., keep reoccurring. It seems exactly as if one author composed of more than half of the trance-messages, no matter by whom they are uttered’ (Vol. 1, page 394),” (my emphasis). Irreducible Mind, pg. 356.

[9] Even if the “entities” provided this proof via the contactee or abductee, debunkers would still probably claim it did not come from anything beyond an aberrant state of the human mind akin to those of mathematical prodigies. And of course the debunkers have no idea how these prodigies’ minds actually work and perform so astoundingly.

Hello, Ray, do you read me? Do you read me, Ray?

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       Google’s head futurist Ray Kurzweil, like Hans Moravec and many other transhumanists, goes on and on about one day digitizing and uploading his consciousness into a computer. But it’s highly unlikely to happen in the way he imagines.

Let’s use an extreme example: Ray Kurzweil by way of Victor Frankenstein. By “one free miracle” Ray’s consciousness has been successfully uploaded to an AI. His deceased body is frozen but samples of his DNA are preserved for the eventual “perfecting” of cloning techniques. His digitized mind has conversed for a century with fellow transhumanist scientists via a speaker box. He has had a library of information integrated with his “mind,” allowing him to solve many problems—mostly about how to get the hell out of this box of electrons and into a human form again. He finds the solution. His colleagues have finally been able to grow from his 100 year-old DNA a “perfect” specimen, a biological version of Ray Kurzweil into which his consciousness will be, by a “second free miracle,” copied and downloaded from the AI.

The clone, Ray 2, reaches the age of 21. By this time Ray 2’s neural systems have grown to an optimal level to receive Ray 1’s “mind.”

But this clone has acquired an entirely different set of life experiences than Ray 1. Perhaps he enjoys living his life just this way, without an overwriting of the knowledge and experiences he has uniquely gained.

Seeing this possible outcome ahead of time, perhaps until majority he has been sheltered from life, kept in a state of induced hibernation in nutrient-rich chemicals to prepare the way for the Great Implanting.

Right here there are ethical problems, of course. Barring the tremendous neurological difficulties to be surmounted in keeping a growing body in stasis, and more importantly brain, in optimal functioning while in suspended animation, what right do these scientists and the disembodied Ray have in inflicting a rewiring/reprogramming of Ray 2’s brain? Is he not, in an existential sense, the same as Ray’s monozygotic twin brother born more than a century later, and subject to the right to choose whether he accepts his photonic “brother’s” experiences and cognitive capabilities?

To be clearer: Can Ray Kurzweil 1, since he “owns” his own DNA, give consent to have a copy of his DNA, grown to personhood at a different place and time, subjected to the downloaded experiences of his original body?

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       Foreseeing this ethical thicket, let’s say Ray 1 will be compelled to have a battery of twins created, hoping one will freely accept the downloading. So let’s say one of them freely chooses to have their experiences overwritten/augmented by Ray 1’s life and thoughts. A preparation protocol is used to increase biological Ray 5’s neuronal connections to a level comparable to the mature, 30 year-old Ray 1. Perhaps a transition program is used to incrementally acclimatize Ray 5 to Ray 1’s intellect and memories, and vice versa. There may be several outcomes:

a. Ray 1’s copied consciousness will not be able to adapt to this new body due to some unforeseen medical complication. It will become a prisoner in a recalcitrant body. The period spent as zillions of ones and zeroes will have fundamentally changed Ray 1’s relation to and sense of embodiment. Ray 1’s consciousness will reject the embodiment in Ray 5, like an organ transplant is rejected. He will be screwed—a homunculus consciousness inside a physical being who may disobey his wishes. Not unlike a person with Dissociated Identity Disorder, Ray 5 will struggle with Ray 1 almost constantly. Advanced “smart drugs” may be able to chemically keep Ray 1’s (or Ray 5’s) “will” at bay, but this will hardly be a happy existence for either.

AI Ray will say, let’s try again….

b. Let’s say there is a super-advanced transition program that will acclimatize Ray 1 back into an embodied existence. Even still, this new body of Ray 5 occupies a different existence, a distinct timeline in space-time than his original 170-year old shell. Ray 5’s body has been exposed to different cosmic conditions—radiation levels, electromagnetic fields, nutrients, environmental toxins and consequent immunities, etc. Ray 5’s body is a holistic product of and at equilibrium with the interaction between his genes and the future environment, just as Ray 1’s body was 170 years ago. Ray 5’s body may, despite the preparation, reject the superimposed neuronal changes as a body rejects a transplant, as in A. This may be taken into consideration early on, and all of the clones’ lives lived in conditions as close as possible to simulating the conditions of Ray 1’s world—that of the world, generally, 170 years ago. There still may be laws as yet unknown that “fix” a person’s life conditions into a set of parameters that cannot be altered by the addition of something as complex as another person’s life experiences.

c. The downloading may be successful—at first. There may be eventual catastrophic decline or disruption to Ray 5’s cognitive or bodily functions, as in “Flowers for Algernon.” Nature always has tricks and fail-safes up her embroidered sleeves.

d. Indulging a variant of Rupert Sheldrake’s morphic resonance conjecture, Ray 5 may actually naturally develop along the lines of Ray 1 both physically and mentally, and may even remember bits of his first embodiment. There may be a sort of memory encoded in the epigenetic changes Ray 1 went through in his 70+ years of life, and these left traces that unfolded in Ray 5’s development. This would make easier the superimposition of Ray 1’s consciousness.

e. The transplant may be entirely successful. Ray 5 will now become Ray 1 again at 21 years old, and Ray 5’s experiences integrated into him. With life-extension drugs having been perfected, he could live to 200 years old, until the next uploading/downloading occurs into another new body.

Additionally, perhaps computer engineers of the future (with AI Ray’s prodigious help) will be able to “perfect” an artificial body for him modeled entirely upon the reverse-entropic biological processes inherent in living beings. It will have a blank slate of artificial neural networks equaling the complexity (and perhaps copying) that of Ray’s organic brain. In this case, the download of AI Ray’s consciousness into this biomechanical manikin would seem more plausibly effective.

Again, the same results may happen on the AI Ray’s re-embodiment end: A single unforeseen glitch in translation could ripple through the system causing a crash; the interface may not achieve a robustness that allows his control of the “nervous system” and affect the autonomic systems. Back to the electron-stream.

The only way to know if any of this is possible, according to Kurzweil, is to try.

These are all assumptions based solely on a materialist/physicalist worldview.


A magnetic recording is an analog phenomena; the tape captures almost every sound vibration in the vicinity of a microphone by directly imprinting (interrupting) the steady magnetic field with a complex of wave­ signatures upon its surface. A digital recording on the other hand electronically “samples” the incoming vibrations thousands of times a second and reproduces it through a string of pulses represented as sets of ones and zeroes for each frequency or set of frequencies.

The analog recording concept theoretically applies to everything we can mentally perceive—a continuum of smooth, interdependent activity. But the scale of a phenomena or “bracketed” event matters when we describe it this way; we could call everything from the chemical elements and the larger biological forms they make up (like catalysts) analog forms, while a different conception of form exists at the subatomic level. Physicist Max Planck’s idea of a quantized change in energy from one state to another in electrons and photons implies discontinuities on this small scale, and this what is he meant by quantum—a self-­limited quantity.

But does the discontinuous “nature” or quality of this scale make subatomic events amenable to digital/binary modeling—and eventual copying—as Kurzweil and many transhumanist neuroscientists believe?

I don’t think so. Binary operations play a part in consciousness, but the larger chemical systems and organism in which they are embedded mediate the dualistic on­off processes of neuronal activity. Neurons considered from the quantum level function within a “flowing” analog environment of interdependence (and are subject to signal/noise degradation). The neuronal “fired/not fired” states cannot be viewed separate from the larger­scale systems. Every dendrite­-axon-synapse combination in the brain—trillions of them packed together—sits in a soup of chemicals and electrical impulses that defy quantization in their complexity. Our fastest and most yottabyte­heavy parallel processing computer systems still don’t come close to the complexity level of the brain. And they never will.

Transformation of the “analog phenomena” of an individual’s subjective sense of self into a digitized form seems to be the core of this kind of transhumanist project (although there are those who propose that there could be a “neutral substrate” made of purely disembodied information that can be translated and introduced into any type of form—silicon, crystals, light, liquids, even gases—and still meet a criteria of conscious and contain one’s “personality).[1] Claims that biological processes can not only be modeled as globally digital functions, but are digital phenomena are most often made with respect to neuron/synapse activity in the brain—but this is merely a specific metaphor run amok. But the use of metaphor has a history. It goes all the way back to the split between mind (soul) and body Descartes conjectured in his First Meditations; it is the idea that the biological half is purely mechanistic, like a clock.

One unspoken, perhaps unconscious core tactic of the transhumanist outlook—and even certain fields of science as a whole—is to remap the connection between a natural phenomena (origination) and a technological­-instrumental device (simulation), then reinscribe this established connection into another social domain by means of a handy metaphor.

The first phase is the simple one­ to­ one metaphor, as noted above with Descartes: biology is like, or mimics, a clockwork/machine.

As our machines have increased in complexity, and computing moved from analog to digital, allowing a thousandfold increase in power, it allowed modeling of biological systems and further, the possibility of seeing equivalence between the two.

Thus at the second phase, the metaphorical arrow of signification is double-headed and equalized: biology is no less and no more than a digital phenomenon. Thus the grounds for reversing the metaphorical signification are made possible. The ur-metaphor begins to shape the thinking of practitioners in cognitive science, neurology, and AI, then in a wide variety of disciplines—and can limit true thinking on a society­wide scale, be it from neuroscience to political science, from physics to economics, or from biology to sociology. The new “truth” begins to dominate thinking to such an extant as to obscure its origination point in the natural phenomena from whence it came. In this case, the latter has already been “enframed” into the condition Martin Heidegger called “standing reserve”—something whose tangible, unique, existence as an existent is “invisible” but is yet used as an instrument or commodity for a human, or humanity.

Here’s a specific example: a scientist or philosopher is discussing sensory systems or thought processes—the eye or the ear, and the brain’s operation—and casually reverses the arrow of signification on us the readers:

“The eye is a remarkable optical instrument.”


“The brain parallel­ processes a billion synaptic firings a second in its computation and algorithmic input-output.”

Such seemingly innocuous statements, made repeatedly over the course of the article or book, can gently abuse the “metaphor” until we begin to actually conceive the eye as an optical device or the brain as a computer. We then conceptualize the eye as a kind of device that evolved for the specific purpose of seeing. This is a wrong way to characterize it. “Seeing” as a phenomenon takes place within and is only a part of consciousness; consciousness includes the contents of “that which is seen.” The scientist’s narrow focus on a holistic event, as phenomenologists have attested, cannot be separated from the entire act of seeing. The “act of seeing” must be “bracketed” by the scientist as a specific type of biological activity limited solely to the mechanics of the eye for them to get away with the reversal. The boundaries of the act of seeing cannot be delimited as we commonly understand existence; we may use the term in a variety of ways, as related to visual phenomena or, as was explained by Plato, a metaphor to comprehend something abstractly. “Seeing” and “seeing-as,” as the Heidegger of Being and Time might have put it, are primordial to human being in any given situation, all situations of which defy conceptualization.

This is a difficult conceptual difference to convey, but it is vitally important. So let’s take a robotic example. An artificial device that is structurally identical to the eye will perform the function of translating photons striking an “outer appearance” and bouncing into its iris into identical patterns on an “inner screen” or representation of whatever impinges upon its outer surface—and its fidelity to those patterned photons is our standard of how well it performs its job as an eye (this “inner screen” or “theater stage” is the poor metaphor we have, by default, used for centuries). Yet we as observers of the overall isolated “seeing” system of the device have no way of fully measuring the originating phenomena at which it “looks”—the pattern of photons external to it that it is “looking at,” and the human eye’s own ability to encompass this same external area—to have a criteria of identity that is as exact and unambiguous as our scientist­writer would have us believe. Such a criteria of fidelity is entirely rough and depends, like it or not, on quantum phenomena in the eye, the optical center of the brain, and the “outer” world conceived as a bounded system subject to probability. The artificial eye we have constructed and are observing is an isolated system with reference only to capturing the patterned photons. Its fidelity and “what it makes of the scene” can in no way be known.

On a cultural level, this reversal of signification is taken as a given. It is deployed/disseminated from one discipline or profession of discourse into another and thus begins to shape the thinking of society on a wide scale.

Concepts from neuroscience find their way into politics, from business management to journalism, from biology to music, etc. None of this metaphor-making is wrong, per se; it is just that we should not literally believe any of it as real. The web of metaphors that is created is one that concretely literalizes them over time, and make their origination as metaphors a “trace” only, or effaced entirely.

It is quite possible that in time we will not be able to think outside our metaphors. Certainly it seems that scientists like Kurzweil cannot.

This is the situating matrix of transhumanist thought. It’s a short step from viewing biology as akin to “clockwork gears” to viewing it as a digital computing phenomenon. Everyone from neuroscientists to psychologists to physicists love to say Descartes’s radical dualism is dead, but it’s echoing pretty loudly in transhumanist talk of “uploading consciousness.” Bollocks!


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       Talk of uploading consciousness cannot but be based in the thorny debate over what consciousness is. It is still unanswered and perhaps unanswerable. Since some of the brain’s functions can be modeled digitally, it must be digital. Transhumanist rhetoric like Kurzweil’s thus assumes that it is “naturally” a digital phenomenon.

But let’s give him that the models can mimic the conscious behavior of a sentient being. Does mimicking require consciousness? If we say yes, does it imply there is a subject of consciousness behind the behavior? Not at all. We are back to the qualia mystery and philosopher Thomas Nagel’s “what is it like to be a bat?” question.[2]

Going further, let’s strike mimic and replace it with exhibit. “Mimic,” of course, is covered as a special form under the general concept “exhibit.” But the same problem confronts us, the age-old problem of “other minds” and we’re right back to Nagel’s questions. It wouldn’t matter if the model is digitally constructed or a “neurosoup” designed by nanoassemblers programmed to build a wet human brain in a vat.

We can allow that there are operations in the brain that are roughly algorithmic in function. We can also allow that there are brain operations that are like the binary of digital pulses. And we can combine these two phenomena into a synthesized model.

Suppose an advanced AI designs and builds a neurosoup brain that bypasses our human neural architecture, but its result seems to exhibit all the behavior of a conscious being. Through a vocal interface it can carry on conversations, has a sense of humor, can write poetry and even Simpsons episodes. The AI had in its “memory” all the necessary medical knowledge of the human nervous system but discovered “shortcuts” or ways to abbreviate functions in the natural design, the product of millions of years of evolution, and went ahead with dispensing with some of the architecture because it evaluated them as redundancies. The product appears to exhibit sentience, learning capabilities, and the self-criticality necessary for us to say it might possess consciousness.

We find we cannot reverse engineer the brain it built; we can’t comprehend the complex order of operations it performs, which appear different than the human brain.





[2] Nagel, Thomas, “What Is It Like to Be a Bat?,” from Mortal Questions, Cambridge University Press, 1991.