Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Past Few Years in Review

I just saw the new David Cronenberg film, A Dangerous Method on the 29th, and it was fortuitous as I had been re-reading Jung’s "Synchronicity" as well as Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious after a good many years of not visiting his work. I’d highly recommend A Dangerous Method, a fascinating character study about Jung, his relationship with Freud and the growing divide that develops between them, Jung’s affair with Sabrina Spielrein and the negative influence of Otto Gross.

It has become fairly obvious to me that I have to contend with C.G. Jung’s work in order to continue writing for the Lexicon Blog, and I am well aware there’s a broad enough swath of the public (that reads this Blog) that might be aware of Jung’s work, yet many X-Files fans might not be aware of Jung, and so we will have to spend time exploring his key theories in 2012.

I’m a big believer that life is about cycles, about growth changes that develop organically, and for those reasons I have stayed clear of allowing outside schools of thinking to influence the gut reactions that have driven many of the subjects within the blog for the last few years, but I have aspired to form my own insights, and not just regurgitate the insights of others. But you also need tools to develop and refine those insights. In the past, Joseph Campbell’s work has influenced my basic understanding of myths and hero archetypes, but one can also become shackled to such models when they no longer fill nor satisfy deeper questions. Therefore, it’s a time for reflection, research, and more personal meditation on what subjects to look into next year.

It occurred to me that some of my arguments over the past few years could be misconstrued to mean I am a ‘knee-jerk skeptic,’ in the view of some believers of the paranormal or esoteric fields of study. What has driven the tone of a certain number of topics had less to do with narrow skepticism, and more a concern with how such fields of study are depicted, and how those depictions can undermine legitimate areas of interest.

It has been apparent to me for a long time that while the skeptic community is a cottage industry (and as such an industry, they accuse the believer community of the same thing), proponents of the paranormal is also a cottage industry in its own right. In fairness, financial disclosure within various skeptical organizations has not been forthcoming, and yet as evidenced by this source, this , and this, such skeptical organizations will offer huge financial rewards to debunk psychics. So, the question remains; where do the source of their financial contributions come from? Individual donors? corporate donors? or black operations as some have surmised? This will be explored further.

The very problem with either skeptic / believer movements as cottage industries are the following: Both sides are so preoccupied with swaying public opinion that the truth--the Veritas--of any given subject, becomes the first casualty of these ideological divides.

I must have sensed the dilemma of these issues beginning in late January of 2009 with the following ‘skeptical’ piece. I still must maintain that while Richard C. Hoagland’s theories are fascinating, he also can undermine his arguments with shoddy scientific evidence, and he can be guilty of being inconsistent. While I can’t completely discount his hypotheses with various subjects, I also take a percentage of it with a grain of salt. There was a growing concern over taking UFO photos at face value when their legitimacy should have been questioned.

I followed that piece in February 2010 with a pair of fabrications to further expand through illustration on digitized depictions of UFO documentations.

In December 2010, I explored documented depictions within Cryptozoology from the past, their relationship to our deep-seated interest in pre-historic creatures, and contemporary video documentation of Cryptos.

My analysis of Steven Spielberg’s A.I. – Artificial Intelligence was used as a template for a new kind of deconstructionist / reconstructionist approach to depictions of unexplained events, from October and November of 2010. I plan to write more reconstructing articles about Urban Legends, as well as photographic and video depictions of spirit / poltergeist sightings this year.

Then there was an hypothesis put forth about H.P. Lovecraft this past February.

But these concerns have not been monochromatic, as I emphasized within these entries from December 2009 and August 2011, and furthered tackled Nostradamus and his Lost Book of symbols in late December 2009 and Early January 2010, as well as Ophiuchus, how they cycle, and in what way symbols could be interpreted.

Then there was the more contentious thread about James Randi from this October 2011. I feel it would be remiss for me not to clarify a point from that topic that wasn’t emphasized clearly enough. The Florida Federal authorities were investigating Jose Alvarez. James Randi at the time of the writing, wasn’t listed as a ‘person of interest’, nor were there any impending investigations on Randi’s personal conduct; therefore the weakness of Tim Bolan’s argument was that it consisted of inferences based on heresy, with insufficient corroborating evidence.

I’d like to close with some clarifications about my preoccupation concerning perception and the Paranormal, and hope to illustrate why this has remained such a central concern of mine for so long. One of my favorite rock documentaries of the past year was Martin Scorsese's George Harrison: Living In The Material World.

George made an observation about Catholicism and the notion of trusting a religious figure who argues to believe in God because they are told to. How can you believe in something intangible if you can’t perceive it? This was further expanded in an interview from 1982, conducted by Mukunda Goswami:

George: The word Hare is the word that calls upon the energy that's around the Lord. If you say the mantra enough, you build up an identification with God. God's all happiness, all bliss, and by chanting His names, we connect with Him. So, it's really a process of actually having a realization of God, which all becomes clear with the expanded state of consciousness that develops when you chant. Like I said in the introduction I wrote for Prabhupada's Krsna book some years ago, "If there's a God, I want to see Him. It's pointless to believe in something without proof, and Krishna consciousness and meditation are methods where you can actually obtain God perception."

Mukunda: Is it an instantaneous process, or gradual?

George: You don't get it in five minutes. It's something that takes time, but it works because it's a direct process of attaining God and will help us to have pure consciousness and good perception that is above the normal, everyday state of consciousness.

I feel that this argument about perceiving God in order to believe in God also applies to what is deemed “The Paranormal." simply believing in something because someone tells you isn’t enough, however much of an authority that person may be. To some degree, one’s beliefs are formed based on their point of reference in relationship to the rest of world, and their reality.

Therefore, I would have to come clean and admit to being a ‘borderline agnostic’ -– I don’t know what is true within the field of paranormal research, but my belief might be altered if I can perceive in something intangible.

Perhaps the point of Jung’s Synchronicity is to offer us a tool, a way to refine that perception of the intangible. Christopher Knowles commented that a tremendous amount of rigor must be applied to Synchronicity, to get past simple coincidences and happenstance, to discount minor occurrences to see the bigger picture.

Above all else, one should always seek the VERITAS of any field, and there should always be a kind of intellectual rigor, not so much to just reject a hypothesis and to not just accept something at face value, but to find a balance between skepticism and belief.

Very often intangibles might be more complex and stranger than the memes used to define them.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Glen Morgan, Willard, and "Ben"

While working on prepping for our first interview with Glen Morgan, I had the pleasure of remembering, and rediscovering the promotional music video of Crispin Glover’s version of “Ben” for Glen Morgan's feature re-make of Willard. While Michael Jackson’s version was straight forward and sincere, but no less odd, being that it was a love song for a rodent, Glover’s interpretation focused on the creepy aspect of the idea, and his read is pitch perfect. I especially love his read in the "I used to say" bridge, a resigned trepidation.

Yet the video is one of the strangest, and more hysterical clips I have seen for a mass market release. It’s hard to say how much creative input Crispin Glover had in the concept, yet once one becomes familiar with Glover’s artistic work, his fascination with 'the other', outsiders, and fringe characters in the real world, then it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise if he had a lot of input.

This video is a hodgepodge of decadent German theater, Dada surrealism, and German expressionism, with women who have a rodent fetish, coupled with cameo male archetypes that look like Sigmund Freud, Adolph Hitler, and others. It’s fascinating to look at, decipher away.

Please check out our exclusive interview with Glen Morgan.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

X-Files Adjacent: The Mole People

Many months ago, I began this series of pieces that I described as a Trifecta on a group of 50s horror and science fiction flicks that shared similarities with The X-Files, or might have influenced the people involved with the show, or older generations who influenced the producers--a sort of six degrees of separation, if you will. I have often argued that when it comes to story-telling, there are no accidents; other material can have a direct or indirect influence on an artist.

In the case of this analysis, it might seem like the most unlikely candidate, as far as influences, and yet The Mole People sticks out like a sore thumb and seemed like a real anomaly for the period. Released in 1956, at the height of the Atomic-age era of mutated giant insects and reptiles, The Mole People seems like a film that should have been produced and released a decade earlier. There’s a nostalgic and retro aspect to the film. It plays like a tribute to the 1920’s pulps of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, A. Merritt, and Robert E Howard, and yet there’s a social injustice theme about instutionalized slavery sewn into the tale that left me suspecting there was more to the film.

The Mole People is essentially a ‘B’ movie released by Universal International at the zenith of the Bud Westmore era of Universal’s horror and science fiction franchise. Where the infamous title characters, the creatures themselves, are not the villains, but mutant slaves of the underground Sumerian race who have been oppressed by their masters. Thematically, the film shares similarities to A. Merritt’s The Moon Pool and countless other sources, which we’ll get into later.

The Story

The film was produced by William Alland, who initially made his name as an actor before producing, appearing as the unidentified reporter in Citizen Kane (1941), written by Laszlo Gorog, and was one of the early directing assignments at Universal Studios for Virgil W. Vogel. It starred John Agar, Hugh Beaumont, Cynthia Patrick, and Alan Napier. The film opens with an introduction by USC Professor, Dr. Frank C. Baxter, who speaks about man’s interest in what is inside the Earth. He cites Gilgamesh, the Greeks, Dante, and explains about the Hollow Earth theories of John Cleves Symmes’ and Cyrus Reed Teed’s in the 19th Century. Then he advises that the following film is "a fable, beyond fiction." This kind of introduction was a common device during this period of genre pictures; an expert or criminologist will offer a reassurance to the viewers. The device was even used in Ed Wood’s Plan 9 From Outer Space.

We are introduced to Dr. Roger Bentley (John Agar), an archeologist who is working on an excavation is Asia. He is working closely with his partner Dr. Jed Bellamin (Hugh Beaumont), as well as Prof. Etienne Lafarge (Nestor Paiva), and Dr. Paul Stuart (Phil Chambers). They find a stone tablet embedded in rock, which they determine is 5,000 years old and the writing is Sumerian in origin, Just as Dr. Bentley reads a warning about removing the tablet, an earthquake sets their efforts back when the tablet falls, but the quake also dislodges an oil lamp brought to them by a native boy, with symbols and references identical to the tablet. They learn that the ancient Sumerians of the Sharu dynasty sought refuge from the great flood cited in the epic of Gilgamesh, at the top of the mountain overlooking their camp site, Kuitara. After climbing the mountain, they reach the surface ruins of a temple.

When another earthquake triggers the mountain side to crumble, they lose one of their team members, Dr. Stuart, and with a rope, follow the man into the split earth. They make their way to what turns out to be The Temple of Ishtar, without the slightest warning of what is to come.

After finding Dr. Stuart dead from the fall and reaching the bowels of the Earth, the group discover a chamber lit by some kind of phosphorescence--"chemicals in the rocks," as Dr. Bentley calls it. Before them is an underground lake and a city of large, stone buildings. There is a fallen stone head that is identical to a sculpture found in the plateau on the surface. The team realize this city must be the surviving descendants of the Sharu dynasty. They establish camp, and they are grabbed, with their heads covered in bags, by a group of mutant creatures: The Mole People.

Bentley, Bellamin, and LaFarge awake in another chamber, a cave that features some kind of manacles set into the wall. Bentley and Bellamin can’t recall anything, but LaFarge has some scars from the hands of something not human. Two albino men appear, both armed and sporting attire of an ancient culture. The team is marched back through another part of the large chamber and they are escorted into a ritual in progress. They appear to have entered some kind of temple structure with a symbol that adorns the complex--an arrow that is pointed at a sixty degree angle. The high priest, Elinu, conducts some kind of ritual, uttering that he holds the magic eye of Ishtar. The priest warns King Sharu that these outsiders are ‘evil ones’ who were captured by the 'beasts of the dark.'

After the team offers themselves as friends, a kind of inverse mythology is presented by the high priest. After warning that there is no world but theirs’ and the king adds, there is only heaven, where they lived a long time ago until they were expelled for their sins, the priest explains that this underground realm is the world and they are its people. Above is heaven where only the gods dwell.

After conferring with King Sharu, the high priest orders that these men be placed into the "Fire of Ishtar." Just as the guards move in to grab them, Bentley, Bellamin, and LaFarge fight to make their escape. A squad of guards give chase, and LaFarge is nearly killed by a guard. Bentley and Bellamin discover that the albino Sumerian guards and citizens are hypersensitive to light--even flashlights.

While examining one of the dead guards and wondering how these people have managed to survive, the body of the guard vanishes; something unseen has taken it. LaFarge panics and runs. After Bentley and Bellamin reach LaFarge, he argues that the three of them have to find a way out, and that heading back to the city isn’t an option. Bentley and Bellamin agree. The three of them move further through the tunnels, with the temperature rising. They follow a series of strange sounds with LaFarge staying behind. Then they split up. Bentley and Bellamin reach a chamber to find the creatures, the Mole people, doing slave labor for the Sumerian albinos. Alerted to the presence of the scientists, the guards prompt several of the Mole people to give chase. LaFarge, in another panic, splits up from the team and is killed by one of the mutant slaves and mauled.

Bentley argues that they should make their escape from the caverns by swimming the river, but Bellamin points out that it runs underground for miles. Bentley argues that there must be a way out, as there is a constant supply of fresh air. Then the high priest surfaces and asks the scientist not to use "the burning light." The priest is unaware that the flashlight’s battery is nearly gone.

They have proven to the priest that they possess the 'divine fire of Ishtar' and the king has decided they are holy messengers. They are invited to a royal feast. The priest notes the absence of LaFarge, and Bentley replies he was called back to heaven by Ishtar. They play up the ruse of being messengers for Ishtar, and are introduced to female slaves with plates of food, fish, and mushrooms. Three of the women are albinos. The fourth woman isn’t, and has the same pigmentation as Bentley and Bellamin. But her service is clumsy and the king punishes her until Bentley stops him, brandishing the flashlight to keep them in line. King Sharu takes note of Bentley’s interest and gives the girl, Adel, to him.

While Bentley argues that the gods do not favor the trading of human beings, the priest regards Adel as a 'marked one.' Bentley learns that there are other non-albinos in the kingdom, and the priest explains that the albinos number "twice-and-a-half times sixty." This is their sacred number and that this is the highest number their food supply can sustain. When that number is exceeded, they are killed and sacrificed to the fire of Ishtar. A guard informs the high priest and the king that one of the beasts of the dark (The Mole People) have desecrated their dead--one of the guards that the beast had the flesh stripped off of--but creatures have been caught and the king orders them killed.

After the feast, Bentley and Bellamin, in a private moment, both agree they need to find the passage back to the surface, but doubts that the albinos or the beast themselves will help. The blond servant, Adad, enters and offers them refreshment. When alone, Adad lulls Bentley to sleep with music. After learning that Adad is now Bentley’s servant, he tries to explain to her the meaning of freedom, and convinces her there is a world beyond what she has been told. The high priest from a distance, overhears their conversation. Later, Bentley learns about this culture--the type of clothes they make, the type of weapons they forge, etc...

Elinu, the high priest, warns his followers that these men, Bentley and Bellamin, are not to be trusted, arguing that they are human, and not divine as the king believes. Later, while Bentley and Bellamin are searching the tunnels, unaware that they are being followed, a guard has been ordered to grab their flashlight--"the burning light." The pair learn more about how the beasts are treated--how the Mole People are starved by the guards and ordered to continue the practice, when one of the beasts--out of starvation--attempts to eat one of the harvested mushrooms. It is savagely beaten with sixty lashes, but Bentley and Bellamin intervene. The captain of the guard gives the beast a chance, but is killed after being dragged down a hole.

Back in the city, Bentley teaches Adad more about his world, and why what she has been told is wrong. During a romantic interlude, Bentley rationalizes to Adad that she is human, after admitting to not being a god. He invites her to come to his world, the surface.

Once the King learns of the death of the captain, he appeals to Bentley and Bellamin to use their fire cylinder to keep the beasts in line, but the pair refuses and walks away. The high priest uses this opportunity to convince the king that the newcomers are not to be trusted, but to no avail. Bentley and Bellamin use their flashlight to stop some guards from torturing some beasts, just as the battery in their flashlight gives out, thereby losing their one bit of leverage. Still, Bentley hopes that the creatures can reason, and will remember their kindness.

The king believes that Ishtar is punishing them for some kind of sin, but the high priest argues that the outsiders are the sinners, and that Bentley and Bellamin encourage rebellion with the beasts, who in turn cannot produce enough food to feed everyone. The king then decides that a sacrifice is required to his god. Later, the same ritual is conducted that Bentley and Bellamin encountered. Three albino woman (one assumes of lower status), after a ritual dance, are lured through the door of a narrow chamber. When the sunlight shines from above the surface, all three are burnt beyond recognition from "the fire of Ishtar."

The new captain of the guard makes a discovery, which he reveals to the high priest. It is the hidden body of LaFarge, which proves that Bentley and Bellamin aren’t gods from the heavens. While caught off-guard, Bentley and Bellamin relax with Adad, when the high priest enters their chambers with the guards. While they are subdued, Adad manages to escape through a tunnel.

Adad makes her way to a slave encampment for the beasts, and is dragged into one of the holes of the beasts. Back at the temple, the high priest orders the intruders to be placed in the chamber, falsely believing they will be harmed by the "fire of Ishtar," but before anything can happen, a horde of Mole people rise up from the earth. The high priest assures King Sharu there is nothing to fear, as Mole people descend into the temple, but he realizes too late that the flashlight is of no use. The beasts kill the king and the high priest.

As the carnage continues, Adad appears. She tries to open the chamber door where Bentley and Bellamin are trapped, but she ends up needing the aid of the beasts, who pry it open. But the bright light drives the Mole people back into the caves, after the Sumerian populace has been killed. Realizing that the bright light is sun from the surface, they climb the ragged walls of the chamber towards the surface. They eventually reach the top to find themselves back at the ruins of the ancient temple of the plateau.

Soon after they reach the plateau, several earthquakes collapse and seal the chasm to the sacrificial chamber, and Adad is killed from a falling statue. Bentley and Bellamin are left without any proof of the adventure they experienced.


The Mole People isn’t a great film. The acting is fairly wooden and nowhere on par with the aforementioned Curse of The Demon. In fact, it’s more on par with War of the Satellites. Furthermore, the film has other deep flaws; the production and sets seem to have been cannibalized from other productions. For instance, the Mole People costumes seem to be hand-me-downs from the Metaluna Mutant costumes from 1955’s This Island Earth, Universal’s tent pole Sci-Fi production from that year. The Mole People suffered from false advertising, as it wasn’t a horror tale, but more of an adventure fantasy, as well as an admittedly awful title. A better title might have been "The Sumerians" or "The Unearthed." Nevertheless, it touched on a number of themes that struck my curiosity. The film touches on, in a select fashion, the mysteries behind Sumeria, a culture that was believed to have vanished. Let’s address some of the ideas thrown around.

Let’s address Professor Baxter’s explanations about Hollow Earth Theory, which was popular in the late 18th Century. The hypothesis proposed that the planet earth was entirely hollow or otherwise contained a substantial interior space. The concept of subterranean lands inside the Earth is popular in folklore, mythology, legends, and various religions including elements of Christianity, Judaism, Greek, the Nordic svartalfheim, and with Tibetan Buddhism (Shamballa). Edmond Halley proposed the idea in 1692 that the Earth was composed of several hollow shells, two inner concentric shells (to explain the rotations of Mercury, Venus, and Mars,) and that each shell had it’s own atmosphere and magnetic pole, which he used to explain the Aurora Borealis. Leonhard Euler proposed a similar theory, but minus the shells, and proposed an inner sun with openings at the Poles. Around 1818 John Cleves Symmes Jr. and eventually Cyrus Reed Teed's in 1869, furthered their own variations of the theory, Teed became the founder of Koreshanity. William Reed wrote Phantom of the Poles in 1906, and he supported the idea of a hollow earth, but without interior shells, or an inner sun.

Map of the interior world, from the Goddess of Atvatabar (1892)

During the Nazi era of the 30s and 40s, The Thune society reported at great length about Tibetan myths of openings in the Earth. Yet conventional science argues that due to gravity, the theory would be improbable once you consider that massive objects tend to clump together gravitationally, creating non-hollow spherical objects that we know to be stars and planets. Visual evidence to support this can be found with the deepest hole drilled to date, the SG-3 borehole, which is 12.3 km (7.6 mi) deep, and part of the Soviet Kola Superdeep Borehole project. Nevertheless, considering the volcanic caverns that are known, the idea of life existing below the Earth, however improbable, can’t be fully ruled out when you consider that Marine Biologists have discovered species in the deep oceans in areas where the pressure was thought to be too great for anything to survive.

One of the first plot elements that struck me was the premise that the Sumerians sole food sources were fish, goats, and mushrooms, which, in some cases are known hallucinogens that have been used in rituals to invoke spirits, and while it might have been a convenient plot device of Lazlo Gorgo’s to explain how they survived, it seemed a telling choice to include mushrooms, when you consider how they have been used in ritual magic.

Then there is “The Fire of Ishtar,” represented as an arrowhead symbol that is used to depict the shaft of light. But, there’s another way at looking at the symbol. Could it represent a triangle space craft? Could these Sumerian albinos be the descendants of an alien race? When you consider their hypersensitivity to sunlight, could they have come from a planet where life adapted to a distant sun?

Who was Ishtar? In Sumerian mythology / theology, Ishtar was one of the seven gods who decreed the fates. Ishtar / Inanna was a goddess of love and war, and like the Greek god of the Underworld, Hades, who allowed his beloved Persephone to return to the surface in order to create spring, Inanna was the creator of seasons. Ishtar, as a goddess of sex, was a force that would bring mates together. One of Ishtar’s lovers was the grain-god, Tammuz, who died young, and some have implied that Ishtar had a hand in Tammuz’s death. Nevertheless, Ishtar was inconsolable and was determined to fetch Tammuz back from the Underworld. In the process of Ishtar’s efforts, she was imprisoned by her sister, Queen Ereshkigal, and her father, Sin the Moon god, sent an envoy with powerful magic to successfully free Ishtar, and return Tammuz back to the living. The decent of Ishtar was celebrated annually in Babylonian lands. So, elements of the film, The Mole People, such as the ritual sacrifice for the sake of a food supply, shares similarities to the far superior The Wicker Man (1973), written by Anthony Shaffer.

Furthermore the plot of the film reminded me of the Sumerian legend of the Anunnaki:

Who were the Anunnaki? There have been differing interpretations. The conventional thinking about the Anunnaki is that they represent the seven “nether Spheres” and guardians of the “Seven gates” through which the “Sun of God” passes into the netherworld of darkness. They were thought to be the “Tutelary spirits of the Earth.” One other theory was the following: According to Zecharia Sitchin, the Anunnaki were extra-terrestrials who came to Earth in antiquity and created or tampered with the genetic make-up of primitive man. The Anunnaki were related to the Nephilim from the Bible. These beings were from an alleged 12th planet of our solar system called Nibiru. Zecharia has proposed that the Sumerian capital of Ur was destroyed in 2000 BCE by an evil wind, the fallout from nuclear weapons, and recorded in the Lament for Ur. But here’s where it gets interesting, as cited below:

According to Sitchin, the "gods” of the Anunnaki were the rank and file workers of the colonial expedition to earth from the 12th planet, also known later, through the Babylonians, as Marduk. The Nephilim "gods” were the commanders of the operation. The Anunnaki performed the menial labor, mining ores and building bases, while the Nephilim issued the orders, setting these tasks into motion. It was only due to an uprising by the Anunnaki against the Nephilim in protest of these conditions that the Anunnaki 'workers’ revolted against their overseers. Because of this, the Nephilim and Anunnaki came together in a project to blend the DNA of Homo erectus with that of their own, thus giving rise to the Homo sapiens.

What is interesting to note is the narrative similarities between the final act of The Mole People and the alleged conflict between the Anunnaki and the Nephilim. Of course Sitchin’s work was not made popular until the mid seventies, so could screenwriter Laszlo Gorog have gleaned inspiration from other elements of the Sumerian Anunnaki mythos? Bear in mind that Leonard Wolley’s discovery of the Cemetery of Ur in 1927, opened up a lot of information about Sumer, that Gorgo probably had access to.

Regarding Elinu, the high priest, the meme of a religious leader creating a narrative to mask the reality, has remained popular subject in film and television. This plot element reminded me of a Star Trek episode from 1968, "For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky," which dealt with the Enterprise intercepting an artificial asteroid, on course with a planet it would collide with. When the crew disembark into the interior of Yonada, where there is a breathable atmosphere, they find in fact that it is a ship, designed to appear as a planet. Its inhabitants are unaware of this. Their religious leader, Natira consults an oracle, which is a computer under the guise of a deity. This race is the last of the Fabrini, a civilization that was wiped out 10,000 years ago. Those citizens who discover that Yonada isn’t a planet are punished by death. The oracle has promised its people they will reach a new destination that is lush and green, for which the computer has created a narrative construct.

The theme of secret subterranean civilizations has remained so potent, even H.G. Welles mired the idea within plot elements for The Time Machine, with the Morlock beasts who controlled the peaceful Eloi, all the way through to the ending of Clive Barker’s tale, The Midnight Meat Train. The subject has carried over in real world speculation within certain circles of ufology. Then there is "The Shaver Mystery," a series of stories published by Amazing Stories, starting in 1947, by an author named Richard Sharpe Shaver.

In 1943, Shaver began to send letters to the magazine claiming to have discovered an ancient language called "Mantong." When the editor, Ray Palmer, inquired, Shaver sent a manifesto titled, "A Warning to Future Man" that told the story of an ancient civilization that had been forced underground by the damaging rays of the sun, where they built vast underground cities. Due to growing radiation, they fled Earth for another planet, but would return. Yet some of the members of this race remained, called "Teros," who were benevolent beings, and other malevolent beings who degenerated, called "Deros," that would cause havoc on Earth and humans. These "Deros" had savage, robotic-like behavior. They would abduct humans for food or sport, and would use ancient technology on them, including a ray that could project thoughts into humans. The "Deros" would travel to other planets, as well. Shaver claimed that he had communicated with the "Deros" through a welding gun (somehow due to the attunements of its coil field) and then had been abducted by them and had been their prisoner in their subterranean cities. It should be noted Shaver was hospitalized for psychiatric problems in 1934, and the stories could have been a byproduct of mental illness. Nevertheless, Ray Palmer capitalized on the tales, even admitting to Harlan Ellison, when pressed, that the tales were "publicity grabbers" by the early fifties.

Ray Palmer even had connections to another name within ufologist circles, Fred Crisman, known for his role in the Murray Island incident. Crisman claimed to have encountered "Deros" during World War II.

In terms of how The Mole People shares similarities with The X-Files, the comparisons are tenuous. The most common similarity being the theme of scientists discovering something astonishing, only to end up with no proof for the outside world, a common issue with Mulder and Scully. Some peripheral similarities could be made with such X-Files episodes as "Teso Dos Bichos" or the volcanic subterranean caverns from "Firewalker," or the on-going themes of Ancient Astronaut theories explored on the series.

What is interesting to note is just how prevalent the subject of subterranean civilizations and Hollow Earth theories occur within myths and fiction. Does all of this have to do with man’s fascination with caves and caverns, or does it speak to a kind of collective DNA sense memory about our earliest Earthly histories?

It’s something to ponder.

This is the last of the ‘Adjacent’ series, but the intent has been to illustrate how nothing really works in a creative vacuum, and to demonstrate the cycle with past work having a direct / indirect influence on contemporary fiction, even when the connections seem remote. These exercises can be applied to countless other films. I welcome you to make your own connections.

Special thank you to XScribe for editorial work.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Value of reasonable "Skepticism"

(Some parts of the following blog might be disturbing for some people, but I hope it will not be misconstrued. This isn’t an attempt to rationalize certain behaviors, but is a call for objective assessment on a case-by-case basis.)

I was working on another blog post, when this recently came to my attention, and I felt compelled to address it. I found within a circle of peers a certain Schadenfreude over the bizarre developments with the "Amazing" James Randi. As well as some bile over Penn Jillette’s skeptical atheist screeds. I’m not a fan of Penn Jillette’s more scathing attacks on various subjects that deal with esoteric topics, the paranormal, conspiracy theories, and the like. I have thumbed through his recent book, and the fact that Glenn Beck is a major advocate, leaves one more example as to why Jillette’s credibility is suspect. But, while I find Jillette’s brand of "Skepticism" to be obnoxious, I can’t discount the possibility that informed skepticism can have real value. After all, Dana Scully was willing to meet Fox Mulder half-way in many cases.

Some of the following points might be uncomfortable for some readers, but I want to address them to illustrate how proponents of certain fields, in countering attacks on their detractors, can end up sinking to the level of the detractors they condemn. The "Amazing" James Randi is a former magician / illusionist, who is a professional skeptic known for being scathing, condescending, elite, and cruel to the people he targets. The latest real scandal about James Randi can be summarized in the following:

James Randi’s partner, Jose Luis Alvarez, is under investigation by South Florida Federal authorities for identity fraud. Jose Alvarez has been celebrated as a plantation artist who has been showcased in Florida galleries, but to Federal authorities, Alvarez is a cipher, a man who might have stolen the identity of a New York artist, and has been using it over the last twenty years. Authorities have been referring to him under the acronym "FNU LNU." Alvarez first began "channeling" the spirit of an ancient "seer" named "Carlos," in the late eighties, for the purpose of being exposed by James Randi. It was an elaborate hoax you could argue, that played out as performance art.

It’s been surmised that Randi and Alvarez have been long-time lovers; Alvarez was a teen when they first met, and thus, it has been inferred by Skeptic debunker Tim Bolen that James Randi is a serial pedophile. There’s a problem here; in studying the evidence that Tim Bolan offers to tag Randi as a pedophile, Bolan cites other encounters with male teens, as well as includes an audio clip of a conversation with someone that sounds about sixteen or seventeen. What is supported by the evidence is that James Randi is by definition a ephebophile: Someone attracted to young teens. Do I condone his behavior? No. Do I suspect Randi has been guilty of statutory rape? Certainly. To counter the accusation that I am rationalizing such behavior, would I ever defend an organization like NAMBLA? Absolutely not.

But I’m a little uncomfortable with Tim Bolan’s angle in so much as that it has a distinct undercurrent of homophobia, and whether intended or unintended is unclear. Many anti-gay organizations have attempted to conflate or shoehorn the idea that all homosexuals are pedophiles, and the psychological data just doesn’t support it as demonstrated from here*. Homosexuality and pedophilia are very different behaviors. Often, people will hide under the guise of ‘protecting the children,’ while operating with a completely different agenda. The entire subject of pedophilia triggers such a visceral reaction, and rightly so, that I have personally observed people’s IQs drop by twenty points, when they accept an accusation based on something inferred at face value. Such accusations should be assessed on a case-by-case basis. Obviously, the guilty parties who practice such behavior should be ostracized. But the term 'pedophile' has become so loaded and overused to the point of abuse, and the subject has become the witch hunt de jour of the past two decades, that the term itself has become the perfect tool for character assassinations, and there is little critical assessment by the public when the accusation is made. Interestingly enough, the Millennium episode, "Monster," illustrated the witch-hunt mentality I cited.

I realize that what I am arguing here is nit-picking semantics, but accurate definitions, for those who seek truth, should always matter. To those who believe in the paranormal or esoteric fields, it can devalue your cause if you sink to the level of your opposition. While this might be bordering on sacrilege to suggest, is Tim Bolan really all that different from James Randi?

One of the reasons why Bolan’s closing insinuations weaken his earlier arguments in the aforementioned piece, is that James Randi’s past history as a debunker should have been given enough ammunition to discredit him without delving into his personal life. I doubt that James Randi’s work as a professional skeptic has been sincere. There are other professional skeptics who are well-intended, sincere, and are driven by a concern to see that people don’t get exploited by frauds.

A colleague of Randi James, Joe Nickell, has managed to offer an approach to professional skepticism that isn’t condescending to the innocent bystanders of paranormal, unexplained events. While I don’t agree with him on many points, he seems willing to met people half-way on a subject-by-subject basis. Joe Nickell has espoused 'Humanistic Skepticism,' and has managed to define his brand of paranormal investigating as neither "mystery mongering" nor "debunking"” Unlike some armchair skeptics, Joe Nickell has traveled the world and has done field research in various areas, such as cryptozoology. He has been known to chide fellow skeptics who seem to not care to honor claimants with on-the-ground investigations, but as he has personally explained:

"I decry both a credulous and a close-minded approach, holding that mysteries should neither be fostered nor dismissed but rather carefully investigated with a view towards solving them."

While not a scientist, he has taken a forensic approach to his investigations, and interestingly he doesn’t make the mistake of dismissing the experiences of witnesses, and manages to respect their perception, and that their perception has validity:

"I've spoken with many witnesses, and they are sane, intelligent, sober, honest people who have seen something that, yes maybe they've mistaken for something else, but even skeptics have been mistaken."

Joe Nickell’s approach seems to work to his credit, as I haven't found much bile directed toward him. In other words, his approach differs from skeptics who adopt skepticism as an ideological faction as opposed to a method of inquiry.

Of peripheral, albeit fascinating note, many skeptics are former illusionists / magicians. Now it is hard to ascertain if this point is driven by the influence of the iconic illusionist Harry Houdini, or if these skeptics all share a similar mindset that would compel them into these areas.

Perhaps proponents of paranormal investigations should not be as reactive to well-intended skeptics, as they both seek the same objectives–to find the truth behind such mysteries.

For paranormal investigators, there needs to be a filter and a willingness to not just accept things at face value. While I personally might not agree with someone like Joe Nickell, his approach can challenge people to examine every possibility of a subject, even if the answers turn out to be mundane.

Special thank you for editorial assistance from XScribe... and for keeping me honest.

* The following cited represents one group of data that clarifies the debate over why homosexuals are not pedophiles, even legitimate Catholic psychologists cannot make a simplistic distinction on the subject. In the case of exceptions, the statistical evidence of homosexuals being pedophiles is below one percent.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Chris Carter: The Comeback King, perhaps?

The end of the month sort of crept up on me, I have two blog entries and I just haven’t had time to finish them and I didn’t really want to rush them, but some exciting news came out of the Hollywood Reporter.

None other than Chris Carter has a show he’s developing that he is about to pitch to several studios titled Unique, you can read about it here:

Personally, I’m more optimistic than pessimistic about this. After all, this is the man who was ahead of the curb with The X-Files, Millennium and Harsh Realm, in retrospect, Millennium and Harsh Realm seemed years a head of their time.

Perhaps, he can take this type of genre and break the kind of ground that no one has considered before. Then odds are fifty / fifty or better. We shall see.

Again, apologies for being lax with publishing, these next two blog entries are impending.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Random Thoughts: Perception

Recently I came across a clip from the following documentary, narrated by Gillian Anderson. Aside from the serious cultural and sociological themes inherent within the piece, the impending destruction of Amazon tribes that have never encountered modern ‘civilization’, and while this is a very serious subject that should not be trivialized, some strange observations popped into my mind while watching it.

I have written frequently about how we can only perceive something, we can’t process, if we have a point of reference. It occurred to me that from the perspective of this indigenous Amazonian tribe, in the same manner with how we view extra-terrestrial crafts, they would see this plane, controlled by human hands, as something extra-terrestrial or ultra-terrestrial.

A giant metal bird with living beings residing inside, how could such indigenous people not regard us as living Gods, from their own point of reference?

Sadly, the outcome of this documentary might have already had a tragic outcome, as militia might have already engaged in cultural euthanasia in this region.

To digress, I was watching the audio comments for the “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” recently, a delightful adaptation of Douglas Adams’ book. Adams colleague Sean Salle observed the impact of Adams’ work on other filmmakers, and pointed out how ‘42’ has been referenced by others, citing that Mulder’s apartment number at his Alexandra, VA address is ‘42’. I can’t corroborate, nor confirm, nor deny, that Douglas Adams was an influence on Chris Carter or Frank Spotnitz, but I can’t say it would necessarily be much of a surprise if that was the case.

Douglas Adams’ wonderful brand of philosophical satire, has held a profound impact for many in pop culture, as well as scientists who’s theories on multiple dimensions, and string theory have been enhanced in their own work by Adam’s lop-sided sensibility and willingness to think outside of the box. This clip offers many dense ideas, many of which are the central thrust of the final half to the film. I realize many hard core fans of Douglas Adams had problems with the liberties in the film, but I loved it.

While I must admit to being a casual fan of the book, I love many of the conceits posed in the film. The belief in Ancient Astronaut Theory has become a common meme within esoteric circles. But I love the expansive, and broad approach taken by this material, I love the conceit that extra-terrestrial life could be filled with just as many eccentricities, and foibles, and could be stumbling about as much as us mere mortals. Often the portrayals of aliens in film has been so faceless, and neutral, that Adam’s absurdist sensibilities seemed so truthful to the mere state of existence.

Adams was known to be a stanch atheist, but it is difficult to reconcile that when you consider he was able to produce work that captured such a sense of wonder about the universe and existence.

Many hardcore fans of the books and radio programs had problems with the film adaptation, yet they seem to overlook the fact that Adams developed many of the new ideas in the film, the middle second act was all of his creation, the further development of the romance between Arthur and Trillian, and the ‘point of view’ gun. It should be added, it is a real testament to how elastic his material is that so many incarnations could have been developed, the radio programs, the books, T.V. adaptations, and the film.

While this sequence is dense with ideas, probably what remains a favorite, is also the most subtle, a couple of dialogue exchanges between Arthur Dent and Slartibartfast. The first dialogue cited would be Slartibartfast’s observations:

"Perhaps I’m old and tired, but I think the chances of finding out what’s actually going on are so absurdly remote that the only thing to do is say, "hang the sense of it" and keep yourself busy, I’d much rather be happy than right any day."

When Arthur asks "Are you?”, he has to concede, “No, that’s where it all falls down of course.”

After Slartibartfast reveals that Earth was commissioned, paid for, and run by mice, who were pan-dimensional beings, that Earth is a giant computer, and humans are just programs all designed by an alien computer to answer the riddle about life, the universe, and everything. Arthur’s observation is priceless:

Arthur Dent: Actually this explains a lot, you know, all my life I’ve had this strange feeling that there’s something big and sinister going on the world.

Slartibartfast: No, that’s perfectly normal paranoia, everyone in the Universe get’s that.

In some respects Douglas Adam’s shares a similar world view to H.P. Lovecraft, but it is the inverse…while Lovecraft observes in mortal terror that mankind is a mere spec in the universe, that at best, these alien gods are indifferent to. Douglas Adams acknowledges the same point, but laughs at this realization, and with a dose of humility.

I suppose the connecting tissue to these two sources would be a kind of fatalism about mortality, and to a degree, The X-Files explored this same fatalism. Do we just accept this reality, and shriek from without, or do we carry on in spite of it?

While many might be preoccupied with esoteric subjects and the paranormal, and focused on intangibles, perhaps they should remind themselves to onto a sense of wonder about the natural world, there’s some astonishing things that exist if you keep your eyes open for them.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Curse of the Demon: A de-facto X-File?

Stories about Witchcraft and the power of suggestion are nothing new. Such tales have existed for centuries. The entire principle of Voodoo is built around the power of suggestion, and while The X-Files did explore such memes ("Fresh Bones," "Die Hand Die Verletzt," and "Sanguinarium" for example), this tradition as a narrative device can be traced as far back as the ’50s, and before then.

Curse of the Demon was a British production filmed in 1957 and released the following year, directed by Jacques Tourneur, scripted by Charles Bennett, and based on Montague R. James’ short tale, "Casting the Runes." The film also went under the title Night of the Demon. It starred Dana Andrews, Peggy Cummins, and Niall MacGinnis as Dr. Karswell. The film even featured the Production Design work of Ken Adam (pre James Bond). Director Tourneur had gained a great reputation in the ’40s with the iconic Cat People and I Walked With A Zombie, and this film was nearly on par with his earlier work.

The Story

The film opens with Dr. Harrington racing to the country estate of Dr. Julian Karswell, a self proclaimed Alchemist who heads a cult. Dr. Harrington pleadingly promises to call off an investigation of the cult, if Karswell will call off what he has started. Once Karswell learns that a parchment that had been given to Dr. Harrington has disintegrated, Karswell ushers the man out with false assurances. Afterwards, Dr. Harrington arrives at his own country home and parks his car. A demon materializes in the woods and approaches the doctor. In a panic, he flees to his car and drives into a power line, which falls on his vehicle. The man becomes entangled in the electrical cables, but not before the demon attacks and kills him.

Dr. John Holden, a scientist and skeptic of the occult, arrives in England, and by happenstance, the daughter of Dr. Harrington, Joanna is on the same flight. Dr. Holden learns of the death of Dr. Harrington, and that the only link between his death and Karswell’s cult is an accused murderer, Rand Hobart, a man who has fallen into a catatonic state after witnessing something unexplained. Dr. Holden rejects the speculation of his colleagues that supernatural forces might be at work.

After taking the lead on Harrington’s notes, Dr. Holden visits the British Museum’s library on Witchcraft. One book in particular that Dr. Harrington requested has gone missing, and the doctor is approached by Julian Karswell, who offers to show him his own copy at his mansion. Karswell slips something into Dr. Holden’s notes, then gives him a business card with a message that vanishes, but not before implying Dr. Holden’s demise within two weeks. A strange dizzy spell besets Holden as Karswell is seen walking away.

Later at the funeral for Dr. Harrington, the doctor again meets Joanna Harrington who provides him with her father’s diary. The book reveals Harrington’s increasing fear of Karswell’s occult power. Dr. Holden remains skeptical, but he visits Karswell’s mansion along with Joanna.

Dr. Holden is playing Dana Scully’s role, the classic objective, rational scientist, which was typical of the ’50s. It goes without saying that the genius of Chris Carter was to reverse these traits. Karswell and Dr. Holden have an interesting exchange, in essence mocking their beliefs, and yet it raises the key thrust of the story.

Karswell: You don’t believe in witchcraft?
Holden: Do you?
Karswell: Do I believe in witchcraft? What kind of witchcraft? The legendary witch that rides on the imaginary broom? The hex that tortures the thoughts of the victim? The pin stuck in the image that wastes away the mind and the body of the victim?
Holden: Also imaginary.
Karswell: But where does imagination end and reality begin? What is this twilight? This half world of the mind that you profess to know so much about? How can we differentiate between the powers of darkness and the powers of the mind?

The film quickly turns into a battle of wills between these two men. The dialogue could have been easily transitioned into many X-File episodes. Based on several reasons that support the following impression, it should become fairly evident that Karswell is modeled after none other than Aleister Crowley. As Holden continues his exchange, Karswell predicts he will die within three days.

Back at his hotel, Holden with his colleagues discuss Karswell, and further plans to study Rand Hobart. While studying Harrington’s diary, which mentions a parchment passed to him by Karswell, Dr. Holden finds a similar parchment with Runic symbols that Karswell secretly passed to him at the library. A gust of wind comes through the window blowing the parchment from his fingers. It’s nearly swept into the fireplace before he manages to rescue, and pocket it.

Holden becomes uneasy after a visit from Hobart’s family, who disown him as not a "true believer," but just as Holden is leaving, the parchment flies out of his hand again, and Hobert’s family becomes fearful, believing the doctor is marked. After a visit to Stonehenge, Holden compares the parchment’s runes to ones inscribed at the stone circle. After some persuasion, Joanna takes Holden to Karswell’s mother who has arranged a séance. The medium begins to channel Harrington, much to Holden’s skepticism, and informs Dr. Holden that Karswell has the key to the problem from his book; he dismissively leaves, but later that night Dr. Holden breaks into Karswell’s mansion to examine the book. In an elaborate mind game, Karswell catches him and permits the doctor to leave through the woods for Holden to be chased by a part of the demon apparition, a living ball of smoke with an incessant chirping sound, only for it to vanish. Joanna persuades Holden to go to the police, but much to the doctor’s embarrassment, they don’t believe him. The doctor fears that he is falling for Karswell’s mind games.

Mrs. Karswell phones Joanna, and implores her that she must tell Holden that Rand Hobart knows the secret of the parchment, which Karswell has managed to overhear. While Holden prepares an experiment to break Hobart from his stupor, Karswell kidnaps Joanna to prevent her reaching Holden with this knowledge, as well as giving Karswell some leverage. While under hypnosis, Hobart reveals that he was ‘chosen’ to die by having a cursed parchment passed to him, but avoided death by passing it to another person. When Holden shows Hobart the parchment he received from Karswell, he goes insane and falls from a window to his death.

Informed that Karswell is leaving London by train, Holden, convinced now that he must return the parchment to Karswell to lift his mark and save himself, races to catch it. He finds Joanna with Karswell, who has been placed in some hypnotic state to make her manageable. Karswell goes to great lengths to avoid direct contact with Dr. Holden to guard against the parchment being passed back to him, and Karswell grows fearful. When the train stops at the next station, Karswell tries to leave, after Dr. Holden has managed to slip the parchment into Karswell’s coat. Just as Karswell realizes this, the parchment flies from his hands and he chases it down the railroad tracks. Just before Karswell can reach it, the parchment burns away into ashes.

While an oncoming train approaches, the demon appears on the adjacent track. Karswell frantically tries to escape but the demon catches up with him, seizes him and tears his body in two. The station crew believe that Karswell’s mangled body was struck by the train. Pondering what they did or did not see, Joanna observes, “Maybe it’s better not to know,” a line that could have been uttered by Mulder or Scully, and then is repeated by Dr. Holden, his beliefs now shaken by the encounter.

Curse of the Demon manages to be fairly intelligent for a "B" genre picture. It’s greatest weakness is in fact that the demon, an obvious puppet, is shown, and the film’s power is diminished by this aspect. Director Jacques Tourneur and writer Charles Bennett intended the depiction of the demon not to be literal, but psychological. Fourteen minutes were cut from the British and American prints of the film, requiring that some of the gaps be filled in with narrative. Fortunately, those minutes were restored in home video editions.

Literary Origin

The Montague R. James tale, “Casting the Runes” had a few notable differences from the Charles Bennett script. The central protagonist’s name was not John Holden, but Edward Dunning, and the demise of Karswell, though far more mundane, was more realistic. The story’s structure uses tactics similar to Bram Stoker’s “Dracula,” a series of journal entries that build into a lengthy narrative. The demise of Dr. Harrington might have planted the seed for Tourneur’s intent, the power of suggestion, as evidenced by this conversational narrative:

"...What’s equally to the point, I knew the most incisive of the lot. So did you: you must remember John Harrington; he was at John's in our time."

"Oh, very well indeed, though I don't think I saw or heard anything of him between the time I went down and the day I read the account of the inquest on him."

"Inquest?” said one of the ladies. "What has happened to him?"

"Why, what happened was that he fell out of a tree and broke his neck. But the puzzle was, what could have induced him to get up there. It was a mysterious business, I must say. Here was this man--not an athletic fellow, was he? and with no eccentric twist about him that was ever noticed--walking home along a country road late in the evening--no tramps about--well known and liked in the place--and he suddenly begins to run like mad, loses his hat and stick, and finally shins up a tree--quite a difficult tree--growing in the hedgerow: a dead branch gives way, and he comes down with it and breaks his neck, and there he's found next morning with the most dreadful face of fear on him that could be imagined. It was pretty evident, of course, that he had been chased by something, and people talked of savage dogs, and beasts escaped out of menageries; but there was nothing to be made of that."

The other notable difference is the introduction of Henry Harrington, John’s brother, who plays a role in finding out the truth of his brother’s death. The introduction of Karswell is conversational, and supports some suspicions that the character was modeled after Crowley, but Mr. James’ impression of Crowley might have been built around the impressions created by the British press:

"Oh no, my dear: only a neighbour of ours in the country who bought Lufford Abbey a few years ago. His real name is Karswell."

"Is he a friend of yours?" asked Mr. Secretary, with a private wink to his wife. The question let loose a torrent of declamation. There was really nothing to be said for Mr. Karswell. Nobody knew what he did with himself: his servants were a horrible set of people; he had invented a new religion for himself, and practised no one could tell what appalling rites; he was very easily offended, and never forgave anybody: he had a dreadful face (so the lady insisted, her husband somewhat demurring); he never did a kind action, and whatever influence he did exert was mischievous.

The story, "Casting The Runes" was first published in More Ghost Stories (1911), but the tale might have been written circa between 1904-1911. H.P. Lovecraft was a great admirer of Montague R. James and cited him in his essay, "Supernatural Horror In Literature" Aleister Crowley had already begun to gain notoriety from the period between 1906 through 1909, during the period of the foundation of A.*.A.*. and so it is plausible that M.R. James might have already been aware of Crowley.

The Aleister Crowley connection

One of the puzzling plot elements of Curse of the Demon was the Stonehenge sequence. There’s no evidence of rune symbols to be found at the site, but a lot of focus has been placed on the mathematics of Stonehenge. The ancient order of the druids--or druid order--was founded in 1781, and they were known for their annual summer solstice celebrations at Stonehenge. There seems to be a longstanding relationship between Druidry and Masonry. The Druid order studied Freemasonry. Three members of the Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia, a project not dissimilar to the Druid Order, founded the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, an organization that would introduce Crowley to the Occult.

There is no evidence that Tourneur and Bennett had much extensive knowledge of Aleister Crowley, Freemasons, or Druid rituals; these connections might have been happenstance, but there’s a general rule with writing: everything should be there for a reason. Crowley was a known provocateur of Christian and Catholic orthodoxy, and shared the sentiments of Friedrich Nietzsche-- that all Men are Gods, which probably explains the antagonistic characterizations of Crowley by the press.

Tourneur’s theme of the psychological power of suggestion implied a belief that Carl Jung and Aleister Crowley both shared–that consciousness was multidimensional. Or to offer another perspective as Crowley defined his definition of Magick: “The science and art of causing change in conformity with will.” A practice that one could argue is illustrated by Karswell’s actions, but it’s also a double-edged sword; perhaps Karswell’s personal convictions in such Magick drove him to delusional self destruction. Perhaps he was killed by the oncoming train, or perhaps something else. Karswell and Crowley share a similar belief in the theatrical power of occult rituals. Crowley once remarked:

"There is no more potent means than the art of calling forth true gods to visible appearance."

Should we accept occult rituals at face value, or are they a means to an end?

In this sense, Karswell’s entire actions in Curse of the Demon, could be seen as an artisitc performance to invoke gods, either psychologically, or metaphorically. Karswell goes through great pains with Holden to set up the climate for paranormal events. In fairness, it should be pointed out, in spite of his infamy within the Christian and catholic power elite, Crowley was not invoking gods for the destruction of others, but for enlightenment.

In the first chapter of his tomb, "Magick," Crowley defined the principle of rituals as "the object of all magical ritual" as "the uniting of Microcosm with the Macrocosm. The Supreme and Complete Ritual is therefore the Invocation of the Holy Guardian Angel." Crowley was personally convinced that human perfection required liberating the self from restriction and entering a state of child like energy, and that such perfected energy was at its essence ecstatic and artistic.

Crowley's history is rich and complex enough that it should be personally explored by the reader, it is simply too difficult to distill his work with generalizations.

To digress, when one ponders the séance sequence of Curse of the Demon, one is left with ambiguity. Was the séance a ruse? Or was Dr. Harrington legitimately communicating to Joanne? It reminded me of Mulder and Scully’s exchange at the end of “The Truth” from season nine:

Mulder: I want to believe that the dead are not lost to us. That they speak to us as part of something greater than us–greater than any alien force. And if you and I are powerless now, I want to believe that if we listen to what’s speaking, it can give us the power to save ourselves.
Scully: Then we believe the same thing.

Ultimately, perhaps evocation is self empowerment.

You can find M.R. James short story, "Casting the Runes", here.

Special thanks to Xscribe for editorial input.

Next: The Mole People (1958)

Sunday, June 26, 2011

"One's Constant, one's touchstone."

Book review for "We Want To Believe: Faith and Gospel in The X-Files"

In 2008, a die was cast when Chris Carter publicly admitted that The X-Files was about the search for God. While the comment might have seemed a revelation for some Philes, in hindsight it shouldn’t have been, when you consider that a running theme throughout the series was a general exploration on spirituality and faith. A meditation on the meaning of faith itself. It is hard to access how the Christian / Catholic / Hebrew community views The X-Files. If it is seen as a proponent of the necessity for spirituality. For the most part, to the shows credit, it never seemed to reveal a preference for a certain denomination of faith, nor did it fall into the trappings of prophesy or feeding into the cultural warrior contingent. It also didn’t argue that one had to choose between science or religion. It maintained impartiality in the understanding that both fields were seeking the same objectives, finding truth, but coming at them from different ends. That one could strike a balance between science and religion.

There have been arguments that a lack of spiritual faith leads to a kind of emotional and intellectual bankruptcy. Still, one can’t fault the sentiments of agnostics and atheists when you consider how religious texts have been inverted and perverted to reflect the personal view of the prophesier over a religious text’s actual meaning. Many people might have the impression that many Philes share a agnostic or atheist perspective. Most religious texts aren’t intended to offer up easy answers, beyond the universal truth of the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them to do unto you. Or the Buddhist sentiment on Karma, or the basic law of physics that for every action there’s an equal and opposite reaction. In the case of the scriptures, the Bible is said to offer universal moral guideposts and examples with how one could strengthen one’s faith.

Books have been written about the Science of The X-Files (Anne Simon), and the Philosophy of The X-Files (Dean Kowalski), but a full rendering on the spiritual aspects of The X-Files had not been explored until recently, which is rather stunning to consider.

One could draw a parallel to the initial reaction to the Harry Potter books in the late 90s by the evangelical movement that had dismissed the books as promoters of witchcraft, with few hardly noticing that R.K. Rowling was following in the tradition of such Inkling writers as J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, an assumption that wasn’t contested until scholar John Granger bravely and correctly pointed that out, in what have should have been self-evident.

Scholar and author Amy Donaldson has just tackled the very subject of religion with her first book, "We Want To Believe: Faith and Gospel in The X-Files", published by Cascade books. It is a book that should satisfy those who have held a curiosity about the religious aspects of the series, and the origins of material cited in various episodes. In fairness, for those Philes who were expecting an across-the-board overview of all of the religions cited in the series, they may be disappointed to some degree. Still, the scholarship of the book should make it engrossing for all interested parties.

The entire thesis of the book is spelled out within the introduction, and it is made fairly clear that the focus will be on Christian and Hebrew writings. The issue becomes, does she build a compelling case with her arguments, and is she able to effectively expand on this thesis? I would have to qualify that answer as a ‘yes’. After the major points are spelled out in the introduction, they are expanded in the following chapters: I Want to Believe - Faith: The Evidence if Things Not Seen - Hope: "I Can’t Give Up" – Love: "My Constant, My Touchstone" – The Truth Is Out There – The Way of the Cross: Temptation, Death, and Resurrection. Amy is an excellent writer and there’s a real academic flare to the work that remains fairly accessible. There’s an in-depth appendix of episodes cited with basic production information, as well three indices related to episodes, scripture, and subject.

My only real criticism, and personal disappointment with the book was the absence of any real analysis of Buddhism or Native American shamanism, spiritual venues which were indeed addressed within the context of The X-Files. Then again, the objective of the focus on the memes explored might be to target the Christian publishing market; it’s inconclusive to speculate if that is the case either way.

Amy’s in-depth understanding of the series already places her book ahead of other publications that deal with the spiritual themes of The X-Files. Recommended.

Please check out the Lexicon's exclusive interview with Amy Donaldson, as well as details on an exclusive 30% discount on the book via the Lexicon.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Travel Log for LAX-Files Event

A number of unfolding events had prompted a change of pace with the blog sequence. The hustle and bustle of preparations involved for the Lexicon’s coverage of the LAX-Files Book signing event in Los Angeles on May 7th, had thrown aside other priorities. While this blog ended up not being used to promote the event, it would have been remiss not to address one of the single most significant fan events to come along in 2011. But, while other sites, including ours, will feature plenty of coverage about it, I felt it might be more interesting to read between the lines and look at the entire experience as a whole. This entry fits more in line with a typical ‘blog’.

I have often been preoccupied with narrative arcs and mythologies, and while it might be difficult to see a narrative in the mundane of day-to-day life, the truth is, we wake up, breathe, and deal with a narrative arc each and every day. Of course the earliest and most potent arc was the Hero’s Journey, as broken down by Joseph Campbell. The origin of all story-telling began with individuals speaking about their travels. Motion and travel can be a great soothing balm, and can often allow for great introspection, when circumstances allow. One idea that spontaneously struck me was to write on my laptop computer on my way to and from Los Angeles, with various thoughts, observations, and armchair altruistic philosophies.

I would argue that you can find a narrative arc in something as commonplace as a road trip, and perhaps, in the most subtle of ways, you can capture a few fleeting moments of something metaphysical as well.

On Friday, May 6th, I was out the door an on my way by 4:30 AM. It seems to shock people that I am willing to travel to Los Angeles from the Bay Area at such an early hour, but I am able to avoid traffic by using this tactic, and it insures that I can arrive in LA at a reasonable hour. I had made arrangements to stay with my cousin and his wife in Santa Monica for that evening. I was on my way...

6:20 AM

Out of the bay area, another wonderful sunrise. The air is crisp and clean. A cavalcade of birds chirp at the first rest stop. There’s a group of insects that look like fire ants on the pavement, but I doubt they are. I managed to wake up by 3:20 AM. Seal is on the CD player as I continue...

7:45 AM

You know, it’s understandable why primitive man viewed sunrises to sunsets as commensurate to a life cycle. Seal’s Dreaming in Metaphors remains one of his best songs, “Trying to hold to something we couldn’t understand.” It becomes hard to define the distinctions between reality and metaphysics. I don’t mean psychosis, or hallucinations, I mean perhaps our dreams are a kind of parallel universe. Anyway, to continue, Amiee Mann on the player next…

There’s an owl hooting in a tree. I couldn’t find it, but could hear it. I wonder if that signifies anything?

If God exists, I suspect God expects us to appreciate the little things...

11:05 AM

It’s amazing, as a species, how we’re supposed to compartmentalize everything, put ourselves into different modes of thinking, depending upon the situations in which we find ourselves. In some respects, how we put on different masks, or personas to fit into a situation.

I had a bite to eat at a place that featured a novelty shop, most of which was junk, but they did have some nice dream catchers.

I’m feeling dazed after a long stretch on I5. There’s one part that is brutal.

I’m fairly certain X-Files fans could Identify with this idea: Have you ever seen an innocuous location and imagined it held a military secret? There’s my first X-Files contemplation of the day. As photographed.

I'm on my way again...

2:20 PM

I’m in Valencia, near an Art College I wanted to attend ages ago...The paths not taken. I got through the second stretch of I5.

While writing my previous blog entry at a rest stop (11:05), a woman passed me and made a snide joke. “Just can’t leave that computer alone.” It just amazes me how people presume. I could understand the comment on some level; I have been in enough Starbucks to see people on laptops just to surf the net, and not really work. I don’t have internet access on my laptop; I use it strictly for writing.

There’s a rumor that the special guest attending at the X-Files Book signing event is a male actor, last time I checked, everyone was speculating it was Nick Lea or David Duchovny. We shall see. The weather is what I expected. Hot. I’m recovering from the daze of the drive. Valencia is a lovely little town; if you’ve never passed through it, recommended.

Thirty-six miles to go. I’ll be on my way soon...

About an hour later, I arrived at my cousin’s place. Waited in the car for them to come home, got coffee, just relaxed. Friday evening, after settling, we went to a nice Italian/Americana restaurant. Had breakfast Saturday morning, at a 50s-flavored greasy spoon with them and then I was on my way to the AFI campus. Details of that can be found on the Lexicon. David nor Nick Lea ever made it.

For the site, the outcome was a resounding success. I felt a little like a knight that vanquishes a dragon. I had another dinner with my cousin that evening, then we all crashed early. I got up about 6:00 AM, Sunday morning, and was on my way by 7:30.

May 8th, 9:05 AM

Back in Valencia again. Yesterday was a resounding success. In the mythos of the hero’s journey, he has to survive the skirmish, and that is how it feels today.

There’s the adage, Hope for the best, expect the worst. It seems to be second nature for me, but I was priming myself for several disappointments that never transpired. That mindset has become a reflex for me, the way I prime myself.

10:00 AM

The Misty Mountains of Gorman.

Green Day is on the play list, they seem to get a lot of flack about their street creed, but I have to give them credit, their last two albums captured the feelings of a percentage of disaffected youth, this sense of America in a slow decline, and the fact that many institutions are breaking down at this point, as well as the problem of being bound to religious dogma. I keep thinking about that verse from ‘See the Light’.

I crossed the River, fell into the sea,
Where the non-believers, go beyond belief
Then I scratched the surface, in the mouth of hell,
Running out of service, in the Blood I fell.

Perhaps that’s the best ideal, to be spiritual, and to go beyond belief…

12:43 PM

I’ve been pondering. Is one of the goals in life to become altruistic? What happens when you live in a society that doesn’t value altruism?

I write this at a rest stop, facing an orchard of apple trees. It’s cooled off on I5, and it’s been an overcast Sunday.

3:15 PM

I had a bite to eat earlier. Could this be any more bucolic? It reminds me of Clark Kent’s Smallville.

I arrived home at around 6:30, exhausted. I was reminded of the subtitle of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit–There And Back Again.

Then I had a lot of work to do. You can check out the reports and videos of the event at the Lexicon.

I have no idea if I achieved any greater insight through this experiment, but I suspect it’s a process, being mindful of your surroundings, looking out, keeping your eyes open for little transformative moments.

Special thanks for editorial help from XScribe, and belated thanks to her for the previous entry.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

X-Files Adjacent: War of the Satellites

Nothing exists in a vacuum as far as creative influences. The following is the first of a trifecta of critical reviews concerning a group of late-50s, low-budget Sci-Fi and horror films. Chris Carter, within the last few years, has acknowledged (aside from the Night Stalker TV movies) that The Twilight Zone, and The Outer Limits, were an influence on him. Recently, I saw a series of films that might have possibly influenced the writers for such series as Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits.

Produced and directed by B-Movie king, Roger Corman, War of the Satellites (1958) capitalized on the satellite craze of the period, triggered by the launch of Sputnik 1. The story goes that Corman pitched the film to Allied Artists, strictly on the title alone, with no script and with the promise he would have the film finished and released in seven weeks. He made good on the promise. After being given a budget of 70,000 dollars, Corman along with writer Lawrence Louis Goldman and Irving Block, built a story after listing what sets would be needed to be built first, and then developed a script to fit around the logistics.

It is with little doubt that Roger Corman has become an icon in the industry and is probably responsible for launching more careers, in as much as potential filmmakers and actors through his ‘Corman school of filmmaking,’ than UCLA and USC combined.

While the film is flawed and typical of the kind of production values from that era (in spite of the fact it becomes apparent after watching for about ten minutes, that you must throw science completely out the window, and the film is so cheap that lounge recliner chairs were used for the seating aboard the spaceship), for everything this type of a film gets wrong, it’s interesting to see, thematically, what the film gets right.

Several sequences reminded me of something you might find in an episode of The Outer Limits, or Twilight Zone. This film ends up being an idea-driven film. Now whether that was by design or something the writers stumbled upon out of necessity is the real question.

It starred Dick Miller, Susan Cabot (a woman whose demise would be as tragic and bizarre as an X-File*), and Richard Devon. After the destruction of the latest spaceship of the Sigma project to pass through an energy barrier somewhere in the solar system, Dr. Van Ponder insists to his colleagues that he will continue. Two high school teens (in the most awkward and corny segment of the film), after seeing a falling star that crashes, discover an alien satellite with a message for the UN.

An alien race from the Spiral Nebula Gamma views the human race as an infection, further adding that they are displeased by our efforts to move into the stars, and explain that have created this space barrier to restrain humans from space exploration. Dr. Van Ponder announces to the press that he plans to captain his own ship in the next design. His friends Dave and Sybil agree to go with him. The doctors plans include building the ship to use photon propulsion to travel at the speed of light. After getting a call from UN Counsel Leader Hotchkiss about efforts of the UN to stop the project, Dr. Van Ponder’s car crashes as a result of alien beams from the skies. Once word has been received at the UN that Van Ponder has been killed, he miraculously appears, and funding moves forward.

Assurances are given to Hotchkiss he is fine, and we, the viewers have revealed to us that Van Ponder is an alien who can duplicate himself through astral means and convert his duplicate into matter. He briefly communicates with his alien superiors, advising stronger action, as the warning from alien beings have been ignored. Suddenly, global disasters are triggered around the world--floods, earthquakes, fires, and nuclear incidents--which cause the press to speculate the alien warning is connected to the episodes.

Dr. Van Ponder, under a ruse, has an unexpected change of heart, and plans to cancel the program, going so far as to write up a statement to issue to the UN, but Dave ignores his wishes, and while speaking at the UN, states they will continue, and he argues that it is precisely because the Gamma aliens do not wish humans to travel into space that the project must go forward, much to Dr. Van Ponder’s displeasure. Another scientist named Johnny swears he had seen Van Ponder in two places.

After a mishap with a blow torch to Van Ponder’s hand triggers Johnny’s suspicions that the doctor isn’t human (a sequence that one might see from The Outer Limits, or Twilight Zone), Dave grows suspicious. But Dr. Von Ponder convinces the project medical doctor, Lasar, that Johnny has been under too much pressure, and he is ordered to be grounded from the flight. Dave finds the actual remains at a junkyard of the car that crashed, but can’t warn Sybil, or the others that Dr. Van Ponder might be an imposter, before the launch countdown begins. Johnny has a change of heart, and due to a lack of astronomical engineers, is back on the flight. Dr. Van Ponder duplicates himself again, which Dave witnesses. Three ships are launched, each ship being part of the final space vehicle.

After the launch, separation, and assembly, Dr. Van Ponder confronts Johnny with an ultimatum, explaining his races’ intention, tells him that humans are mere children in the cosmos, and not ready for space travel, and that his race is acting on behalf of the best intentions for the human race. The impostor Van Ponder offers to give Johnny the same powers--beings that can convert energy into matter--but Johnny refuses, and is killed with a single touch (another sequence that one might expect to see on The Outer Limits or Twilight Zone). Sylvia walks in to find him dead, and the doctor explains that Johnny could not survive the stress of the launch.

Film Trailer - War of the Satellites (1958).divx by pogox

The doctor, as captain, announces to the crew his intention to build up enough solar energy to trigger the Photon drive and break through the barrier. If they were to reach the barrier before the build up, they wouldn’t be able to break through until they can reach such a velocity. Dave informs Sylvia that the doctor isn’t human, just as Dr. Van Ponder appears and warns him not to get out of line. After the space burial of Johnny, Dave speaks to Dr. Lasar in private and demonstrates evidence that Van Ponder is a carbon copy of the real man. Sylvia walks in and Dave persuades her. The doctor notes that Dr. Van Ponder hasn’t permitted a physical. Dave points out the doctor might not have a heartbeat. Dr. Lasar confronts Dr. Van Ponder about a physical, which he conveniently manages to avoid when the barrier appears. After speaking with the pilots, Van Ponder manages to change his physiology and create a heartbeat, but there’s a trade-off: He loses a number of his powers and becomes more human. After passing the exam, Van Ponder strangles Dr. Lazar, and it becomes a race against time for Dave and Sylvia to stop Van Ponder from destroying the ship, and allowing the Sigma crew to achieve deep space travel.

One of the first interesting memes is the idea of an alien race inducing natural disasters to retard the progress of the human race, as well as the idea that the aliens would view Earth as a potential threat. In some respects this film is the inverse of Robert Wise’s The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951), an alien race that simply believes the human race must take responsibility with its use of atomic space travel. The further idea of an alien race passively intervening with the human race, short of invasion, isn’t new either.

Edward E. Smith, Ph.D or “Doc” Smith, as he is affectionately known, the father of the sweeping space opera, in his 1936 tale "Triplanetary," the first of his Lensmen series, deals with two alien races: The Arisians, human-like beings, and the Eddorians, transformative beings that are hard to describe. Both Arisians and Eddorians manipulate the development of the human race in a long-term breeding program with the intention that the human race create Lensmen and Boskone, men with higher powers who would play out an ancient struggle without their awareness of themselves as pawns. The long term struggle is focused on four solar systems: Sol III, Rigel IV, Velantia III, and Palain VII. Regarding Earth, both alien forces manipulate matters and play out the fall of Atlantis, the Fall of Rome, and the trigger of three major wars, 1918, 1941 (Smith’s prescient prediction about WWII), and a war sometime in the late 90s. Before these tales unfold in the far future. One interesting example could be cited here, from the end of chapter three:

Gharlane of Eddore looked upon ruined Earth, his handiwork, and found it good. Knowing that it would be many hundreds of Tellurian years before that planet would again require his personal attention, he went elsewhere; to Rigel Four, to Palain Seven, and to the solar system of Valantia, where he found that his creatures the Overlords were not progressing according to schedule. He spent quite a little time there, then searched minutely and fruitlessly for evidence of inimical activity within the Innermost Circle.

Of course The X-Files touched on the meme of rival alien factions within their own mythology. For example, the alien rebels who appeared, starting in season five, that were immune to the effects of black oil - and resisted the symbiotic / parasitical entity within.

Watching the film recently, and pondering the recent wave of current events, without the following point trivializing the tragedies in Japan, but considering the wave of earthquakes, tsunami’s, volcanic eruptions, tornados, and other global events, and while they might be the by-product of climate change, it would make sense for a powerful alien race to trigger such disasters to slow down our evolution as a species.

Bear in mind, that there have been claims by countless NASA astronauts, of information that has never been released for the sake of national security, by Neil Armstrong, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, former NASA chief Maurice Chatelain, Gordon Cooper, Edgar Mitchell (founder of Institute of Noetic Sciences), of UFO activity in space and an extra-terrestrial base on the Moon, (as argued by people like Richard C Hogland) with aliens that have made it very clear to NASA not to establish a lunar base or revisit the Moon. Certainly shades of the same themes / memes expressed in War of the Satellites.

UFO/AAT skeptics have pointed out that the above-listed themes have been so long running with Science Fiction literature and filmmaking, that these memes can give ammunition to such skeptics that genre pop culture influences shape belief systems of things that might not have a paranormal or unexplained basis.

What is interesting about these connections from a cultural standpoint and this ‘chicken or egg’ argument, is are these interests just random or part of a greater collective unconsciousness?

Indeed, what if truth is stranger than fiction.

Next up: Curse Of The Demon (1957)

*Susan Cabot died in 1986. Her son, who suffered from dwarfism and was on medication, bludgeoned her to death with a weight-lifting bar in her Encino home after years of psychological abuse, verbal abuse from the mother, coupled with an unhealthy relationship between them. He was arrested, charged with involuntary manslaughter and received a three-year suspended sentence.