Saturday, June 25, 2011

Demons, the Great Old Ones, and the Unified Field Theory of the Paranormal

Is there a unified theory of paranormal thinking replacing the alternative belief structures of the 20th century? A recent address by conspiracy theory master Alex Jones veered into territory he normally doesn't cover, non-human entities and their role in what he believes to be a global elite bent on depopulating the earth.

The statements in the video above may not make a great deal of sense to you, but they are in fact quite in keeping with some of the more esoteric theories held by some of the more esoteric thinkers or intellectuals of the UFO community and other alternative belief sets. John Keel, author of The Mothman Prophecies (my review can be read here), was one of the first to suggest that rather than spaceships, UFOs and their occupants were signs of interdimensional entities that had been here for far longer than the modern era of flying saucers. Keel echoed Charles Fort's infamous phrase from The Book of the Damned, "I think we're property," while contemporary Jacques Vallee wrote of a control system that might be guiding (and not necessarily for the good) the religious and cultural development of humanity.

With the rise of abduction changing the face of ufology, Terrence McKenna's machine elves, which he said he saw while under the influence of DMT, became roped in with aliens, opening the suggestion that they weren't aliens at all, or not even necessarily physical in the sense we may suggest. Graham Hancock, famous for his books and tv shows arguing for lost Paleolithic Civilizations leaving traces like the Sphinx (or inspiring its makers), possibly from the continent of Antarctica, has picked up this idea, suggesting in his book Supernatural (review) that human modernity and civilization derives from contact and influence with such entities or constructs through the use of hallucinogens.

This is half the idea that Jones lays out in his "rant" above, that "clockwork elves" speak to DMT users, that they are not in our dimension but might be able to reach it via a machine like the Large Hadron Collider, and that they are the fairies and aliens of our legends and occult lore.

The other half of the equation according to Jones is that they are either worshiped or otherwise served by a secret global elite society. Jones himself says in the video that this sounds like David Icke's talk of a cult led by shapeshifting Reptilians (an idea lifted right from Robert E. Howard's fantasy story "The Shadow Kingdom," and alluded to in the film Conan the Barbarian). Indeed, Jones is suggesting with this statement an immense time depth and possible purpose to the Illuminati he fears are planning to install a global police state to control those who aren't killed in vast depopulation plans. But an equally appropriate link would be to a section of Christian evangelicals that have embraced the idea that UFOs are demons in disguise. One group has set up shop in the flying saucer Mecca, Roswell, New Mexico (I attended a Raelian meeting in their lobby, something I still don't entirely understand). Nick Redfern has recently published a book, Final Events, specifically suggesting something akin to Jones' concerns, of a group within the US government and US politics trying to contact and control such entities, or alternatively planning to turn America into a theocratic police state in order to fight such creatures, or rather, demons.

In short, Jones is arguing that there is a world-wide conspiracy that either is (or believes it is) contacting ancient extradimensional entities, ones with plans dangerous for humanity, in order that they can join with these entities. The group lives without morality, practicing bizarre rituals behind closed doors and acting without concern for Christian or conventional values, instead planning a bizarre future and the mass killing of millions. They intend to bring about the end of the recognizable world and let demonic aliens through interdimensional gates, ushering in the fall of man as dominant species on this planet.

If you read my other blog, Miskatonic Museum, based on the history and science associated with the cosmic horror tales of H. P. Lovecraft, this should sound very, very familiar to you. It's the Cthulhu Cult with a bit of the Whateleys thrown in for good measure (compare with the excerpt from the Necronomicon in "The Dunwich Horror".

Nor is it to be thought (ran the text as Armitage mentally translated it) that man is either the oldest or the last of earth's masters, or that the common bulk of life and substance walks alone. The Old Ones were, the Old Ones are, and the Old Ones shall be. Not in the spaces we know, but between them, they walk serene and primal, undimensioned and to us unseen. Yog-Sothoth knows the gate. Yog-Sothoth is the gate. Yog-Sothoth is the key and guardian of the gate. Past, present, future, all are one in Yog-Sothoth. He knows where the Old Ones broke through of old, and where They shall break through again. He knows where They had trod earth's fields, and where They still tread them, and why no one can behold Them as They tread. By Their smell can men sometimes know Them near, but of Their semblance can no man know, saving only in the features of those They have begotten on mankind; and of those are there many sorts, differing in likeness from man's truest eidolon to that shape without sight or substance which is Them. They walk unseen and foul in lonely places where the Words have been spoken and the Rites howled through at their Seasons. The wind gibbers with Their voices, and the earth mutters with Their consciousness. They bend the forest and crush the city, yet may not forest or city behold the hand that smites. Kadath in the cold waste hath known Them, and what man knows Kadath? The ice desert of the South and the sunken isles of Ocean hold stones whereon Their seal is engraved, but who hath seen the deep frozen city or the sealed tower long garlanded with seaweed and barnacles? Great Cthulhu is Their cousin, yet can he spy Them only dimly. IƤ! Shub-Niggurath! As a foulness shall ye know Them. Their hand is at your throats, yet ye see Them not; and Their habitation is even one with your guarded threshold. Yog-Sothoth is the key to the gate, whereby the spheres meet. Man rules now where They ruled once; They shall soon rule where man rules now. After summer is winter, after winter summer. They wait patient and potent, for here shall They reign again."

These stories speak of ancient conspiracies and cults of bizarre and amoral cultists who seek to allow horrific alien monstrosities known as the Great Old Ones into our world, to do horrible things to it and us, so that they can rule as humanity's masters, free from morality. Just as Lovecraft's writings were heavily influential (though not exclusively so) in creating the idea of ancient astronauts, are we now to see Lovecraft and co. birthing the 21st century's mix of demology, conspiracy theory, and paranormality?

Jones would not be the first to take this route, as David Icke has pointed to the faux-Necronomicon by "Simon" and to Doreal's Howard and Lovecraft inspired writings as evidence of his claims. Kenneth Grant's Typhonian writings also tread this territory, as ably dissected by Justin Woodman in his four-part lecture series on Lovecraft and "occulture," where he also discusses the alien astronaut tie, and briefly discusses Icke. It's a recurring theme in Nick Redfern's books, not just his Final Events (in which he reports on, but does not believe in, this worldview, an attitude echoed by Jones in the above video), but in others where he describes occultists and Fortean investigators dealing with extradimensional spirits or entities, and elite secret groups well aware of them. Cattle mutilation researcher and Trickster theorist Christopher O'Brien has also speculated that government or other shadowy operatives may be involved in animal mutilations as a method of controlling or preventing the arrival and actions of interdimensional entities through techniques similar to what ancient religions called blood magic and sacrifice.

And so on, there are others. But Jones, a commentator that has appeared on Fox News and other mainstream mass media, that has been pointed to as the underground inspiration for Glenn Beck, suggesting that the core of the secret societies he has dedicated his life to fighting, and in doing so becoming the highest profile conspiracy theory advocate in modern America, is a landmark moment. It could mean that Jones alienates (so to speak) many of his listeners. Alternatively, this may be a tipping point for mainstreaming what I believe is the coming focus of alternative or paranormal belief systems: demonology. I've outlined above how it has always been with ufology before there were flying saucers, and how it has grown. It is also a topic not too far from many discussions of ghosts and ghost hunting. The Warrens on a number of occasions emphasized the possibility of a demonic role in the hauntings they were involved in. More recently, demons and ghosts have mixed on ghost hunting television shows like Paranormal State. A recent book suggests a very similar model behind beliefs in Djinn in Muslim societies, complete with an American secret effort to capture a djinn, and a secret history of djinn as masters of the planet aiming to re-enter our world and take it over. Even cryptozoology shades into the demonological and extradimensional in the writings of some of the authors mentioned above, and in narratives such as Hunt for the Skinwalker, documenting a secret but high profile investigation in Utah in the 1990s, painted with heavy overtones of the interdimensional, an including Bigfoot in the mix.

What might this change suggest? One obvious, perhaps too obvious solution, would be to point to the growth of politicized and radicalized religion in the United States, and an increasingly loud war with science. The idea of ghost hunting and parapsychology emerged out of Spiritualism in the Victorian era (when scientific progress was the definition of civilization over barbarism, and evolution the philosophical backbone of modernity), coming into its own in the interwar period, and gaining some modicum of scientific cover with psychic research in the mid-20th century. Around mid-century, cryptozoology and ufology both took their early cues from science, either in the form of expeditions and writings with a strictly biological bent suggesting the discovery of unknown or supposedly extinct creatures, or saucer organizations modeled on amateur science clubs or scientific organizations, focused on collecting sighting data for statistical analysis.

They did this in the era of big science, when laboratories could cure diseases, win wars, and build a better tomorrow through chemistry and atomic power. But then it all changed. Anti-science sentiments grew on the political left (over concerns of ecological damage, a revulsion at modernity, and the role of science in imperialism and warfare), and on the religious right (in ways too numerous to note, but generally involving both the clash with biblical literalism, and elements of populism and class conflict, what gets labeled "the Culture War" in the media). Within scholarship, the flaws and human frailties of the scientific community were also given a greater profile through postmodern and deconstructionist techniques (most famously Thomas Kuhn's argument that science is a succession of paradigms, tied to the production of knowledge and internal politics within the scientific community, rather than a simple accumulation of knowledge and understanding). For these and other reasons, science's prestige has been tarnished, and it is more often associated with visions of a future dystopia rather than a Gernsbackian or Jetsonian wonderland of Tomorrow.

Should we be surprised that belief communities that had once modeled themselves after prestigious science, have now backed away from this role, and that some have turned to demonology in the face of a resurgent movement of Biblical literalism in religion and politics?

EDIT: Found an even more illustrative passage from "The Dunwich Horror." Read and compare with Jones' video.

'It was—well, it was mostly a kind of force that doesn't belong in our part
of space; a kind of force that acts and grows and shapes itself by other laws
than those of our sort of Nature. We have no business calling in such things
from outside, and only very wicked people and very wicked cults ever try to.
... if you men are wise you'll dynamite that altar-stone up there, and pull
down all the rings of standing stones on the other hills. Things like that
brought down the beings those Whateleys were so fond of—the beings they were
going to let in tangibly to wipe out the human race and drag the earth off to
some nameless place for some nameless purpose.


I Doubt It said...

I see a lot of ghost investigators hedging their bets - using the sciencey themes (being Scientifical) with spiritual and/or blatantly Christian themes alongside. In Ryan Buell's book about his Paranormal Research Society, he says he relates to clients in a way they are most comfortable- straightforward science or whatever belief system. I think that's telling. He's serving his and their emotional needs, primarily. I see them as trying to be all things to all people. I agree that demon are becoming more popular. We could be simply upping the drama to gain attention.

ahtzib said...

I think from the perspective of ghost hunting, you're absolutely right (if I agree with you about someone meeting someone else's emotional needs, is that too meta :) ). In the "client" and "expert" relationship that is somewhat unique to ghost hunting (traditional ufologists and cryptozoologists see people as sources of data [sightings], whereas many ghost hunters, after the Exorcist and the subsequent Amityville fiasco, as well as other media portrayals, see themselves as offering aid in dealing with or getting rid of ghosts and other entities), that this happens makes perfect sense. And I think that a lot of the turn to the demonic is indeed a ramping up of the drama, because in some ways, it's not a huge leap.

But it is a huge leap in the other fields, to the point of being a paradigm killer. Ufology threw off the "ultraterrestrial" trend after a bit of popularity in the 1970s, for three reasons.

First, it was never that popular outside of a small but influential intelligensia, with Vallee (sort of, and then not), Keel, and oddly enough J. Allen Hynek, as well as an early Jerome Clark before he renounced it. This is especially true in American ufology, less so elsewhere, and in this sense, it sort of mirrors or parodies the American obsession in the social sciences and humanities of chasing after continental European philosophers and theorists.

Second, the rise of the crashed UFO meme breathed new life into the Nuts and Bolts hypothesis, sparking an almost 30 year entangling of UFOs, conspiracy theory, and government secrecy that seems to still be going strong but may be starting to falter (the universal scorn poured on Annie Jacobsen's baroque theorizing in her new Area 51 book feels like a tipping point to me, especially because it comes from outside the community).

Lastly, while abductionism would ultimately be responsible for the rise of demonology in ufology, it initially with the Hill case was an argument for nuts and bolts, and Hopkins' subsequent establishment of an abduction status quo based around biology strengthened this. It was only when abductees increasingly took control of their own narratives that this status quo started to break down, and all the comparisons with the succubi that were meant to say "succubi were aliens," started to flip the other way.

This time around, I don't see ufology being in a position to do much about it. Hoax photo and video cases that are based on the nuts and bolts paradigm are falling apart far easier in the days of photoshop than before (a reversal of expectatons, since most hoaxers aren't that careful). Likewise, I'd argue that the decentralization of reporting sightings on the internet, rather than in books by investigators, has also sapped ufology's strength. Every day the "usual suspects" paranormal and ufo update and news sites write of numerous amazing sightings, none of which are ever followed up on or go anywhere. Rather than convincing anyone, this surplus of ephemeral sightings reports only reinforces that UFO reports happen constantly without changing the world, and are in essence a part of our lives/culture, something that is death to the nuts and bolts hypothesis (trying to convince people that aliens are visiting is bad enough, but try convcincing them we have millions of encounters with extraterrestrials every year). And while ultraterrestrialism was backed by a few thinkers, as I note in the post, demonology can count on millions of sympathetic believers used to the idea of a daily pervasive supernatural environment.