Friday, March 28, 2014

The Wino Mysteries Part I

Long time readers of this blog are no doubt aware that Recluse is a big fan of a musical genre typically referred to as "stoner rock", a catchall term that can refer to a host of different styles including doom and sludge metal, desert rock, drone, post-metal, heavy psych and retro occult rock, among others. As noted before here and here, I've found this genre to be incredibly synchro-mystical, with a host of occult, conspiracy theories and general high weirdness trappings appearing throughout the works of various groups associated with stoner rock. What's more, this little acknowledged element of stoner rock has only grown more and more prominent in recent years.

Heavy metal has of course long been associated with the occult, but by the 1980s such trappings were dominated by Satanism, both the faux and LaVey-ian variety. When the stoner rock scene began to emerge in earnest in the 1990s this new genre gradually started taking heavy metal occult elements back to the 1970s when mythological gods and heroes, wizards and Wicca were as common as odes to Lucifer. One of the chief figures in this movement was legendary frontman Scott "Wino" Weinrich.

Wino started his first band, War Horse, in 1976 at the age of 16 and never looked back. By the early 1980s War Horse had been transformed into The Obsessed and had begun to gain a devoted fan base from a curious source: the legendary Washington D.C. hardcore scene. Wino's music has always been steeped in the sound of the Heavy 70s (especially Black Sabbath and Pentagram) and by the early 1980s such a sound was decidedly unhip amongst metal heads. Punk rockers in the D.C. area dug Wino's sound, however, and he cut his teeth playing in the D.C. hardcore scene with the likes of Minor Threat, Bad Brains, and so forth.

Wino first started to gain nation recognition in the mid-1980s when he relocated to California and became the frontman for doom pioneers Saint Vitus. Wino cut three studio albums --Born to Late, Mournful Crisis and V in addition to the E.P. Thirsty and Miserable (the title track is a cover of the Black Flag song) with Vitus from 1986 till 1990. Saint Vitus did not experience much success (especially in the United States) during this run, but two of those albums (Born to Late and V) are now considered classics in many circles. By the early 00s Saint Vitus had gained a rather large underground following internationally and it is from this group that many fans know Wino from.

Wino with Saint Vitus during the 1980s
Wino departed Saint Vitus in 1990 and would continue to record for the next two and a half decades with a host of different groups including a reconstructed The Obsessed, Spirit Caravan, Place of Skulls, the Hidden Hand, Shrinebuilder, Premonition 13, David Grohl's Probot, and also as a solo artist. Needless to say, his discography is rather massive and I will not attempt to tackle all of it in this series.

As this piece is chiefly concerned with Wino I will not be covering Saint Vitus in depth. While Wino was certainly a key part of the group during some of their best years, Vitus has always been guitarist Dave Chandler's band. Chandler has written the overwhelming majority of the group's work (including the lyrics) and it would thus not be far to contribute much of the group's artist vision to Wino.

Dave Chandler
I will also not be covering the supergroup Shrinebuilder, despite the fact that their sole album is steeped in esoterica. All four members (including drummer Dale Crover of the Melvins, Neurosis' guitarist/vocalist Scott Kelly and Sleep/Om bassist/vocalist Al Cisneros) contributed to the songwriting and general concept of the group and therefore it is not strictly speaking a "Wino band."

Groups that I would apply this label to are: The Obsessed, Spirit Caravan, the Hidden Hand, Premonition 13, and Wino's backing band for his first solo album (solo albums that came out after that one have not featured a full band and have largely consisted of Wino and his acoustic guitar). In the case of all five projects, Wino was the chief visionary and songwriter (though other members contributed more than they are generally given credit for).  All of these projects, save for Premonition 13, also featured another Wino trademark as well: they were/are all power trios. Outside of Premonition 13 Wino hasn't done much with a two guitar setup in projects in which he is the man songwriter.

So, it is with these five groups that I shall chiefly concern myself with over the course of this series. With the mission statement out of the way, let us now focus in on The Obsessed. Wino originally recorded an album with The Obsessed for Metal Blade Records in 1985, but the album was shelved after Wino was offered the Saint Vitus vocal spot shortly thereafter. In 1990 Saint Vitus' then-record label, Hellhound Records, released The Obsessed' self-titled debut from 1985.

Encouraged by the favorable reception the album received, Wino opted to leave Saint Vitus and reformed The Obsessed in Los Angeles with a different rhythm section. Greg Rogers was brought in on drums while the bass spot went to Palm Desert scene (of which I've written much more on here) staple Scott Reeder. In 1991 the revamped The Obsessed released the classic Lunar Womb on Hellhound Records. Scott Reeder left shortly thereafter to play bass for Kyuss and was replaced by Guy Pinhas on bass. After the favorable reviews Lunar Womb received, The Obsessed signed to Columbia Records and released The Church Within in 1994. Apparently Wino was warned against this move before hand and found Columbia's office space to be an ill omen. In an interview with L.A. Record he noted:
"I promised myself I was gonna get signed to a major label and I did, although the signing at that time was actually a little bittersweet because of circumstances. Of course I did retreat with my tail between my legs back East once or twice before that happened, but … You wanna hear a really fucking weird story? [The Obsessed] got signed to Columbia Records, and that’s Sony, and at that time they had a big black building on Madison Avenue—a black fucking building—and the address was 666. I swear to God, man! It’s so cliché that it’s almost fucking cheesy, but it’s the truth. A lot of people warned me—like people from doing zines and stuff—they told me this was risky, but at that time, I looked upon it as a license to fly. To me it was artistic freedom because they were paying to rent us a rehearsal room, paying us a salary, giving us a budget to record a record—I thought that was where it’s at..."

Regardless, things quickly went downhill after The Obsessed signed with Columbia. The Church Within was a commercial flop and Columbia dropped The Obsessed post haste. The group dissolved shortly thereafter with Pinhas and Rogers departing to co-found the great Goatsnake. Wino, meanwhile, became severely addicted to methamphetamines in addition to his long time problem with alcoholism. Wino spent much of the rest of the 1990s homeless and lost in a fog of booze and speed in L.A. At one point he nearly had to have a foot amputated due to an old injury that had grown worse due to years of neglect. It goes without saying this was the absolute nadir of both Wino's life and career.

Wino's work with The Obsessed, while being the most overtly metal of his overture, also established a formula that he would largely stick to for the rest of his career: songwriting that is aggressive and to-the-point, but not mired in the anger and sorrow as much of heavy metal is. In point of fact, the sense of optimism and hope that much of Wino's discography displays is one of its most distinct features. That's not to say that Wino's work, and especially that with The Obsessed, does not feature its fair share of anger, however. But Wino tends to come off as more of fire-breathing vigilante biker out to right the evils of the world, than a suburbanite mope a la the entire genre of nu metal.

Wino's songwriting with The Obsessed and every other band in which he is the main guy is concise and never self-indulgent. His songs rarely go over five minutes, and while Wino is a very underrated guitar player, his solos and leads are never excessively flashy or drawn out. Even when Wino's work became more progressive and psychedelic in the late 1990s and 00s he's never been one to indulge in extended flights into inner space. In the case of The Obsessed, the band's sound is firmly within the Black Sabbath-inspired traditional doom framework. Still, Wino keeps things relatively uptempo and even throws in a few hardcore bursts. The group also incorporates a slight hint of desert rock into their doom, a potent combination that former Obsessed members Greg Rogers, Guy Pinhas and later Scott Reeder would take much further with Goatsnake. This style invokes the feeling of cruising through the desert on a bike just as the sun begins to set on some lonesome highway.

Given the meat-and-potatoes nature of The Obsessed's sound, its fitting (especially considering Wino's lifestyle choices during this era) that the lyrics of Lunar Womb and The Church Within (Recluse has not heard The Obsessed, unfortunately) seem to largely revolve around alcoholism and drug addiction. This is especially true of The Church Within, the second half of which being quite harrowing considering the downward spiral Wino's life would descend into shortly after the album was released. There are some hints at the later direction his lyrics and imagery would take, however. Both "Brother Blue Steel" and "To Protect and Serve" (the openers of Lunar Womb and The Church Within, respectively) hint at the conspiracy theory-oriented bent his lyrics with the Hidden Hand would take, while Lunar Womb's title track makes for fine metaphysical musings:

Looked out this mortal window, beheld a dry mirage. 
A black wind was blowin' - pierced the warm facade. 
At the very moment my blackened foot touched the earth. 
Gonna grab me a tunnel, and command me a berth. 
Prometheus bound - suffering on the hour. 
Stole a flame, burnt his game- Discord's golden apple gone sour. 
In this glowing casket there's solace from your gloom- 
My spirit's strength is master inside my Lunar Womb... 
Come beside me - twilight fades and night is soon. 
What flows inside me is the lifeblood of the waning moon

the album cover employed Francisco de Goya's Saturn Devouring His Son
This song can be read as a description of an alchemical transformation. The reoccurring references to blackness ("black wind", "blackened foot") and death ("...the lifeblood of the waning moon") invoke one of the crucial stages of an alchemical transformation, namely putrefaction
"In alchemy is found again the perpetuation of the Universal Mystery; for surely as Jesus died upon the cross, Hiram... at the west gate of the Temple, Orpheus on the banks of the river Hebros, Christna on the banks of the Ganges, and Osiris in the coffin prepared by Typhon, so in alchemy, unless the elements first die, the Great Work cannot be achieved. The stages of the alchemical process can be traced in the lives and activities of nearly all the world Saviors and teachers, and also among the mythologies of several nations. It is said in the Bible that 'except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.' In alchemy it is declared that without purification the Great Work cannot be accomplished. What is it that dies on the cross, is buried in the tomb of the Mysteries, and that dies also in the retort and becomes black with putrefaction? Also, what is it that does this same thing in the nature of man, that he may rise again, phoenix-like, from his own ashes..?"
(The Secret Teachings of All Ages, Manly P. Hal, pg. 506)

Some type of forbidden knowledge is at times the result of an alchemical process and both Prometheus and golden apples are associated with such knowledge, but here the narrator is seemingly being torn apart by these things. The moon, meanwhile, is associated with both death and knowledge.
"The moon was also the first thing to die since, every lunar month, for three days and nights, it vanishes as if it has died. Similarly the dead were believed to acquire a new form of existence. To humans the Moon became the symbol of this passage from life to death and from death to life and was even regarded by some peoples as the place where this transition took place, in parallel with a location below the ground. This is why so many lunar deities are at the same time chthonian death-deities like Men, Persephone and, probably, Hermes. Some, however, believe that the journey to the moon or even life for ever on it was confined to such privileged classes as rulers, heroes, initiates or sorcerers...
"The Moon is a symbol of knowledge acquired coldly, logically and in graduated stages. While the Moon, as the star of night, may conjure up metaphorical visions of beauty shining against the vast black background of Heaven, this light is merely a reflection of the light of the Sun, and hence the Moon is the symbol of knowledge acquired through reflection, that is, theoretical, conceptual and rational knowledge... In this respect Moon and Owl are linked symbolically together. This is also the reason why the Moon is yen, being passive and receptive, relative to the Sun's yang. The Moon is Water relative to the Sun's Fire, cold relative to heat, and symbolically north and Winter in opposition to south and Summer."
(Dictionary of Symbols, Jean Chevalier & Alain Gheerbrant, pgs. 669-670)

The womb is associated with spiritual regeneration at times, and this seems to be the case in this instance. The knowledge the narrator has acquired in the song seems to have derived from pain and reflection upon it. Perhaps this pain was caused by something previously learned, and the "lunar womb" state the follows is the reflection upon these actions, and a purer knowledge that comes with it. But I digress.

At this point I shall wrap things up for now. In the next installment we shall consider the magic mushroom trip in our nation's capital that forever changed Wino's life and the groovy, Sabbathian spirituality that resulted in the form of Spirit Caravan. Stay tuned.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Fight Club, Evola, and Secret Societies Part II

Welcome to the second installment in my examination of the film Fight Club. At the onset I'd like to re-emphasize that this is a critique of the David Fincher film and not the Chuck Palahniuk novel. This author has read the novel, but not for a number of years (since at least the time Recluse was in middle school) and would not feel comfortable addressing the novel in depth. From what I vaguely recall, the Fincher film was superficially rather faithful to the Palahniuk novel, but I remember feeling that the tone of the two works was rather different. The lasting impression I have after all these years is that Fight Club the film struck me as being both more serious and nihilistic than the Palahniuk novel, which I found to be rather satirical. But it has been a while and I could definitely be wrong. But moving along.

In the first installment I noted the rather striking similarities between director David Fincher's interpretation of the Chuck Palahniuk novel and the philosophy of the Baron Julius Evola, an occultist and one of the chief fascist ideologues of the post-World War II era. The almost Manichean struggle the Fincher film depicts against the feminine and the cult of manhood Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) attempts to create is especially Evolan, as are the film's underlining criticism of consumerism and, by default, capitalism itself. Evola found capitalism and its chief pursuit, consumerism, to be an especially effeminate and materialistic aim, one of which that was incompatible with heroic virtues.

At this point I would like to change directions, and note a rather striking aspect of Fight Club that I began to notice several years ago, and that is the rather curious similarities it shares with a certain theory revolving around the legendary Peasant's Revolt that erupted in England during the year 1381. While there were any number of peasant's revolts that broke out in Europe during the tail end of the Middle Ages, the scale and organization of the 1381 English revolt has long fascinated historians and left-leaning social commentators alike. But in recent years it has become of especial interest to conspiracy theorists after amateur historian John J. Robinson linked the Peasant's Revolt of 1381 to the Medieval Knights Templar (who were "officially" suppressed in the 1312) and Freemasonry, which did not in theory exist until some time after the Peasant's Revolt.
"... Due to a fortuitous set of circumstances having nothing to do with Freemasons, John J. Robinson stumbled upon compelling proof that the Freemasons had their origins with the Knights Templar, and that the Templar Order had survived in England and Scotland after the official destruction of the Knights by order of the Pope. The evidence begins with the famous Peasant Revolt of 1381, in which there was a general uprising in England against the Church and the King, which resulted in the destruction of property all over the kingdom and the murder of many high-ranking clerics and nobles.
"Robinson demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt that the attack was directed specifically against the Knights Hospitaler, the Templars' hated rivals since the days of their mutual origin in the desert sands of Palestine, and the inheritors of the Templars' assets when the Templars were suppressed by Papal decree. Robinson's book – Born in Blood – is a worthwhile addition to Masonic studies, even though it contains no footnotes or other academic impedimenta that would have elevated it to more lofty status among scholars; its connecting the Peasant Revolt with a 'Grand Society' operating in secret in the British Isles, a society convincingly identified with the Knights Templar, is alone worth the price of admission. Robinson also shows that Templar shrines were spared the attacks, which left thousands dead and many beheaded as the revolt wound its way directly to the Tower of London. The leader of the revolt was known only by the name Walter the Tyler, which is suggestive, since the 'tyler' is a Masonic office in the rituals of the temple. All this indicates that the Masonic society has its origins in the Knights Templar, as many historians have always insisted (albeit without the benefit of documentation)."
(Sinister Forces Book II, Peter Levenda, pg. 156)

Fight Club does not of course feature any beheadings, but there are several other obvious parallels with the Peasant's Revolt as depicted by Robinson. The Peasant's Revolt was theoretically a spontaneous uprising of the masses that none known the less seems to have been directed by a secretive command structure, a possibility made highly probable by the remarkable degree of organization this supposedly spontaneous uprising displayed. Robinson suggests a secret society founded by the Knights Templar that at the time was referred to as the "Great Society." Regardless, the revolt would inflict terrible damage to the property of the leading establishments of British society at the time, namely the monarchy, the Church, and the Knights Hospitalers.

Fight Club chronicles an "underground" revolt of the masses engineered by a secret society deriving from various fight clubs started across the nation. This secret society, under the auspices of "Project Mayhem", begins a low key terror campaign directed at the property of the ruling establishment of modern American society, namely multinational corporations. This revolt is touched off by "Tyler Durden" (Brad Pitt), the alternative personality of the nameless Narrator (played Edward Norton) whom some fans some time refer to as "Jack."

This last part is quite interesting considering that the Peasant's Revolt was said to have been lead by a commoner known as Walter the Tyler, or sometimes simply Walt Tyler. This figure is easily one of the most mysterious aspects of the Peasant's Revolt.
"The first indication that Freemasonry might have been related to the rebellion was the name of the leader, Walter the Tyler. He exploded into English history with his mysterious uncontested appointment as the supreme commander of the Peasant's Rebellion on Friday, June 7, 1381, and left it as abruptly when his head was struck off eight days later on Saturday, June 15. Absolutely nothing is known of him before those eight days. That alone suggests that he was not using his real name. Historians have suggested that his name probably indicates that he was a roof tiler by trade, which, based on his obvious military experience and leadership abilities, is not very probable. But if he had indeed adopted a pseudonym, why what he called himself a 'Tyler'? Freemasons reading this will already see the point. The Tyler is the sentry, sergeant-at-arms, and enforcer of the Masonic Lodge. He screens visitors for credentials, secures the meeting place, and then stands guard outside the door with a drawn sword in his hand. If the Great Society was in any way connected with Freemasonry, 'Tyler' would have been the only proper Masonic title for the military leader who would wield a sword and enforce discipline..."
(Born in Blood, John J. Robinson, pg. 55)

In the context of Fight Club, the Masonic association of the Tyler with a sentry is most striking given how the film depicts the transformation of the fight clubs into a secret society. The narrator, in his Tyler Durden personality, initially procures a large, dilapidated house in an isolated, industrial sector of the nameless city in which the film begins. When the decision is made to transform the fight clubs into a full fledged secret society, candidates are invited to the house. Upon arriving they must stand outside the front door upon the porch for a period of three days before they can enter. During this time frame both "Jack" and his Tyler alternate take turns verbally and physically mocking the candidate in order to dissuade them from advancing into the society. This is very much in keeping with the duties and symbolism associated the Masonic Tyler.
"... By keeping these things secret, the Mason protects the Secret Temple itself. In ritual practice, there is a man who stands outside the temple entrance, carrying a sword. He is known as the Tyler, and it is he who knocks on the door to admit the initiate. A lowly position, it would seem, but on a symbolic level, it is equivalent of the Guardian at a Threshold. A concept character familiar to so many mystical sects the world over, and one who makes an appearance in Mozart's Masonic opera The Magic Flute, the Guardian is an obstacle that must be passed in order to reach higher states of consciousness or spiritual enlightenment. In practical terms, the Tyler has an important job to do in keeping curiosity-seekers and other unqualified persons from disrupting the rituals. He must examine the credentials of anyone claiming to be Mason before he is permitted to enter..."
(The Secret Temple, Peter Levenda, pgs. 12-13)

And this is indeed the role Tyler Durden performs initially in his secret society as well. Further reinforcing the Masonic allusions are the number of days --three --the candidate is made to wait outside Tyler's house before entrance. From there they begin their initiation, after having their heads shaved and being reborn as "space monkeys."

But here the similarities end, for the initiation Tyler Durden performs for his candidates can hardly be said to be one concerning a higher state of consciousness or spiritual enlightenment, In point of fact, it is a process of total dehumanization more closely resembling cult indoctrination, the re-education camps of Communist China or even some of the behavior modification experiments of the Pentagon and the US Intelligence community during the mid-Twentieth century. Candidates are effectively stripped of their entire personalities, save for their first names. Consider the overlap between Tyler's re-education program and the brainwashing methods used by Communist China:
"... The aim of brainwashing is to retrieve enemies and transform rather than eliminate them – either to make them exponents Marxism and then send them back home, or to turn them into edifying examples. The process, to the extent that it can be recognized, has three principal aspects:
"1. The individual is cut off from everything, from his former social milieu, from news and information. This can be done only if he is placed in a prison cell or a camp. The individual is totally uprooted. The absence of news places this man who has been used to receiving information, in a vacuum, which is hard to endure after a certain time. Complementary methods are added to this: a certain privation of food and sleep to weaken his psychological resistance, to make him more susceptible to influences (though there is no intention of exhausting him), frequent isolation and solitude, which causes a certain anxiety, increased by the uncertainty of his fate and the lack of a definite sentence or punishment; also frequently incarceration in windowless cells with only electric light, with irregular hours for meals, sleep, interrogations, and so on, in order to destroy even his sense of time. The principal aim of these psychological methods is to destroy a man's habitual patterns, space, hours, milieu, and so on. A man must be deprived of his accustomed supports. Finally, this man lives in a situation of inferiority and humiliation, aimed not at destroying him but at reconstructing him.
"2. A man placed in the above circumstances is subjected to a bombardment of slogans by radio or by fellow-prisoners, who, though prisoners themselves, shower him with reproaches and slogans, because they already are on the road to their own reconstruction. There is an endless repetition of formulas, explanations, and simple stimuli. Of course, in the beginning all this merely evokes the subject's scorn and disbelief. After some time, however, erosion takes place; whether the subject likes it or not, he ends up knowing by heart certain formulas of the cataclysm repeated to him a thousand times; he ends up inhabited by the slogans, which still carry no conviction; he does not yield to some advertising slogan, for example, just because he knows it. But it must not be forgotten that the prisoner hears nothing else, and that the incessant repetition of the slogans also prevents any personal reflection or meditation. The noise of the slogan is present all the time. The result is an involuntary penetration and a certain intellectual weakening, added to the impossibility of leading a private intellectual life..."
(Propaganda: The Formation of Men's Attitudes, Jacques Ellul, pgs. 311-312)
The second above described aspect of brainwashing is present throughout depictions of Tyler's indoctrination: Tyler himself uses a bullhorn to recite his anti-consumerist mantras to his disciples throughout the isolated house and surrounding property as they make their way through various stages of initiation. Older initiates are shown taking over these mantras and slogans as the progress in the ranks. Later candidate spending their three days on Tyler's porch are verbally attacked by early members rather than the Grand Master himself after a certain point.

This effectively creates a state of total dehumanization in which candidates are stripped of all but their first names and reborn as mindless space monkeys to do the bidding of Project Mayhem. Eventually the narrator inadvertently provides a way for the space monkeys to regain the full identity with which they were born with: a "heroic" death in the name of Project Mayhem. How Evolan.

Another curious Masonic allusion in the Fincher film appears about midway through when Project Mayhem has gone live. Tyler and several other space monkeys abduct a police official (?) who has begun to investigate incidents of vandalism committed by the group shortly after he has attended a keynote address at what appears to be a high society-type get together. He is dragged into a restroom at the gathering by Tyler and his minions, who are working as waiters there. The police official has a rubber band placed around his testicles and is told persuasively to "Do not fuck with us." The floor upon which this scene plays out is the infamous checkered squares frequently associated with Masonic lodges nowadays. These black and white squares have an interesting symbolism in Freemasonry and one rather appropriate to events unfolding in Fight Club at this point as well.
"In addition, the floor of the temple may be constructed or decorated in a checkerboard pattern of black and white squares, motif that is found on many Masonic documents, tracing boards, and other illustrations. The checkerboard pattern has a long and illustrious pedigree, calling to mind instantly the game of chess and its origins as a sacred game between the forces of light and darkness. Today, it might be interpreted as a grid, a group of cells called a matrix..."
(The Secret Temple, Peter Levenda, pg. 13)

This association with a matrix is especially curious The Matrix came out in the same year (1999) as Fight Club and would influence modern conspiracy culture to a similar extent. This is also apt for the terror cells Tyler's fight clubs have developed into as well.

Whether or not this Masonic symbolism is intentional or not is highly debatable. Chuck Palahniuk has been rather coy about what inspired the original novel upon which the film was based, but has floated the Cacophony Society (of which he is a member) as a partial inspiration. Robinson's Born in Blood was released in 1990 and became a hit in certain alternative media circles not long afterwards. I've found nothing to indicate that Palahniuk had read Robinson's work, but it was certainly available and had generated a certain degree of word-of-mouth by the time Palahniuk began working on what would become Fight Club. I've also found nothing to indicate that David Fincher was aware of Robinson's book, but perhaps the use of checkerboard squares in the above mentioned scene was a sly reference to the curious overlap between the general plot line of Fight Club and Robinson's theory concerning the Peasant's Revolt.

Beyond the ample Masonic references, there are any number of other aspects concerning Fight Club that should have inspired way more conspiratorial interpretations than what appears to be online. The narrator and his Tyler Durden alter ego with their grandiose plans for their secret society and Project Mayhem are in many ways the fever dreams of the Project Monarch (which is almost certainly a hoax) proponents given life. Fight Club is one of the most high brow depictions of disassociative identity disorder ever put forth by Hollywood and yet this aspect is rarely addressed by the countless Hollywood-centric Monarch bloggers (*cough* Vigilant Citizen *cough*) despite the fact that a programmed patsy operating a terror organization designed to destabilize the nation has become something of a Holy Grail in such circles.

In the wake of Fight Club the film the notion that behavioral modification techniques developed by the Pentagon and US Intelligence community had been used on individuals engaged in acts of violence and terrorism was given scholarly consideration by such works as David McGowan's Programmed to Kill: The Politics of Serial Murder and Peter Levenda's Sinister Forces trilogy. Fight Club's depiction of such things is over he top enough to put it in the nonsense of the Monarch camp, but the timing of its release is curious. Such notions were also being explored by the Chris Carter-created/produced TV series Millennium (of which I've written much more on before here, here and here) around this same time. But I digress.

Fight Club is also ripe for the "science" of "predictive programming". As with many of the more sophisticated notions of modern conspiracy culture, this premise seems to have been pioneered by the fanatical traditionalist Catholic and Holocaust denier (and likely fascist sympathizer) Michael A. Hoffman II. Hoffman alleges that this technique was incorporated into modern media by Aleister Crowley and his Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO) initiates as part of their occult agenda.
"OTO initiates authorized mass market stories, especially science fiction, with subliminal, occult themes published in popular books and magazines. Among the most influential of these were Robert Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land, A.H. White's Rocket to the Morgue and the after mentioned Arthur C. Clarke's 'The Sentinel' and Childhood's End.
"Clarke had been a leading member of the British Interplanetary Society, a London-based group of elite thinkers, engineers, British secret service assets and 'sci-fi enthusiasts' who were 'devoted to laying the groundwork for the space age.' Their patron saint was the Fabian Socialist futurist/inevitabilist, H. G. Wells, who script, a.k.a. 'science-fiction novel,' First Men on the Moon gave the correct lift-off location for the first manned flight (Cape Canaveral) decades beforehand...
"By means of the newly burgeoning genre of science fiction, the OTO was able to shape the vision of America through predictive programming, which forecasts an 'inevitable future,' thereby influencing everything from the architecture of our cities to the design of our automobiles and conceptions of what constitutes 'progress and liberation' in the future... 
"... Predictive programming works by means of the propagation of the illusion of an infallibly accurate vision of how the world is going to look in the future. This fraud has had a not inconsiderable impact on our reality. Aleister Crowley, in a statement to OTO initiates concerning one of his books, describes the underlying epistemology behind the glamour and enchantment which causes the occult con-game to become the weird reality we inhabit in America today:
"'In this book it is spoken of the Sephiroth, and the Paths, of Spirits and Conjuration; the Gods, Spheres, Planes, and many other things which may or may not exist. It is immaterial whether they exist or not. By doing certain things certain results follow; students are most earnestly warned against attributing objective reality or philosophic validity to any of them.'
"Here Crowley admits that the OTO is a vehicle for imposing an artificial reality based on nothing but lies and promoted by liars initiated into the art and science of illusion. Matters have gotten 'darker than you think' in the years since Crowley's death in 1947. In Jack Williamson's sci-fi tale Darker Than You Think, aliens conspire against humanity under the leadership of the 'Child of Night,' a Parsons character who is 'the result of a magical prodigious birth.'
(Secret Societies and Psychological Warfare, Michael A. Hoffman II, pgs. 205-206)
Fight Club of course makes maple use of subliminal messages, letting the audience in on this technique early in the proceedings. Subliminals appear from the early moments of the film (in which quick flashes of Tyler Durden are used in scenes from the Narrator's life before he "materializes") to literally the final scene, which is a quick cut of a penis. This final image is in reference to Tyler's hobby of splicing phalluses into children's film, surely a "revelation of the method" worthy moment as conspiracy culture has long been obsessed with the notion that Disney films are used to expose young children to pornography (run downs of such notions can be viewed here and here, or upon any number of other conspiracy blogs across the web) as part of the "Illuminati Agenda."

Then of course there are Fight Club's curious parallels to the 9/11 terror attacks. The ultimate objective of Project Mayhem is revealed to be a plot to blow up a series of banks in an unnamed, major American city so as to eliminate all debt. Besides the fact that one of the more iconical images from the film (namely the shot of the Narrator and Marla Singer [Helena Bonham Carter] with their backs to the camera, gazing out of the top floor of an office building as two skyscrapers collapse across the street from a series of explosions) eerily foreshadows the collapse the Twin Towers, there's the curious method Project Mayhem employs to bring down the buildings: controlled demolition. Conspiracy culture had of course are already developed a keen interest in controlled demolition at this point thanks to the Oklahoma City bombing, but such notions would go into overdrive in the wake of 9/11.

Masonic allusions galore, subliminal messages, alternative personalities, secret societies, controlled demolition --this is surely a gold mind for conspiracy bloggers, and yet one that has rarely been tapped. This is in no small part due to the fact the Fight Club has had an enormous influence on post-9/11 conspiracy culture, especially within the patriot movement. Project Mayhem's defining event --the destruction of various financial institutions and the elimination of debt --is no doubt the fever dream of any number self-styled anarcho-capitalist/libertarian revolutionaries out there right now.

But Fight Club is ultimately a smarter film than the overwhelming majority of its audience, and wisely fades to black shortly after the buildings have been blown up. Otherwise the filmmakers would have had to depict the fall out of Tyler's actions, and they likely would not be especially romantic. Less than two years after the film's release 9/11 would put on full display the type of blatant power grabs made possible by major terror attacks, even those directed at major financial institutions.

Would Americans have woken up in Fight Club's aftermath with a glorious debt-free revolt against the banks in full sway, or would they have woken up to find their bank accounts and life savings frozen until further notice? And if the later scenario was the case, would such circumstances touch off a revolution or simply further entrench the powers that be? The funny thing about Tyler''s revolt is that, despite a few juvenile pranks against elites, his final plot for fomenting revolution would have almost surely caused far more suffering for average working stiffs than CEOs.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Fight Club, Evola and Secret Societies Part I

The film Fight Club, which is just about to turn fifteen, has had a lasting influence on pop culture. Brad Pitt as the hipster revolutionary Tyler Durden is arguably the actor's most iconic role, and his-mug-as-Durden has found its way on to any number of internet images over the years. But beyond it's influence on mainstream culture, Fight Club has had an especially lasting impact on the patriot movement, the conspiratorial right and libertarian circles in general. For instance, the popular Austrian School-centric economic news website Zero Hedge is written by a group of editors who collectively use the pseudonym Tyler Durden when posting. What's more, Zero Hedge's name derives from the line "On a long enough timeline the survival rate of everyone drops to zero" uttered by Pitt's Durden inn the film.

This is only scratching the surface of Fight Club's influence on such "grassroots" circles. Fight Club was one of several films released in 1999 (The MatrixAmerican Beauty, eXistenZ, Eyes Wide Shut, and so forth) that would go on to have an enormous influence on post-9/11 conspiracy culture. In hindsight this is hardly surprising. Fight Club, as well as The Matrix and American Beauty, feature burned out white yuppie protagonists who ultimately engage in one type of rebellion or another against their soulless consumerist existence. No doubt this has became the fantasy of any number of burned out white yuppies who are now convinced the presidency of Barack Obama is the most heinous personification of evil the nation (and possibly human kind) has ever confronted.

And while superficially Tyler Durden's anti-corporate/consumer monologues have a certain appeal in the New Normal, a closer examination of Fight Club reveals a picture deeply steeped in a certain type of revolution and one that would hardly lead to "freedom" as defined by most Americans. As best as Recluse can remember, the Chuck Palahniuk novel upon which the film is based took a dimer view towards the Durden figure and the revolution he attempts to incite. Conversely, director David Fincher depicts Durden as an MTV ready anti-hero bent upon wrecking the yuppie complacency with consumerism all the while maintaining an impeccable tan. Fincher and scribe Jim Uhls even go so far as including more expletive political overtones to Durden's musings so as to add meaning to what is ultimately rebellion seemingly inspired more by boredom than anything else.

Fight Club is effectively the tale of a nameless corporate drone sometimes referred to as "Jack" (played by Edward Norton) who, in order to cope with the meaningless of his existence, develops an alternative personality: Tyler Durden (Pitt). Tyler is everything Jack wishes that he was, and "together" they begin founding a gentleman's clubs in which other emasculated men beat one another to pulp on certain nights of the week. Eventually Jack/Durden becomes enamored with the potential of these fight clubs and effectively turns the organization into a nation wide secret society. Thus Jack/Durden, the prototypical yuppie, possess himself as the leader of the "middle children of history" (who largely consist of waiters, bus boys, clerks, and other minor professions) in a revolt against their corporate overlords. And in the midst of all of this is Helene Bonham Carter as Marla Singer, a kind of stand-in for woman kind who becomes in a bizarre love "triangle" with Jack/Tyler.

Norton as the Narrator
But despite this populist slant, Durden is seemingly little concerned with the woes of the ever growing ranks of American's working poor. Of this state of affairs Henry Giroux, professor, author and culture critic, notes:
"While Fight Club registers a form of resistance to the rampant commodification and alienation of contemporary neoliberal society, it ultimately has little to say about those diverse and related aspects of consumer culture and contemporary capitalism structured in iniquitous power relations, material wealth, or hierarchical social formations. Fight Club largely ignores issues surrounding the break up of labor unions, the slashing of the U.S. workforce, extensive plant closings, downsizing, outsourcing, the elimination of the welfare state, the attack on people of color, and the growing disparities between the rich and the poor. All of these issues get factored out of Fight Club’s analysis of consumerism and capitalist exploitation. Hence, it comes as no surprise that class as a critical category is non-existent in this film. When working class people do appear, they are represented primarily as brown shirts, part of the non-thinking herd looking for an opportunity to release their tensions and repressed masculine rage through forms of terrorist violence and self-abuse. Or they appear as people who willingly take up jobs that are dehumanizing, unskilled, and alienating. There is one particularly revealing scene in Fight Club that brings this message home while simultaneously signaling a crucial element of the film’s politics. At one point in the story, Tyler takes Jack into a convenience store. He pulls out a gun and forces the young Indian clerk to get on his knees. Putting the gun to the clerk’s head, Tyler tells him he is going to die. As a kind of parting gesture, he then asks Raymond, the clerk, what he really wanted to be in life. A vetinarian, Raymond replies, but he had to drop out of school for lack of money. Tyler tells him that if he isn’t on his way to becoming a vetinarian in six weeks he is going to come back and kill him. He then lets Raymond go and tells Jack that tomorrow morning will be the most important day in Raymond’s life because he will have to address what it means to do something about his future. Choice for Tyler appears to be an exclusively individual act, a simple matter of personal will that functions outside of existing relations of power, resources, and social formations. As Homi Bhabha points out, this notion of agency 'suggests that "free choice" is inherent in the individual [and] based on an unquestioned "egalitarianism" and a utopian notion of individualism that bears no relation to the history of the marginalized, the minoritized, the oppressed.'
"This privatized version of agency and politics is central to understanding Tyler’s character as emblematic of the very market forces he denounces. For Tyler, success is simply a matter of getting off one’s back and forging ahead; individual initiative and the sheer force of will magically cancels out institutional constraints, and critiques of the gravity of dominant relations of oppression are dismissed as either an act of bad faith or the unacceptable whine of victimization. Tyler hates consumerism but he values a 'Just Do It' ideology appropriated from the marketing strategists of the Nike corporation. It is not surprising that in linking freedom to the dynamics of individual choice, Fight Club offers up a notion of politics in which oppression breeds contempt rather than compassion, and social change is fueled by totalitarian visions rather than democratic struggles. By defining agency through such a limited (and, curiously republican party )notion of choice, Fight Club reinscribes freedom as an individual desire rather than the 'testing of boundaries and limits as part of a communal, collective process.' In the end, Fight Club removes choice as a 'public demand and duty'20 and in doing so restricts the public spaces people are allowed to inhabit as well as the range of subject positions they are allowed to take up. Hence, it is no wonder that in Fight Club it is not about working men and women who embody a sense of agency and empowerment but largely middle-class heterosexual, white men who are suffering from a blocked hyper-masculinity." 
Raymond the would-be veterinarian 
Thus, Tyler's rejection of consumerism, and to some extent capitalism itself, can not be understood in anything resembling Marxist terms. Indeed, it is likely Tyler would have vehemently denounced Marxism had such concerns been relevant during the feel-good Clinton era. In point of fact, Durden's world view in this sense bears a striking similarity to the Evolan school of post-World War II fascism. The Baron Julius Evola (much more on Evola can be found here and here), the notorious occultist and philosopher, was of what this researcher likes to think of as the "revolutionary" wing of fascism, as opposed to the "traditionalist" wing (the historically dominate variety) that has sought close ties with the heads of industry and religion of a respective nation. Evola and his ilk saw capitalism, communism and monotheism alike as equally evil.
"Evola argued that it was absurd to identify the right with capitalism. Fascism, properly understood, was the antithesis of bourgeois society, not its avatar. Since fascist values like blood, sacrifice, and heroism were far more pagan than Christian, fascism was also in opposition to the Catholic Church. He was equally relentless in his condemnation of the Salo left. To Evola, Marxism, with the its stress on material issues, was merely a further extension of bourgeois ideology, not its negation. Any movement primarily inspired by economic concerns was intrinsically anti-heroic."
(Dreamer of the Day, Kevin Coogan, pg. 211) 
Black, sacrifice, and heroism certainly play a crucial role in Durden's ideology. Nor is the only time Fight Club's philosophy crosses paths with Evola. Much of the ideology underpinning Tyler's revolt is centered around an obsession with the warrior ethos of old and a complete rejection of all things feminine. Indeed, Fight Club effectively blames the spiritual malaise of modern man at the end of the millennium on the stifling emasculation of the hyper-feminized society in which they inhabit. Continuing with Giroux:
"The pathology at issue, and one which is central to Fight Club, is its intensely misogynist representation of women, and its intimation that violence is the only means through which men can be cleansed of the dire affect women have on the shaping of their identities. From the first scene of Fight Club to the last, women are cast as the binary opposite of masculinity. Women are both the other and a form of pathology. Jack begins his narrative by claiming that Marla is the cause of all of his problems. Tyler consistently tells Jack that men have lost their manhood because they have been feminized, they are a generation raised by women. And the critical commentary on consumerism presented throughout the film is really not a serious critique of capitalism as much as it is a criticism of the feminization and domestication of men in a society driven by relations of buying and selling. Consumerism is criticized because it is womanish stuff. Moreover, the only primary female character, Marla, appears to exist to simultaneously make men unhappy and to service their sexual needs. Marla has no identity outside of the needs of the warrior mentality, the chest-beating impulses of men who revel in patriarchy and enact all of the violence associated with such traditional, hyper-masculine stereotypes... But representations of masculinity in Fight Club do more than reinscribe forms of male identity within a warrior mentality and space of patriarchical relations. They also work to legitimate unequal relations of power and oppression while condoning 'a view of masculinity predicated on the need to wage violence against all that is feminine both within and outside of their lives...'"
Evola's world view was shaped by what he perceived as a Manichean struggle between the forces of "absolute manhood" and the feminine, a war that has unfolded since the dawn of time and is one of both a spiritual and genetic nature.
"Evola's own mythmaking centered around Hyperborea, the original article homeland, also known as Thule, the sacred island. Evola's Hyperborea was as much a vision of being (or what he calls a 'framework of an ontology') as a historic fact. The sacred figure in Hyperborea was the king, conceived not simply as the ruler of a warrior aristocracy, but as a 'God/man' – a living link to the divine, much like the Japanese emperor or Egyptian pharaoh. King, not high priest, was the true pontifex, who united the natural and supernatural dimensions.
"From Hyperborea (or Ultima Thule), the sun-worshiping Boreal Race migrated in two directions. One group went to northern Europe, where it preserved its solar symbolism in the swastika. A second migration went first to Atlantis and then into the Americas and Western Europe. Remnants of the Hyperborean culture had also been preserved by the Aryans, who originally entered India from the far north.
"During their vast migrations, the Hyperboreans encountered many indigenous cultures. Although the northern European branch kept itself relatively pure, the 'Atlanteans' allowed intermarriage with the aboriginal races of the south. These encounters with 'inferior races, which were enslaved to the chthonic cult of demons and mixed with animal nature,' gave rise to 'memories of struggles that were eventually expressed in mythological form.' In these myths geography took on symbolic meaning. The chaotic, fertile sea was female. Mountains, as fixed 'elevated places' (and the traditional seat of the Gods), were the masculine opposite of the 'contingency of the "waters."' Another symbolic north/south dividing line involved burial ritual: In solar cults the dead are incinerated, while in the south the dead are placed in graves and returned to Mother Earth.
"The south's religions, the cults of Earth and Sea, were matriarchal. Out of them came pantheistic naturalism, sensuality, promiscuity, and a passive mystical and contemplative nature. The south also gave rise to egalitarianism by dethroning the original ruling warrior caste and replacing it with the sacerdotal or priests caste. Any society governed by such a priest caste was inherently 'feminine in its attitude to the spirit' because kingship had been reduced to a purely material function. Before the decay, the dominate warrior caste had followed the northern solar-worshiping religion without need of priestly mediation. The elevation of the Brahmans above the Kshatriyas therefore marked beginning of the Silver Age. Now the priests determined the divinity of the king.
"The north/south struggle was mythologically symbolized by the clash between the sun-god principle of the north that stood for 'the superior invisible realm of being' and the moon goddess of the south whose dominion was the 'inferior realm of becoming.' Evola believed that the Italian personality was split along a north/south archetypeal axis, where 'Nordic elements coexisting in perpetual anarchy with Africo-Mediterranean elements,' causing an absence of 'psychic equilibrium' critical to an understanding of Italy's complex, infuriating history. He rethought world history as well, declaring that the Mayans were a telluric race, while the Aztecs and Incas followed of the solar north. Japan was a model solar civilization whose aristocratic bushido warrior code best preserved Tradition. In Greece, the Eumenides symbolized the victory of the masculine north over matriarchy.
"With Heracles the West had its first great epic hero. In his book Metaphysics of Sex, Evola called Heracles the embodiment of solar masculinity who became legendary both as a conqueror of the Amazons, and as 'a foe of the Mother (of Hera, just as Roman Hercules was the foe of Bona Dea), from whose bonds he freed himself.' Heracles dominated the Tree/Female life force principle by obtaining 'Hebe, everlasting youth, as his wife in Olympus after attaining the way to the garden of Hesperides,' where he plucked the golden apple, 'itself a symbol link to the Mother (the apples have been given by Gea to Hera) and to the life force.' 
"Dionysus, however, stood for a 'Chthonic-Poseidon form of manhood,' as he was linked to Poseidon, god of the waters, and also to Osiris, 'conceived as the stream of the Nile, which waters and fertilizes Isis, the black earth of Egypt.' Dionysus symbolizes 'the wet principle of generation related to the merely phallic concept of manhood; the god is the male considered only according to the aspect of the being who fecundates the female substance and, as such, is subordinate to her.' This was why Dionysus 'is always joined with female figures related to the archetype of the Great Goddess.' Even as a sun god, Dionysus was still viewed 'not in the aspect of pure, unchangeable light but as the star that dies and rises again.' Dionysus symbolized the sun only in an inferior way, the way 'the sun sets and rises again,' when its light 'is still not the steady, abstract light of being or of the pure Olympian principle.' As for Christianity, it was less a Jewish sect that another variant of Dionysianism from Asia Minor.
"Only in its 'Apollonian manifestation' does 'pure manhood' fully manifest itself. Here the god Apollo becomes:
"The embodiment of Olympian nous (perception) and of unchangeable uranic light, freed from the earthly element and also from his connection with goddesses in some spurious historical varieties of his warship. At this level Apollo, as the god of 'pure form,' was conceived without a mother and was born by himself, ametor (without a mother) and autophues (self-growing), being the Doric god who 'produced from geometrically.' (This determination of plastic matter is proper to the male and to form, whereas the indeterminate nature of plastic matter and the limitless apeiron, belongs to the female.)"
(Dreamer of the Day, Kevin Coogan, pgs. 304-306) 
the Baron Evola
Pitt's Tyler Durden, with his movie star looks, blond highlights and bronzed tan, is very much an Apollonian figure. He is also one of contradictions, being both rebel and authoritarian in equal measures. This is also true of Apollo.
"He first manifests himself as the image of violence and unbridled arrogance but, as he gathers to himself a range of Nordic, Asiatic and Aegean attributes, his divine personality becomes more and more complex. It synthesizes within itself so many warring elements which it finally reconciles into the ideal of wisdom which is regarded as the Greek miracle. Apollo embodies the balance and harmony of the passions, achieved not by suppressing instinctive impulses, but by directing them through the development of awareness towards an ever-increasing spiritualization..."
(Dictionary of Symbols, Jean Chevalier & Alain Gheerbrant, pg. 34)

In a sense this is also the path Tyler and Jack take as well, though their "spiritualization" of their instinctive impulses is to form a cult geared toward carrying out a rather juvenile terror campaign. It is dubbed Project Mayhem. In the second installment I shall consider Project Mayhem and the curious overlap it and the fight club secret societies have with one of them ore compelling claims floating around conspiracy culture. Stay tuned.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

William Dudley Pelley, International Fascism, and the Sirius Tradition Part VII

Welcome to the seventh and final installment in my examination the notorious 1930s fascist William Dudley Pelley. The first two installments in this series (which can be found here and here) primarily dealt with Pelley's creation of the paramilitary Silver Shirts organization and his ties to the fascist underground both before and after World War II. Beginning in the third installment I began to consider Pelley's extensive, if little acknowledged, involvement in occult and metaphysical circles beginning in the late 1920s and lasting for the rest of Pelley's life.

From there, parts four, five and six dealt with some of the more incredible aspects of Pelley's metaphysical tradition, most notably its emphasis on the Sirius, the Dog Star, and his early advocacy of what would eventually become known as ancient astronaut theories (Pelley believed that the white race was descendant from type of extraterrestrial beings from Sirius). The notion of ancient astronauts originating from Sirius would of course become popular in New Age circles by the late 1970s thanks to the publication of Robert K.G. Temple's The Sirius Mystery in 1976. Part six of this series considered in depth whether Temple's research had been influenced by Pelley, or his followers (many of whom adopted Pelley's system wholesale with few variations). Based upon the evidence presented in that installment, this researcher personally believes that such a scenario is a real possibility.

As was noted in that installment, Temple was a part of a loosely-affiliated network of artists, scientists, and intellectuals centered around two well connected individuals, Arthur Young and Andrija Puharich. Both Young and Puharich were inventors who would become deeply involved in metaphysical studies after World War II and would have an enormous influence on the modern day New Age movement. Given the circles either man traveled in, but most especially Puharich, it is highly likely that they at least had a passing knowledge of Pelley and his metaphysical system. What's more, both men had ties to powerful figures within the Pentagon and US intelligence community.

In this installment I would like to consider whether or not the research contributed by the Young-Puharich network concerning Sirius may have been partly inspired by elements within the United States national security apparatus who were curious as to whether or not there was any merit to Pelley's claims.

With the mission statement out of the way, let us now begin examining the defense/intelligence ties Young and Puharich possessed. I shall start off with Young, but shall avoid a thorough examination here as I already wrote on the intelligence ties of his extended family at length during my examination of the Kennedy assassination (which can be found here). In brief: Young married Ruth Forbes Young, a member the famed Forbes family of Boston. Prior to her marriage to Young, Ruth Forbes had been married to George Lyman Paine, the scion of two other American blue blood clans: the Paine family and the Cabots. The Cabot family had ties to the US intelligence community since World War II.

Ruth Forbes Young
Ruth Forbes had a son with Paine, Michael Paine, who became Arthur Young's stepson upon his marriage to Paine's mother. Michael Paine would in turn marry a woman known as Ruth Hyde Paine. Michael and Ruth Paine were at the heart of the Kennedy assassination, having forged a friendship with Lee Harvey and Marina Oswald in Dallas. Marina would go on to live with Ruth after Oswald headed to New Orleans allegedly in search of work. Marina would be living with the Paines again at the time of the Kennedy assassination. They would play a key role in developing the Oswald cover story based on flimsy evidence they presented to the authorities.

Ruth and Michael Paine
Both seem to have had ties to the US intelligence community and Ruth would pop up again in Nicaragua during the height of the Iran-Contra affair and was accused of monitoring liberal missionaries there for US intelligence. Thus, both Arthur Young's stepson and daughter-in-law not only had intelligence ties, they appeared in the midst of one of the greatest scandals in US history (plus Ruth Paine's work in Nicaragua during the 1980s). Beyond this Lawrence D. Bell, Young's old boss from Bell Helicopter (of whom Michael Paine was working for when he befriended the Oswalds in Dallas during 1962), was a member of the notorious Suite 8F Group, a clique of far right wing businessmen (many from Texas) with deep ties to the defense industry. This group has also been linked to the Kennedy assassination. But I digress --Again, for much more information on the deep backgrounds of individuals surrounding Young, check here.

Arthur Young
In the case of Puharich we are on much firmer footing. Puharich himself acknowledged briefing the Pentagon and the US intelligence community on the possible uses of parapsychology and ESP in warfare during the mid-1950s. Standard biographical accounts frequently make reference to these meetings.
"... Andrija Puharich, the man who introduced the controversial Israeli psychic Uri Geller to the world. Puharich, who passed away in 1995 under circumstances never resolved... was an Army officer in the early 1950s. During that time, Puharich was in and out of Edgewood Arsenal and Camp Detrick, meeting with various high-ranking officers and officials, primarily from the Pentagon, CIA, and Naval Intelligence. The purpose of the meetings was Puharich's relentless attempt to convince the military and Intelligence agencies to take the potentials of parapsychology seriously.
"In February 1953, Puharich gave a lecture on extrasensory perception to the Pentagon's Advisory Group on Psychological Warfare and Unconventional Warfare. A few months later, he was asked to give a similar presentation to the Air Force Aviation School in San Antonio, Texas.
"In November 1953... Puharich was invited to the Pentagon to meet with CIA officials and psychological warfare experts. The group was interested in funding his research into extrasensory perception, but made it clear that funds would have to go through a university that would act as what Puharich termed 'a blind.' He agreed to the proposal, but nothing happened for several months, until his commanding officer, Col. Norman W. Elton, at Edgewood Arsenal, asked if he would consider doing another lecture on extrasensory perception before a select group from Edgewood, Camp Detrick, and the CIA. The request set off a discussion on the subject between the two men, during which Elton voiced some skepticism..."
(A Terrible Mistake, H.P.  Albarelli Jr., pg. 53)

It was at this point that Puharich would have us believe that his involvement with the Pentagon and CIA concerning parapsychology came to a conclusion but the great H.P. Albarelli Jr. (whose A Terrible Mistake: The Murder of Frank Olson and the CIA's Secret Cold War Experiments is easily the definitive account of the various Pentagon and CIA "medical experiments" conducted in the mid-20th century) discovered that Puharich's involvement was far more extensive than a few lectures and informal discussions.
"Recently uncovered document fragments from the mostly destroyed MKULTRA collection revealed Puharich had far more contact and interaction with the CIA and Army concerning drug experimentation that he indicates in any of his books. Indeed, it appears that Puharich participated in the number of secret experiments with amanita muscaria, the species of psychoactive mushrooms mentioned in his book. The experiments took place at prisons for men in New Jersey and Maryland, as well as at the Spring Grove Mental Hospital in Catonsville, Maryland. Also involved in these experiments was Dr. Amedeo Marrazzi.
"Worth noting, is that Col. Norman W. Elton, according to declassified Army documents, oversaw the 'use of volunteers in research in defense against chemical warfare,' including 'the exposure of individuals to the hazards of toxic chemicals.' These chemicals being 'standard or candidate CW agents or they may be standard or candidate therapeutic agents.'
"In a later 1953 presentation at Edgewood Arsenal that perhaps presaged the subsequent development of remote viewing, Puharich predicted the day 'in the not too distant future when a select cadre of soldiers will possess the ability to telepathically accomplish critical intelligence task, and may well hold the mental abilities to observe and counteract enemy movements and tactics.'
(ibid, pg. 54)

Albarelli also notes that Puharich was working under contract with a major defense researcher by 1953 as well.
"...Puharich, as well as with Clark Thorp, a chemist and a man named Kenneth Miller, both of whom were from the Armour Research Foundation. Puharich was working with Thorp and Miller under contract...
"The Armour Research Foundation is a research and funding institute attached to the Illinois Institute of Technology that conducts extensive scientific research for the U.S. Army, Navy and Air Force, including the Army's Chemical Corps. Much of this research is classified and concerns radio frequency interference reduction, as well as other projects. Armour continues to be an active Department of Defense contractor.
"Dr. Clark E. Thorp was the manager and chairman of Armour's Department of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering in the 1950s. Thorp is considered the 'Father of Modern Ozone Research,' primarily because of his expertise concerning Ozone toxicity and its effects on humans. Scientists say that it was Dr. Thorp's work that 'led the way to clearing Ozone as a potential pollutant.' It is unclear who Kenneth Miller was, but, at the time, there were at least two Kenneth Miller's working for the CIA."
(ibid, pgs. 260-261) 
the present headquarters of Armour, now known as IIT Research Institute
The great Nick Redfern also alleges that the Collins Elite were interested in Puharich's work. The Collins Elite was touched upon in greater depth in part five, but in brief: allegedly they were a group largely comprised of military intelligence officers initially who were concerned with investigating the occult implications of the UFO phenomenon. The group emerged during the early 1950s and supposedly operated out of the CIA's Directorate of Plans despite the group seemingly being under the control of the Pentagon. The very existence of this group is highly debatable, with researcher Redfern being chiefly responsible for the revelations concerning them. Redfern learned of the Collins Elite largely from informants, most notably a "Richard Duke."

As was noted in part five, the Collins Elite is said to have had an interest UFO contactees George Adamski and George Hunt Williamson. Williamson was a protege of William Dudley Pelley, and there are strong indications that Adamski and Pelley had some type of relationship as well. Its also likely, as was noted in part six, that Andrija Puharich was aware of Williamson (who may well have been the young medium who sent the Laugheads to Puharich in Mexico, a key event in the saga of The Nine). The Collins Elite's interest in Puharich brings things full circle:
"... official documentation provided to me by Richard Duke reads as follows:
"On 3 September 1957, Dr. M. K. Savely, Chief, Aero Medical Division, Air Force Office of Scientific Research, was interviewed in his office concerning [Puharich] and stated in substance: His only contact with [Puharich] was about 2 days in August 1957 when he (Savely) and Mr. William J. Frye, Professor, Electrical Engineering, University of Illinois, visited [Puharich] in Glen Cove, Maine. [Puharich] directs from one to furteen employees consisting of Peter Hurkos, who was born in the Netherlands; Morey Bernstein, who wrote The Return of Birdie Murphy [correct title: The Search for Birdie Murphy]; and others to act as domestic help. Dr. Savely was told by [Puharich] that the Round Table Foundation operates on contributions which average from $24 to $60,000 per year. Two of the Contributors and Backers are Representative Bolton of Ohio and Mr. W. K. Belk, department store owner from North Carolina. [Puharich] uses various electronic equipment and drugs in his experiments and appears to be dedicated to the study of the science of transmitting messages from one person to another through mental telepathy. [Puharich] graduated from Northwestern University in 1948 and served his internship at Permento Hospital somewhere in California. [Puharich] served in the Army Medical Corps in 1951-1953 at the Army Chemical Center, Edgewood, Maryland. Mr. Savely feels that [Puharich's] work is worthwhile and that [Puharich] could do some good in this field. Source knows nothing of a derogatory nature of anything concerning [Puharich's] political feelings or affiliations.
"And Puharich himself was able to add more data regarding apparent official interest in his activities in 1957: 'On September 12, 1957, a military friend of mine phoned from Washington with rather startling news. He said that he had been talking to some colleagues about our research in Maine and two officials expressed an interest in visiting the laboratory. He told me that one of the men, a busy general, had picked a date to come to Maine. The date was September 27, 1957.'
"But the planned visit was canceled, according to Puharich. Richard Duke, however, maintained that the meeting did take place, and that the 'busy general' in question was an associate of the Collins Elite. Duke says that it was merely rescheduled and 'went black because of the UFO thing and the Parsons theories.' No one wanted to admit – and have Congress, the media and the public know – that they were digging into controversies suggesting a link between UFOs, demonology and altered-states of mind..."
(Final Events, Nick Redfern, pgs. 66-67)

Again, the existence of the Collins Elite is still highly questionable. The existence of another program recently linked to Puharich's research is not, however.
"... CIA project involving young people and women. This project, commencing in early 1953 and running until about 1963, involved the training of small cadres of women for work as Agency and military couriers, as well as young girls and teenagers for mostly unknown objectives apparently related to the CIA's interest in hypnosis, slight-of-hand, and telekinesis. Some of the best evidence of this project comes from the activities of CIA officer Robert Vern Lashbrook in November 1953, when he was in New York City with Dr. Frank Olson... and shortly thereafter in December 1953 and January 1954. We are fortunate to have this evidence from the assiduous research of writer and magician Ben Robinson, who reveals it in his book, The Magician: John Mulholland's Secret Life, the activities of Lashbrook concerning Dr. Andrija Puharich's research and projects.
"Additionally, former CIA scientist John Gavin, who worked in the CIA's Technical Services Division under Gottlieb, said in 1979, 'There was a project around the mid-1950s that involved children, covert operations and parapsychology of sorts. I didn't work on it, but I knew about it.' Gavin, who resigned his CIA post in the late 1950s, also stated, 'There was also one project I was aware of that trained women as couriers and covert operators. It made use of LSD in what was called "narco-hypnosis," a term devised by the Agency's Medical Office... it was operated apart from Technical Services under the ARTICHOKE Project and involved the development of special interrogation techniques.' A May 19, 1952 CIA document sent from the Agency's Medical Staff chief to the Assistant Director of Scientific Intelligence reads in part:
"Reference is made to the attached draft, subject 'Special Interrogations.' At the meeting of 14 May 19 the Medical Office outlined its position regarding the Artichoke Project and requested that the term 'Narco-hypnosis' be used to those responsibilities within the interim program that are basically medical.... It was also agreed at the meeting of 14 May 1952 that field activities would be under the command of the chief of field station concerned, provided that instances of this agreement would be referred back to headquarters for final decision.
"In late 1998, when this author interviewed Dr. Sidney Gottlieb... the former Technical Services Division chief said, 'Yes, I have some trace memories of that project. I think it began before MK/ULTRA was approved... with an unrelated program Morse Allen initiated around [Dr. Andrija] Puharich's work. It was never a formally sanctioned TSD program, but we were interested and [Dr. Henry] Bortner stayed with it for a while.... It was one of those projects that would be greatly misunderstood today.'"
(A Secret Order, H.P. Albarelli Jr., pgs. 42-43)
It's tempting to speculate just what type of research involving children and telekinesis Puharich may have inspired, especially considering the latter research Puharich did on developing the psychic abilities of kids as part of his "Space Kids" program (a public operation that was surely child's play compared to what elements within the Pentagon and Intelligence community may have used his research for). But such a topic would be far beyond the scope of this series. What is interesting about the above quote is the linkage of Puharich with Project Artichoke.

Project Artichoke was one of the various projects the Pentagon and CIA initiated in the 1950s to research "behavior modification" techniques, at least superficially. Project MK-Ultra was the most infamous of these programs. Contrary to frequent claims, Project Artichoke was not a predecessor program to MK-Ultra that was rolled into it some time during 1953. In point of fact, not only did Project Artichoke predate MK-Ultra, but it continued to run concurrent with it for almost a decade under different leadership and within a different section of the CIA.

Project Artichoke emerged from an earlier program, Project Bluebird. It was long alleged that Project Bluebird was initiated on April 20, 1950 (which would have been the sixty-first birthday of Adolf Hitler), but H.P. Albarelli Jr. placed Bluebird's start date a bit earlier in A Terrible Mistake. Curiously, Project Bluebird was given the go ahead by Admiral Roscoe Hillenkoetter, the first Director of the CIA. Upon his retirement from the Navy in 1956 Hillenkoetter joined the board of governors of the National Investigative Committee On Aerial Phenomenon (NICAP), one of the first major civilian UFO research groups.

As I noted before here, Peter Levenda made a compelling argument in the first installment of his Sinister Forces trilogy that the name of Project Bluebird may have been inspired the Maurice Maeterlinck play The Blue Bird. The play, which debuted in 1908, dealt with the magical properties of children (among other things). Strangely Maeterlinck was involved with the same parapsychological society, the American Society for Psychical Research, as William Dudley Pelley. But while both men seem to have been active in it during the same era (the late 1920s), there's no indication they ever met. Pelley may well have been aware of Maeterlinck, however, as the playwright was still relatively popular in the late 1920s.

Maurice Maeterlinck
As I noted before here, Project Bluebird became deeply involved in developing "enhanced interrogation" methods from a very early date. This work went into overdrive once the program was taken over by a former Naval intelligence officer named Morse Allen and renamed Artichoke in 1951. Allen's marry band eventually perfected what became known as the "Artichoke treatment". This was hardly the sole purpose Project Artichoke (or later MK-Ultra), however. In point of fact, both Artichoke and MK-Ultra (and other related programs) were also deeply immersed in parapsychology as well.

A fascinating figure who played a key role in such endeavors for the CIA was the famed stage magician John Mulholland. It is now of course relatively well known as the Mulholland prepared a sleight-of-hand manual for the Agency and instructed field agents in such arts during the 1950s. This was not the full extent of Mulholland's work with the Agency, however.

Mulholland had followed in the footsteps of his friend Houdini in debunking paranormal phenomenon during his years operating as a stage magician. The CIA and MK-Ultra would put this skill to good use in determining the legitimacy of some of the more arcane projects Agency was perusing during this era.
"Mulholland's duties were not only writing at his desk to detailed the deployment of drugs to unwitting subjects. He was also utilized as an on-site consultant to the CIA's experiments in parapsychology. The MK-ULTRA team of Gottlieb, Lashbrook and the members of the Technical Services Staff were interested in 'real magic' or the study of parapsychology. Gottlieb was hired as head of the operation because he took a more academic approach than his ARTICHOKE predecessor Morse Allen.
"Consequently, to investigate this area, under the rubric of 'powers of the mind' they hired 'a complete, unconventional magician' to quote Mulholland's friend George Gordon. Mulholland was an intellectual at heart, and like many of their agents, a former educator.
"He was hired to help navigate the CIA's way through the world of ESP, clairvoyance, and telekinesis (the ability to move objects with the mind alone). One paradoxical goal of the Agency of the time was to 'brainwash' the U.S. agents so they could not be brainwashed by enemy countries. The delusion of paranoia took a foothold."
(The Magician: John Mulholland's Secret Life, Ben Robinson, pg. 177)
John Mulholland
Robinson lends credence to the notion that Puharich's work was chiefly of interest to Project Artichoke when he notes Mulholland's investigation of Puharich's research conducted in conjunction with the above-mentioned Armour Research Foundation.
"Mulholland showed Gordon a paper he wrote for 'an intelligence agency' and of that paper, Gordon remarked, 'John's work for the CIA was not esoteric or strange. The CIA have been presented with a man who said he could send and receive thoughts or codes long distance by mental telepathy. So, they employed John to tell them if this was the real McCoy. And this man was no more a mind reader than fortunetellers can tell fortunes. The man was simply using tricks the magicians used to give the illusion of being able to read minds of others. John wrote how the charlatan was trying to take the CIA for a ride.
"Mulholland's report titled A New Type of Experiment in Parapsychology dated November 11, 1953, is extensive regarding Dr. H. K. Puharich's experiments for 'The Round Table Foundation.' Dr. Puharich was also the same doctor who 'verified' the controversial Hungarian-born Uri(ah) Geller as being a genuine psychic in the 1970's. Puharich changed his first name shortly after their initial meeting, possibly to obscure his past.
"Mulholland was firm in his recommendation that the government was wasting money on parapsychological experiments without solid controls. In other words, they were throwing money after experiments that could have deceptive results due to out and out cheating by doctors and subjects who were shielded by Faraday cages."
(ibid, pg. 178)
Puharich experimented extensively with Faraday cages
Mulholland was very much under the direction of MK-Ultra and developed a close working relationship with its head, Sidney Gottlieb. Thus, part of Mulholland's rather scathing assessment of Puharich's research could have been driven by the inter-agency rivalry of Artichoke and MK-Ultra. Curiously, there is some dispute as to just what exactly happened during Mulholland's meetings with Puharich as well. While Ben Robinson, Mulholland's biographer, depicts the magician as being duly unimpressed by Puharich H.P. Albarelli Jr. reports that one of Puharich's experiments deeply unset Mulholland in A Terrible Mistake. Beyond this, Mulholland seems to have had a deep seated personal loathing of Puharich that has never been entirely explained. But such a topic is far beyond the scope of this article.

With the possibility that Puharich's research was chiefly of interest to Project Artichoke personnel established, let us now consider the two men who chiefly guided the program. Of them, Jeffrey Kaye and H.P. Albarelli Jr. noted:
"The CIA initiated Project Artichoke in August 1951 at the direction of CIA director Walter Bedell Smith and the Agency's Scientific Intelligence Director, Dr. H. Marshall Chadwell. The code name 'Artichoke' was selected with sardonic humor from the street appendage given to New York City gangster Ciro Terranova, who was referred to as 'the Artichoke King.'
"Following a brief period of bureaucratic infighting over which CIA department would have jurisdiction over Artichoke, it was decided that the project would be overseen by the Agency's Security Research Staff, headed by Paul F. Gaynor, a former Army Brigadier General, who had extensive experience in wartime interrogations.
"Gaynor was notorious among CIA officials for having his staff maintain a systematic file on every homosexual, and suspected homosexual, among the ranks of Federal employees, as well as those who worked and served on Washington's Capitol Hill. Gaynor's secret listing eventually grew to include the names of employees and elected officials at State government levels, and the siblings and relatives of those on Capitol Hill.
"In early January 1953, State Department employee John C. Montgomery, who handled considerable classified material, hanged himself in his Georgetown townhouse after learning of his addition to Gaynor's list. In 1954, U.S. Senator Lester C. Hunt (D-WY) killed himself in his senate office after he was threatened by Republicans, using information provided by Gaynor's staff, to publicly expose his son's homosexuality. By the early 1960s, according to one former Agency employee, 'It was pretty much routine to consult Gaynor's "fag file" when conducting background or clearance checks on individuals.'
"Gaynor's veiled and more despicable activities also extended to racist matters, a fixation he seemed to share with many of the CIA's early leaders, as well as with some of the Pentagon's early ranking officials. According to one former CIA official, Gaynor was once informally cautioned by Allen Dulles concerning his overt support of former Congressman Hamilton Fish III, a strident Nazi sympathizer, and for associating, along with fellow CIA official Morse Allen, with John B. Trevor Jr., an ardent racist, anti-Semite, pro-Nazi, who called for amnesty for Nazi war criminals. Before the CIA was formed, Gaynor was also associated with Trevor's father, John B. Trevor Sr., a Harvard-educated attorney who worked with Army intelligence and who once strongly advocated arming a group of citizens with 6,000 rifles and machine guns to put down an anticipated Jewish uprising in Manhattan that only took shape in Trevor's twisted mind.
"In 1997, former CIA Technical Services chief, Dr. Sidney Gottlieb, who had been born into a Jewish family, said, 'Throughout the 1950s, and for some time beyond, the Agency was less than a welcoming place for Jews and racial minorities. Those who were actually ever hired or involved in operations learned rather quickly to keep their heads down when certain matters were discussed or rallied round.'"
Paul F. Gaynor
In other words the two chief figures behind Project Artichoke, Paul Gaynor and Morse Allen, were both former military men who seemingly harbored far right wing sympathies and even associated with some of the most notorious pre-WWII "isolationists." Incidentally, William Dudley Pelley was deeply involved in the "isolationist" movement of that era as well. In point of fact, it is highly likely that Paul Gaynor's pre-CIA buddy (and "former" military intelligence officer) John B. Trevor Sr. personally knew Pelley as both had been major figures in the pre-WWII fascist underground. Its also likely that Trevor Jr., who counted both Gaynor and Morse Allen as friends, was also aware of Pelley. More information on the Trevors can be found here and here.

What's more, Trevor Jr. was an associate of General Pedro Del Valle, a member of the Sovereign Order of Saint John (SOSJ). As was noted in part two of this series, Pelley was linked to the SOSJ in the 1930s. Gaynor's other buddy, Hamilton Fish III, also had some type of association with clerical fascist Gerald L.K. Smith. As was also noted in the second installment, Smith had a long time association with Pelley.

Hamilton Fish III
So it would seem pretty safe to conclude that Artichoke capos Gaynor and Allen traveled in circles that were aware of Pelley. Then there's the emerging evidence that Project Artichoke (as well as MK-Ultra and other such programs) was interested in parapsychology. This interest may have extended to UFOs as well. The above-mentioned Dr. H. Marshall Chadwell, who helped launch Project Artichoke, was one of the early Agency officials to take an interest in the UFO phenomenon.
"... That the CIA had any early interest in UFO's may surprise some people, but in December 1952, Dr. H. Marshall Chadwell, CIA chief of scientific intelligence, sent a memorandum to then-DCI Walter Bedell Smith, warning that:
"[U]nexplained objects a great altitudes and traveling at high speeds in the vicinity of major U.S. defense installations are of such nature that they are not attributable to natural phenomena or known types of aerial vehicles.
"Earlier in September of that year, Chadwell had expressed his concern to Smith that the Soviets may be attempting manufacture a UFO-type incident to confuse the U.S. military and the Air Warning System and perhaps mount an attack because 'a fair share of our population is mentally conditioned to the acceptance of the incredible.' It seems that Chadwell really did not know what to think about the unexplained objects in the sky."
(A Terrible Mistake, H.P. Albarelli Jr., pg. 265)
Chadwell's letter to DCI Smith
It is not known whether or not Chadwell charged Project Artichoke with any investigation of the UFO phenomenon but Sidney Gottlieb did indeed employ John Mulholland in such a capacity, according to Albarelli. Given the host of strange things Artichoke was involved in, it would hardly be beyond the realm of possibility. Increasing the probability were the early suspicions of the intelligence community, as noted in part five of this series, that early UFO reports may have been some type of Soviet mind control experiment. The US intelligence community seems have had serious concerns over this possibility and Project Artichoke, the Agency's premier behavior modification program until 1953, would have been an obvious choice to investigate such possibilities. As was noted in part five, there are even some indication that George Adamski's later UFO experiences may have been the result of the Agency administering the "Artichoke treatment" to him.

George Adamski: Artichoke subject?
And if Artichoke was investigating the UFO phenomenon in some capacity, could the works of William Dudley Pelley have intrigued the men behind it? Pelley had demonstrated signs of psychic ability and had developed an elaborate cosmology involving the extraterrestrial origins of humanity (or at least the white race) decades before such things gained mainstream exposure. And if Gaynor and Allen were comfortable with men like Hamilton Fish and the Trevors, it seems unlikely Pelley's politics would have offended them. Indeed, the blatant racialism of Pelley's cosmology may even have held a special appeal to such men. It was noted above that MK-Ultra was initiated in part to bring a more "scientific" approach to arcane topics such as mind control and parapsychology. Increasingly this researcher can't help but wonder if placing the Jewish Sidney Gottlieb in charge of the project may have also been a bid to counter the extreme racism of the Artichoke heads. As I noted before here more than a few individuals who became involved in both Artichoke and MK-Ultra had pre-World War II backgrounds in the eugenics movement.

Sidney Gottlieb
And here we have Robert Temple, a researcher who worked for Andrija Puharich's close and long time friend Arthur Young, writing a scholarly work on the possibility of extraterrestrials visiting Earth from Sirius in the distant past that none the less bears a striking similarity to the ideology dispensed by William Dudley Pelley as far back as the early 1930s. And then there's the fact that both Puharich and Young seem to have been tied to early UFO contactees associated with Pelley, as was noted in part six of this series. And here we find the possibility that Puharich's research was also of interest to Project Artichoke, a program headed by men with extensive contacts to the same pre-World War II "isolationist" circles that Pelley traveled in. These are all rather striking coincidences, to put it mildly.

And what of the Collins Elite, who are said to have been dominated by military intelligence officers in the early days. Artichoke seems to have also featured an extensive amount of former military men as well, though it was initiated prior to the founding of the Collins Elite (which seemed to have occurred in 1952, though a proto form of the group had been active since the late 1940s). Still the mutual interest Artichoke and the Collins Elite seem to have had in Puharich's work as well as in ESP would indicate that the two programs likely had some type of contact with one another. And then of course there's the fact that the Collins Elite seems to have been greatly interested in the circle of early UFO contactees, many of whom had ties to Pelley... the same circle of UFO contactees that may have played a key role in the later projects of Young and Puharich.

George Hunt Williamson, easily the most curious and controversial of the early UFO contactees
Needless to say, the possibility that figures within the national security apparatus had some type of interest in Pelley's work and may have used crack parapsychological researchers such as Puharich and Young to investigate it raises possibilities far more unsettling than Reptilians, Illuminati bloodlines, and such like. That being said, this researcher is not trying to suggest that Puharich, Young and the other intellectuals who became involved with them were some sort of fascist cabal. While I've found compelling evidence of an extensive right wing occult underground (frequently appearing at the heart of the international anti-communist network established by Operation Gladio), this network largely seems to have operated outside the mainstream New Age movement and frequently appeared under the guise of hard line Christian organizations. In future series this network and the possibility of a hidden doctrine that was in part influenced by Pelley shall be considered. Until then, stay tuned.