“The work on trauma is a repetition compulsion of ceaseless mental fight. Interminable analysis, interminable writing, interminable soul-making is the only medicine—there is no antidote. The transmuting of trauma into creative affirmations, the mutual transformation of trauma and soul, is a process that like poetry ‘survives the valley of its own saying.’ To put it another way . . . and another way . . . and another way is what soul-making is all about.”
—Greg Mogenson, A Most Accursed Religion
The first draft of the piece that became Prisoner of Infinity was a little over 4,000 words. It is now (writing in 2013) over 100,000 and still growing. I didn’t intend for this to take over my life. In an email to Ty Brown, I wrote that “this current work is like being abducted—it has a life of its own and it won’t let me go—like an octopus, once you grab onto one of the tentacles.” That’s what happened: I grabbed onto what I thought was a snake but it turned out to be a limb of a much larger beast. I had two choices then, either let it go, or get a hold of the rest of the limbs so I could see the whole thing in all its slithering glory: a fully-rounded picture of the infiltrated psyche. I chose the latter path, and here we are.
Writing this book is like being a slave to a Pharaoh who won’t let me quit until I have built his Pyramid. Except this isn’t a creative process but a destructive one, so a much better metaphor would be that of gold-prospecting, something I was doing in my spare time before this work took over my life. When I first started digging I didn’t really know what I was looking for. The more I dug, the better an idea I got. Gold is deposited from higher up as waters drag the dirt and sand down the mountain, and since gold has a greater atomic weight than just about anything else, it always sinks as far down in the dirt as it can go, towards the bedrock. To get to the bedrock you have to remove regular dirt, rocks and boulders, then there’s clay, then there’s black sand, which has heavy metals in it, and amidst the black sand, there’s the gold (if you are digging in the right spots). In order to find out if you are digging in the right spot you have to get to the black sand and pan it. Your pans are like the trail of clues a detective follows to get to the body. There are other things too, like the shape and position of rocks and the color of the dirt, the smell of sulfur; but the panning is the main part.
What happened as I continued to dig, and learn from digging, was that we started to uncover the bedrock and even caught sight of the pay streak (yellow dirt, where the gold has passed through on its way to the bedrock). At that point, I became more motivated and the digging took over. I wasn’t looking for gold as yet (I knew I probably wouldn’t be able to recognize it if I saw it), but now I was looking for something concrete: bedrock. When you are uncovering bedrock you don’t want to risk a landslide so one of the things you have to do is work at it in “tiers” or stages. You uncover a little here then move higher up and dig a ledge. This way you won’t undermine the dirt above you and risk getting buried; but also, you have ledges to stand on while removing the dirt above you. It gets tricky because, as you’re shoveling dirt away, you don’t want to end up covering the bedrock below you which you’ve just uncovered. You want to get a clear idea of the shape of the bedrock so that, when you find the pay streak, you can follow it (you can also use the shape of the bedrock to help you to find the pay streak). When you’re removing dirt, you get to rocks of different shapes and sizes which are both clues to follow (river-smoothed rocks indicate the pay streak is near) and obstacles to move. Sometimes you might start to remove one rock and realize that its pinned by another; you have to disassemble the terrain in the right way, not only to reduce the work but also to make sure you don’t wind up dodging falling boulders and other heavy objects.
All of this provides a reasonably close analogy to how writing this book unfolded. At a certain point, I spotted what looked like a pay streak, and I also hit bedrock. Now I am doing the necessary work to clear away the dirt: digging, moving rocks, collecting samples, panning them and reading the fine gold, getting closer and closer to exposing the bedrock and hitting pay dirt. Just as all that glitters is not gold, not everything that looks like dirt is dirt. It’s all a learning process, and what I’m learning is how to train my eyes to see in a new way.
“A leaderless but powerful network is working to bring about radical change in the United States. Its members have broken with certain key elements of western thought and they may even have broken continuity with history. . . Broader than reform, deeper than revolution, this benign conspiracy for a new human agenda has triggered the most rapid cultural realignment in history. The great shuddering, irrevocable shift overtaking us is not a new political, religious, or philosophical system. It is a new mind—the ascendance of a startling worldview that gathers into this framework breakthrough science and insights from earliest recorded thought.”
—Marilyn Ferguson, The Aquarian Conspiracy
The original essay which this book grew uncontrollably out of, you may dimly recall, was a response to Jeffrey J. Kripal’s article “The Traumatic Secret.” It was sparked among other things by Kripal’s citing of Aldous Huxley and his “human potentialities,” “psychedelic solutions,” and “perennial philosophies.” Because of the momentum of this excavation process, I didn’t find time to investigate Huxley’s history in detail (you can’t always take the time to pan every pile of dirt); but even on the surface I found plenty to wonder about.
Huxley is most famous for two works: his technological dystopia novel, Brave New World, and The Doors of Perception, which advocates the use of hallucinogens as a means to shut down the “reducing valve” of the brain and enter into an experience of what he calls “Mind at Large.” (In passing, psychedelics might be seen as a form of chemically-induced trauma to the body.) Huxley, as Kripal points out, was one of if not the major influence on “the human potential movement” which eventually became the New Age movement. Along with organizations such as Esalen, he was responsible for introducing Eastern spirituality to the western world. Huxley belonged to a famous aristocratic family, and his brother, Sir Julian, was a member of the British Eugenics Society, a fact that has been largely stricken from the record. Sir Julian also coined the term “transhumanism”!
For all the Eastern spiritual jargon favored by these individuals and institutes, the aims they put forth (in common with those of transhumanism and the Singularity) are really indistinguishable from the aims of western occultism (and groups like Scientology): namely, the development of super powers. In the West, we tend to confuse psychism with spiritual attainment. Yet from an Eastern point of view, they are seen as at odds with one another—hence the many warnings about “siddhis.” Enlightenment is liberation from the false self—the defensive ego-self created by trauma. Psychism—which can easily be confused with “human potential”—is all about enhancing and improving the self to create a kind of “super-self.” Enlightenment is said to entail a total openness and the corresponding vulnerability: the sensitivity it brings isn’t just psychic but emotional, psychological, and physical/energetic. Psychic superpowers—including the power to leave the body (dissociate) à la remote viewing—seem like a movement in the opposite direction, towards becoming invulnerable. Which is a traumatized individual more likely to gravitate towards? What are Strieber’s tales of power but accounts of a kind of siddhi-wielding, alien-engineered übermensch whose only weapon is his mind?
Huxley took the title The Doors of Perception from Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, which is presumably why Kripal refers to Huxley’s work as “Blakean.” But compare Huxley’s term, “Mind at Large,” to Blake’s Marriage of Heaven and Hell: “Energy is the only life and is from the Body and Reason is the bound or outward circumference of Energy. Energy is Eternal Delight.” Where is mind here, little or large? Huxley and the perennial philosophers posited “Mind at Large” as an understandable reaction against the reductionist equation of consciousness with the brain, combined with a (equally understandable) rejection of religious dogma about the soul. (I don’t necessarily include Strieber here, since as a Catholic, he is “all about” the reality of the soul.) Instead, they posited a mind that is everywhere. By choosing to use the word mind, however, they appeared to equate consciousness with the structure and content of their own minds.
Where, or what, is mind? Is it necessarily a materialistic view to say that it is only a side effect of the body? Animals possess consciousness, and obviously they have brains; but what sort of minds do they have? The mind has very much become interchangeable with the self (and even the psyche, though the latter means “soul”). When we think of who we are, we don’t generally think of our internal organs or the shape of our limbs but of our thoughts and memories. The mind, like the self, is a construction built of associations, beliefs, images, and memories. It seems to be largely dependent upon language to maintain its coherence. (Freud believed it to be the breeding ground of delusions, and most psychological models would agree.) Take away our power to think in words and what does that leave? Madness, or at best, dreams.
But if consciousness doesn’t stem from the brain or the mind, where does it stem from?
Huxley’s Mind at Large is another way of saying the Godhead, the quasi-religious concept that God has a head (or penis), which presumably is where His Mind (and Brain) is located. This phallocentric view brings us to the core of the matter (pun intended): the de-eroticization of spirit. Like Carlos Castaneda’s old seers, the philosophers, both ancient and modern, are as persistent as they are perennial. As the basis for all of their projected perfections of both nature and spirit, there lurks a Norman Bates-like mortification of/entrapment by the feminine. This form of mother-bondage requires a corresponding creation of an idealized father figure—a “Godhead”—in their own infantile image. To possess the mother, they must become their own fathers. To do both, they must create internally generated images—mortifications and idealizations—to relate to.
Where flesh is seen as inherently “sinful” or corrupt, only fantasy will do. Rocket ships pushing through space to reach the Moon; Hadron colliders smashing matter in an unconscious striking back at the mother (mater) who spawned and spurned them; the creation of technology to dominate Nature, liberate “the spirit,” and resurrect “the body” (in digital form); all partake of the same agonizing attempt of the disembodied intellect to feel potent in the absence of a life force. Isn’t the mind’s refusal to live in the body a refusal to be absorbed into the continuity of being of the body? If so, then the mind’s refusal to be absorbed into the body may be one and the same with the rejection of the erotic dimensions of spirit and spirituality.
Since sexuality remains in the form of libido (the body can’t exist without energy), the libido is now possessed not by the body, Eros, but by the mind. As long as the mind experiences itself as separate and isolate from the body—through the fragmentation of trauma, or rather its insistence on keeping trauma secret from itself—it remains under the dominion of Thanatos. And death is the one thing that energy (eternal delight) can never know.
“Real revolutionary activity . . . consists of transforming reality, that is, in making reality conform more closely to one’s ideal.”
—Marilyn Ferguson, The Aquarian Conspiracy
In the section on Strieber in Peter Levenda’s Sinister Forces III (The Manson Secret), there is the following passage:
On the one hand you had the Pentagon and the CIA monitoring UFO reports and massaging data, and on the other hand you had the same agencies racing to dominate inner space, as well. If the UFO phenomena partakes of both the scientific (space flight, faster-than-light travel, alien visitation) and the psychological (hallucinations, visions, spiritual encounters and illumination), then the US government had all the bases covered. . . The civilian would have had one of the most profound experiences of his or her life, and be unable to put it into any kind of context. [They] would have no knowledge of how to interpret the event, and would thus be left in the dark having received no input from either the government or the scientists . . . or the church.
It’s worth noting that Levenda begins this chapter on Strieber, UFOs, and intelligence psi-ops, with a discussion of Christianity and the formation of a new religion. As for the idea that the UFO experiencer had no official context in which to place his or her experience, surely that depends on exactly what we consider official? Doesn’t the idea the US government “had all the bases covered” imply, not that it was preventing any sort of context, but that it was busy creating one?
In 2007, while Ty Brown was doing his piece on the Stanford Research Institute, “10,000 Heroes—SRI and the Manufacturing of the New Age,” and his “Nazis from Outer Space” Strieber piece, blogger Justin Boland (a.k.a. Brainsturbator) wrote “Scientists on Acid: The Story Behind Changing Images of Man.” The article mapped some suggestive ties between SRI-employee and co-author of Changing Images of Man, Willis Harman, and OSS/CIA agent Al Hubbard. Quoting Jim Keith’s Mind Control, World Control:
One associate of Hubbard’s was New World Order theorist Willis Harman at the Stanford Research Institute. SRI had earlier received grants from the US Army to research chemical incapacitants. When visited by a representative of the underground press at SRI, Harman told the man, “There’s a war going on between your side and mine. And my side is not going to lose.”
Boland also quotes Todd Brendan Fahey’s article on Hubbard, “The Original Captain Trips”:
Hubbard was specifically assigned to the Alternative Futures Project, which performed future-oriented strategic planning for corporations and government agencies. Harman and Hubbard shared a goal “to provide the [LSD] experience to political and intellectual leaders around the world.’ Harman acknowledges that “Al’s job was to run the special sessions for us.”
Boland then mentions that Changing Images of Man co-author O.W. Markley
left behind a very curious paper entitled “Visionary Futures” that outlines some other SRI “alternative methodologies”—including “channeled material in the book Seth Speaks, by Jane Roberts (1972).” This is the same SRI who employed top Scientologists, Hal Puthoff and Ingo Swann, to develop their Remote Viewing program. Channeled material, after all, is mainstream today. (Witness the bestseller success of the Conversations with God series.)
A couple of years prior to this, in 2005, Jeff Wells wrote a post called “Before the apex stone is fitted” about Harman’s belief that “humanity is embarking on a period of ‘global mind change,’ and that people could reorder the world ‘by deliberately changing their internal image of reality.’ (Hence the title of the infamous tract.) Wells quotes Harman:
Whether it’s psychic phenomena, mystical experiences, communications with the dead . . . whatever it is, you’re implying that reality is different from the way they taught you in school. Sooner or later we’re going to say ‘Well if all of that’s so, then our emphases in business and economics have to be different, as well as our emphases in politics, education and healthcare.
In other words, to quote Wells, “How to anticipate and capitalize upon the revolution in worldviews in the dawning post-industrial era is the question Harman’s SRI team set to answer”—to change the image of man from one of industrial progress to one of “spiritual” progress.
From The Aquarian Conspiracy:
[Changing Images of Man] laid the groundwork for a paradigm shift in understanding how individual and social transformation might be accomplished. “The emergence of a new image and/or a new paradigm can be hastened or slowed by deliberate choice,” the study noted, adding that crisis can be stimulated [emphasis added]. . . The difference between transformation by accident and transformation by a system is like the difference between lightning and a lamp . . . The intentional triggers of transformative experiences are numberless, yet they have a common quality. They focus awareness on awareness—a crucial shift. [T]he now classic report issued by SRI . . . described a new transcendental social and business ethic characterized by self-determination, concern for the quality of life, appropriate technology, entrepreneurship, decentralization, an ecological ethic, and spirituality. The report urged a rapid corporate understanding of this emergent order, “probably the most important observation of our time” (Ferguson, p. 61, 85, 342).
Among the intentional triggers Ferguson lists in her best-selling book are: sensory isolation and sensory overload; biofeedback (the use of machines to monitor bodily processes so they can be controlled by the mind); autogenic training; music; hypnosis and self-hypnosis; meditation; seminars “like est, Silva Mind Control, Actualizations and Lifespring”; Theosophy and Gurdjieffian systems; A Course in Miracles; and Esalen. “All of these approaches might be called psychotechnologies—systems for a deliberate change in consciousness” (Ferguson, p. 87 ). A little further into her treatise, Ferguson introduces a much more general tool for accelerating evolution: stress.
Punctuationalism or punctuated equilibrium suggests that the equilibrium of life is “punctuated” from time to time by severe stress. If a small section of the ancestral population is isolated at the periphery of its accustomed range, it may give way to a new species [emphasis added]. The new paradigm attributes evolution to periodic leaps by small groups. This changing view is significant for at least two reasons: (1) It requires a mechanism for biological change more powerful than chance mutation, and (2) it opens us up to the possibility of rapid evolution in our own time, when the equilibrium of the species is punctuated by stress. Stress in modern society is experienced at the frontiers of our psychological rather than our geographical limits. Pioneering becomes an increasingly psychospiritual venture since our physical frontiers are all but exhausted, short of space exploration (p. 158-9, emphasis added).
Applied stress, isolating sections of the population, a new emergent species of humanity, accelerated evolution, and space travel. Sounds like science fiction. Speaking of which . . . Joseph Campbell, one of the listed authors of Changing Images of Man, was also an alleged inspiration (along with Carlos Castaneda) for George Lucas when he created what is probably the most far-reaching and influential myth of the 20th century (one that effectively fused science and mysticism), Star Wars. As researcher Tim Boucher put it, Star Wars was an “international myth to contain all the societal changes and upheavals that [occurred after] the explosion of the consciousness movements and the New Age.” The New Age became the New Space Age. In The Power of Myth, Campbell told Bill Moyers:
When you see the earth from the moon, you don’t see any divisions there of nations or states. This might be the symbol, really, for the new mythology to come. That is the country that we are going to be celebrating. And those are the people that we are one with (The Power of Myth, p. 41).
“This noetic discovery [the existence of God] is at the heart of science and religion. It is the only thing that will counteract contemporary crises and bring meaning, direction, and fulfillment to people. Psychic research can play an important role in helping people make that discovery.”
—Edgar Mitchell, Psychic Research: Challenge to Science
The correlation between space travel and spiritual evolution/mystical states of consciousness is an obvious enough one in terms of metaphors; but there is also a quite literal correlation being made by those who claim to have crossed “the final frontier.” The Overview Effect is a book by Frank White based on interviews with, and writings by, thirty different astronauts, describing how the experience of leaving the earth and seeing it from space (or from the moon) profoundly affected their perceptions of themselves and the world. The book argues that the rest of humanity “who have participated imaginatively in these great adventures [through popular sci-fi!?], have also been affected psychologically by them.” From the back blurb of the book:
[White] provides a powerful rationale for space exploration and settlement, describing them as the inevitable next steps in the evolution of human society and human consciousness, as the activities most likely to bring a new perspective to the problems of life on Earth. White goes on to consider the possible consequences of a human presence in space, both for the pioneers who settle there and for those who remain on Earth. He imagines how having a permanent perspective from outer space will affect our politics, our religion, our social relations, our psychology, our economics, and our hard sciences. He confronts the possibility of rebellion by a space colony and of contact with extraterrestrial beings. And, finally, he makes it clear that our fate is in our own hands, that we will shape our future in space effectively only by fashioning a new human space program, free of excessive nationalism and dedicated to the peaceful exploration of the space frontier.
The primary astronaut testifying to the wonders of the overview effect, and who has jumped aboard White’s evolutionary spaceship, is Edgar Mitchell, the alleged sixth man to walk on the Moon (Mitchell is also rumored to have planted a Masonic flag up there). In Mitchell’s own words
For me, seeing our planet from space was an event with some of the qualities traditionally ascribed to religious experience. It triggered a deep insight into the nature of existence—the sort of insight that radically changes the inner person. My thinking—indeed, my consciousness—was altered profoundly. I came to feel a moral responsibility to pass on the transformative experience of seeing the earth from the larger perspective. But further, the rational man in me had to recognize the validity of the nonrational cognitive process (Psychic Research, p. 34).
So what do we know about Mitchell? That he was in the Navy, for one (like L. Ron Hubbard); and that after he left, in 1972, he founded the Institute of Noetic Sciences “to sponsor research into the nature of consciousness as it relates to cosmology and causality.” Based on what I can glean, he even coined the word psychonaut, though he spelled it psychenaut (see page 35 of Psychic Research: Challenge to Science; the word is currently attributed by Wikipedia to the Chaos magician Peter Carroll). As for the Institute of Noetic Sciences—Willis Harman was President from 1975-1996, and (according to Harman himself) they were “heavily involved in the psi testing of the 1970s, partly funding the [Uri] Geller experiment at SRI and, until the CIA came clean about their involvement in the remote-viewing experiments in the mid-1990s, it was the Institute of Noetic Sciences that claimed to have funded the initial program” (The Stargate Conspiracy, p. 235). Jeffrey Kripal has also spoken there.
In 1974 (the same year Changing Images of Man was written), Mitchell published Psychic Research: Challenge to Science, a 700-word compendium of the results of IONS’ psi research, by various authors including Hal Puthoff, Puharich, and Willis Harman. In the introduction, Mitchell argues that psychic research is “an important element in the long-sought formula for enriching human awareness, reconstructing society, and generally aiding nature in the great work of evolution” (Psychic Research, p. 43-4).
Now is the time for us to begin building a single whole of humanity. Now is the time to develop our nonrational abilities into a “subjective technology,” which will be the wedding of science and religion, reason and intuition, the physical and the spiritual. . . [A]s science approaches omniscience . . . the universal man of cosmic consciousness can then emerge” (Ibid, p. 49).
Besides his work with IONS, Mitchell was also involved (until his death in 2015) with the Overview Institute, whose goal is to induce or produce the Overview Effect in as many of Earth’s citizens as possible in order to bring about a “paradigm shift”—in Mitchell’s words, “the transformation of human consciousness that is necessary for solving our critical dilemma” (Ibid, p. 44)
Only when man sees his fundamental unity with the process of nature and the functioning of the universe—as I so avidly saw it from the Apollo spacecraft—will the old ways of thinking and behaving disappear. Only when man moves from his ego-centered self-image to a new image of universal man will the perennial problems that plague us be susceptible of resolution (Ibid, p. 31).
At the Overview Institute’s website, it describes how the advent of a commercial space industry will soon begin taking “tens of thousands of people into the near-space environment, far enough to grasp some aspects of the Overview Effect,” and how zero-gravity flights will make it “available to many more.”
This is only the beginning of the historic human evolution into space, and the resulting transformations of human culture and consciousness as we become a space-faring culture. The second major advance is the rapid maturation of high-definition digital media, from the internet-connected desktop to three-dimensional simulation media and virtual reality. These new technologies, together with other forms of art, media, entertainment and education will soon provide new and more powerful tools to immerse Earthbound audiences in a close approximation of the space environment and potentially bring the Overview Effect to many millions around the globe.
Besides the obvious indifference to any distinction between a physically embodied experience and a mentally simulated one, there’s no mention of the (I would think unavoidable) stress of leaving the planet and entering into zero gravity through rocket propulsion—a symbolic/literal tearing away from the mother’s body. Or of the profound isolation of it. It’s all about togetherness. Yet the idea of an overview effect is a remarkably concise way to equate internal liberation/enlightenment with the capitalist expansionist drive to conquer space. It even manages to make the one dependent on the other. At the very least, it makes enlightenment appear to be attainable by wholly material, technological means—means dependent on a massive, billion dollar industry!
One way or another, the space agenda appears to be underway, and there are currently plans for a volunteer immigration program to Mars, to embark by 2022. At publication of the Time article in May of 2013, there were already said to be 78,000 volunteers. The reason given for it being a one-way trip was that the physiological changes caused by space travel are irrevocable. (“78,000 People Apply for One-Way Trip to Mars,” Time magazine, May 09, 2013. See also here.) No trauma here then.
Edgar Mitchell seems to have been a key player in the shadowy narrative. As improbable as it may sound, Mitchell was born in Roswell, New Mexico. In October 1998, he told The Ottawa Citizen he was “90 per cent sure that many of the thousands of unidentified flying objects, or UFOs, recorded since the 1940s, belong to visitors from other planets.” He claimed to have witnesses, “many of them from intelligence agencies and the military—who convinced him that the American government has covered up the truth about UFOs for 50 years.” I have been unable to ascertain whether Mitchell belonged to the mysterious Mars Anomalies Research Society along with Strieber, John Gliedman, and Richard Hoagland, and where Strieber claims he was first triggered (by an image of the face on Mars) to re-access his “buried memories.” But Mitchell is “old friends” with Whitley Strieber and appeared on “Dreamland” in 2008 to discuss the quantum mind (i.e., the overview effect) and the Roswell crash. In 2012, he publically endorsed Strieber’s Solving the Communion Enigma—along with Graham Hancock, the author of The Mars Mystery, also quoted in the afore-cited Ottawa Citizen article. Many faces, one agenda?
Edgar Mitchell was also a consultant on “The X-Files.” Besides his continued affiliation with IONS and the overview institute, he participated in an organization called FREE, the Foundation for Research into E.T. Encounters. Similar to Strieber’s Unknown Country but more explicitly, FREE offers, or offered, refuge and support to “experiencers,” formerly known as abductees. Its (purported) primary aim is “to assist the Experiencer/Contactee/Abductee to understand his or her experiences , to provide assistance in the form of information or personal support, and to conduct comprehensive academic research on the ‘ET Contact Phenomena.’”
Among the essays at the site, there is one by Ken Wilbur, whose literary agent used to be John White, editor of Psychic Research. There are also several by Mitchell, including one called “The Intersection of Science and Religion,” in which Mitchell writes:
Human beings must evolve or perish—we must swiftly evolve to the next level by eradicating pervasive ignorance concerning who we really are and why we are here, or face the extreme likelihood of mass death and destruction, if not extinction all together. Humankind’s next phase of evolution will be more an evolution in thought, knowledge, spirituality and consciousness than one involving our biology or physiology.
Many voices—one song?
the philosophers, both ancient and modern, are as persistent as they are perennial. As the basis for all of their projected perfections of both nature and spirit, there lurks a Norman Bates-like mortification of/entrapment by the feminine. This form of mother-bondage requires a corresponding creation of an idealized father figure—a “Godhead”—in their own infantile image. To possess the mother, they must become their own fathers. To do both, they must create internally generated images—mortifications and idealizations—to relate to.
 In the two volumes of Huxley’s autobiography there is no mention of eugenics in the index; the subject has also been omitted from many of the obituaries and biographies.
 Challenge to Science was also the title of Jacques Vallee’s second book on UFOs, released in 1967.