“Two thousand years ago, Christianity was but one of many cults vying for attention within the Roman Empire, but it rose to become the most influential movement of all human history. Thus, optimists would attempt to launch many space-related social movements, in the hopes that one of them would eventually take humanity to the stars.”
— William Sims Bainbridge, “The Spaceflight Revolution Revisited”
In the 4th century AD., the Council of Nicea, working for the Roman Empire, set about adapting Christianity into a suitable religion of the State. Its purpose, in retrospect at least, was to take an emerging new paradigm (brought by some guy called Jeshua bar Josephus, later “Jesus H. Christ”—let’s call it “the Kingdom within” paradigm), to reshape and redirect it in such a way that it would cease to be a thorn in the side of the ruling elite at that time. Even more than merely neutralizing it, in fact, this brilliant new paradigm called “Christianity” was used as a means to extend the power and influence of Rome, further afield than could ever have happened otherwise. It was a brilliant bit of religious engineering, and as a result the rule of Rome continues to this day, both physically and psychologically, not only as the Catholic Church but via the whole of Christianity. “The Empire never ended.”
While working on the second part of this book, it occurred to me that something similar may be occurring today.
William Sims Bainbridge is an American sociologist who specializes in religion and cognitive science and a Senior Fellow at the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies. Among his contributions to the field are his studies on how science-fiction media (writing, movies, and TV shows) act as a potential self-fulfilling prophecy. He believes that, like Strieber’s visitors and Castaneda’s old seers, ideas that embed themselves in human consciousness will eventually actuate themselves as reality. Another thing he believes (along with Willis Harman and Strieber’s Master of the Key) is that developing the technology for space travel is essential for the survival of human culture.
Many intelligent species probably end progress in a stew of mysticism, drugs, and decadent social institutions which finally petrifies into a form of living extinction. Most of the rest destroy themselves more violently. A precious few, and we may be the first of this rare breed in our cosmic neighborhood, progress so rapidly, stimulated and guided by transcendent social movements, that they achieve interstellar communication and colonization before entering a static cultural phase. [O]nly a transcendent, impractical, radical religion can take us to the stars. The alternative is one or another form of ugly death. . . . To become fully interplanetary, let alone interstellar, our society would need another leap—and it needs that leap very soon before world culture ossifies into secure uniformity, or decays into absolute chaos. We need a new spaceflight social movement capable of giving a sense of transcendent purpose to dominant sectors of the society. It also should be capable of holding the society in an expansionist phase for the longest possible time, without permitting divergence from its great plan. In short, we need a galactic religion, a Cosmic Order [emphasis added, source here].
Here are some other things Bainbridge believes (or claims to believe; my source is largely an online article):
Due to the decline in agricultural communities and the urbanization of society, there have been less opportunities for new communal sects to re-create “medieval agrarian communities,” without necessarily reducing the opportunities for “more radical communal cults.” Utopian ambivalence toward nature is increasing, some groups embracing the Earth (the agrarian sects) while others (those radical cults, like Scientology or The Process, which Bainbridge studied in 1970 and Strieber reputedly made a film about in the 1960s) try to escape it. The sect-cult distinction is only a matter of degree, however, since both can “evolve back toward conventional society.” Bainbridge gives the example of the Amana sect which became a household appliance corporation, and the Oneida cult that became a silverware corporation. In other words, religious or quasi-religious communities that became productive contributors to capitalist society—workers. Recall the maxim from Changing Images of Man and The Aquarian Conspiracy: “In the new paradigm, work is a vehicle for transformation.” “Arbeit macht frei”—labor makes [you] free. This is also a Masonic axiom, quoted in Willis Harman’s contribution to IONS’ Psychic Research: Challenge to Research (p. 653, quoting Manly Hall): “Man is given by Nature a gift—the privilege of labor.”
As part of its future-envisioning, Harman’s essay (on page 643, 647) advocates a “New Freemasonry”:
The symbolism of the Great Seal of the United States, on the back of the dollar bill, is perhaps the most potent reminder that the structure (the unfinished pyramid) is not complete unless the transcendent all-seeing eye is the capstone position. It is clearly in a transcendental sense that all men are created equal. . . . Use of the term New Freemasonry implies that the esoteric may be in process of becoming disclosed, the occult may be coming into public view. Whether or not this is happening is a question we cannot yet answer. However, there are indications . . . that make it a plausible proposition. What we can do, and propose to do, is summarize the main characteristics of the Perennial Philosophy and of true Freemasonry and examine what it would mean if this view of man-in-the-universe were to become dominant.
Harman states that, with the increasing power of multinational corporations, “it becomes essential that their operative goals shift to become more like those of public institutions.” He insists that capitalist structures are “ultimately most compatible with the growing strength of self-determination as a cultural value [i.e., capitalism] and with widespread disenchantments with monopolistic socialist bureaucracy.” “If capitalism is to survive this challenge to legitimacy,” he writes, “the operative goals of corporations will have to undergo radical change.” This radical change, which he also terms “the new transcendentalism,” includes the recognition of “the key role of work in meaningful human existence.” Work, Harman states (ibid, p. 664-6, emphasis added), is “the main way in which persons contribute to the society and receive affirmation in return, thus developing a wholesome self-image.
While Harman was reinventing Freemasonry for the masses, William Bainbridge was studying ‘”the religious convictions of many UFO cults” and noting how more and more likeminded UFO adherents and contactees were assembling to form “scientistic cults.” These cults have been central to the emergence of a “Church of God Galactic.” A galactic civilization requires a new galactic religion, and scientistic cults, particularly UFO cults, are “the purveyors of this new religious consciousness” which is leading (in Bainbridge’s optimistic view) to “the creation of a new theocratic order.” The new galactic religion “is politically and socially expedient because of its emphasis upon unfettered technological development.”
To read full essay, order Prisoner of Infinity: UFOs, Social Engineering, and the Psychology of Fragmentation