Comments on a cultural reality between past and future.

This blog describes Metatime in the Posthuman experience, drawn from Sir Isaac Newton's secret work on the future end of times, a tract in which he described Histories of Things to Come. His hidden papers on the occult were auctioned to two private buyers in 1936 at Sotheby's, but were not available for public research until the 1990s.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Counting Down to Hallowe'en: Lake Natron

Lake Natron, a body of water in northern Tanzania can be deadly due to its high salt content and proximity to an active volcano, known among the Maasai people as the 'Mountain of God.' Local legend has it that when the volcano erupts, god is walking the earth. The volcano's proximity to the dead lake fits, since volcanoes are mythically considered doorways to the Underworld or hell. Indeed, Lake Natron looks like a toxic pool out of a fairy tale, the dead marsh a hero would cross before he might enter a dark kingdom. At its deepest point, the lake is just under ten feet deep, and is surrounded by the calcified bodies of creatures unfortunate enough to get trapped there. The process which preserves them resembles that of ancient Egyptian mummification (Images Sources: HuffPo, Viral Maze, Nick Brandt).

A calm eruption from the great volcano, Ol Doinyo Lengai or 'Mountain of God' near Lake Natron. Image Source: Geological Sciences.

The photos here of frozen bodies went viral on the Internet, supposedly depicting a lake of death which instantly turns to stone all creatures that touch it. The peculiar ecosystem actually favours flamingos. Photographer Nick Brandt placed dead creatures around the lake's shoreline in 'living' poses; his photos are artfully faked poses of corpses. The Mary Sue:
No one is disputing that Natron is a dangerous place for most species, of course. As the New Scientist says, the lake can reach temperatures up to 60 °C and has an alkalinity between pH 9 and pH 10.5 ... [and] can ... burn the skin and eyes of animals who aren’t adapted to it. It also does preserve many of these animals’ bodies, specifically due to the combination of chemicals that are deposited into the water via runoff from a nearby Great Rift Valley volcano, Ol Doinyo Lengai.
Unfortunately, the nuances of this lake’s ecosystem seem to escape many a casual observer, and what people appear to be taking away from most coverage is this: that there’s a lake in Africa that kills literally every creature that comes near it (which is false), and that it’s capable of killing those creatures instantly by turning them to actual stone (which is also false).
... [T]he preservation process is not something that happens instantaneously — it happens over a much longer period of time. Though the photos taken by Nick Brandt depict the petrified birds on perches and in naturalistic poses as if they were just petrified, they are all entirely staged. Brandt said as much in an e-mail to NBC news: “I unexpectedly found the creatures — all manner of birds and bats — washed up along the shoreline of Lake Natron in Northern Tanzania[... .] I took these creatures as I found them on the shoreline, and then placed them in ‘living’ positions, bringing them back to ‘life.’”

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Counting Down to Hallowe'en: Through the Cat's Eye

.Gif Source: Z. Scott / We Invent You.

If Dogecoin is anything to go by, dogs are the new cats of the Internet, except in October, when cats are the cats of the Internet.

Cats are prominent in stories in which human and animal senses overlap. The cat symbolizes an unaccountable metamorphosis from animal to human and back again, and is often used as a metaphor for the transition from wilderness to civilization and the precariousness of civilization. The symbol of that transition must be ancient, because the earliest known example of domesticated felines dates from 9,500 years ago.

Bakeneko are Japan's feline answer to werewolves: "Bakeneko prostitutes [who could take near-human form] were a common urban legend / folklore during the Edo period." Image Source: 百物語怪談会 Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai.

Among the Japanese yōkai, or supernatural creatures, one finds the demonic bakeneko (化け猫, "changed cat"). The bakeneko symbolizes this transition from wilderness to civilization because, as Wiki puts it,
"Cats in particular ... have acquired a great number of tales and superstitions surrounding them, due to the unique position they occupy between nature and civilization. As cities and towns were established and humans began living farther apart from nature, cats came with them. Since cats live close to humans yet retain their wild essence and air of mystery, stories grew up around them, and gradually the image of the bakeneko was formed."

Counting Down to Hallowe'en: Sasquatch Screams in the Forest

Trailcam, probably bovine, but found on a sasquatch site. Image Source: Bigfoot Hunt.

I don't believe in sasquatches, but I don't go camping in distant woods with recording equipment, either. Lots of people do; bigfoot is big business. The cryptid primate is also attracting the attention of big science. Finding another great primate species is not inconceivable, as this 2004 report on a newly-discovered species of giant, 2-metre-high chimpanzees from the Congo testifies. The Royal Society went so far this year as to do DNA testing on what might be bigfoot hair samples. You can see the July 2014 publication on their results here. Their oddest finding was that one of their hair samples came from an extinct polar bear:
"Sequences derived from hair sample nos. 25025 and 25191 had a 100% match with DNA recovered from a Pleistocene fossil more than 40 000 BP of U. maritimus (polar bear) but not to modern examples of the species."
They concluded that some hair from the Himalayas came not from a yeti, but from a "previously unrecognized bear species." The study further remarked that the samples presented simply did not come from any unknown primate:
With the exception of these two samples, none of the submitted and analysed hairs samples returned a sequence that could not be matched with an extant mammalian species, often a domesticate. While it is important to bear in mind that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence and this survey cannot refute the existence of anomalous primates, neither has it found any evidence in support. Rather than persisting in the view that they have been ‘rejected by science’, advocates in the cryptozoology community have more work to do in order to produce convincing evidence for anomalous primates and now have the means to do so. The techniques described here put an end to decades of ambiguity about species identification of anomalous primate samples and set a rigorous standard against which to judge any future claims.
For recent BFRO bigfoot encounter records in North America, go here. For 2014 news reports on bigfoot sightings, go here, here, here and here.

Bigfoot videos also spawn hybrids with Millennial media genres: the law enforcement dashcam video (closer look here); the 911 call; the outdoors adventure TV show video; trail cams (see also here, here and here); tourist footage (shows the comic ingenuity of a British Columbian town when gophers and Bighorn Sheep just weren't cutting it in terms of bringing in Chinese tourists); community TV shows; and the paranormal research teams with night vision equipment. There is of course no real 'found footage,' but 2013's film Willow Creek filled that gap.

Purported audio recordings of sasquatches (listen to them here) are more frightening than faked photographs of people loping around the bush in ape suits. Sasquatch Canada has an account from a witness who heard screams in the British Columbian forest:
Man Recalls Experience He Had in July 1998, Near Hope B.C., [Canada] 2:30 a.m.
I was I think maybe 17-18 years old. Myself and two friends were walking up Kawkawa Lake road, from first beach (where I lived), to second beach(where my buddy lived). It's important to me that you know I WAS quite drunk, and moderately stoned at the time(My parents had left me at home alone for a week for the first time). Anyway, it was about 2:30AM and we were making our way up the hill. We were hooting and hollering quite loudly as 3 drunk 17 year olds are want to do, being pretty immature. We came to a point where the road forks; the right takes you towards the Othello Tunnels and the Coquihalla highway via back roads and trails, and the other carries on towards second beach. On the left was a rocky bluff covered in trees and on the other side of the bluff would be Kawkawa Lake. We were just coming up on the bluff when the night was ripped apart by a scream/shout/growl the likes of which I had never heard before, or since. It was primal and it ranged from a deep roar to a high pitched screaming. It was like king cong, roy orbison and axle rose screaming in rage but SO LOUD. The vocal range was stunning. You felt it in your bones. I feel it is really important to tell you how overwhelming to the senses the sounds was. Anyway the trees on the bluff(cedar I believe), began to rock and shake like they were made of paper mache'. These were not small trees, but branches and needles were raining down on us and the road. Have you ever heard the expression "scared sober"? I am not at all ashamed to tell you that I lost some control of my bowels, I was so scared. The whole thing was certainly no more than 2 minutes, but probably less than that. I am old enough to know that time does funny things to your memory. I have never forgotten that incident. As time goes on I feel more and more strongly that it was a sasquatch I witnessed that night. I am open to suggestion as to what else could have made such a sound, and caused large trees to shake. I have heard suggestions of bear, but I doubt it. It was very dark and there were not many streetlights back then on that road. I strongly suspect that our "hooting and hollering" caused something to give us a strong warning to piss off.
Youtube proves that sasquatches become something else on the Internet, whatever they may or may not be in reality. Bigfoot is a centre of online community building. This is true in general: the weirder the draw, the more enjoyable (at least initially) the community can become for its sheer craziness. People love congregating around insane bullshit. Take this excerpt from a 'squatch' argument, where online squatch authorities battle with skeptics:
  • "That's a really big load of BS you just dumped on us. I've never seen a dead chimp, therefor I have no alternative accept to believe you when you say you know where the sasquatch cemetery is? BTW, nothing says loser quite so much as using the term 'squatch.'"
  • "Sick of fucking morons commenting on Sasquatch related videos. Do a fuck load of research lime I have then come back ,and I'll respect your opinions more. And saying squatch says I'm a loser does it? And why is that? Please do tell. I'm all ears. Nothing says loser more than a comment lime yours. Listen to every damn episode of Bigfoot hotspot radio on here. That's your first task. Especially the episode with coombo. Particularly EPs 18 to 35."
  • "Thanks for the suggestions, but I prefer a reality based life."
  • "'A park ranger saw a burial happening through his binoculars the day after a big squatch was shot by a camper'  what's your source?  The Weekly World News?"
  • "It is reality. Just a part of reality you yourself haven't witnessed yet. Spend a few weeks on a Sasquatch hotspot at the right time of year then come back here. Remember, just because you haven't seen something, doesn't mean thousands of other people haven't. You think you know everything about this planet. Think again."
  • "Thousands of 'new' species are discovered each year in jungles, wildernesses, deep forests etc. Did they exist before they were 'discovered' by humans? Even if you only count the land which is able to support humanoid life (ie don't include deserts, ice caps etc) then humans still only occupy HALF the habitable land on earth. 6 billion humans live on half the land on earth. The rest is still wilderness. And most of that land has never even been foot surveyed by humans because it is just too impenetrable. If you cannot drive a car or ride a horse through dense woods or rough terrain then you cannot carry food/ water or equipment. So you must walk. That means you cannot go more than a few miles - especially if you have to machete your way through thick bush which is slow and exhausting work. This means there are millions of acres that are effectively free of humans. And that is where most of the bigfoots live. A few stray close to human settlements and that is when they get filmed. Is it not conceivable that a few hundred thousand or even a few million bigfoots might exist in all that untouched land?"
  • "'It is reality.' No. It is fantasy. "Just a part of reality you yourself haven't witnessed yet.' Neither has anyone else. 'Spend a few weeks on a Sasquatch hotspot at the right time of year then come back here.' And perhaps eat some of the local wild mushrooms? ... 'Remember, just because you haven't seen something, doesn't mean thousands of other people haven't.' That's true. But just because thousands of people THINK they have seen something, (or merely claim they did) does not mean that they really saw what they think."
The dynamic is similar to online communities everywhere; a pecking order depends upon the duration and intensity of the member's communal involvement. You have to do your time in the trenches, or you can forget about being respected. At this point, these people could be talking about anything, from nuclear warheads, to terrorism, financial investment, corporate takeovers, cryptocurrencies, football, video games, space aliens or leprechauns. It really doesn't matter. The real, human action lies in the development of the community, not in discovering the true nature of sasquatches. And so, the more popular Bigfoot becomes, and the more humans congregate around Bigfoot, the more the elusive cryptid remains a complete mystery.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Counting Down to Hallowe'en: Seaborne Monsters and Mysteries

The MV Lyubov Orlova in 2010 before it was abandoned. Image Source: Wiki.

In January 2014, reports circulated across the Internet that an abandoned 1,400 tonne Russian ship, Lyubov Orlova filled with cannibal rats, was drifting across the Atlantic and headed toward Ireland. After a few weeks of speculation, news outlets dismissed the story. For all the sensation, ghost ships are actually fairly common (see here and here).

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Counting Down to Hallowe'en: Howling Dogs and Flightless Moths

Image Source: Youtube.

Horror has a philosophical side. Western horror stories are usually social commentaries, not that different from morality plays of the middle ages. A regular at Scans Daily remarked: "a lot of horror ... raises the question of 'Who is the real sick man ... in this so-called society?'"

In Asia, there is a greater sense of continuity between non-being, being and death, so hungry ghost stories often involve reincarnation or karma (see related posts here and here). You can find no better blend of eastern and western traditions than the ghost stories of Lafcadio Hearn (1850-1904), an American who lived in Japan. I have previously mentioned his 1899 collection of ghost stories (which you can read online here) in this post.

Sometimes, the bridge between different human traditions is a non-human perspective. Other creatures bear witness on the other world, or afterlife, or the paranormal world beyond our senses. Youtube has many videos made by dog owners who claim that their dog can see a ghost.

Lafcadio Hearn came to the conclusion that domesticated creatures' lives are so intertwined with human lives that they, with their fundamentally different ways of being, mirror some of the things we cannot understand about ourselves and our existence. These creatures are so tied to us that they mirror these hidden truths within the human space. Our pets also perceive some of the things we cannot usually sense - including, in Hearn's view, ghosts.

The alien familiarity of silkworm moths (Bombyx mori); cultivated for over 5,000 years in China (possibly since the end of the Neolithic Age) to produce silk, the insects no longer exist in the wild. They can't fly and are completely dependent on humans in order to eat and survive. Image Source: Science Image.

If you don't want to read Hearn's stories, you can hear them below the jump. They have been prepared as an audiobook by LibriVox recordings. It is not shock or gore and can seem dry, but if you have time to listen to this video, In Ghostly Japan conveys the real meaning of horror. Hearn ponders mundane subjects, then veers off into horror, relating it to life's greatest mysteries and philosophical questions in a mind-blowing, sometimes very scary way.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Photos from an Epidemic

Images Source: Getty via Creepy Reality.

These are October photos from Liberia, scenes from the ebola epidemic from Getty Images (Hat tip: Creepy Reality):
It has claimed the lives of more than 4,000 people across the world so far. Now, a series of photos has captured the grim reality of the Ebola outbreak in Liberia, West Africa. The shocking images, taken by photographers John Moore and Mohammed Elshamy, show the brutal effects of the virus on victims and their loved ones. One features a woman crawling desperately toward the body of her sister as a burial team carries it away for cremation on Saturday [11 October 2014].

Counting Down to Hallowe'en: One World Trade Center

Image Source: Ellie Photography Blog.

One World Trade Center is the sky-scraper built in New York City to replace the Twin Towers, which were destroyed by hijacked airplanes on 9/11. Completed in 2013, the new building, also known as the Freedom Tower, made an eerie wailing sound when the wind blew in a certain way. This was during construction, when the building formed a natural aeolian wind harp. Or perhaps the surrounding buildings make a wind tunnel. See videos below the jump which recorded the haunting sound. Despite the rational explanations, one can hardly blame people for being superstitious in this case.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Countdown to Hallowe'en: The Ghosts of Unit 731

Unit 731 victim. Image Source: Wiki.

In the past century, crimes against humanity were committed in a spirit of secular confidence. Decency - or backwardness - had once prevented certain aspects of human existence from being quantified. But in the 20th century, a perfect blend of brutality and scientific advancement swept away both decency and backwardness. During times of conflict and oppression, older prohibitions fell by the wayside. Wherever researchers and doctors worked beyond the pale, beyond scrutiny and controls, human beings were probed and experimented upon using scientific and industrial methods. War removed barriers to the quest for knowledge. This was a phenomenon of the time, a mentality which combined limitless savagery with a bizarrely searching rationality. It became a blind worship at the altar of knowledge, which had to be gathered at any cost to win victory. Indeed, one of the purposes of war in advanced societies is that conflict removes barriers to research, permitting explorations of the unthinkable. The Nazi concentration camps are the most famous examples of this phenomenon, but human experimentation occurred in other places.

Less well known but no less horrifying than the Nazi concentration camps was Unit 731, a covert Japanese research and development centre which operated during the Second Sino-Japanese War and World War II. It was located in the Pingfang district of Harbin, in the state of Manchukuo, that is, Japanese-occupied China. Officially known as the Epidemic Prevention and Water Purification Department of the Kwantung Army (関東軍防疫給水部本部 Kantōgun Bōeki Kyūsuibu Honbu), Unit 731 was the site of some of the worse war crimes in history. It was constructed between 1934 and 1939; by the fateful year 1941, it was known simply as Unit 731. The victims were mainly Chinese, with some southeast Asians, Russians and Pacific Islanders; they included infants and the elderly. Women were impregnated by rape and then became subjects of experiments along with their foetuses. Some 200,000 people died at the unit.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Counting Down to Hallowe'en: Thailand's Waterway Ghost

Movie poster for Mae Nak (2012). Image Source: myegy.

For today, see the tragic romantic Thai 'New Wave' ghost film, Nang Nak (นางนาก, meaning 'Miss Nak'; 1999). Set in the rural canals west of Bangkok in the early 1830s, it depicts a soldier who returns home to his family after fighting in the Siamese-Vietnamese War. His wife and child seem fine to him; but it turns out they've died in the meantime. The film is poignant and unsettling, and is the type of story which uses ghosts as purgatorial metaphors for familial grief. It is very similar in tone to a western film from the same period, The Others (2001).

Nang Nak drew from the legend Mae Nak Phra Khanong (Thai: แม่นากพระโขนง, meaning 'Lady Nak of Phra Khanong'). Local folklore claims that this famous ghost was based on a true story that occurred in the 1850s or 1860s during the reign of King Mongkut, King of Siam. The legend says that a sweet, loving (and deceased) wife, Nak, became vengeful after being separated from her living husband. She had to be exorcised twice from the houses and canals of the Phra Khanong district.

In the second of these rituals, she was captured by the great monk Somdet Phra Phutthachan (To Phrommarangsi) and imprisoned inside her forehead bone, which he wore in his belt. The belt is said to be now in the possession of the Chakri royal family. There is a shrine dedicated to Mae Nak in Bangkok (Wiki provides you with directions). The ghost and her story are very popular in Thailand and Mae Nak has been the subject of many films and an opera. Another recent film was Ghost of Mae Nak (2005); you can watch yet another version from 2012 here, but the English subtitles are wrong.

Outer perimeter of the shrine to Mae Nak in Bangkok. Image Source: Wiki.

According to an unsourced section of Wiki, a historian traced the real story to an 1899 newspaper article:
Anek Nawikamul, a Thai historian, researched the story and found a newspaper article from Siam Praphet newspaper written by K.S.R. Kularb, dated March 10, 1899. It claimed the story of Mae Nak was based on the life of Amdaeng Nak (อำแดงนาก, "Miss Nak"), daughter of a Tambon Phra Khanong leader named Khun Si. Nak died when she was pregnant. Her older children, worried that their father would remarry and their inheritance would be shared with a step-mother, invented the ghost story and threw rocks at passing boats to make people believe Nak's ghost had done it.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Counting Down to Hallowe'en: Dark Seed's Other Dimension

The librarian from Dark Seed (1992). Image Source: Red and White Kop.

One of the most famous early horror video games, Dark Seed, was released by Cyberdreams in 1992. It is noted for its haunting artwork by the late Swiss artist, H. R. Giger, and its ground-breaking high resolution graphics. Unusually for its format, the game heightened stress by forcing the player to complete tasks within a limited time. Otherwise, the player had to start again. This is because an alien-like 'dark seed' has been implanted in the protagonist, who must solve several interrelated real world and other dimensional puzzles before the embryo is born and kills him and all of humankind. The protagonist can only last three days in his newly-purchased, otherworldly house!

Giger's contribution lays out an ever-worsening excursion into an unforgivingly crazy and monochromatic subconscious. It's so frankly and unflinchingly portrayed that at times you can't help but laugh at how dreadful it all is. The plot opens as a man moves into a dilapidated mansion, where his nightmares and daily routine begin to converge:
Mike Dawson is a successful advertising executive and writer who has recently purchased an old mansion on Ventura Drive (named after Ventura Boulevard) in the small town of Woodland Hills. On his first night at the house, Mike has a nightmare about being imprisoned by a machine that shoots an alien embryo into his brain. He wakes up with a severe headache and, after taking some aspirins and a shower, explores the mansion. He finds clues about the previous owner's death, which reveal the existence of a parallel universe called the Dark World ruled by sinister aliens called the Ancients.
Because today's games are so advanced, it is easy to overlook this early horror gem. Watch the extended gameplay below the jump. Have the patience to follow it through, and it delivers an abiding, nasty creepiness, frayed nerves, and a nagging, subliminal uncertainty about reality. Wiki: "In 2006 Gametrailers.com named [Dark Seed] the seventh scariest game of all time, ranking it above Clock Tower, System Shock 2, and Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem."

Game conception drew from H. P. Lovecraft and from Giger's designs for the 1979 film, Alien. Watch for the reference to 'Joe Tuttle,' the gardener, who appears as well in the The Changeling (1980; see it here or here) and The Others (2001). A sequel, Dark Seed II (1995; gameplay here), was influenced by David Lynch's Twin Peaks (1990-1991), and also featured horror lurching between two worlds. H. R. Giger did not participate directly in making the sequel. For that reason, the first game remains the unsettling classic.

Still from Dark Seed (1992). Image Source: Red and White Kop.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Counting Down to Hallowe'en: Jonestown - Altruism, Violence, Fear

Testimony on Jonestown? (Look at her right hand.) BCW-944-BS Photo of Jim Jones Cult People's Temple Jonestown Guyana. Image Source © Tribune Photos Archive / Baltimore Sun Photo Archive / Wire Photo.

Caption for the above photograph: "This WIREPHOTO is straight from the newspaper's historical photo archive. Wirephotos are different than traditional photographic prints!  This print is the result of what used to be breakthrough technology (now completely obsolete) that allowed a photographic image to be scanned, transmitted over 'the wire' (telegraph, phone, satellite networks) and then printed at the receiving location.  They are often on thinner, slick paper (very similar to old thermal roll fax paper) and often fade or become sepia toned quicker than traditional silver halide prints.  Long removed from commercial use, these artifacts represent an important era in the history of news media."

Before 9/11, the largest loss of civilian American lives due to a deliberate act was the Jonestown Massacre of 18 November 1978. This pacifist American cult committed mass suicide under psychological duress exerted by their psychopathic priest, Reverend Jim Jones. The cult, the Peoples Temple, had been developing under Jones's leadership for some twenty years prior to their migration to Guyana, where they died after drinking cyanide-laced Kool-Aid. The act passed into public consciousness and generated an American expression describing how someone fully and foolishly accepts ideas which are fatally wrong: "He drank the Kool-Aid."

Before their mass suicide, the cult's guard squad hunted down and murdered an American Congressman and NBC news team who visited them on behalf of cultists' family members. An account of the grisly events is here.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Counting Down to Hallowe'en: Illuminati Eyes

.Gif Source: Z. Scott / We Invent You.

The New World Order plot of the Illuminati is one of the most popular conspiracy theories on the Internet. Did gossip on the Web foster this myth, mixing it with Freemasonry, black magic and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion? One can scoff at the paranoid pyramid seekers, but they have a point: popular culture, institutions, corporations and political groups have incorporated so-called Illuminati messages for decades, and even centuries. That said, anti-Illuminati conspiracy theorists are often anti-Semitic and counter-factual, suggesting the Illuminati story in fact conveys those attitudes.

After the First World War, occult divination through ouija boards gained popularity as the bereaved sought to talk to their lost loved ones. At the same time, magical secularism which had enjoyed a vogue before the war lingered and combined with Satanic and Wiccan ideas. The outcome in a place like Hollywood, which already had (and has) a loose grip on reality, was grim. Perhaps certain cults gained a fatal foothold there. Odd evidence occasionally broke through the tinsel: ghosts of the 1920s; surrealism of the 1920s through the 1940s; the 1947 Black Dahlia murder, which may have involved a sacrificial black magic ritual; and many unsolved deaths from the 1930s to the present. Orson Welles, David Lynch and Stanley Kubrick are three of the most famous directors who explored this dark history.

Anne Hathaway flashed Mano Cornuto or El Diablo hand signs before she claimed her award at the 2013 Golden Globes for Les Misérables (2012). Image Source: AFP/Getty via Daily Mail.

These symbols have dominated entertainment, politics and advertising since the Second World War. Did politicians, business leaders, Hollywood and music industry moguls strike fateful bargains, applying occult practices and esoteric beliefs to the business of taming the newly-prosperous public? Did rising individuals, as director Roman Polanski may have suggested, join insider cults and labour under the illusion that their successes were and are due to arcane rituals, rather than their own talents and abilities?

Or perhaps occult and Masonic symbols offered an exciting visual lexicon for marketers in the post-World-War-II consumer culture. Just because a photographer, handler or stylist tells a celebrity to cover his or her eye, or make a cryptic hand gesture, it doesn't mean the individual is a cultist. This might simply be a marketing ploy, part of the art of public persona creation; the celebrity becomes a larger than life figure, the superficially-powerful pawn who sells entertainment media and consumer goods.

Image Source: Above Top Secret.

Are these Illuminati cults real or imagined? This blog is very skeptical of conspiracies, but this is the Hallowe'en countdown, so let us see. The Masonic all-seeing eye of God (or Lucifer?), also known as the Eye of Horus or the Eye of Providence, is a primary symbol purportedly associated with this world-dominating secret society. Below the jump, today's countdown to Hallowe'en presents a sobering overview of the prevalence of the Illuminati eye in the entertainment industry.

Chatter on the David Icke message board (for more on Icke's wild suspicions of world conspiracies, go here and here) debates the significance of a celebrity's illuminated left versus right eyes; the commenter additionally believes that there is a difference between those who encircle their eyes with their fingers or another gesture (the controllers) and those who cover their eyes (the controlled):
Handlers are those celebrities who willingly push the Agenda of the Illuminati. They can be identified by the "all-seeing eye" symbol. As handlers are often consistent with which eye they choose to "illuminate," I believe that a distinction can be made by observing which eye is favored. Though I have not been able to determine which is which, I believe that one eye indicates those who sympathize with the cause, and the other indicates those who agreed to push forth the agenda after being bribed (Please note that these individuals push the Agenda to reap its spoils, rather than doing so out of fear.) ... The Handled are those individuals who have been forced to push the Agenda. The individuals may have been opposed to the Illuminati from the start, or are former supporters who have finally had enough. Either way, these individuals are forced to cover one eye to represent that they are being oppressed; that they are the submissive. ... MK Ultra victims are viciously tortured, and when they attempt to escape within their minds, an alter-ego is put into place. Please note that many of those who have their right eye covered have referred to themselves as having alter-egos. ... Some photos may be written off as just someone winking or rubbing stuff out of their eye. However, it cannot be denied that the Illuminated eye symbol is everywhere in the celebrity community! Those who use these symbols are usually very consistent with which eye is covered, and which remains illuminated.
In addition, the left-right distinction may refer - so the conspiracy theorists say - to dominant character or talent through an indication of brain function.

Image Source: David Icke chatboard.

None of those speculations is confirmed here, but the Illuminati theory is clearly a mish-mash of pop psychology, anti-government sentiment, anti-Semitism, suspicion of the mass media, the spread of the occult and the impact of confirmed cults (you can see a daily rundown of real life cult headlines here). The theory of the Illuminati is more of a metanarrative which ensnares conspiracy theorists (online gnostic seekers constantly proclaim they have found the so-called 'real truth' above the evident truth) in their own fears of enslavement. Thus, conspiracy theorists ironically actually participate in, and constitute, the very community of believers that they project on public circles. Does that mean that public figures don't join higher cults? Not necessarily. More likely, the fears and symbols telescope the higher one goes in any area of endeavour: illumination is universally in Millennial fashion. It is a sign that the revived pre-Christian and Christian heresy of gnosticism is rampant today.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Counting Down to Hallowe'en: Tarot Cards and the Art of Divination

The High Priestess of the Tarot Illuminati deck (2013). Image Source: The Tarot Review.

Welcome to this year's Hallowe'en Countdown! Be sure to check other blogs participating in this October-long blogathon, here. This year, countdown posts will appear every Monday, Wednesday and Friday until the frightful holiday.

Today's post looks at how the tarot deck started with Renaissance social commentary and became a modern occult game which tells your future. During the Renaissance, tarot became less a card game about late medieval life and more a divinatory tool with alchemical symbols. Posing a question to cards is known as cartomancy, a partly rational, partly irrational exploration of the subconscious in relation to objectively- and subjectively-experienced time:
The divinatory meanings of the cards commonly used today are derived mostly from cartomancer Jean-Baptiste Alliette ([1738-1791] also known as Etteilla) and Mlle Marie-Anne Adelaide Lenormand (1776-1843). The belief in the divinatory meaning of the cards is closely associated with a belief in their occult, divine, and mystical properties: a belief constructed in the 18th century by prominent Protestant clerics and freemasons.
With this merger of social, historic and mystical ideas, tarot card games became associated with how an individual life can mesh with the world's larger destiny.

An example of how pre-Masonic alchemical knowledge from the Renaissance was embedded in the earliest tarot decks; this moment of illumination on the left is from the Rosary of the Philosophers (1550), but actually derives from earlier sources and was reproduced in the Sola Busca tarot in 1491 (the Three of Wands, or Clubs, on the right). Image Source: Sola Busca Tarot 1998. 

Illuminatio: the alchemical winged sun (an Egyptian symbol, later represented as variants of the Christian cross, see below) from the Rosary of the Philosophers (1550). "Some of the woodcut images have precedents in earlier (15th century) German alchemical literature, especially in the Buch der heiligen Dreifaltigkeit ([The Book of the Holy Trinity] ca. 1410)." Image Source: Wiki.

"The winged sun is a symbol associated with divinity, royalty and power in the Ancient Near East." 'Winged Sun of Thebes' (from Egyptian Mythology and Egyptian Christianity by Samuel Sharpe, 1863). Image Source: Wiki.

Rosicrucian Christian play on the same symbol. Image Source: pinterest.

Comments on the 1912 Cagliostro deck reveal the nuances between famous tarot decks and their different origins and influences: "The deck is based upon the works of Papus (Gérard Anaclet-Vincent Encausse) who was a proponent of the works of Lévi. Qabalistic attributions are also based on Lévi, and the majors are numbered in the continental style. The keywords follow Etteilla. So how to read it? Like a[n occult] Wirth deck." This is the Hermit trump card, one of the major arcana, from the Cagliostro deck. Notice how the wicked are defeated when knowledge is inverted. Image Source: pinterest.

As far as we know, playing cards were likely invented in China in the 9th century; but they are not artifacts which would long survive and probably have an earlier history. Playing cards arrived in Europe, probably from India, in the 14th century. For cards from other regions of the world, such as Indian ganjifa cards, go here, here and here.

When it comes to tarot decks, you can look at the classics or neo-classics: there is the oldest known surviving whole deck, the alchemical Renaissance Sola Busca (circa 1491); reprinted by Wolfgang Mayer in an impressive limited edition in 1998); the Visconti-Sforza (15th century); the Scapini (15th century); the Minchiate (16th century - a larger deck which includes slightly different trumps, the signs of the zodiac, the four elements and four virtues); the Marseilles (16th century); the occult Etteilla (1791); the Classic (1835); the Soprafino (1835); the Rider-Waite (1910); the Cagliostro (1912); the Knapp (1929); the Thoth (1943); or the faux-antique Deck of the Bastard (2013), which reproduces many elements from earlier versions in a deck amateurs can actually use. Or you can look at the latest decks, which I do below the jump.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Quote of the Day: Alan Moore on Editors

Image Source: Wired.

The quote of the day comes from Alan Moore, via Rob Brezsny's advice to Aquarians for the week of 25 September 2014:
Alan Moore is the British author who wrote the graphic novels Watchmen and V for Vendetta. He is now nearing completion of Jerusalem, a novel he has been working on for six years. It will be more than a million words long, almost double the size of Tolstoy's War and Peace, and 200,000 words bigger than the Bible. "Any editor worth their salt would tell me to cut two-thirds of this book," Moore told the New Statesman, "but that’s not going to happen." Referring to the author of Moby Dick, Moore adds, "I doubt that Herman Melville had an editor. If he had, that editor would have told him to get rid of all that boring stuff about whaling: 'Cut to the chase, Herman.'" Let's make Moore and Melville your role models in the coming week, Aquarius. You have permission to sprawl, ramble, and expand. Do NOT cut to the chase.
The Guardian reported that Moore finished Jerusalem a week and a half ago. The book explores a tiny area of Northampton, where Moore grew up, through stories of his family's past. The bearded sage will undoubtedly reach universal transcendence with this work: it spans many different radical writing styles, genres and ideas. Jerusalem is now with the copy-editors.

Moore has repeatedly argued that gods, as the products of our imaginations, are real entities, produced by the magic of artistic creativity. He became a ceremonial magician on his fortieth birthday as "a logical end step to my career as a writer." That didn't happen. Wiki:
"I believe that magic is art, and that art, whether that be music, writing, sculpture, or any other form, is literally magic. Art is, like magic, the science of manipulating symbols, words or images, to achieve changes in consciousness ... Indeed to cast a spell is simply to spell, to manipulate words, to change people's consciousness, and this is why I believe that an artist or writer is the closest thing in the contemporary world to a shaman."
See my earlier post on Moore's June 2013 interview with The Believer, on the subject of gods, art and magic, here.