Monday 6 August 2012, 18:22

Adam Curtis Adam Curtis

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To celebrate today's successful landing on Mars I thought I would show a film of a man who claimed to have got to Mars a long time ago. He did this back in the late 1950s by communicating telepathically with the beings who inhabited the Red Planet. He also claimed that his mother went there on a UFO. And what's more the BBC took him very seriously.

He was called George King. He was a London taxi driver who back in 1956 had a strange experience. He was washing the dishes when he heard a voice which said

"Prepare yourself. You are about to become the voice of Interplanetary Parliament"

As a result, George King founded the Aetherius Society - which still exists today. His aim was to spread the messages that he received from what he called The Space People.

In 1959 the BBC made a half hour programme about Mr King, his strange cosmic experiences and his ideas. It is one of the most wonderful, odd and touching films I have ever found in the BBC archives.

Here is Mr King

George King is allowed in the programme to describe what happened to him at length - and the interviewer takes him completely seriously. The result is extraordinary - Mr King tells how the space people have given him a name - they call him "Mental Channel No. 1", how he has met people from Mars, Venus and Saturn and has "telepathic rapport" with them.

The interviewer then asks for proof that he really has met these people. George King says that his mother has proved it. She did this, he says, by being picked up by a UFO and then travelling through space to meet one of the people who regularly communicates with him.

So that proves that - he says.

And they then play the tape recording of his mother describing her interplanetary flight.

And then it gets weirder. The interviewer asks George King to contact - and channel - one of these beings. And he agrees. What then happens is just brilliant.

The film begins, appropriately, with Mars speaking to Earth. It ends - as all good programmes did in those days - with a Jungian consultant psychiatrist assessing George King's claims

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    Comment number 1.

    Doing the dishes and feeling like nothing special when, all of a sudden, yourself and the mother are given the job of becoming the communications conduits of cosmic saviors. Nice. These days lot of people are expressing their anxiety/hope in similar ways. The internet is awash with this stuff. However, imagining an otherworldly means of salvation has given way to imagining the secret architects of our destruction. The paranoid narrative of the Illuminati is worthy of analysis. What does it say about people's perception of their place in the Occidental world? Is it that we are alienated, disempowered, frightened, bored or maybe all of the above?

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    Comment number 2.

    Awesome. I've been clucking for another post, seemed like ages, thanks Adam.

    Read something somewhere about another 'interactive theatre' event AC might be working on, involving BBC Television Centre, which could be all kinds of wonder. If I can find it again I'll post a link.

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    Comment number 3.

    Two of my favourite things - historical archive footage and extraterrestrials - combined in one package! Excellent, Adam. I've known George King's story for years, but this documentary sounds fascinating (I haven't had time to watch it yet, but am looking forward to it). Of course, as Adam says, the Aetherius Society is still going strong even today, and other organisations with UFOlogical compulsions, such as the Raelians, 'channel' in a very similar way (I recall a Louis Theroux documentary from years back in which, I think, he met with some Raelians). All these tendencies are much older and more consistent than we can often assume as well - Theodore Flournoy, one of Carl Jung's mentors, undertook a case study with a trance medium in the very late 1890's in which she claimed to be travelling astrally to a highly advanced Mars, and was seen to write using an alphabet she claimed to be Martian.

    Sometimes, these energies can be channeled in less than positive ways: most people have now long forgotten that the mass suicide of the Heaven's Gate cult in the late 90's was rooted in their understanding of the need for UFO generated transcendence, for instance. but George King was certainly one of the more charming exponents of the creed that greater intelligences than our own were aiming to save the benighted of the Earth. That he should intuit this at a time of continued Cold War, nuclear proliferation and superpower rivalry, of course, may have its component in the story.

    As to the spread of Illuminati conspiracy theories, I could write a book. Suffice to say, they originate demonstrably in early 19th century Restoration era France, founded on reference to certain real developments in the mid to late 18th century, and were revived in American circles from the 1920's onwards by primarily right wing ideologues, who associated Illuminism with liberal thought, atheism, sexual permissiveness, Socialism and other such related ills. Sometime in the 1960's, the New Left began to adopt their own brand of attack on the Illuminati (no one being entirely certain to this day how seriously they were invoking it), seemingly inspired by the divisive splits opening up within American society in the 60's - weirdly, they, too, could find reasons for hating big business, clerical hypocrisy, Communist authoritarianism and so on that stemmed from entirely different political roots to the mistrust of the right wing, but often aimed at the same targets. From that point in time on, the Illuminati conspiracy theory was available to all left leaning New Ag

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    Comment number 4.

    New Agers to flag up as a perceived Conservative conspiracy to extirpate free thought and individual rights, even though it had begun life as a right wing perceived conspiracy to extirpate the family, the Church and moral autonomy by the left!

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    Comment number 5.

    For what it's worth, here's my take, in an all too brief nutshell that doesn't do the original research justice, but merely serves as a pointer:

    The 16th century pictures in C.J. Jung's book "Flying Saucers: A Modern Myth of Things Seen in The Sky" show black dots and (squiggly) lines, the kind of shapes that closely resemble what are known as entoptic phenomena: visual effects whose source is within the eye itself, such as phosphenes.

    James Lewis-Williams, a professor in cognitive archaeology, and Thomas Dowson, in their attempt to classify abstract patterns on ancient rock art, came to the conclusion that abstract, geometric shapes in such art is the artistic recording of entoptic phenomena, as seen in altered states of consciousness such as trance, with or without the aid of psychedelic substances. They called these shapes (such as wavy lines, spheres, spirals and lattices) "form constants", in that they are independent of culture.

    Lewis-Williams and Dowson developed a model they called the Three Stages of Trance. The 1st stage consisted of seeing the aforementioned simple geometric forms of entoptics. In the 2nd stage "subjects try to make sense of entoptics by elaborating them into iconic form", the result being more complex visions involving living entities such as (mythic) animals, sprites, elves, etc. Such animals are also seen in ancient rock art, often in combination with the simple shapes of the first stage. The 2nd stage visuals are always culturally determined.

    In the 3rd stage the phenomena become three dimensional and so vivid and that the person experiencing them stops using similes to describe their experiences and asserts that the images are indeed what they appear to be and interacts with them.

    As far as I can tell, the work of Lewis-Williams and Dowson does not deal with encounters with UFOs and extra terrestrials, but it is easy to see the correspondence with the so called Close Encounter classification started by UFO researcher J. Allen Hynek, later popularised by the Spielberg film.

    Close encounter of the 1st kind: visual sightings of an unidentified flying object. The object, being a geometric shape, corresponds with visuals from Lewis-Williams and Dowson's 1st stage of trance. An encounter of the 2nd kind is visually similar to the 1st, so we'll skip that one.

    C. E. of the 3rd kind: sightings of "extra terrestrial occupants" in and around the UFO. This corresponds with visuals from Lewis-Williams and Dowson's 2nd stage of trance, living entities that are culturally specific (as in: space age).

    C. E. of the 4th kind: a human is abducted (or taken on board voluntarily) by a UFO or its occupants. According to Jacques Vallee, 4th kind encounters should be described as "cases when witnesses experienced a transformation of their sense of reality," so as to also include non-abduction cases where absurd, hallucinatory or dreamlike events are associated with UFO encounters.
    C. E. of the 5th kind: joint, bilateral contact events produced through the conscious, voluntary and proactive human-initiated or cooperative communication with extraterrestrial intelligence.
    These last two kinds correspond with Lewis-Williams and Dowson's 3rd stage of trance: the phenomena become so vivid that the observer interacts with them.


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