Thursday, June 27, 2013

Secret Star Trek, part 3: Stranger than (Science) Fiction

"Somewhere out there," [Gene] starts off, his eyes widening as he continues, "there's this massive ... entity, this abstract, unknown life force that seems mechanical in nature, although it actually possesses its own highly advanced consciousness. It's a force thousands of times greater than anything intergalactic civilization has ever witnessed. It could be God, it could be Satan, and it's heading toward earth."

-- Star Trek Movie Memories

In the first part of this series we looked at the curious fact that an alien planet that acts as the battlefield in the ninth Star Trek film is virtually identical to the legendary New Age resort, Esalen. In the second part we looked at what connected both Star Trek and Esalen- the bizarre and secretive UFO cult known variously as The Nine, the Council of Nine and Lab-9.

In this chapter we will look at the almost unbelievable latticework of connections between Star Trek, Esalen and The Nine, as well as evidence that there may well be iconic tributes to the late Esalen co-founder Richard Price throughout the Star Trek franchise itself...

Roddenberry didn't really have much luck after Star Trek -- which, truth be told, was considered a failure in its original run. He later penned a feature film starring Rock Hudson, Pretty Maids All in a Row, which was a critical and box office failure.

A new sci-fi concept- originally titled Genesis II-- tossed bits of Star Trek, The Time Machine and Planet of the Apes into a blender but never got off the ground, despite three separate launches. Another pilot- The Questor Tapes- dealt with an android seeking to become human. This too was a bust. But since Roddenberry never threw an idea out, Questor would be reincarnated the following decade and become a superstar.

With Star Trek burning up the Nielsens in reruns, Paramount rehired Roddenberry and put him to work on ideas for a low-budget Star Trek feature. His first attempt was begun in May of 1975 and submitted to studio head Barry Diller on June 30 of that year.
"I handed them a script and they turned it down," Roddenberry stated. "It was too controversial. It talked about concepts like, 'Who is God?' [In it] the Enterprise meets God in space; God is a life form, and I wanted to suggest that there may have been, at one time in the human beginning, an alien entity that early man believed was God, and kept those legends.
Gene had obviously been reading his Von Daniken, just like everyone else at the time. But since the devil's (due) in the details around here, we might want to get another look at the script, which Roddenberry titled The God Thing†:
Director Richard Colla, who had helmed Roddenberry's The Questor Tapes, was very familiar with that particular screenplay and recalls it fondly.  "They went off in search of that thing from outer space that was affecting everything. By the time they got to the spaceship and got into its [the alien's] presence, it manifested itself and said, 'Do you know me?' Kirk said, 'No, I don't know who you are.'

So it shift-changed and became another image and said, 'Do you know me?' Kirk said, 'No, who are you? It shifts shape again and comes up in the form of Christ the Carpenter, and says, 'Do you know me?' and Kirk said, 'Oh, now I know who you are.' And he says, 'How strange you didn't know these other forms of me.'
A god-like being presenting himself as many different figures is startling reminiscent of the sessions Roddenberry would conduct at Lab-9 in the weeks and months following the submission of his script to Paramount, though Roddenberry didn't seem to notice. Which is strange because he didn't fail to namecheck other Star Trek eps at other points of the Lab-9 interviews:
GENE: To whom am I talking? Do you have a name?

Tom: I am Tom. I am the spokesman for the Council of Nine. In truth I am Tehuti. Yes. I am also Hamarkos, I am also Herenkar, I am known as Thomas and I am known as Atum. 
Christ was also identified with The Nine in some of the other "channeled" material. But what was interesting was that The God Thing was very much V'Ger in reverse- where V'Ger was a malfunctioning space probe looking for its maker in mankind, the God Thing was a malfunctioning space probe looking to have mankind see it as its maker.* Colla again:
Really, what Gene had written was that this 'thing' was sent forth to lay down the law; to communicate the law of the universe, and that as time goes on the law needs to be reinterpreted. And at that time 2,000 years ago, the law was interpreted by this Carpenter image. As time went on, the law was meant to be reinterpreted, and the Christ figure was meant to reappear in different forms. But this machine malfunctioned, and it was like a phonograph record that got caught in a groove and kept grooving back, grooving back, grooving back.

Psychic gods, from the second Star Trek pilot
But given Roddenberry's longtime interest in psychic phenomena, The God Thing may well have been inspired by The Nine before Gene ever "met" them. Such is the enigma of The Nine; just when you want to chuck it all as a pile of utter New Age nonsense, it throws a curveball at you.

It's unclear exactly when Gene Roddenberry first came into content with The Nine. The Stargate Conspiracy (based on Philip Coppens' research) claims early 1976. Jon Povill's muckracking biography has Roddenberry being approached by Nine honcho Sir John Whitmore in July 1975, after Roddenberry finished The God Thing. The official whitewash biography claims that Whitmore had written Roddenberry to ask his opinion of UFOs in April of that year.

But whatever the case it's obvious that Roddenberry and The Nine were working parallel tracks and were destined to meet. And given his longstanding interesting in parapsychology, it may well be that Roddenberry had read Andrija Puharich's 1974 "biography" of Uri Gellerº, which is filled with spaceships and malfunctioning equipment and alien gods.
Now that Uri and I had come to accept the reality of this mysterious being as well as its power, we were naturally intensely curious as to whom we were dealing with...We came to the conclusion that we must try once again the proven technique of trance induction, and try to make the contact, and then ask our questions.
AP: "Please ask if I can use the tape recorder."

Uri: "I am alone here. There is no one to ask the question of." Then I heard a voice, not from Uri, for he was asleep. The voice had no source.

Andrija, I have told Uri to come to me now.

AP: "May I use the tape recorder?"

Yes, proceed.

AP: "Are you of the Nine Principles that once spoke through Dr. Vinod?"


AP: "Are you behind the UFO sightings that started in the United States when Kenneth Arnold saw nine flying saucers on June 24, 1947?"


AP: "How can we communicate with you?"

You cannot. We will reach you. We can command any communication system man has devised to reach you. Be alert. We will use your tape, phone, radio, television, telegram, letters, computers, and so on. Farewell.

Roddenberry was hired to interview the psychics at Lab-9 for a movie that would herald the coming landing of The Nine on Planet Earth. Stuart Holroyd was tasked with the same in the book, only he finished his job- the 1977 hardcover Briefings for the Landing on Planet Earth.

Roddenberry was drinking and drugging hard at the time. After his first effort was rejected by Whitmore, he had his assistant Jon Povill write a new one, which had the Roddenberry character struggling with the possibility that he was setting the world up for an alien invasion.

Whatever one might think of The Nine, one thing that can be said without reservation: Roddenberry's experiences with the cult made a huge impression on him, and in many ways would form the basis of the rest of his life's work. As well as the entire Star Trek franchise.

"Spectra" became Spectre, a 1977 TV occult detetctive TV movie with vague but recognizable Geller and Puharich analogs, and the entire Nine landing scenario would very much resurface in Battlefield Earth, the unmade TV pilot that became the basis for the syndicated series, Earth: Final Conflict. The god-like space ship would be reborn as V'ger, which would replay elements from "Where No Man Has Gone Before" in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, which was based on an unused Genesis II storyline.

But what's even more remarkable is that hints not only of Spectra, Geller, Puharich and The Nine appear in Roddenberry's work, but also hints of Esalen itself. The novelization of the Star Trek movie- credited to Roddenberry- features a very Esalen-like concept...

OK, I lied; it's a concept stolen directly from Esalen- the "New Human" movement (I guess "Human Potential Movement" was too obvious):

The New Human movement represented a popular advancement of the Human civilization in the 23rd century, a grouping created as an outgrowth of the advantage of potential in Humankind on Earth and other Federation worlds where Human populations lived in total peace and were able to devote themselves entirely to their own betterment. Without conflict and turmoil, education became more advanced and the intelligence of the average individual increased, creating a dynamic of social freedom not before experienced by the species.
But things were just warming up. The good people of Starfleet had been to Space-Esalen before Star Trek 9; the concept just needed to be refined a bit.


Before we proceed, let's go over the basic bullet points of the Esalen/Nine story:

• Esalen is a resort in Big Sur founded by Michael Murphy and Dick Price (left)
• By any reckoning, it is Paradise or Eden;  widely seen as one of the most beautiful places in the world
• In the first several years of its existence it was known both for hippie hedonism and avant garde psychology
• It was later known for work in psychedelic research and remote viewing but more recent mostly became known for massage and bodywork

• Dick Price fell in with The Nine in 1979, hiring psychic Jenny O'Connor (right) who channeled The Nine

• Dick and Jenny made several administrative decisions and The Nine were listed as part of Esalen staff

• Jenny and The Nine were forced out by Murphy after a power struggle in the early 80s

• Price was killed in an apparent freak accident at the basin that fed Esalen's water supply. He was found with a fatal wound in his forehead.  Remember that detail.


After being humiliated by Paramount when he was fired from the film franchise, Roddenberry took control over the new TV franchise, Star Trek: The Next Generation (which, as we saw, featured nine main characters). The problem was that he was in bad shape from years of self-abuse.

But he still had that psychedelic worldview that comes when you live through two near-death experiences (two plane crashes in this case). The first season of the series might have been a mess but it was a lot more ambitious, sweeping and cinematic than the franchise later became.  But he drove a lot of good writers away by rewriting their scripts forcing Paramount to step in and install Maurice Hurley as head writer.

The pilot episode "Encounter at Farpoint" is actually two episodes quashed together. Paramount wanted a big opener. It's badly underrated by Trekkers, who like many nerds feel a burning need to hate anything written by the creator of their all-time favorite franchises. One episode would have introduced us to an all-powerful alien trickster god named Q, who was part of a very Council of Nine-like group called The Q Continuum. This is reminiscent of Uri Geller opining that The Nine were a race of clowns.

The second takes us to a base built on a primitive planet that is actually the work of yet more Roddenberry god-like aliens (yet more echoes of The Nine), these ones disguise themselves as giant flying saucers.

What's even more bizarre- if that's possible- is that the episode is full of themes from esoteric and occult UFOlogy- the Enterprise is trapped in an energy field, like many reports from the 70s of automobiles. It then- for no real reason- detaches its saucer section.

Q is like something out of Keel- he appears and disappears, speaking in riddles.
He dresses up in US military garb circa the Cold War, just like a Man in Black. He then abducts senior officers of the crew. The magical flying saucer is fact an organic being, shades of Ivan Sanderson.

Farpoint itself features an obelisk strongly reminiscent of the San Francisco pyramid (the previous year's Trek feature film was shot there) and the relation of Farpoint to the primitive Old City is like a New Yorker cover rendering of San Francisco to Big Sur.

And just to add the cherry on top, Farpoint is run by an old hippie,
played by an actor who was then the same age as many of the Esalen senior staff. In the unvarying tradition of the new Trek, he's a civilian, which automatically means he's either a criminal or simply a pain in the ass.

 And just to bring us back to The Nine again, we have the omnipotent UFO in high orbit and the Jenny-like psychic who is in communication with it. We'll see that motif again soon.

Oh- I should probably mention that the psychological technique Esalen was best known for was the "Encounter."

One more link to remember is that the Klingon Empire were now at peace with the Federation though their real-world counterparts the Soviet Union was still Communist and still the Evil Empire to many Americans. Esalen was doing a lot of work for the Rockefellers in building connections in Russia, starting at the height of the Cold War with its research in Soviet psi programs.

"Justice"- the seventh episode of the first season- also has Roddenberry's stamp all over it. It's also our second trip to Space Esalen. As you'll see, the concept is evolving.

Despite the huge water reclamation plant (?) in the background, the planet Rubicun is a Esalen-like paradise of 60s vintage blond Californians, rampant hedonism and physical fitness. The Edo people nearly fulfill the wishes of millions of bitter Trekkies when they mark young Wesley Crusher for death after he falls into some flowers or something.

We also see scenes where the Edolens are massaging each other, reminding us that by the time this aired Esalen was famous for crunchy living but world famous for its massage workers.

There's also this bit of random weirdness- the Edolen musician is playing an identical instrument from the notorious third-season ep, "The Way to Eden." All the more interesting since all the original Trek props were destroyed.

With Wesley sentenced to death for a minor infraction the obvious thing to do is to beam him off and split the scene. But there's one problem; there's one bad motherfucker of a ship out there and it's not having any of it. Here again we see the giant Nine-like ship and the Jenny-like girl in communion with it.

The way this thing is described still blows my mind. Like, for real:
The structure was partially detected by a starship's sensors, and was generally invisible. ...It appeared only when Captain Jean-Luc Picard asked to reveal itself; even then, the structure appeared transparent, and sensors read it as "not entirely real". As Data surmised later, once they belonged to this dimension but evolved considerably; they occupied several dimensions, being in several places at once.
OK, that's mindblowing. Now shit gets weird. Remember that Dick Price was found having been struck down with a wound on his forehead?

You're going to be seeing a lot of this kind of thing.

I mean a lot.


With Rubicun lost to the Federation, the writers needed a new Esalen and they invented Risa, the pleasure planet. We first go to Risa on "Captain's Holiday", where we meet Vash, named in the grand Trek tradition of Vina.

Some interesting factoids- we find out that Risa is famed for its steam pools, just like Esalen. The area around it is famed for its caves, just like Big Sur.

Just as Esalen with the Essalen Indians, Risa was once home to a premodern indigenous people. The modern Risians are typified by a ritual mark...

...on their foreheads.

That tribal item on the left behind Vash? Here's a bit of history on that:
 Riker concedes but notes that two ensigns on deck 39 may not know about the plan. Picard finally gives in and starts planning to vacation somewhere Riker suggested: Risa. Just before Picard leaves Riker asks him to bring back a local souvenir called a Horga'hn.
Here's an interesting factoid about the Essalen:
The Esselen language is a language isolate. It is hypothetically part of the Hokan family.

Risa is a dangerous place for a pleasure planet, trips there get you mixed up in alien mind control or encounters with truly bizarre time-traveling NHEs.

Incidentally, Vash would reappear on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine in a weird replay of "Encounter at Farpoint." She acts as Q's traveling companion and business partner.

Meanwhile an alien being much like the Squidsaucers at Farpoint threatens the station before disappearing into the Temple of the Prophets. By the way, Vash is played by Jennifer Hetrick.

Her friends call her Jenny.

The DS9ers head over to Risa for "Let He Who is Without Sin," which quite cannily parallels the then-current attacks on Esalen and the New Age movement in general by John Foster Dulles' Religious Right program (ah, those elite proxy wars- gotta love 'em) by showing a Federation cult called The New Essentialists who literally assault Risa. The radiant Vanessa Williams plays a Risian hostess (note that ritual forehead mark).

Then there's totally extraneous scene from an episode of Enterprise when the original crew lands on Risa. An older couple and their ritual forehead scars engage the ship's translations officer and compliment her on her Risian. The woman is played by Jennifer Williams.

Her friends call her Jenny.

And here's another bizarre scene from Deep Space Nine. The Sisko of Bajor, the Emissary of the Nine Prophets stands near a river (in Griffith Park in reality) in the Monastery of the Kai. He picks up a rock and throws it in the water...

...stares at his reflection as the water ripples...

...and Vedek Bareil appears, in orange robes not at all unlike those of the followers of Bhagwan Shri Rajneesh.

Bareil later becomes the lover of Kira Neris, who later channels one of the Nine Prophets. This was aired during Michael Piller's reign as head writer.

He would later write Star Trek 9 as well.


† The God Thing was also part of the material cribbed for the Project Blue Beam hoax

Let me just add this is speculation on my part- neither Roddenberry bio mentions any interest in or involvement with Geller prior to his work with Lab-9, I'm simply saying it's possible. It's interesting either way you cut it, since Roddenberry was obsessed with these ideas since before Uri was published.

* This of course is remarkably similar to a story Jack Kirby told a couple years later  

Monday, June 24, 2013

Secret Star Trek, Part 2: The Unknown Nine

In part one of this series we looked at a strange clue embedded in the now-obligatory ancient astronaut/cargo cult sequence in Star Trek into Darkness, a clue that led back to one of the lesser entries in the franchise's nearly 50 year history, the ninth feature film. That film takes place on a planet almost identical to the legendary New Age resort in California, Esalen.

It all seemed like such a small thing, but I started pulling threads that took me back to familiar places but also to some very unfamiliar places, and finally to the doorstep of one of the most powerful families in the world...

So what is the connection between Star Trek and Esalen? If the Ba'ku homeworld is indeed Esalen in Space, why is that so? What possible reason could there be for such a strange collision between sleek, futuristic Starfleet and crunchy/granola Esalen?

The answer may be obvious to longtime readers of this blog, but for everyone else here's a brief history of one of the most bizarre and frustratingly elusive offerings in the High Strangeness catalog.

The Nine, aka The Council of Nine are alleged channeled beings who claim to be the extraterrestrials that the ancient Egyptians worshipped as gods. It's not entirely clear if they are wholly discarnate or computer intelligences, since they've been described as both. The man of the center of the story-- at least for its first 25 years-- is Andrija Puharich, a mad genius in the Nikola Tesla mold who worked for the military and the CIA and "discovered" Israeli psychic (or fraud, depending on your personal inclination) who himself seemed to be involved with Israeli intelligence.

Long before meeting Geller, Puharich would fall in with a group of rich occultists in Glen Cove, Maine, who formed an organization they called The Round Table in 1952, that fateful year of years. Opinions differ but seems to be the goal was contacting alien intelligences on behalf of the burgeoning Military Industrial Complex, a goal which not coincidentally is also that of the Starship Enterprise, as you can hear in the opening credits of Star Trek. A look at some of the players involved gives you the score fairly quickly. From Peter Levenda's Sinister Forces:
Andrija Puharich expanded his circle of like-minded associations by surrounding himself with select members from his Round Table Foundation, who would ascend in occult prominence as, The Nine. This impressive roster of the US’ earliest pedigreed families included Henry Jackson, Georgia Jackson, Alice [née Astor] Bouverie, Marcella DuPont, Carl Betz, Vonnie Beck, Arthur Young [Bell Helicopter], Young’s wife, Ruth Forbes Paine Young and Puharich himself.
The Nine apparently entered the picture through a mysterious visitor from the East (India, apparently), one Dr. Vinod. He would be the first to channel these self-proclaimed ancient gods, or so the story goes. As we'll soon see, Vinod may have been connected to a West Coast-based group of occultists who were also seriously interested in UFOs.

Considering that these people were all deeply involved with the military and/or the Establishment, it should be no surprise at all that they would keep their activities secret. They surely knew of rocket scientist Jack Parsons, whose occult work had been a factor in the loss of his security clearance, and I doubt any of the Round Table group could afford to be on the receiving end of a witch-hunt in McCarthyite America.

The idea of a "Nine" was not new to the occult underground, particularly that rich and loamy corner where occultism and pop culture met. Popular pulp writer and practicing Theosophist Talbot Mundy wrote a novel called The Nine Unknown based on an ancient legend from India. This would have no small effect when Paris woke up from its Existential nightmare to enter a new occult dream in the early 1960s.

But the content of The Nine, the stilted pronouncements and claims of alien beings masquerading as Egyptian gods, the promises of a benevolent race coming to help mankind in its evolutionary development, can be found almost verbatim in an extremely bizarre story from a November 1947 issue of Fantastic Adventures, a magazine under the auspices of the legendary Ray Palmer, the legendary Amazing Stories editor and creator of Fate Magazine.

The story is titled "Son of the Sun" (which would be borrowed for an early Star Wars title) and is one of the strangest things Palmer published, which is saying a lot for the guy who published "The Shaver Mystery." Note that it hit the stands a mere three months after the Roswell incident and Kenneth Arnold sightings and is identical in content, tone and style to the channeled material that would be published from The Nine sessions.
We are already here, among you. Some of us have always been here, with you, yet apart from you, watching and occasionally guiding you when the opportunity arose. Now, however, our numbers have increased in preparation for a further step in the development of your planet: a step of which you are not yet  aware although it has been hinted at frequently enough in the parables of your prophets, who have garbled whatever inspiration they have been able to receive.

You will find records of our presence in the mysterious symbols of ancient Egypt, where we made ourselves known to accomplish certain ends.

Some of you have seen our "advance guard" already. You met us often in the streets of your cities and you have not noticed us. But when we flash through your skies in the ancient, traditional vehicles, you are amazed and those of you who open your mouths and tell of what you have seen are accounted dupes and fools. Actually you are prophets, seers in the true sense of the word.

This story didn't emerge from Palmer's fervid imagination, it came from a fixture on the occult elite on the West Coast, a woman who went by more names than an ancient goddess. One of those was Alexander Blade, the male pseudonym she used as her byline for "Son of the Sun." A Weird Tales fansite dug in this witchy woman's past:
Her first marriage, to a man deeply interested in the occult, was inclusive of those years. Also during that period, two new real-world beliefs, Dianetics and flying saucers, began to evolve out of the work of science fiction writers. Millen Cooke would be involved in both.

Millen Cooke's first husband, John Starr Cooke, was born into a wealthy and prominent family in Honolulu, Hawaii, on March 9, 1920. He became interested in the occult early in life and used a Ouija board to make important decisions, including the decision to marry. 
In the course of their marriage, Millen Cooke had a series of visions which formed the basis of her husband's "Atlantean Tarot," one of three original Tarot decks he created. 
Shades of the Liber Al. Note also that Master Cooke "also claimed to own Aleister Crowley's own crystal ball." Missus Cooke was obvious given to visionary experience. It's unclear if her liturgy was her own personal revelation or that of a group similar to the Round Table, but it should be noted that the Cookes were instrumental in bringing Meher Baba to America, and the mysterious Dr. Vinod could well have been part of that circle. These people all seemed to know each other, though they swapped practices and enthusiasms like normal people change socks.

It's important to note Millen's third husband:
On June 16, 1961, Millen topped off her marriages to fringe figures when she walked down the aisle with...Brinsley Le Poer Irish peer, a member of Dutch nobility, and a member of the House of Lords. He was also a believer in ancient astronauts, a hollow earth, and flying saucers. Editor of the Flying Saucer Review from 1956 to 1959, Le Poer Trench wrote several books on the subject, including The Sky People (1960), The Flying Saucer Story (1966), Operation Earth (1969), and Secret of the Ages (1974).  
Millen, who had been investigating aliens and UFOs for a quarter century, provided some of the concepts and content for Le Poer Trench's first book....According to an anonymous source, part of his second book, Men Among Mankind (1962), was hers as well.

If the McCarthy Era encouraged the Round Table types to keep their occult and paranormal dabblings dark, the freaky 70s encouraged them to let it all hang out. And no one let it hang lower than Andrija Puharich. He waved his freak flag so high he began resembling David Crosby's more dissolute older brother. Puharich had become known for his work with psychedelic mushrooms, even encouraging a super-square TV host to trip balls on film.

But mushrooms can melt down a brain as well as any other drug. I've seen it happen. There's a wafer-thin membrane between visionary and madman, and Puharich seemed to cross it. Running around the deserts of Israel chomping mushrooms and chasing saucers with Uri Geller seemed to kick something loose in Puharich's skull. And his meltdown would be all too public. From "I'll Show You How to Bring Me to Your World":
The topic of alien machine intelligences hit the mainstream again in the early 70s in the wake of the Uri Geller phenomenon. In one of the strangest biographies to ever hit the best-seller lists, (Puharich) showed just high he had been getting off his own supply by taking the opportunity to wax ecstatic about an orbital computer intelligence he was in contact with called "Spectra."

Puharich believed that Spectra was connected to The Nine, disembodied alien intelligences he and an elite group of occultists had claimed to have been communicating with since the early 1950s. Any claims that Puharich wasn't 100% sincere in this admittedly eccentric belief are pretty quickly debunked once you read the book itself. No wonder he soon found himself not contracting for the CIA anymore.
Puharich's unique blend of mushroom madness and Jerusalem Syndrome would be spelled out in his 1974 biography on Uri Geller. The young Israeli was already under growing scrutiny from the skeptics for his increasingly extravagant claims of psychic power and Puharich's mad travelogue/Saucercult liturgy blew the lid off the pot. Here's a typical passage:
Hal Puthoff and Russ Targ arrived in Ossining on January 27 to show us the movie film they had made of the experiments with Uri. They told us that the management of SRI had decided to stand firm, to back Hal and Russ, and to make a public announcement backing their findings with Uri. This was heart-warming news for us.

On February 2 we were driving from New York City toward Ossining at we were turning into Exit 7A at Elmsford, New York, we both saw a welcome sight. There, some thirty feet in front of and above our car, was Horus. He was fluttering in the rain and air, hovering over us so that we could see him. I slammed the car to a skidding halt. Horus glided to a nearby dead tree, landed, and looked down upon us from his imperial height. How happy Uri and I were to see him, after a whole year!

We looked at Horus for some ten minutes, then he glided silently down into the woods and vanished. Uri and I looked at each other; we both knew the meaning of Horus's appearance. We were in danger again! But we were also protected.

When we got to the house, Uri and I sat in my study to discuss our situation. The tape recorder started to run. But this time there was no message. The tape recorder ran on and on, blank. Then a letter appeared on top of the tape recorder. I picked up the letter.  It was dated 1949, with no month or day.
It was from my departed friend, Dr. Eugene Milne Cosgrove...(w)here had it come from? With Horus on the scene, and this acute reminder of the nameless terror of impending death, what was in store for us?
Now, remember this book was supposed to be written in order to kosher Geller with the scientific community and it's one occult ritual after one UFO encounter after another.

Puharich's meltdown might have been a deal-breaker to his old friends in the CIA and the scientific community, but the Round Table's connections continued to bring he and The Nine into powerful circles, and to bring powerful people into his own.

Geller grew bored of The Nine and ran a strange and somewhat mysterious "Geller Kids" operation in conjunction with Puharich's Space Kids operation. These were kids living on Puharich's Ossining estate being used to channel extraterrestrials and the rest of it. How serious this all was is unclear. I don't believe it was as serious as a similar operation being run by the military or any number of black-bag outfits. It was too public.

But Puharich didn't have to worry that Geller was drifting out of the picture. He was about to snag the patriarch of a genuine pop culture craze.

Star Trek was a failure in the Sixties (go figure) but a massive and growing hit in syndication. It was such a huge success in reruns that Paramount was talking about launching its own network just to air a new Star Trek series. But its creator was not doing as well. He'd been unable to repeat its success and the studio wasn't being cooperative with his new Trek ideas. He'd also been drinking and abusing drugs. But to legions of Trekkies, he was a god.

So if you were hawking a sci-fi religion, who better to approach than the creator of the sci-fi sensation of the early/mid 70s? From 2008:
In early 1975, a broke and depressed Roddenberry was approached by a British former race car driver named Sir John Whitmore, who was associated with a strange organization called ‘Lab-9.’ Though unknown to the public, Lab-9 were ostensibly a sort of an independent version of the X-Files, dedicated to the research of paranormal phenomena. However, Lab-9 had another, more complex agenda- they later claimed to be in contact with a group of extraterrestrials called the ‘Council of Nine’...

Lab-9 had wanted to hire Roddenberry to write a screenplay based on the Council of Nine’s imminent return....Lab-9 flew him out to their headquarters, located on a large estate in Ossining, NY. There, Roddenberry met and interviewed several psychics, and prepared the groundwork for his script.

Roddenberry wrote a script called The Nine, in which he fictionalized his experiences at Lab-9 and the message for humanity that the Council of Nine wished to convey...
(T)his was no ragtag bunch of hippie phreaks that Roddenberry was dealing with...Roddenberry biographer Joel Engel noted that Whitmore introduced Roddenberry to several key figures in the British Broadcasting Corp. as well.  
As I wrote in 2009, Roddenberry's activities with Lab-9 didn't go unnoticed; paranormal author Brad Steiger was invited to a session in which Roddenberry interviewed Lab-9s subjects. He wrote about it in his 1976 book Gods of Aquarius:
"We wrote a couple of episodes about individuals who had such unique talents. As a matter of fact, our second pilot - and the one that sold the series - was on that subject when Gary Lockwood began to find out that he could, after having undergone a strange experience in space, accomplish things like moving a glass of water without touching it. And then he developed more and more power... It was too much power to put into the hands of an unprepared person."
Roddenberry's sessions even it made into the last and strangely perfunctory testament from the Lab-9 operation, The Only Planet of Choice.
GENE: To whom am I talking? Do you have a name?

Tom: I am Tom. I am the spokesman for the Council of Nine. In truth I am Tehuti. Yes. I am also Hamarkos, I am also Herenkar, I am known as Thomas and I am known as Atum.

GENE: Are you one of the Nine or are you a separate being?

Tom: I sit in the Council of Nine, yes. I am one that is in wisdom that speaks to you. But the Council has said that, in communications, at times I sound not wisdom Yes.

Anyhow, Roddenberry fulfilled his obligations and took his paycheck and returned to Hollywood. He then offered Lab-9 head psychic Phyllis Schlemmer a job at a very high wage for the time, believing she was just making it all up and hence was an extremely creative writer.

She refused the offer.

Roddenberry seemed done with The Nine, but The Nine were not done with him, or with Star Trek. Not by a long shot.


While Roddenberry's star would rise with the Star Trek feature film and the astounding success of the The Next Generation, Puharich wasn't doing quite as well. Like many a UFO buff, he began talking about "free energy," the difference being that he had the know-how to get it off the comic-book page.

Andrija Puharich was about to find out who really runs the show down here. I'll give you a hint- it ain't million year-old space gods. The late Philip Coppens writes:
On August 7, 1978, he got a telephone call from one of his assistants from Ossining with the news that fire had been set to his beautiful home. Later, the police confirmed that the fire had been arson. At the same time, Puharich learned that he and those closest to him were under surveillance. It became clear that the reason for this was Puharich’s “meddling” with so-called “free energy”, following in the footsteps of that other Yugoslavian genius, Nikola Tesla...Puharich’s book, however, was never published. He had, in essence, been silenced.

Perhaps as a reward for his silence, in 1982, Puharich was offered the post of ELF (Extremely Low Frequencies) research director for the CIA. In the words of his biographer, “supposedly two CIA men came to his house in Delaplane, Virginia apologizing that the CIA gave him such a hard time.” Puharich declined the position. He had got the message: do what you want, but keep quiet about it. And so he did. 
He couldn't keep his hand out of the hornet's nest, though. In 1983, Puharich got himself into trouble again, this time with a patent application:
(Puharich) was granted a U.S. patent for a "Method and Apparatus for Splitting Water Molecules." This method would reportedly split water molecules into Hydrogen and Oxygen with a net energy gain, and is essentially a perpetual energy device that many believe violates the first law of thermodynamics.

Puharich being a friend of R. J. Reynolds found support and protective acceptance, until he fell into disfavor with David Rockefeller, ultimately necessitating him to seek protection from another friend, the [then] Mexican President. Puharich capitulated, acquiescing to Mr. Rockefeller’s demands, promising not to engage in further ‘water as fuel’ research, thereby, stopping all attempts at his sanctioned assassination by the CIA.

...Puharich was well connected, and respected within the most elite of global society. He was known academically, and internationally among the power elite. He therefore was a significant threat to those special interests involving a direct influence regarding energy sources as fuel derivatives. And his use of ‘water as fuel’ was a direct threat to one of the most powerful families on planet Earth. Puharich had to personally assure the Rockefeller family, that he would no longer engage in further research or usage of ‘water as fuel’ to power combustion engines.

"Actual Case Histories of Suppression Occurrences" by Leslie R. Pastor


Were Puharich's problems with the Rockefellers only a function of his work with free energy? Or was his other project-- The Nine-- causing the Rockefellers grief on the other side of the country?

Because as much as it's anyone's, Esalen is a Rockefeller project. Rockefeller money helped build it, sustain it and grow it. It helped rebuild it after various crises. The Rockefeller in question is the late Laurance Rockefeller, whose very, very deep pockets helped build a New Age Empire in California, including Esalen, the San Francisco Zen Center, the Lindisfarne Association, the Institute of Noetic Sciences and the California Institute of Integral Studies.

This isn't surprising; nothing gets done in this country without people with deep pockets behind it.
Not religion, not politics, not media, not even big-time conspiracy gurus. But it might explain why the New Age movement is so arid and inert and unthreatening (especially compared to its early days). It was engineered that way.

But let's go back to that recent controversy over Esalen:
The Esaleaks website was created a year before the recent layoffs as an anonymous forum for employees to air their gripes. Posted documents, from staff salaries to tax returns, have been uploaded to the site.

On the website, the writers sardonically refer to themselves as "The Nine," a reference to the so-called nine extraterrestrials from the star Sirius that British psychic Jenny O'Connor said she "channeled" to help her decide how to shake-up management in the late 1970s. At the time, some in the community referred to "The Nine" as "extraterrestrial hatchet men." O'Connor was hired by Dick Price.

"I think he may have used her to enact things he wanted to do anyway," said his son David, who lives in Poland but returns to Esalen every year. "There was a level of absurdity to the whole thing."
Ah, there it is. The legendary Jenny O'Connor. The Rasputina who seduced Dick Price into a world of UFOs and psychics and extraterrestrial nonsense and took control of the fabled institution, hiring and firing people at will, bringing the world to the brink of annihilation, if you believe the fevered rantings of Lynn "Long Live Lucifer" Picknett.
In 1978 Whitmore introduced Englishwoman Jenny O’Connor to the Esalen Institute...(i)ncredibly, not only did the Nine give seminars at Esalen through her, but from 1979 until at least 1982 they effectively took over the Institute. 

This period was particularly significant for Esalen. Many of those who attended O’Connor’s seminars became prominent in political circles both in America and the USSR (through the Institute’s Soviet Exchange Program), as Jack Sarfatti wrote (his emphasis): "The fact remains… that a bunch of apparently California New Age flakes into UFOs and psychic phenomena, including myself, had made their way into the highest levels of the American ruling class and the Soviet Union and today run the Gorbachev Foundation. "

It was through O’Connor that the Nine reached Washington, including the circles from which Al Gore – an unashamed fan of the paranormal – was to emerge...It’s a chilling thought that if Gore had become President, who – or what – would have influenced him?
Jack Sarfatti loves to tell an exciting story, as does Picknett's star witness for all of her (as opposed to Philip Coppens') research on The Nine, longtime fugitive/convicted murderer/new age guru Ira Einhorn. The truth is a bit less apocalyptic. Though no less weird.

Left: John Lilly Right: Dick Price

Price, like partner Michael Murphy, came from a wealthy family (you don't get access to Rockefellers if you're poor). But he experienced a major psychotic break when he was young and was institutionalized. In many ways his spiritual seeking was a function of seeking healing. Although its hard to imagine now, Esalen once attracted the cream of the crop of psychiatry. Ironically, it would Price's father that would pull him out of a second psychotic episode in the 1960s.

Murphy was cut from a different cloth. He was the one who was close to Laurance Rockefeller and he spent most of his time away from Big Sur. He opened up a branch office and a sports center in San Francisco and left the running of Esalen Prime to Price, who was growing erratic in the 1970s.

Suddenly in 1978, Price announced-- quite publicly-- that he was now a devotee of Bhagwan Shri Rajneesh and flew to India to study his methods.

Price took to wearing the orange robe-like clothing of the cult, traditionally symbolizing renunciation. But his experience with a British convert leading classes in Rajneesh's ashram horrified him with its methodology, which was kinda like EST only with people getting their bones broken. Like, for real.

Price then just as publicly renounced Rajneesh and returned to Esalen where faculty member Betty Fuller was waiting to introduce him to Jenny, whom Fuller thought was the best thing since organic sliced bread. Price immediately began using Jenny in his classes.

But it was very clear that there was a definite line of demarcation between Price's Esalen and Murphy's Esalen and that the men had followed their interests in very opposite directions. At the same time Price and Jenny (and if you insist, The Nine) were remaking the workshop/spa end of the spectrum in their image, Murphy had begun his work with Soviet scientists and so on and ne'er the 'twain would meet. The two founders were like an old married couple who agreed to tolerate each other. As Price said of Murphy, "He puts up with my ETI and I put up with his KGB."*

Mother Jones did a negative piece in December 1979 ("Esalen Slides Off the Cliff") that focused on Jenny and The Nine. The writer, though a leftist, wasn't necessarily opposed to psychic phenomena, he just thought Jenny was mediocre. But she stayed around from early 1979 to at least the beginning of 1983 (according to Upstart Spring) and I can't find any mention of her leaving, other than Marion Goldman writing of Murphy marshaling his forces to get rid of her and The Nine in the early 80s and reassert control over Price (which is a whole other story).

As much as people within Esalen want to treat Jenny and the Nine as a footnote, it wasn't. It covered a full fifth of Esalen's lifespan by 1983. Seeing as how Price went through enthusiasms like Obama goes through your email, it's even more remarkable how long he and Jenny kept things together. 

What this adds up to in the real world is a matter of speculation but for a cult whose literature will soon have you begging for the sweet release of death, there seems to be a remarkable staying power with The Nine.

By the mid 1980s, Murphy had reasserted control over Esalen, bringing in a corporate type named Steve Donovan (who was involved in the building of Starbucks and Peet's Coffee) to act as a third co-president. This move also smells faintly of Rockefeller, but it could be all these people were moving in the same elite Bay Area circles (Donovan was already an Esalen trustee).

It seems an odd fit for a free spirit like Price, but we'll never know...

Soon after Donovan was appointed to the Esalen leadership role, Price hiked out to the source of the springs for an routine inspection. Apparently there had been a heavy rain and by some bizarre fluke a boulder came loose and fell down a mountainside. It exploded on impact and Price was struck in the forehead by a stray chunk and killed instantly. He was found sitting in the water basin that feeds the Esalen water supply, a huge gash in his forehead.

Perhaps in honor of the fading Aquarian spirit that Price was the now-dead symbol of, Price's body wasn't removed by the police or the coroner's meat wagon. Seven men took him back to the grounds and seven women removed his clothes and ritually washed his corpse and wrapped it in linen.

Murphy would say of Price's freak accident; "it partook of the occult." Some today say the spirit of Esalen died with him. It would certainly become a much different place without him.


With Esalen now lost to them, The Nine drifted back to space. Strangely enough, Star Trek was about to lift off again shortly after Dick Price's freak accidental death, and this time Roddenberry's cast would have nine major characters who would have close archetypal connections to the gods of Heliopolis. There would also be more channeling, discarnate entities, walk-ins, first contacts and space gods than you could shake a photo torpedo at.

But that would be just half the story. From 2008:
 Following the smash success of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Paramount created a new spinoff series, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. The story took place on a space station abandoned by the Cardassians, who had occupied a planet known as Bajora. The planet was crucial since it guarded an interdimensional wormhole that allowed intergalactic travel. You can call it a Stargate if you like. Same difference.

The entry at Memory Alpha tells us that "the Bajoran wormhole is the only stable wormhole currently known to exist in the galaxy," and that "the wormhole is also the home of extra-dimensional beings who are worshipped by the Bajorans as the Prophets, and therefore is also sometimes referred to as the Celestial Temple."
Sounds a bit like the Nine, no? What else can we learn about the Prophets?
In normal space, the Prophets can only physically communicate with outsiders by possessing a body and using it as a vessel. The host is conscious of what is happening but has no control over its actions. The Prophets have no sense of linear time, so it is likely they live outside of the normal space-time continuum; however their existence has been recorded on Bajor for at least 30,000 years.- Memory Alpha
My mistake. That doesn't sound a bit like the Nine. It sounds EXACTLY LIKE THE NINE.
How many Prophets there are was never quite explained, but how many Orbs, or Tears of the Prophets, had originally existed was. 

There were nine.

And who wrote the episode which laid all of this out for us?

The same guy who wrote Star Trek 9.


*Having been to Esalen and met Murphy and gotten a sense of the situation I would say the Russian program was in no small part being shepherded by the Rockefellers. Seeing as how one of Esalen's projects was bringing Boris Yeltsin to America, I would say that suspicion is well-founded.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Secret Star Trek, Part 1: California Dreaming

You've probably heard (or seen) that the teaser for the new Dawson's Trek movie has James van der Kirk trying to save the primitive people of "Nibiru," whose planet is about to be destroyed by a supervolcano.

In one of the seemingly endless chase scenes in the film, "Kirk" and the crew are chased by saffron-hooded* natives through a blood-red forest. "Kirk" slows down their pursuers by tossing up a sacred scroll that the Niburans fall down in prayer before.

But that zany "Kirk"- he's always breaking the rules. Rather than let Spock die while trying to cold fusionize the volcano (or something), he orders the Enterprise out of its undersea hiding place so it can beam ol' Pointy-ears to safety. Unfortunately, all the effort made to hide their presence from the Nibiru primitives is all for naught, and they spy the NCC-1701 as it zooms off into space.

Visually, it kind of reminded me of the ST:TOS ep "The Apple," but there was something weird about the Niburans that bugged me, something I couldn't put my finger on until I could take a closer look at them....

Now maybe this is just what they call "fan-service," but the Niburans looked strangely similar to the Son'a, the drug-dealing villainous aliens of the 1998 Star Trek: Insurrection. The two have similar kinds of messed up faces and more importantly, the same oddly-shaped noses, not to mention the hoods. This didn't make any sense though, was this accidental or was it my imagination? But I realized that there has been a wide range of alien types throughout the franchise's history, so what's up with this odd detail?

Because Insurrection also begins with a chase scene on an apparently primitive planet, with Starfleet personnel trying to hide themselves from the native population.

In this case there is a "duck blind," which the commentary captions on the special edition DVD helpfully remind us were originally used in the TNG ep, "Who Watches the Watchers?"

Why is this important?

Because "Watchers" has the same plot device as the Star Trek into Darkness teaser;  Starfleet is observing a primitive culture and are discovered.  This was a TNG plot device; we also saw it in "Justice" and "Homeward" (which the Darkness teaser seems to reference, as does Insurrection, albeit in a different fashion). And "Watchers" depicts that same scenario that the Mithraic Liturgy did so inconveniently at least eighteen centuries ago (or that the Book of Enoch did even before that with its own "Watchers," hint-hint).
You will hear nothing either of man or of any other living thing, nor in that hour will you see anything of mortal affairs on earth, but rather you will see all immortal things.
For in that day and hour you will see the divine order of the skies: the presiding gods rising into heaven, and others setting.

The plot of Insurrection is rather strange and the writing of it was so tortured that its author-- Deep Space Nine creator Michael Piller-- wrote a book about the process, which was subsequently quashed by the studio.

But the story is that the Federation has teamed up with the Son'a (those fellows with the messed-up faces) to collect the rejuvenating radiation of a planet- a literal Fountain of Youth- in a remote part of Federation space called the Briar Patch.

The only problem is that there's a small village on the planet-- the Ba'ku-- a people who have no high technology.

Our heroes on the Enterprise discover that the Federation and Son'a plan to move the Ba'ku off the planet on a holodeck-equipped ship and then onto another planet. Picard's antagonist- a Starfleet Admiral-- makes perfect sense in arguing that the Ba'ku aren't native to the planet and that the radiation from the rings around it will help billions of people throughout the Federation.

Picard, forgetting that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, decides to rebel and hence the title.

Again, it doesn't really make any sense; Picard is fighting for the right of a tiny elite (the Ba'ku are not primitives but space hippies (though not of the "Way to Eden" variety, sadly), who renounced technology, live off the land, and use the power of the planet to develop their psychic and mental powers and achieve immortality.

But what if the story is all a metaphor for something else? And what if it might be the result of a kind of automatic writing, something even the writers weren't consciously aware of?

Why do I ask?

Because I've been to the Ba'ku homeword- it's in Big Sur, California and it's called Esalen. 

OK, no one at Esalen is immortal as far as I know. And I don't think there's much psychic research being done there these days. But the minute I stepped foot on the plateau where the lodge and the swimming pool sit overlooking the Pacific Ocean (and where you can see the curvature of the Earth) I was struck with the most powerful feeling of deja vu. I soon realized it was the Ba'ku homeworld that I was processing here.

Listen- don't take my word for it. Watch Insurrection on the biggest screen you can and then go to Esalen. Repeat the experiment. You'll see what I mean. Sure, the Ba'ku homeworld is a bit more Hollywood, but otherwise it's eerie. 

The credits of Insurrection have scenes like this- crunchy young hippies growing their own food in the California sun? It could be straight out of an Esalen catalog without changing a pixel.

In fact, here it basically is.

And earthtone-garbed kids playing hackysack? I mean, seriously.

Again, if you don't believe me, go there yourself. Ba'kuville is Esalen. Period.

Or rather, it's the Esalen of the past.

It's no secret that Esalen today is a New Age resort for the SiliCylon Valley and San Francisco elites. It's a spa, essentially. I wasn't idle in my off-hours when I lectured at the CTR; I spent time picking the brains of some of the volunteers to see what was really going on there, and most of them were pretty disenchanted as well (disenchantment with Esalen has become a major news story recently).

I certainly saw not a whisper of a hint of the kind of nefarious goings-on you read in conspiracy literature about the place. Which was kind of disappointing in a strange way.†

No, it's a very, very pretty place to go and be crunchy for a week. Eat some good, fresh food, get a nice massage, have a nice hot bath. Maybe do the sweat lodge or drum circle. But I very much got the feeling that like all vestiges of the Aquarian Age (like St. Mark's Place and Haight-Asbury), Esalen was a museum of a counterculture that was co-opted as soon as it could be quantified. And was only ever truly accessible to the children of privilege (psychotherapy in particular has always been the indulgence of the rich).

I would go so far to say that I very much got the feeling that the adventurous, often-reckless "try anything" spirit of Esalen died with co-founder Dick Price all the way back in 1985.

So, you may be asking; Star Trek and ancient astronauts are a gimme, but what the hell does this all have to do with Esalen? Many of you know the answer already but those of you who don't, here's a hint:

That's just a hint, though. This story is a hell of a lot weirder than I ever thought it could be.  

*Remember those hoods and robes- they'll pop up later.
But it certainly reminded me how a certain strain of conspiracy theorizing is about projecting the fear of things the theorists are actually afraid of onto things they are not (long-dead people, obsolete movements or groups, similarly neutralized or imaginary threats). It's a kind of homeopathy.