2017 might seem like the hangover after a particularly-nasty meth, glue and Thunderbird bender, but it's actually a year of major anniversaries. We're coming up on the 70th Anniversary of Kenneth Arnold and Roswell (as well as the National Security Act), the 50th Anniversary of Sgt. Pepper and the Summer of Love and the centennial of the Russian Revolution. But there are a lot more observances, all kinds of 'ennials to observe.
I thought I'd dig into a few anniversaries germane to The Secret Sun and the topics we look at here. Readers are encouraged to weigh in with their own (observations that can be counted in multiples of five and ten, that is) in the comments.
December will see the fifth anniversary of the 2012 apocalypse/ascension/ absurdity (depending on your point of view). Needless to say, most of us are still here and the skies didn't open and Nibiru didn't come crashing into the moon. So there goes another apocalypse.
I can't help but wonder about the 2012 meme, though. As I wrote a couple years back, it certainly seems like something changed that year, that the bottom fell out somewhere but no one seemed to notice it at the time.
I mean, Donald Trump is sitting in the White House, isn't he? If even you're a Trump supporter you have to admit this would have seemed impossible five years ago.
Maybe the Apocalypse works on a different timeline than it does in the movies. Maybe we're living in one only we can't see the forest fire for the burning trees. History can only be written from a distance.
2007 was the year Our Gods Wear Spandex was published and the year I began actively blogging on this site, so Happy Ten Year Anniversary to me. It's also the year that a newly-elected Senator - with a weird, oblique connection to the Council of Nine - announced his candidacy for President.
This week marks the 20th anniversary of the Heaven's Gate suicides, an event I've gone into some detail on this blog. Whatever the media might have you believe the Gate were a bonafide modern Gnostic sect, were serious and rigorous about their work and were deeply troubled by the emergence of the techno-surveillance state they saw emerging at the time.
This week also marks the 20th anniversary of the last of the Order of the Solar Temple "suicides" ( rendered in quotes since many investigators suspect foul play by outside parties with the OST mass deaths). I wrote in some detail about the OST and their influence on pop culture here (the X-Files writers seemed especially fascinated with the OST and their unique status and history and the lingering questions over their deaths).
Postmortem reports claimed that the OST committed ritual suicide in order to spiritually ascend to Sirius, where they believe their souls originated from. If this is true this is another troubling link to the "Walk-Ins from Sirius" theme from Ruth Montgomery's seminal Aliens Among Us, which has also been linked to the Heaven's Gate suicides.
Last week marked the 20th anniversary of the Phoenix Lights flap, a controversial UFO sighting that caused a major media meltdown and has been the focus of a growing mythology ever since. What is particularly interesting about the Phoenix episode- however you view it-- is that it took place right down the highway from the Heaven's Gate compound in Rancho Santa Fe, CA.
It may have been seen as the final sign that their ride was here, seeing as how the web-savvy cult was monitoring all kinds of infostreams for omens and portents.
Next week also marks the 20th anniversary of the Outer Limits episode "Double Helix," which plays out like an idealized fantasy world version of Marshall Applewhite's most cherished beliefs.
Seeing as how the suicides were discovered before its airing it plays like an elegy, a bizarre epitaph for the cult, its leader and their beliefs. How the hell that happened is anyone's guess.
Speaking of double helixes, 1997 saw the announcement that the first major cloning had been done, of "Dolly" the sheep. The news was broken in Roslin, Scotland, of all places (Dan Brown fans take note). More ominously it was also the year IBM's Deep Blue beat Garry Kasparov in chess.
Coincidentally or not, Steve Jobs returned to Apple a few months later and changed the world as we knew it. One of his last projects was designing the Apple HQ, which looks like a friggin' flying saucer.
Why do all those events feel so closely entwined? We can't say we weren't warned.
1987 is the 30th anniversary of the publication of Whitley Strieber's seminal autobiography Communion, which brought the concept of alien abduction out of the fringes and into book store in America and other parts of the world.
It's hard to explain to younger people what a phenomenon this book was, the controversy it engendered, and the effect it had on the culture. Strieber was a well-known author of best-selling horror novels, a couple of which had been adapted into movies (Wolfen and The Hunger) but never enjoyed a success like Communion, which stayed on the New York Times best-sellers list for months and sold millions worldwide.
Daytime talkshows were suddenly fora for abductees, whether real or imagined, as were popular tabloid TV shows like Unsolved Mysteries. The craze made celebrities out of Strieber, abduction researchers like Budd Hopkins and David Jacobs and later, Harvard psychologist John Mack.
Oldline UFO researchers stewed on the sidelines, having traditionally regarded abduction reports with suspicion, if not contempt. Communion would lead to other projects, the Travis Walton biopic Fire in the Sky, The X-Files (which became an even greater phenomenon than Strieber's book), and the Steven Spielberg maxi-series Taken (which would be the SciFi Channel's most-watched series at the time of its airing).
1987 was also the year New Age seeped into the mainstream and has been insidiously rewriting its host body like a computer virus ever since. Pop culture was the medium yet again- a miniseries based on Shirley MacLaine's "spiritual authobiography" Out On a Limb was aired on ABC and planted the seeds for the Me Generation's catch-as-catch-can Theosophy 2.0.
1987 saw "Ramtha" go wide with the publication of JZ Knight's autobiography, A State of Mind. Channeling soon became a multimiilion dollar industry, with hundreds of mini-Ramtha's popping out of the woodwork dispensing greeting card homilies for a spiritually-indiscriminate polity.
All you needed to do was squint, loll your head around meaningfully, adopt a weird quasi-British accent and learn to spout pseudo-profoundities and you were in clover.
Again, the New Age craze is hard to explain today, though in large part because the New Age is so ubiquitous today it's woven into the cultural fabric of most Western- and many non-Western- cultures.
Yoga studios can be found in every sizable American town. Acupuncture and other "alternative" modalities are often covered by health insurance programs. Health food stores are slowly displacing conventional supermarkets and many more traditional houses of worship offer New Age programs (meditation, yoga, self-actualization) to their congregants.
1987 also saw the Harmonic Convergence (aka the "New Age Woodstock"), meant to act as the movement's big hop over the cultural fence. But its organizers (which included the original 2012 guru, Jose Arguelles) deeply misjudged the true nature of the movement and how it actually existed in the ideational biosphere.
This wasn't a revolution, it was a slow-moving insurrection, one that subverted culture from within, all the while denying its very existence (the hallmark of a true New Ager is that they deny actually being a New Ager). Big, showy events weren't going to do the work. Tenacious, relentless but quieter actions were going to insinuate New Age into the mainstream.
1987 saw the Iran-Contra Affair- in which arms were sold to Iran in exchange for American hostages held by Iran-controlled radicals and the profits then diverted to anti-Sandinista militants in Nicaragua- become the major news story, dominating the headlines and Sunday talk shows for the entire year and into the next.
Iran-Contra is also arguably the impetus for the true mainstreaming of conspiracy theory (just in time for the dawning of the Internet Era). Conspiracy research wasn't a fringe hobby then, it was front page news all across the world. It's just that the virus escaped from the lab and filtered down into places the mainstream media would have rather it hadn't.
But the real groundwork for the rise of conspiracy culture would be laid ten years earlier when the first fully-functional home computer, the Commodore PET was debuted at a trade show.
Conspiracy theory may have thrived on talk radio (and short wave and ham radio, not to mention mail order) but it would explode on the Internet, even in the crudest venues of the BBS dial-in days.
At the same time the Commodore was unveiled, a new President from Plains, Georgia took office who swore to tear the lid off government corruption (and significantly, UFO secrecy) in Washington.
Things, predictably, wouldn't work out so well for him.
1977 saw the commoditization of the modern Hollywood blockbuster-- already having birthed itself in 1975 with Steven Spielberg's Jaws.
George Lucas' spiritual SF epic Star Wars and Spielberg's UFO fantasia Close Encounters of the Third Kind changed the rules forever (you can throw in Saturday Night Fever if you like, as it spawned the rise of the blockbuster soundtrack as well) and, as many would argue, planted the seeds for the eventual creation empoverishment of the Hollywood they created.
In today's market, doubles and triples are no longer be enough, you need to either write a movie off as a tax loss or score a grand slam blockbuster, complete with merchandising and ancillary rights.
But Star Wars and Close Encounters were such monsters because they filled a genuine void in the culture, a need for miracle and transcendence in a rapidly-secularlizing culture. In their wake the movies would become the dream theater of the masses, in the same way the great cathedrals were to the peasants of the Middle Ages.
Both films struck at the right time- NASA tested its first space shuttle at the beginning of the year, promising a new era in space exploration. One that has yet to come to pass, 40 years later. Even so the mood was right at the time.
On the other end of the ritual spectrum 1977 also saw the arrest of David Berkowitz, whom the media named as the sole "Son of Sam" killer despite the fact that witnesses had cogently and explicitly described other shooters not matching his description.
Berkowitz himself would later claim he was a member of a sect of the Process Church of the Final Judgement, he was not the only shooter and that the killings were human sacrifices. And as fate would have it two of the men he claimed as his accomplices would die under mysterious circumstances not long after Berkowitz was arrested.
And their father was named Sam.
Also in the summer of 1977, Elvis Presley died after a long struggle with obesity and prescription drug abuse.
It was poetic in a Greek tragedy kind of fashion since '77 not only saw the precipitous rise of Disco as an all-consuming craze (Donna Summer had the first hit with a totally-synthesized record, "I Feel Love," that year) but also the breakthrough of punk rock and first-wave New Wave (the Sex Pistols, the Clash, Elvis Costello and Talking Heads all released their debuts), which took the basic, four to the floor rock 'n' roll Presley cut his teeth on and wed it to postmodernism, Dada and other weird, Continental theories that old-timers like the King would never have anything to do with.
Not that most of America even noticed. The Eagles' Hotel California, Pink Floyd's Animals and Fleetwood Mac's Rumors were albums most of the public were actually buying. Punk bombed bad in its first assault on American record stores and most of the first wave bands would soon break up or radically water down their styles in a bid to make it to the US Top 40.
New Wave, which began as a marketing ploy to ease punk into the American market, would become the musical equivalent of New Age, a contagion that would insinuate itself into the host and rewrite the matrix from within.
40 years later New Wave concepts are so dominant (irony and sarcasm not the least among them) in pop they're no longer recognized as distinct or unique. But that process began in earnest over 35 years ago, when MTV began beaming art school weirdos from England into a growing number of American living rooms.
In short order even Jethro Tull and Bob Dylan- the onetime crunchiest of the crunchy- were recording with drum machines and sequencers.
There's more to come.