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Technoccult Interview: Open Source Buddhism with Al Jigong Billings

Al Billings

Many Technoccult readers have probably seen Hermetic.com. Maybe you even got your first taste of Aleister Crowley, Austin Osman Spare or Hakim Bey there. What you might not know is that the site’s founder, Al Jigong Billings has given up the site to focus on what he calls “Open Source Buddhism.” I recently talked with Al about what Open Source Buddhism is, how it differs from other contemporary the Pragmatic Dharma movement and the secular mindfulness movement, and how he gravitated from Neopaganism to Buddhism.

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Real life DHARMA Initiative # 7: DARPA and HAARP

information awareness office

Unlike DHARMA, DARPA is actually a US agency, not a private endeavor. But, in addition to the name, there are some projects worth considering – especially the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP).

From Wikipedia’s DARPA entry:

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is an agency of the United States Department of Defense responsible for the development of new technology for use by the military. DARPA has been responsible for funding the development of many technologies which have had a major impact on the world, including computer networking, as well as NLS, which was both the first hypertext system, and an important precursor to the contemporary ubiquitous graphical user interface.

Its original name was simply Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), but it was renamed DARPA (for Defense) on March 23, 1972, then back to ARPA on February 22, 1993, and then back to DARPA again on March 11, 1996.

DARPA was established in 1958 (as ARPA) in response to the Soviet launching of Sputnik in 1957, with the mission of keeping U.S. military technology ahead of the nation’s enemies. [...]

DARPA is independent from other more conventional military R&D and reports directly to senior Department of Defense management. DARPA has around 240 personnel (about 140 technical) directly managing a $3.2 billion budget. These figures are “on average” since DARPA focuses on short-term (two to four-year) projects run by small, purpose-built teams.

DARPA is known for creating the Internet and, more recently, for their paranoia inducing projects like Information Awareness Office and creating robotic insects.

But no DARPA project has attracted as much interest from conspiracy analysts as HAARP. From 60 Greatest Conspiracies’s HAARP entry:

In an Arctic compound 200 miles east of Anchorage, Alaska, the Pentagon has erected a powerful transmitter designed to beam more than a gigawatt of energy into the upper reaches of the atmosphere. Known as Project HAARP (High-frequency Active Auroral Research Program), the $30 million experiment involves the world’s largest “ionospheric heater,” a prototype device designed to zap the skies hundreds of miles above the earth with high-frequency radio waves.

Why irradiate the charged particles of the ionosphere (which when energized by natural processes make up the lovely and famous phenomenon known as the Northern Lights)? According to the U.S. Navy and Air Force, co-sponsors of the project, “to observe the complex natural variations of Alaska’s ionosphere.” That, says the Pentagon, and also to develop new forms of communications and surveillance technologies that will enable the military to send signals to nuclear submarines and to peer deep underground.

60 Greatest Conspiracies first reported on HAARP more than a year ago. Since then, inquiring Internauts have blamed the peculiar project for everything from UFO activity to major power outages in the Western United States, to, most recently, the downing of TWA Flight 800. (The Pentagon maintains that the HAARP array has been inactive since late last year.) Some have dubbed it the “Pentagon’s doomsday death ray.” Though many of these theories are, well, creatively amplified, an assortment of more grounded critics–environmentalists, Native Americans and Alaskan citizens among them–argue that the military does indeed have Strangelovian plans for this unusual hardware, applications ranging from “Star Wars” missile defense schemes to weather modification plots and perhaps even mind control experiments.

Sounds oddly familiar, doesn’t it?

Real life DHARMA Initiative # 6: Technocracy Incorporated

technocracy incorporated monadthe swan hatch dharma initiative

Technocracy Incorporated is one of the great vanishing acts of history. At the peak of its existence, Technocracy Inc. had half a million members in California alone and received extensive press. Today, they are virtually forgotten.

technocracy sign

(Above: a Technocracy sign in a Depression-era town)

To over simplify: the goal of Technocracy Inc. was to create a socio-economic system run entirely by engineers. It was founded by Howard Scott, an engineer with dubious credentials.

howard scott

Above: Technocracy founder Howard Scott

Scott’s basic idea was that all human endeavor could effectively be measured in terms of energy expended. Whatever it took to make anything could be translated into pure ergs and joules. Therefore, the first thing to do was to take a grand energy survey of all the nations industries, a project to which Rautenstrauch actually got Columbia’s venerable president Nicholas Murray Butler to lend his support. Once it was determined how much energy it took to make everything, the nation’s engineers could step in and eliminate the irrational “social motives” in business. That is, all the energy businessmen put into making luxury goodsor profits.

Scott was always vague about just what would happen next. When pressed, he and his associates finally theorized that some sort of scrip, equivalent to the energy the nation used in a year, could be distributed on a perfectly equal basis to all U.S. citizens. To keep everything balanced and that pesky capital from accumulating, people would have to use up their “energy certificates” during the year or see them become worthless. The result, Loeb asserted in a book he rushed into print by early 1933, would be such abundance that no one would have to work more than four hours or so, four days a week. (Source)

Sounds nice. But things got a little creepy.

technocracy grey fleet

Above: a fleet of official Technocracy gray cars, from this IWW profile of Scott.

Technocracy’s program gained in popularity over the 1930s and 1940s, with members from all over North America. The organization gave lecture tours, study courses, and held motorcades, where hundreds of official “Technocracy Grey Cars” travelled all over the United States and Canada as part of the organization’s “symbolization” campaign. The Grey Cars sparked fears that Technocracy was a secret society with resources to create a fleet of vehicles in the midst of a depression. In reality, the organization only supplied grey paint so that members could customize their own vehicles. A grey suit became the organization’s uniform, and a red and grey monad its official symbol. (Source)

technocracy fascist

Names, too, were suspect for some reason so members of the movement in California were designated only by numbers. A speaker at one California rally was introduced only as 1x1809x56! (Source)

Numbers instead of names. Gray cars and uniforms. A completely engineered vision of society. Oh my.

To tie it back to the Dharma Initiative a bit, check out these training videos on YouTube:

They are forgotten, but not gone. Technocracy Incorporated is alive and active today, but their numbers have diminished. Perhaps, as we enter a new depression and a crashing banking system they will be able to rise again. China actually accomplished part of what Technocracy Inc. sought: rule by engineers. As the United States and Europe’s economies melt down, we can no longer use practicality as a justification to avoid Chinese economic and political policies. Technocracy may well be in our future.

More Info:

Wikipedia entry

Official Technocracy Incorporated web site

Kevin Baker’s column on the Reform Party and Technocracy Inc.

Time Magazine article on Scott from 1932.

Tim Boucher’s article on technocracy

Real life DHARMA Initiative # 4: Project MKULTRA and other government experiments

Most of the real life DHARMA initiatives we cover here are, like the DHARMA Initiative, private organizations. But the high weirdness that the CIA’s Project MKULTRA got into is too important to ignore. From Wikipedia’s entry on MKULTRA:

Project MK-ULTRA, or MKULTRA, was the code name for a covert CIA mind-control and chemical interrogation research program, run by the Office of Scientific Intelligence. The program began in the early 1950s, continuing at least through the late 1960s, and it used United States citizens as its test subjects. The published evidence indicates that Project MK-ULTRA involved the surreptitious use of many types of drugs, as well as other methodology, to manipulate individual mental states and to alter brain function.

Considering John’s experience with hallucinogenic drugs on the Island, and persistent hallucinations on the part of many of the characters, there’s a strong possibility that DHARMA conducted psychedelic experiments on the Island.

It’s also worth noting that the Hostiles/Others are engaged in some form of mind control themselves, as witnessed in Room 23.

Project MKULTRA was not the US Government’s first foray into mad science. Another infamous example is the Tuskegee Study:

The Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male (also known as the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, Public Health Service Syphilis Study, or the Tuskegee Experiment) was a clinical study, conducted between 1932 and 1972 in Tuskegee, Alabama by the U.S. Public Health Service. 399 poor, and mostly illiterate, African American sharecroppers were studied to observe the natural progression of the disease if left untreated.

The study became controversial, and eventually led to major changes in how patients are protected in clinical studies. Individuals enrolled in the Tuskegee Syphilis Study were not required to give informed consent and were not informed of their diagnosis; instead they were told they had “bad blood” and could receive free medical treatment, rides to the clinic, meals and burial insurance in case of death in return for participating.

Not to mention government backed Human Radiation Experiments:

During and after the end of World War II, scientists working on the Manhattan Project and other nuclear weapons research projects conducted studies of the effects of plutonium on laboratory animals and human subjects. In the case of human subjects, this involved injecting solutions containing (typically) five micrograms of plutonium into hospital patients who were thought either to be terminally ill or to have a life expectancy of less than ten years due either to age or chronic disease condition. The injections were made without the informed consent of those patients.

In her book, The Plutonium Files: America’s Secret Medical Experiments in the Cold War, Eileen Welsome, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist for The Albuquerque Tribune, revealed the extent of the experiments conducted on unwitting participants. At the Fernald school in Massachusetts, an institution for “feeble-minded” boys, 73 disabled children were fed oatmeal containing radioactive calcium and other radioisotopes. The only purpose of the experiment was to give Quaker Oats, the company behind the testing, a commercial advantage over Cream of Wheat in an advertising campaign. Immediately after World War II, 829 pregnant mothers in Tennessee received what they were told were “vitamin drinks” that would improve the health of their babies, but were, in fact, mixtures containing radioactive iron, to determine how fast the radioisotope crossed into the placenta. Other incidents included an eighteen-year-old woman at an upstate New York hospital, expecting to be treated for a pituitary gland disorder, who was injected with plutonium. Such experiments are now considered to be a serious breach of medical ethics.

Do these remind you of the weirdness surrounding “the sickness” on the Island?

It would be comforting to think that these sorts of things don’t happen anymore, or at least not at the order of the US government at tax payer expense. But the events at Abu Ghraib and Gitmo make it hard to believe that this particular American nightmare is over.

Barack Obama signed an executive order to close down Gitmo and end extraordinary rendition. But there’s always potential for abusive tactics by government organizations either in secret or through “satellite” organizations – private organizations comprised of former government agents engaged in various law enforcement and espionage.

LOST acknowledges government sponsored torture, and the role of private organizations through the role Kelvin takes in encouraging Sayid to torture prisoners, and the fact that Kelvin and Mikhail are former military personnel now employed by private groups.

We’ll take a look at government satellite organizations in a future installment.

Real life DHARMA Initiative # 3: Esalen Institute and Physics Consciousness Research Group

Jack Sarfatti, Saul Paul Sirag, Nick Herbert, and Fred Alan Wolf

From left to right, Jack Sarfatti, Saul Paul Sirag, Nick Herbert, and Fred Alan Wolf lower right in 1974

From the Wikipedia entry on the Esalen Institute:

Esalen Institute is a center in Big Sur, California, in the United States, for humanistic alternative education and a nonprofit organization devoted to multidisciplinary studies ordinarily neglected or unfavoured by traditional academia. Esalen offers more than 500 public workshops a year in addition to invitational conferences, residential work-study programs, research initiatives, and internships. Part think-tank for the emerging world culture, part college and lab for transformative practices, and part restorative retreat, Esalen is dedicated to exploring work in the humanities and sciences that furthers the full realization of what Aldous Huxley called the “human potential”.

Esalen Institute was founded by Michael Murphy and Dick Price in 1962, and soon became known for its blend of East/West philosophies, experiential/didactic workshops, and a steady influx of philosophers, psychologists, artists, and religious thinkers.

One of the various projects of the Esalen Institute was the Physics Consciousness Research Group, founded to study time travel, ESP, consciousness after death, and other fringe subjects. Various people have made the claim that Physics Consciousness Research Group was the inspiration for the movie Ghostbusters. Jack Sarfatti, one of the founders of the Physics Consciousness Research Group, is a physicist and archetypal “mad scientist” – in fact, he claims to be the inspiration for both from Back to the Future and Egon Spangler from Ghostbusters.

MP3 Interview with Sarfatti on the R.U. Sirius Show.

Something of a memoir by Sarfatti that covers Physics Consciousness Research Group and its influence on Hollywood.

Update: How could I have forgotten Alex Burns’s classic article on Sarfatti?

Real life DHARMA Initiative # 2: Findhorn Foundation

findhorn ecovillage

From Wikipedia’s entry on the Findhorn Foundation:

The Findhorn Foundation is a Scottish charitable trust registered in 1972, formed by the spiritual community at the Findhorn Ecovillage, one of the largest of the communes in Britain, has been home to thousands of residents from more than 40 countries. The Foundation runs various educational programmes for the Findhorn community; it also houses about 40 community businesses like the Findhorn Press, and an alternative medicine centre.

But it’s a bit weirder than that:

The Findhorn garden grew from a rich compost and it is apt that Findhorn spirituality should also sprout from its own steamy mix, a fecund blend of positive thinking, psychism, esotericism, and — less often acknowledged — evangelical Christianity. The twentieth century may have given us the term “personal transformation,” but the same purpose was an item on the agenda for nineteenth-century Christians. Among them was John George Govan.

Read all about it at Kheper.net

(Thanks to Trevor Blake for the heads up on this one!)

Alternative 3 and Lost

alternative 3

What was Alternative 3?

Alternative 3 is a television programme, broadcast in the UK in 1977 as a fictional hoax, an heir to Orson Welles’ radio production of The War of the Worlds. Purporting to be an investigation into Britain’s contemporary “brain drain,” Alternative 3 uncovered a plan to make the moon and Mars habitable in the event of a terminal environmental catastrophe on Earth.

The programme was originally meant to be broadcast on April Fools Day, 1977. While its broadcast was delayed until June by industrial action, the credits explicitly date the film to April 1st. Alternative 3 ended with credits for the actors involved in the production and featured interviews with a fictitious American astronaut. However, some conspiracy theory supporters have argued Alternative 3 is at least partly true.

Full Story: Wikipedia

Black Belt Jones writes:

Chances are if we’ve been to the pub together over the last 15 years, I will have mentioned Alternative-3, amongst the canon of great media proto-ARGs that include Orson Welles’ War Of The Worlds, Ghostwatch, etc.

I re-watched it on the plane over to the USA, and my addled-brain couldn’t help but retcon the whole thing into the LOST universe.

It was made of course, when the DHARMA initiative is intended to have made their orientation movies, which helps.

But the plot within it is worthy of Abrams, Lindelhof, et al.

Full Story: Black Belt Jones.

Vincent, the White Dog, and the real life mad science of John C. Lilly

vincent with dead arm in his mouth

There wasn’t a whole lot of new occult stuff to chew on in the season premiere. But the last “Missing Pieces” clip reminds of me of an interesting occult reference Trevor Blake pointed out:

In 1875 Madame Blavatsky founded the Theosophical Society, a proto-New Age occult organization that would have been quite an influence on The DHARMA Initiative. The “New Age” movement that the DHARMA Initiative invokes has its origins in Theosophy.

According to the White Dog Cafe web site:

While living on Sansom Street, Madame Blavatsky became ill with an infected leg. During her illness, she underwent a transformation which inspired her to found the Theosophical Society. In a letter dated June 12, 1875, Madame Blavatsky described her recovery, explaining that she dismissed the doctors and surgeons who threatened amputation, (“Fancy my leg going to the spirit land before me!”) and had a white dog sleep across her leg by night, curing all in no time.

Vincent is a yellow lab of a very light, mostly white color. The role of yellow labs and their possibly mystic role is expanding upon in the Lost Experience, particularly through the character Dr. Vincent Wally Bole. From Lostpedia:

“His life was a hellish nightmare of neglectful parents, and a near fatal accident until a kindly yellow lab pranced into his life and change him… forever.”

The nickname Wally comes from the family’s trusted Labrador Retriever who saved his life when, as a child, he fell into an abandoned well on the family estate. After this incident and because he had less-than attentive parents (his father was a near-famous neurosurgeon, his mother a saucier and the co-host of a little-watched TV show) he came to look to the dog as his surrogate parent.

The bond that developed between them and a chance encounter with The Hanso Foundation CEO and founder, Alvar Hanso, at a life-extension workshop in Rangoon would inspire Dr. Bolé to expand his research and eventually create the Retrievers Of Truth Institute for the Advancement and Research into the Mental Abilities of Yellow Labrador Retrievers.

It’s also noteworthy that Bole’s yellow lab research is in some ways reminiscent of the real life mad scientist John C. Lilly‘s dolphin communication experiments. Lilly’s other work, particularly Programming and Metaprogramming in the Human Biocomputer has had a lasting impact on occultists, including Robert Anton Wilson, who Damon Lindelof has acknowledged as an influence.

Also, in Further Instructions Charlie makes a reference to the movie Altered States (“I’m going to stand out here in case you devolve into a monkey”), a movie inspired by Lilly’s work.

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