Archive for November, 2010
No idea what’s going to be said or revealed.† Supposedly the conference deals with “an astrobiological finding” that will have an impact on the search for ET life. You can watch it on NASA-TV (1 pm Central). Here’s the link.
Nick Redfern, Final Events and the Secret Government Group on Demonic UFOs and the Afterlife (Anomalist Books, 2010)
Well, I finally carved out some time to review Nick Redfern’s latest book. I’m hoping you all went ahead and bought it and read it during the wait (and despite the [deliberately?] cheesy cover). It’s worth a read since it will stimulate discussion in ufology. But as I said a few weeks ago when I first brought it to your attention on this blog, I have mixed feelings about it. My reservations are not related to Nick’s effort, but because of the content. I apologize ahead of time for the inordinate length of the review.
1. Content Overview
1.1. The Collins Elite and their Work
Primarily by means of informants whose true identities are concealed, Final Events tells the story of a secret government cabal called the Collins Elite (CE). The CE was formed in response to interest in the work of occultists such as Aleister Crowley and Jet Propulsion Lab co-founder Jack Parsons. The CE came to believe that the magical / occult activities of these two famous occultists possibly open portals between the human world and the “other side” allowing passage of evil, demonic entities into our world. The CE reached the conclusion that these releases (or transgressions) had explanatory power for the wave of UFO sightings in the late 1940s and which have continued to this day.
As the CE began investigating what they came to consider a cause-and-effect relationship between these entities, UFOs and, as time went on, alien abductions, the group began to pursue research into other paranormal issues that were also associated with alien contact and abductions: out-of-body experiences, the nature of the soul / consciousness,† and life after death.
1.2. The Occult/Alien Endgame
Readers naturally wonder what the endgame is in this scenario, and the book doesn’t disappoint. Redfern’s information sources made it clear that the CE firmly believes that not only are the aliens who are thought by millions to be visiting earth and abducting people actually demons, but that these entities are controlling a process (involving humans) of disclosure. The goal of disclosure is quite sinister: to convince the public that ET life is real and that it has been in contact with humanity for some time. And this will of course make the idea put forth by wacky people of faith that aliens are demons look perfectly silly–when that is precisely what they really are. In order to meet the ET threat, or at least to stave off any deadly conflict, a new world order for global governance will have to be put in place. Evil demonic entities masquerading as aliens and wicked humans will run the new world order, thereby enslaving humanity. The alien goal is further described by the CE as the harvesting of human souls. That about covers it.
1.3. The Strategy of the Collins Elite
The CE is described as divided on what to do about all this. On one hand, there is a sense of urgency about stopping the enslavement of humanity and the soul stealing. Yet the CE has been afraid to publicize its findings, sensing that they would wreak social and spiritual havoc. Not only would an official government revelation that demons are real throw people into panic, but an announcement of the CE’s findings would amount to an endorsement of the Bible. End times hysteria on a massive scale would not be far behind. As a result of this predicament, Redfern details how certain members of the CE have in turn moved in the direction of doing all they can to re-establish what can only be called a Christian theocracy in the land. The logic here is that mass conversions would somehow result in a spiritual tide (of the right kind and moving in the right direction) to meet the demonic forces head on. (How that would *not* be Armageddon–or would be a better Armageddon — isn’t clear to me — but there’s a lot of thinking in the book that isn’t clear to me).
2. Content Analysis
2.1. The General Credibility of the Story
What can you say about a story that rises or falls on secret informants? Not a lot. Granted, the mode of information neither argues for or against the material. Nick of course knows this, and is up front about the nature of the material. Along the way, there are crumbs thrown here and there by his informants, mostly in the form of documents that affirm *pieces* of the narrative told by these mystery men — but those pieces tend to be quite innocuous and nothing surprising.. For example, there are documents that affirm that Jack Parsons had a top secret security clearance. Is that really unusual for the co-founder of JPL? There is documentation that the government was involved in having various occultists observed. Big deal. If you are watching Parsons you’re watching others associated with him. True, the intelligence community (and the CE) were interested in occult information and “abilities” — but that isn’t what we really need documented here. What we need is some actual data that shows a cause-and-effect relationship between these occult activities and UFO sightings and “alien abductions.” No such luck in that regard. This leaves me ambivalent toward the general credibility — an ambivalence that turns toward incredulity when I consider the “thinking” demonstrated by the CE.
2.2. Specific Problems
Ah . . . where to begin. There were a number of “this is silly” moments for me in the book with respect to the “research” of the CE. In my mind, the most disturbing thing about the book is that highly-placed insiders within the intelligence community could think so poorly — especially if they are Christians. Maybe I should stop being jolted by this, given that what passes for “serious” Bible teaching these days comes through folks who ought not be thought of as careful biblical readers much less biblical scholars. Think of it this way. The biggest non-fiction publishing sensation in the Christian orbit over the last decade was Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life. While I admire the intent, it’s pretty disturbing that a book whose message is that our lives have a purpose would rocket to bestseller status within the Church. Is it really that much of a revelation that the Bible says our lives have a purpose? Do people within the Church not know that? How could they miss it? Are Christians really that theologically illiterate? I guess the sales numbers answer that question.
2.2.1. Uncritical Assumptions About End Times
My illustration above was from the non-fiction world. The most successful fiction in Christian circles was of course Left Behind. How is it that millions of readers could simply absorb the ideas in Left Behind and have no idea that all its ideas derive from certain assumptions brought *to* the biblical text. Most Christians have no idea these ideas are *not* self evident realities in the Bible but only hold true if certain outright guesses are correct. Here’s a sampling of what I mean.
I ask again, are Christians really this theologically illiterate? Yes. And that includes those in the CE if the content of Final Events is any indication. Didn’t anyone in the CE ever really study eschatology? Aren’t they aware of how tenuous *any* position on end times really is? Did they not filter their “observations” and speculations through any other grid? Did they know any other grid even existed? If the Armageddon / Rapture position they cling to isn’t correct, what then? Was this given any thought at all? How might that position be used anyway to demoralize the Church even if it isn’t correct? Again, if the CE was so careless at analysis here, why should I trust anything else they’re thinking about? At least give some indication that end times has several possible scenarios (but maybe Tim LaHaye heads the CE!). At least Ray Boeche (a key contact person mentioned early in the book) is aware that there are issues here.
2.2.2.† A Cartoonish Demonology and Human-Centered Theology
I’ve put my cards on the table (see these archived posts) regarding demons as an explanation for UFOs and alleged alien abductions before. I consider it one of several possibilities (with respect to abductions, not UFOs) and a minority explanation at that. Theologically, I accept the reality of God and a spiritual world. That means I accept the reality of what Christians call demons and angels — but most Christians’ grasp of what is actually said or not said about demons and angels bears little resemblance to the Bible — and it would be based on the English Bible anyway, not the original language texts. Think I’m overstating this? Try this out: Did you know that the word “demon” is only mentioned twice in the Old Testament and never in the context of a hell or underworld? Did you know that the Hebrew term used for “demon” has no parallel in other Semitic languages for a denizen of hell or an underworld? Did you know there are no instances of demonic possession in the Old Testament? And what about the word for “demon” (daimon) in the New Testament — it can be used of any spirit being, good or evil. There are also no biblical verses that call fallen angels demons. I could go on quite a while. My point here is that I wonder if the brain trust in the CE is even aware of any of this. My guess is that they aren’t. Again, why should I trust their thinking if they can’t get this much right? Why should I trust their intuition or whispers about documentation when they have a document right in front of them called the Bible that they haven’t paid close attention to?
My real “demonic gripe,” though, is how silly the demonology of Final Events / the CE sounds when you really think about it. While I would agree that the entities of the spiritual world (good or evil) can and do interact with the human world (that’s biblical), that is a far cry from saying that demonic entities must wait on the acts of humans to carry out a plan or evil act, or that human activities determine the scope of demonic activity. Think about the ideas that the book poses to us by way of the CE thinking:
a) That the activities of Alister Crowley and Jack Parsons were the catalyst for the UFO waves of the 1940s (and subsequent). Maybe itís just me, but I donít find Crowley or Parsons or any such person frightening. I think they get far too much credit for power than they deserve. Crowley, the self-styled beast and most evil man in the world. BS. Try Hitler or Idi Amin or Stalin or Mao Ė Crowley was nothing compared to those guys. Letís see, Maoís arrogance and planning leads to tens of millions of deaths, and Crowley is having sex parties and practicing alchemy? Ooh, scary. What a crock. OK, they had sex parties and did incantations. Big deal. Itís amazing the PR machine that has been erected by occultists around these spiritual buffoons.
b) Even worse, can you see what’s going on in the demonic realm in this view? Demon: “Oh, crap, Parsons *almost* got that incantation right so we could come into the human realm. Maybe that human idiot will succeed next time. Until then, we’re just warming our fannies here in hell waiting for him to say the right words with the right intonation.” Give me a break. Again, while someone wanting to solicit evil for personal gain may succeed, that is quite different than saying one human (or even on orgy of occultists) hold the key to triggering cosmic events. Where is the biblical support for such an arrogant view of our own human importance that the spirit realm depends on us to act?
c) If this notion were true — that evil entities are somehow dependent on the work of occultists to act — then why do the innocent suffer? If it is true that evil needs human spell casting or solicitation to act, then it is equally true that without it — or with opposite human “force of godliness” — the demonic world is crippled. This is actually a violation of free will when it comes to spiritual beings, not to mention (again) an inflated view of human influence. Frankly, it amounts to cosmic nose-counting and a proportionately low view of the sovereignty of God. Did the battle of Normandy tip in favor of the Allies because just the right number of people prayed? Did the bubonic plague ravage Europe because the godly prayer count missed by five people? (Boy, I’ll bet that frustrated God). Did the people who survived 911 do so because a certain number of people prayed for them but the same number wasn’t reached for those who died? Or stated another way, if a few less people had prayed or gone to church or read their Bible, then the demons behind the 911 terrorists would have had a higher body count — right? Is this biblical theology? I say it’s not. It’s Hollywood demonology and (bad) pop theology. The idea that Crowley or Parsons or anyone else had to do a lot of mumbo-jumbo *in order to usher in* something that demons and other fallen celestial beings would want to do anyway is ridiculous. Who made us their handlers?
d) This poor thinking is also reflected in the CE idea that, to stem this tide, a theocracy needs to be re-instituted. What is the theological logic of this? That if the ruling elite are Christians, the demons will be powerless? Or that if a majority of U.S. citizens are Christians, then God can or will act? (This makes God capricious to say the least ["I won't intervene against evil unless enough humans measure up"] or powerless to act unilaterally ["I cannot intervene against evil unless enough humans measure up"]). You can have that God. And how small-minded is this approach — to presume that the fate of humanity lies in the hands of the Church in the United States? What a muddled theological mess.
2.2.3. An Uninformed and Theologically Naive View of Human Souls
The chapters (22-25) dealing with souls and the presumed knowledge of the soul are especially bad with respect to biblical theology and any sort of thoughtful theological approach. The CE bolsters its ideas without any appeal to exegesis of the Hebrew or Greek texts and no citation of scholarly sources. But wait, aren’t books by theologians and ancient theological authorities found in these chapters? Yes — and I’ll stand by what I said above. All of this source material is English-Bible based and amounts to theological speculation or antiquated traditions, not exegesis. And I’m nearing the point where the last person I want to see quoted about the Bible is Augustine. Augustine didn’t know Hebrew or Greek (and he is quoted as hating Greek). He did not know how to interact with the original language of the Scripture text. A fledgling seminary student who has a year of Hebrew and Greek under his/her belt could do more in the text than Augustine. Everything he does is based on the Latin Vulgate or Church traditions. Period. He is only viewed as an authority because he was a political-ecclesiastical heavyweight, not because he could delve into the Scripture text. Besides that issue, biblical scholars, textual critics, and archaeologists have actually learned a lot in the past 1500 years that Augustine couldn’t have known (and that goes for Aquinas and the Reformers as well). My point isn’t that these people were dumb. They weren’t. They were brilliant. But their limitations and resources are dramatically transparent to anyone in these fields. Just because they said something doesn’t mean it should be considered authoritative or, in some instances, even coherent.
The fact is that the Bible never actually tells us where the soul comes from. It merely presumes that a human being is only a complete human being when body and “life force” (Hebrew: nephesh) are united. Modern scholars/theologians continue to struggle with how to understand and articulate biblical anthropology. This is especially true now that brain science and neuroscience have produced findings that need to be factored into any such articulation. (See here for a whole series of posts I wrote on this on my Naked Bible blog).
I see no evidence that the CE gave the biblical text any thought at all when articulating their demonology or views of anything else. They are guided by tradition and popular theological speculation. That just doesn’t cut it. There is zero biblical warrant for thinking a soul can be taken or stolen from its body, or sucked away after death from the Creator who made it and gave it in the first place. More Hollywood theology. Would someone yank the CE away from the boob tube?
I know it may sound startling, but I could go on. I’ll just have mercy and stop here.
My suspicion with the storyline of this book (and, again, I view Nick Redfern as merely an honest reporter) is that its ending has a sinister intent. I think the storyline is a set-up. It stinks like a ufological trajectory of the political Leftist strategy to cast Christians (and pious Jews) as clandestine fascists. Why is it that a much more coherent possibility (that UFOs are the result of decades of effort put into man-made† technologies developed by gifted human scientific minds) is so easily dismissed in favor of Cartoon Network demons? Because when the military industrial complex is perceived to have the country in its grip (with or without some sort of “alien disclosure”) the ufological community will now know who’s responsible: the CE and its Christian theocratic fascists. This means that the Collins Elite, if it is real and if it is made up of Christians, could simply be a bunch of witless dupes that are being used to advance the propaganda I just described. Since they come across as tragically illiterate when it comes to biblical theology, that seems sadly possible. On the other hand, this group (and boy, doesn’t that term bring back Facade memories?) might be willing participants in the creation of this meme, or perhaps an intelligence fiction used as a storyline vehicle.
In any event, if you care about what the ufological community is thinking about, you should read the book† — sort of like Belshazzar’s handwriting on the wall.
Just a note that I’m back after a week of conferences. Among the organizations holding meetings this past week were the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL), the Near East Archaeological Society (NEAS), the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR), the Institute for Biblical Research (IBR), and the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS). Then Thanksgiving was upon us (hope you all enjoyed the day). I’ll soon get back to blogging.
I managed to start my review of Redfern’s book, so that is imminent.