Astronaut Theology: Unidentified Flying Architecture

Some of you are probably familiar with the curious Wat Phra Dhammakaya Buddist temple in Thailand, which has become famous for it unique design. It's really stunning to see the tens of thousands of worshippers praying around what most people would immediately recognize as a replica of a flying saucer. But it's part of a global trend in architectural design, a trend that includes some of the most significant organizations in the world. 

The flying saucer design of the temple might normally be a curiosity, but it's one of the largest active temples in Asia. The numbers are staggering:

The community living at Wat Phra Dhammakaya now numbers 3,000 monks, novices, laymen and laywomen - making it the largest temple in Thailand in terms of inhabitants. Congregations on Sundays and major religious festivals reach 100,000, which since 1985 exceeded temple capacity and influenced the temple's decision to expand the site to one thousand acres (4 km²) with the building of the World Dhammakaya Centre project.

There's also this stadium in Shanghai, China, which Mercedes Benz- one of the largest automobile manufacturers in the world-- currently has the naming rights to. You might be thinking it doesn't look as much like a UFO in the daytime, but perhaps we should look at it at night...

...there, that's better. What was this stadium originally built for? For China's version of the World's Fair:
Expo 2010, officially the Expo 2010 Shanghai China, was held on both banks of the Huangpu River in Shanghai, China, from 1 May to 31 October 2010. It was a major World Expo in the tradition of international fairs and expositions, the first since 1992. The theme of the exposition was "Better City – Better Life" and signifies Shanghai's new status in the 21st century as the "next great world city".   
It had the largest number of countries participating and was the most expensive Expo in the history of the world's fairs. The Shanghai World Expo was also the largest World's Fair site ever at 5.28 square km.
That's the funny thing about this list here; superlatives like "largest" keep popping up.

In a stunning coincidence, Mercedes Benz also sponsors one of the original flying saucer megaplexes, the New Orleans Superdome. Speaking of superlatives:

Because of the size and location in one of the major tourist destinations in the United States, the Superdome routinely makes the "short list" of candidates being considered for major sporting events, the Super Bowl, College Football Championship Game and the Final Four.

Bonus Secret Sun Sync: the numerals of my birthday-- 7/01/66-- are also the zipcode of the Superdome.

As you can see the effect of the lighting of the Superdome closely resembles classic illustrations of flying saucers (it also kind of reminds me of that odd water tower in Pushing Tin).

What exactly is going on here? Aren't UFOs supposed to shut-ins and tinfoil hat types? Why are we seeing them used as design inspiration for these buildings? It's strangely reminiscent of the alien themes used in the Olympic Games, both overtly and covertly.

I suppose a UFO megaplex in Astana, Kazahkstan shouldn't surprise anyone familiar with the futuristic architecture of that city. In this case the building is used for an unexpected purpose; the renowned State Circus of Kazakhstan. Of course, the "circus" in question is nothing like a traditional American circus, more like the Cirque du Soleil; a collection of acrobats, dancers and daredevils:
The circus staff is 320 people, most of whom are actors. The troupe includes both young circus performers who were awarded various prizes in Kazakhstan as well as honored masters of circus art, the winners of international festivals and competitions. Besides, within the frames of cooperation among creative teams, Astana circus performers tour in Russia, Uzbekistan, Turkey, and Japan. 
Kazahkstan is an extremely interesting country, not only because it was rumored a few years back to be building an alien embassy. The country also plays host to the world's busiest spaceport:
Baikonur Cosmodrome is the world's first and largest operational space launch facility...It is leased by the Kazakh government to Russia (until 2050) and is managed jointly by the Russian Federal Space Agency and the Russian Aerospace Defence Forces ... Under the current Russian space program, Baikonur remains a busy spaceport, with numerous commercial, military and scientific missions being launched annually. All crewed Russian spaceflights are launched from Baikonur.

Speaking of international games, Brazil built this curious building next to the stadium built for the 2014 World Cup. It now gives the impression of Jesus greeting a flying saucer. 

How about that for symbolism?

Also in Rio is the Niteroi Contemporary Art Museum, which looks like the craft from the Betty and Barney Hill case.

Gordon from Rune Soup reminded me of this building- the Basilica of the Virgin of Guadalupe, arguably the most important religious icon in Mexico. A classic, 1940s kind of design, like something you'd see in an American International picture.

The world famous Space Needle, the symbol of the City of Seattle, was openly modeled on a flying saucer and built at a time when Seattle was one of the most important centers of the aerospace industry. 

Today Seattle is a world leader in information technology but may soon be on the cutting edge of aerospace again: Elon Musk plans to base the Mars Mission division of SpaceX in Seattle. Will the city build a new monument to mark the occasion?

The Pacific Northwest is the birthplace of the modern Flying Saucer Age. Kenneth Arnold had his famous sighting in the Cascade Mountain range, an event which was predated by the controversial Maury Island incident, in which ring-shaped saucers ejected molten slag, allegedly hitting a salvage boat. 

That incident would eventually lead to the deaths of two Air Force officers and become the topic of heated debate in the endlessly contentious UFO community.

Perhaps the Maury Island incident is less controversial among the movers and shakers of British intelligence, given the fact that their nerve center looks very much like one of the UFOs witnessed at that event. It's also somewhat similar to the Mercedes Benz logo with the indication of the three-pronged fork. Isn't that an interesting coincidence? 

What's the purpose of this building?
The Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) is a British intelligence and security organisation responsible for providing signals intelligence (SIGINT) and information assurance to the British government and armed forces.

Oh yes, just a marginal bunch of UFO hobbyists, surely.

As it happens the future headquarters of Apple Computer shares a similar design, and has been called "the flying saucer" by many observers. Apparently the design was chosen by Steve Jobs himself. For those of you who need a reminder:

Apple is the world's second-largest information technology company by revenue after Samsung Electronics, and the world's third-largest mobile phone maker. On November 25, 2014, in addition to being the largest publicly traded corporation in the world by market capitalization, Apple became the first U.S. company to be valued at over $700 billion.[4] As of 2014, Apple employs 72,800 permanent full-time employees, maintains 437 retail stores in fifteen countries,[5] and operates the online Apple Store and iTunes Store, the latter of which is the world's largest music retailer.
I think the old expression needs to be revised: "Millionaires don't believe in flying saucers, billionaires do."

Toronto City Hall boasts a more traditional flying saucer design, more similar to that of the Superdome. Toronto is the most important city in this G8 country, a major hub for industry and finance:
As Canada's commercial capital, (Toronto) is home to the Toronto Stock Exchange and the headquarters of Canada's five largest banks. Leading economic sectors in the city include finance, business services, telecommunications, aerospace, transportation, media, arts, publishing, software production, medical research, education, tourism, and engineering.   Toronto is considered an alpha world city by the Globalization and World Cities Research Network and is placed among the Global Leaders in the Global Financial Centres Index.

Then there's this interesting detail at the entrance to Sony Pictures in California. Sony is another one of the top corporations in the world, manufacturer of the immensely popular PlayStation gaming console and several other varieties of consumer electronics. Sony Pictures is one of the major studios in the Hollywood system, having acquired Columbia Pictures and several other production companies.

So what's going on here? None of these choices are made lightly. In many cases consultants are paid hundreds of thousands of dollars just to offer their opinion on the design of corporate buildings. Why open their client to ridicule by choosing a design that is based in (an ostensible) marginal subculture?

Every one of these designs was approved by committees and board members and all kinds of important, well-paid individuals. These designs are chosen only after long, exhaustive processes and done so in order to express a message to the world about the entity it represents.

Think about that. Think very, very carefully about that.

"Until It Happened to Me."

Recent news stories on near-death experiences crossed my path this week, for very different reasons. They were very different stories concerning very different people and leading to very different interpretations, but in the end they both led me to my conclusion: the paranormal is personal.*

Many in the Establishment have declared war on near death experience, primarily because the newly-disempowered Evangelicals have latched onto NDEs as proof of their interpretation of scripture. The elitist British newspaper The Independent recently ran a story of a man who died (twice!) and didn't experience anything at all. 

This is hardly news. NDEs are the exception, not the rule and the article deliberately avoids any discussion of the man's hospital treatment (if he was anesthetized it would explain his lack of any memory before being awoken). 

(Let me just say up front that the NDEs that most interest me are the ones that are accompanied by anomalous evidence or extraordinary circumstance. Otherwise the topic can become overly subjective).

What actually happened is that the man does not remember an NDE, which may well be a result of drugs or brain injury. But unfortunately we may never know for sure even if he did experience anything since the man in question is a doctrinaire radical atheist. 

The covert political agenda of the article is made clear by his own testimony, though he's surely only preaching to the converted in The Independent: 
"I have always been an atheist, but I have always had a part of me that hoped there was a God or Heaven or something greater than us. I mean, who wouldn't want there to be a Heaven? 
"I am still an atheist, and now I know that there is no such thing as God or Heaven. At least not for me. My reasoning behind that is no God would ever put a person and family through such a experience. 
"I am an Atheist, and always will be. But I believe that your belief is your belief. The only thing we can share is our own experiences and let people make up their own mind. People need to stop forcing their own beliefs onto others."
That last statement is curious, given the general live and let live attitude of near-death experiencers. It would seem the fellow is one of those types who thinks anyone disagreeing with him is an intolerable threat, something we see all too often these days. 

But the point is; If you distrust the "Jesus led me to the Elysian Fields" stories of a devout Evangelical, why would you trust the "I spent all my time in a void" stories of the devout atheist (especially given the fact that there's little reason for such a story in the first place)? Both are seeking to further a partisan agenda and reassure their fellow travelers.

One wonders what would have happened had he gone through the classic NDE. Certainly we've heard of these Road to Damascus events, where onetime unbelievers are so shaken by an experience that it changes the entire conduct of their lives. Near death experiences are well known for having this kind of effect.

Which brings me to my point here: there are people who are interested in paranormal topics but I think people only come to actually believe in the paranormal once they experience it for themselves.

Archskeptic Michael Shermer is the probable inheritor of the Skeptic King crown once that pedantic pedagogue James Randi shuffles off this mortal coil. But aside from the sex abuse scandals that seem to be emblematic of these types, Shermer made headlines recently when he briefly wandered off the reservation in response to the kind of paranormal event that many people have experienced and were once taken for granted*. In this case it had to do with a grandfather's old radio suddenly working after extensive efforts to repair had been in vain:
Anomalous Events That Can Shake One’s Skepticism to the Core 
What does this mean? Had it happened to someone else I might suggest a chance electrical anomaly and the law of large numbers as an explanation—with billions of people having billions of experiences every day, there's bound to be a handful of extremely unlikely events that stand out in their timing and meaning. In any case, such anecdotes do not constitute scientific evidence that the dead survive or that they can communicate with us via electronic equipment.
Jennifer is as skeptical as I am when it comes to paranormal and supernatural phenomena. Yet the eerie conjunction of these deeply evocative events gave her the distinct feeling that her grandfather was there and that the music was his gift of approval. I have to admit, it rocked me back on my heels and shook my skepticism to its core as well. I savored the experience more than the explanation.
To which I'd say Shermer is very easily impressed and really, really not qualified to pass judgements on the paranormal. But the point is that it happened to him and so it meant something (if it happened to you he'd be first in line to attack).

It was worth writing about, worth confessing to his fellow consensus/corporate reality-worshippers. Otherwise he would have shredded anyone else who made such a claim.

So you you really do have to wonder how many skeptics out there are simply sour grapes cases, bitter that the paranormal train never stopped at their station. 

And I wonder how many of these are actually incapable of experiencing or even truly understanding the paranormal because of their brain chemistry or some other kind of physiological issue. 

Listen, there's a lot of things I can't do that normal people don't seem to have any trouble with. And it's pretty well documented that a lot of people who can and do experience the paranormal don't exactly lead splendrous lives and usually had horrific childhoods.

Colin Wilson is an interesting case- he had his elite credentials in order, could write his own ticket on the British Sterility Express, but after delving into the paranormal for his must-read, foundational text The Occult in 1971, Wilson confessed what is utter heresy to the system that reared him:
"It was not until two years ago, when I began the systematic research for this book, that I realized the remarkable consistency of the evidence for such matters as life after death, out-of-the-body experiences (astral projection), reincarnation.

In a basic sense, my attitude remains unchanged; I still regard philosophy - the pursuit of reality through intuition aided by intellect - as being more relevant, more important, than questions of "the occult."

But the weighing of the evidence, in this unsympathetic frame of mind, has convinced me that the basic claims of "occultism" are true. It seems to me that the reality of life after death has been established beyond all reasonable doubt.
I sympathize with the philosophers and scientists who regard it as emotional nonsense, because I am temperamentally on their side; but I think they are closing their eyes to evidence that would convince them if it concerned the mating habits of albino rats or the behavior of alpha particles."
I had such trouble with the paranormal as a concept (thanks in large part to all that reality garbage on SyFy) that it took me a very long time to define my own experiences as paranormal and even to realize that experiences I saw as mundane were in fact anything but. But I believe true skepticism isn't saying "no" no matter what, it's only saying "yes" once you've satisfied the need for evidence. 

I actually think all the sloppy, evidence-free paranormal stuff you see out there is just boring. It's just flat soda and stale bread.

But here's an important point: I wasn't able to understand the context of my own experiences until I studied the experiences of other people. So I do think there's a major shortcoming in the solipsistic approach to evidence vis a vis the paranormal. Hoaxes and bullshit are pretty easy to sniff out after a while and it's important to trust other people and not see everything through the prism of your own experience. 

The Internet has certainly been a mixed blessing; it's given voice to the worst possible elements (I mentally file 'hoaxers' with 'child molesters' and 'politicians') but at the same time it offers tools that have never been available before. My 2010 experience may have been forgotten or hopelessly distorted by memory had I not been able to essentially liveblog it as soon as it happened. And that drew other people into the experience as well.

But I often wonder; would I have believed that experience if I read about happening to somebody else? The annals of the paranormal are filled with the testimony, "you know, I don't usually believe in that sort of thing, but..."

The paranormal can be a contagion. If you know a bunch of people who have had weird experiences but don't feel you have yourself, just think about this; the fact that you are attracting these people into your life is a paranormal experience in itself. You are what they call a strange attractor. 

The same goes if someone close to you confides about a profoundly weird experience. You have become part of the circuit now. I certainly feel a weird connection- a sense of being there- when reading about some of the old contact stories (I also very strongly feel that we're dealing with an occult phenomenon here and not an qoute-unquote extraterrestrial one, though someone like Kenneth Grant would chuckle at the distinction).

I'll leave you with this quote from Paracelsus:
Thus these beings appear to us, not in order to stay among us or become allied to us, but in order for us to become able to understand them. These apparitions are scarce, to tell the truth. But why should it be otherwise?  
Is it not enough for one of us to see an Angel, in order for all of us to believe in the other Angels? 

*UPDATE: This piece originally included a story - which has been widely circulated on social media- which a reader pointed out may be a hoax. It wasn't really important to the overall piece and it took up a lot of real estate so I deleted it and stuck with the Independent story. And a good thing too; the piece definitely reads better without it. 

But now I wonder if the Independent story isn't a hoax as well.

* I know of two events in my own extended family where grandfather clocks stopped working when their owners died and despite the best efforts of repairmen, never worked again.

Stargates and Solar Temples: The Tides of History

"The truth is wormholes are all around us, only they're too small to see. They occur in nooks and crannies in space and time. Nothing is flat or solid. If you look closely enough at anything you'll find holes and wrinkles in it. It's a basic physical principle, and it even applies to time. Even something as smooth as a pool ball has tiny crevices, wrinkles and voids." - Stephen Hawking


There's been a marked change in my own country in the past 15 years, probably in yours too. It's been reflected in popular culture, which for the most part has grown small, cramped and dyspeptic, even if takes on the illusion of hugeness. The fact that a zombie drama is by far the hottest property in geekdom shows how defeated that culture is, even at the point of its ostensible triumph. But the most interesting story is the ongoing contraction of expectation in science fiction.

Sci-Fi may look healthier than it really is, because of the success of the superhero movies and the dystopian teen dramas. But at the literary level, it's become more marginal and cult-like than ever before, and riven by fringe political conflicts. Those teen dramas aren't signs of rude health either, given that they're about as optimistic as Walking Dead at their core. They sell well but there's defeat lurking in the margins.

Christopher Nolan gave us Interstellar, but even with inflated IMAX ticket prices it was his lowest grossing film since The Prestige. It was a hit, no doubt, it just didn't leave much of an aftertaste. Articles are being written now about how James Cameron's megahit Avatar has had absolutely no effect on the culture at large, probably not surprising given that the film is a pastiche of 80s and 90s influences.

In the 80s or 90s, John Carter would have been a megahit, back when people believed. It was a victim of the zeitgeist alone.

We've all seen the Apollo hoax videos, now we have a new generation of YouTubers not only declaring that the entire space program is a hoax, but that the earth is actually flat (I kid you not). 

And that's the problem with nihilism. The PZ Myers and Richard Dawkins of the world think they can unleash the nihilist virus into the world and expect it to behave like it does in the faculty room, all genteel and inert. Unfortunately, viruses do what the fuck they want to do. We're just at the beginning of the contagion. 


No matter what happens in the world of science and technology, the basic human dilemma seems unchanged. Heaven's Gate were at the cutting edge of technology for their time and it only served to deepen their sense of alienation. It's no mystery why; they were savvy enough to see the kinds of intrusive surveillance technologies that were coming and it convinced them that the world was indeed a prison planet. 

(It's hard to say what the Solar Temple believed in these regards, but their desire to ascend to the Grand Lodge on Sirius seems apparent. Their lineage to Alice Bailey's spiritual ascendance fooferah doesn't negate the possibility that they were all murdered for their vast holdings).

Human beings can't flourish in captivity. I believe this is a reason why birthrates decline in urban areas. Anyone who's kept rodents discovers the horror that arises when you mistakenly keep a male and female together. If we discover that we are in fact trapped on this planet, I believe that will be a very dangerous revelation for our survival as a species.


It's why powerful interests are looking for escape routes. The Stargate is certainly one of these, a kind of travel that bypasses the numbing distances of space. (I always refer to the Fermi Paradox as the FAR-mi Paradox. Everything is goddamn far away. All we really have are educated guesses as to what's going on out there.*) 

You can bet that being able to warp timespace to travel hither and yon is the real grailquest of the space program. Maybe that's why there's little attempt made to dissuade people from calling CERN the "Stargate."

The UFO phenomenon is always going to be lurking in the distance since unless you are really married to the whole nuts 'n' bolts thing, you're bound to start thinking about wormholes and other dimensions and all sorts of things of that sort. Given what we know now about the phenomenon-- that the whole package is as old as the hills-- it's hard to imagine aliens popping in and out from Proxima Centauri. 

Or even Mars, for that matter. 

But if there was a technology that was truly magical-- and stop and think hard about the implications of that before quoting that line-- say something along the lines of that Iconian doorway, then it's a whole different story. 

But then again you could go back and read 2001: A Space Odyssey and read about a race that evolved into energy without mass-- just like any number of races on Star Trek-- and then the phenomenon seems less like a phenomenon and more like a type of interface.

Which is why I've been rewatching Star Trek: Deep Space (the) Nine. The Roddenberrys hated it, since it went against every rule they worked up for Next Generation. But it also called the Roddenberrys' bluff. 

You present this warship (the Enterprise) with planet-destroying weaponry? Well, those things don't exist for scientific exploration, they exist for war. So let's have the mother of all wars. You constantly present these god-like aliens? Well, at some point someone is going to worship them, hence the Bajorans and the Prophets. And of course the whole thing is about the Stargate.

The Nine enigma is also at the core of the original Stargate concept, though the producers went pretty far and wide on that with the TV series. NASA's kissyface with Star Trek is a gimme, but the Air Force's involvement with the production of SG-1 still utterly baffles me.

The fact that ISIS is now continuing the work that the highly trained "looters" of the Baghdad museum began leads me to believe that someone is still looking for something. Maybe it's the Stargate, maybe not, but do I need to remind you that the Rockefellers set Zecharia Sitchin up in a corner office at 30 Rock?

The question becomes how will this translate into the culture at large. Alex Proyas (Dark City, Knowing) is working on Gods of Egypt, slated for release next year. A relaunch of Stargate is also in the works. How this all will shake out is hard to say. The geek world is still trapped in nihilist mode. 

But its skeptic and atheist communities are in the midst of civil wars that make the Stalin-Trotsky struggles of the 30s Left seem genteel by comparison so things could change very quickly. Already people are burning out and peeling away.


It's getting harder to tell what's really going on in the military and intelligence spheres because even toilet paper bills are now classified under Homeland Security. The glory days of the Freedom of Information Act are long, long gone. It may be a question of parsing the various strands of disinformation and accidental fact to figure out what is going on. It may yet give rise to a new kind of divination.

I recently saw the old "hoaxed alien invasion" thing dredged up, by a guy who I didn't really agree with but at least used to take seriously. It's all based on old data, and I couldn't help but wonder if it was a slow news day in goldbugland. 

Because the fact is that more people are hooked on the possibility of a faked alien invasion now than a real one- far, far, far more people- so I can't help but wonder what the real agenda behind all of that is.


Groups like the Solar Temple and Heaven's Gate were artifacts of the 60s counterculture and seem unlikely to re-emerge in the narcissist age where everyone is a cult of themselves. But those groups probably seemed impossible in the 1950s- and even the early 1960s- so you can't predict the future by forecasting the present. 

Will new cults emerge? I suppose it depends on what's happening in the culture and society at large. A major crisis could indeed change the entire equation.

However, what you can sure of is that people at the highest levels of power think much differently than those below them, and that is a constant. Call it eccentricity, call it self-indulgence, but the fact is that the strange beliefs of the rich and powerful have always changed the course of human affairs, throughout history. 

How much change we're in for is the question we all must face.

*I'm as skeptical of astrophysics as anyone should be of any science controlled by the military industrial complex (which is to say ALL of them), especially so given the fact that bold statements of fact are made about the vegetation on planets 200 light years away based on what is seen through instruments gazing through vast expanses of distorting radiation and debris of every imaginable variety.