The UFO phenomenon has been ongoing since at least the summer of 1947, when the Roswell UFO incident occurred. Since then, stories about several famous UFO incidents have consistently been told. Barney and Betty Hill‘s abduction experience in 1961. The Rendlesham Forest incident in 1980. The Phoenix Lights event of 1997. And many others in between and since. More recently, attention has been given to the UFO phenomenon because official statements by U.S. government entities have confirmed both the existence and the mystery of UFOs. This level of “official disclosure” lends a level of credibility to UFO investigation that has been withheld for most of its history and mythological development in the previous seventy-plus years. For example, Luis Elizondo is a former DOD intelligence/counterintelligence official who has, and continues, to make rounds in the media to explain what he knows–or what he wants you to think he knows–about UFOs.
The caveat of “what he wants you to think he knows” is necessary because of Elizondo’s links to national security and intelligence elements of the U.S. government. These links come not only from his own career in Army and defense intelligence but from his family history as well. Elizondo’s father was part of the CIA-backed guerilla force who conducted the failed Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961. But this isn’t all that makes Elizondo an interesting character. From 2017-2020, he was also associated with Tom DeLonge’s project: To The Stars.
DeLonge, with the help of coauthors, has produced four books dealing with the UFO phenomenon (or, as they term it, the Phenomenon). Two of the books are non-fiction and two are fiction. DeLonge claims that these books were written using insights derived from information obtained from sources inside NASA, the CIA, and the DOD. The pairing of fiction with non-fiction is necessary, he claims, because certain disclosures are better suited to fiction–not only because of the nature of those disclosures but because of their sources. He claims that some of the disclosures are from sources so deep on topics, it is best said, that are so esoteric, that their revelation is best kept in the format of a fictional narrative.
Given DeLonge’s and To The Stars‘ connections to defense and intelligence, I’m inclined to take his claims at face value. Luis Elizondo is not the only intelligence-adjacent person with official links to To The Stars. Jim Semivan is a career CIA operations officer who sits on the board of directors of To The Stars, is a co-founder of the organization, and its current VP of operations. Norm Kahn, who is listed as a member of the TTS advisory board, is also a career CIA man. Paul Rapp is a physicist who also holds credentials in psychoanalysis and works as a professor at the Uniformed Services University. Dr. Rapp, according to his TTS bio, has been commended by the CIA for “significant contributions to the mission of the Office of Research and Development.” Hal Puthoff and Joe Schurman, also members of the TTS advisory board, are formerly of NASA. And, finally, C. Chris Herndon, also an advisory board member, is the former Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of White House Information Technology.
Thus, I think it’s fair to say that DeLonge’s claim to have access to people in government is at least credible.
I bring all this up because I recently read Delonge’s (with co-author Peter Levenda) Sekret Machines: Gods — Gods, Man, & War, Volume I. My reading of this book was prompted, in part, by my reflecting on what little I knew of it in the previous post. But going deeper, once I discovered the layers of connections between To The Stars and American intelligence, I knew that I needed to read it because it would be communicating ideas that at least some elements of the U.S. government want people to know or accept. This insight became all the more interesting based on information contained in the same article that discusses Elizondo’s father’s CIA links.
It turns out that Hal Puthoff is not just formerly of NASA but also formerly of CIA, specifically the Stargate Project. Other notables mentioned in that article, but that no longer appear to be affiliated with TTS in any official capacity, include Chris Mellon, with an extensive intelligence resume that includes both the executive branch (under both Clinton and Bush) and Congress (Senate Select Committee on Intelligence) and Steve Justice, formerly of Skunk Works. And, to add one more layer of intrigue, that same article goes into some detail as to why Elizondo, Mellon, and Justice decided to end their relationship with TTS:
“Tom (DeLonge) is really focused on the entertainment side, so there’s not a whole lot for Chris, Steve and I to do,” he [Elizondo] says. “We’re not entertainers. Our talents lie in engaging governments, Congress and international organizations, and we’re ready to shift into high gear. Entertainment is one way to do it, but it’s not comprehensive.”
Three years after joining [To The Stars], Mellon says it accomplished the mission.
“In short order, [To The Stars] succeeded in getting the issue on the front page of the New York Times,” he stated in an email.Sarasota Herald-Tribune, January 3, 2021
It’s worth pausing to ask, rhetorically, whether Elizondo thinks the other intelligence and NASA veterans at TTS are entertainers.
The article goes on to quote Elizondo as saying: “This is a conversation about humanity” and “I think at the end of the day, we have to speak the truth to the American people.” When asked whether he’d do it all over again, Elizondo tells the reporter that he’d teach instead.
I teach part-time in a small Christian high school where my children are students. I don’t do it for the money (which I essentially just give back in the form of tuition anyway) but because I enjoy it and it’s a way to serve both the church and my community. One of the courses I teach is sociology, and I structure the semester largely around discussing the primary agents of socialization from a Christian perspective. One of my favorite, and one of the most important, units is on the social role of the mass media. I begin the unit by quoting one of my college English professors: “All writing is an attempt to persuade.” Then, using sources like Edward Bernays and Harold Lasswell, I show them how all forms of mass media are–in the end–forms of propaganda and that what they’re being propagandized to do may be as simple as parting with their money to buy a product or service, or as complex as trying to shift their entire worldview and, thereby, manipulate their most important social and political behaviors.
To The Stars certainly does its share of the former in the form of clothing, albums, and skateboards. But it also does the latter in the form of books, like Gods, Man, & War, Volume I. Like all other writing, it is an attempt to persuade. The question becomes, then: What is it trying to make you believe and why? This question becomes all the more important in light of TTS‘ intelligence connections, detailed above.
If you’ve had any exposure to the literature on UFOs beyond the superficial, pop-culture treatments, then much of what’s covered in Sekret Machines: Gods will be familiar. Although the authors claim that their book is distinct from the “ancient astronaut theory” popularized in Ancient Aliens–and there are important distinctions that I’ll get to shortly–the material they make reference to is largely the same. The ideas of writers like Zecharia Sitchin, Erich von Daniken, Robert Schoch, Graham Hancock, and Robert Bauval are all referenced. The authors spend a great deal of time expounding and defending a sort of cultural diffusion that tries to harmonize it with hypotheses that paint apparent cultural, religious, and mythological similarities as being invented independently. They propose–although not explicitly–two theories in light of the UFO phenomenon. Either these cultural similarities are diverse expressions of a common experience that took place at some distant point in the past, when there was just one sort of Lemurian monoculture, or these are unique expressions of similar experiences that took place at different times, in different places, among different cultures. In either case, of course, what links these similarities is these cultures’ contact with UFOs.
So far, there isn’t much difference between Sekret Machines and the popular ideas of Ancient Aliens. However, whereas Ancient Aliens proposes that these contact experiences were entirely natural and materialistic and then turned into myth and religion by ancient cultures, Sekret Machines asserts that the Phenomenon (to adopt their nomenclature) is and always has been a spiritual, esoteric event. Our tendency as materialistic and naturalistic moderns is to fit these spiritual, esoteric encounters into our own naturalistic worldview–of which the authors are, first and foremost, trying to disabuse their readers.
In this respect, I couldn’t agree with the authors more. Since I first encountered the serious study of UFOs at the Exeter UFO Festival, over ten years ago, my instincts have told me that it was fundamentally no different than historical accounts of speaking to demons, ghosts, and familiar spirits. My first clue to this came at the festival that day, when an associate of Dr. Steven Greer delivered a lecture on their CE5 protocol and technique. Essentially, this involves the use of meditation and consciousness-focusing to call the UFOs to you. As I recall from that lecture, the effectiveness of this technique is enhanced when it is done in a group setting. I thought briefly then–and firmly believe now–that this means the CE5 protocols are effectively a type of séance.
Thus, to read in Sekret Machines that UFOs and their related phenomena don’t just resemble but are in fact a spiritual manifestation was not all that shocking to me. To my mind, it’s also more rational than the Ancient Aliens approach that basically claims that extraterrestrials came to earth thousands of years ago to show off their laser drills and anti-gravity technology and then decided to play cat and mouse ever since. Not to mention the fact that, as a Christian scholar, I’m well aware that non-human spiritual entities exist and have contacted and been contacted by humans throughout history.
What I did find somewhat shocking, and at least at this point inexplicable, was the specific, explicit endorsement of a particular religious interpretation of the Phenomenon: Gnosticism. Actually, it’s perhaps more accurate to say that what the authors endorse is an esoteric, hermetic, alchemical interpretation of the Phenomenon within an overarching framework of Gnosticism.
At this point, anyone familiar with the wider world of UFOlogy will point out that linking the Phenomenon with spiritual ideas and practices is nothing new. One example, among many others, is Anne Streiber‘s, the wife of Whitley Streiber, suggestion that his contactee experiences, and the beings he encountered, have something to do with death. This, of course, is also present in Halperin’s Jungian approach in Intimate Alien, which I discussed in my previous post. But what none of those other linkages can claim, so far as I know, is official sources of information from within the American intelligence community.
In other words, given all the information I’ve covered so far, one question is screaming louder than any other after reading Sekret Machines: Gods: Why would the CIA want Americans to adopt a Gnostic worldview? Why would elements of the NatSec/intelligence communities endorse an explicitly religious, very particular interpretation of UFOs?
From an apologetic standpoint, Sekret Machines is problematic for several reasons. First, their hypothesis requires that they interpret biblical data in a way that is unfaithful to the text itself. They want their readers to believe that the Bible’s worldview is dictated by the cultures that surround it–primarily Sumerian and Babylonian, but also Egyptian. What they ignore is the fact, argued persuasively by Nahum Sarna (1966), that the Old Testament’s parallels with Sumerian and Babylonian myths were designed to distinguish the God of the Bible from the gods of Sumer, Babylon, Canaan, and Egypt.
This leads them to claim, falsely, that the Bible–like the myths of those other cultures–conceives of creation as inherently chaotic, which is the opposite of the Bible’s claims. The God of the Bible–the Creator–brought an ordered, harmonious cosmos into being. It is sinfulness and rebellion against that order which causes chaos. However, rejecting or ignoring this fact is, again, necessary for their thesis. Sekret Machines also adopts and advocates Gnostic dualism–the idea that the soul or spirit is pure while the physical and fleshy is irretrievably corrupted. They claim that the task of human consciousness ought to be the transcendence of the chaotic creation in favor of seeking a “realm of light.” In making this claim, they adopt the Gnostic concept of a higher god–the “good god”–above the creator god–the “evil god.” Like other Gnostic and neo-Gnostic thought systems, like theosophy and anthroposophy, the authors of Sekret Machines endorse the idea that the serpent of Eden is a manifestation of the Gnostic higher god while the god responsible for putting Adam and Eve in Eden–the Gnostic creator–is the demiurge, the evil god, a tyrant and pretender.
The exegetical and hermeneutical errors that give rise to these problematic ideas are beyond the scope I intend for this post. My point here is to push forward the question of why American intelligence officials and former officials would endorse or push this unorthodox, unbiblical, and plainly antichrist religious perspective. A partial answer can be found by returning to the lesson I teach to my students: Some of the media you will encounter is aimed at shifting your worldview and, thereby, your behavior.
The opening paragraph of Edward Bernays’ Propaganda says much that is relevant to this topic:
The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.Edward Bernays, Propaganda
He goes on:
We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas are suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized. Vast numbers of human beings must cooperate in this manner if they are to live together as a smoothly functioning society.Edward Bernays, Propaganda
Bernays goes on to make pragmatic arguments for why propaganda is necessary and in a sense socially good. But for now, I want to focus on his open admissions in these two paragraphs. He pays homage to the spirit of democracy–the idea that the people are, at least in theory, self-governing. But he claims that for the ostensible democracy to function, people must agree and if people are to agree, they must share similar “habits and opinions.” And, to accomplish this, the people must be manipulated into sharing values and beliefs.
There are more volumes in the Sekret Machines corpus that I have not yet read. Therefore, I will refrain from speculating here about the ends to which the Gnostic propaganda in volume one is directed. However, I think it’s clear, based on the information I’ve compiled in this post, that Gnostic propaganda is precisely what Sekret Machines: Gods is. I can speculate, to a degree, as to why.
As I’ve argued to one extent or another in nearly every post I’ve published so far: politics is downstream of religion and metaphysics. Your beliefs about the ontological nature of the kosmos will to some extent determine your philosophical and theoretical approach to politics. And your philosophical and theoretical approach to politics will to some extent determine the types and kinds of policies you’re willing to tolerate.
Luis Elizondo said he left DeLonge’s To The Stars because DeLonge is focused on entertainment. Elizondo said so much more in that statement than he probably realizes. Yes, DeLonge’s task is entertainment. And how, I would ask, do the majority of Americans derive–to use Bernays’ phrasing–their “organized habits and opinions?”
The answer, of course, is entertainment.
Another way of looking at it is using Harold Lasswell’s communication model, which asks: “who says what, in which channel, to whom, with what effect?” On the surface, Tom DeLonge is an entertainer merely entertaining his audiences. But my argument here is that Tom DeLonge is not the primary communicator in Sekret Machines. The primary communicator is the American NatSec/intelligence community. Who is saying that Gnosticism is a credible, if not the correct, interpretation of UFO phenomenon, to the American people through the channel/medium of entertainment.
The question is, to what effect?
Sekret Machines is no doubt a piece of propaganda. Again, to what end, I do not yet know. It certainly encourages a Gnostic worldview and, through it, encourages an inaccurate view of God. It also encourages an original cosmic ontology of chaos. This point is so important that I wrote the following in my notes while reading Sekret Machines: Gods:
*** “The Ontology of Chaos and Political Philosophy.”
Thesis: One’s ontology of chaos is determinative in some sense of their political philosophyFrom notes made while reading Sekret Machines: Gods
The timing of Sekret Machines, when UFO disclosure is a legitimate news story, when government agencies are admitting to the reality of UFO phenomena, is interesting. Chris Mellon, quoted above, claimed he left TTS because it had succeeded in its mission to get the issue in front of the public and the government through credible media sources, like the New York Times. But it isn’t just another UFO disclosure advocacy group. It is advocating for a specific interpretation of that phenomenon–a religious one. It also boasts a back office that’s soaked in American intelligence connections, which suggests that this religious explanation is favored among some in intelligence.
More to the point in reference to the ontology of chaos: If one sees the basic ontology of the world as ordered, then one’s politics will be restorative and therefore more in line with ideas like conservatism, classical liberalism, and libertarianism. If, on the other hand, one sees the basic ontology of the world as chaotic, then one sees the world and its contents as something to be conquered, not restored. One is therefore more likely to be progressive and tolerant of more totalitarian, authoritarian, and intrusive political philosophies. Put into Bernays’ terms, one is more likely to agree with him that propaganda is necessary to ensure the smooth functioning of democratic society because, left alone, the world is chaos.
This leads to a speculative hypothesis: Elements in the NatSec/intelligence communities are interested in promoting a Gnostic worldview, with an originalist ontology of chaos, because people who accept such a worldview are more likely to accept greater degrees of government control. We shouldn’t forget that CIA, NSA, and DOD are masters of propaganda. It is naïve and dangerous to think that they restrict their efforts to foreign countries.
I’ll leave any further analysis for after I’ve read more of the Sekret Machines works.
DeLonge, Tom and Peter Levenda. 2016. Gods, Man, & War, Volume I: Sekret Machines: Gods. Encinitas, CA: To The Stars.
Sarna, Nahum M. 1966. Understanding Genesis: The World of the Bible in Light of History. New York: Schocken Books.