PsiOp Radio 81 – 090712 Farewell to Fortean John Keel w/guest Loren Coleman

12 07 2009
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And thanks to my friend Dr. Steven Mizrach for the following tribute…

Tribute to John Keel by Steven Mizrachhttp://www.fiu.edu/~mizrachs

If I were to say there were two people who most influenced my thinking on the UFO subject, it would be Jacques Vallee and John Keel. So much so I even wrote both of them letters of congratulation at one point.

They were of course very different in their approaches and backgrounds (one a French rationalist, the other an American adventure writer), and yet I would argue seemed to be concurring on five critical points.

1. That “the phenomenon” might be “ultra-terrestrial,” i.e. not so much originating from other planets, but possibly other dimensions of existence. That in fact it wasn’t really coming from “somewhere else” so much as something parallel to “here”. Maybe around us all the time but not normally apprehensible to our senses? Keel sometimes liked to say “the phenomenon is much a part of our planet as the weather”.

2. That “the phenomenon” had historical roots deeper than 1947. The “flying saucer” era may have begun with Kenneth Arnold in 1947, but things that were called different things in earlier epochs, such as Mystery Airships, or Foo Fighters, or Ghost Rockets, or just Strange Stuff in the Sky, might have been earlier manifestations. In fact, Keel was so adamant on this that he devoted himself to debunking the “Roswell” obsession of many of his peers, insisting that the Roswell incident was a Japanese fugu bomb balloon.

3. That “the phenomenon” seemed to respond to peoples’ beliefs. Keel always cautioned people that “Belief is the Enemy”. Certainly, it’s generally a good admonition in general, given the damage dogmatism, fanaticism, and fundamentalism cause, in general. But Keel was speaking about what seemed to be its “adaptive” nature, that it molded itself to peoples’ expectations. Vallee suggested the same thing, except I think he leaned more generally to the “Magonia” school that peoples’ perceptions were molded by their culture, which is why medieval people seeing the same thing as modern people called it angels, whereas we call it spaceships.

Basically, I would say that, each essentially said, be careful in approaching the subject with too many a priori expectations, beliefs, and assumptions. Which again, if you think about it, is good general advice.

4. That one should be cautious of the UFOlogical “establishment”. Keel in response to my letter to him sent one of his pamphlets lampooning the “UFO people”. He said they had a diet too heavy in science fiction and everything was always being force-clawed into alien technology explanations. They should look more at the history of religious apparitions, mythology, faeries, and folklore and realize they weren’t dealing with something new. Vallee often said the same thing. So did Carl Jung, way back in the 50s.

5. That the phenomenon was part of something that could be considered a “control system”. Of course, I was always fascinated most of all by this subject. “Control” for what purpose? Forteans have always danced around this subject ever since Charles Fort opined in his tomes “We are property”. Vallee hinted that the control was more or less benevolent, perhaps for the betterment of our evolution. Keel was always more pessimistic. He saw manipulation. I think he was at his most ascerbic in books like Disneyland of the Gods or the Eighth Tower. Keel liked to discuss how the ancient gods seemed to manipulate human beings, pretty much treat us like cattle, serfs, puppets. He didn’t see the situation improving now that our new gods were the Ashtar Command and the Space Brothers.

I had always loved Keel’s book The Mothman Prophecies. I can’t really say why. Maybe Mothman was just a figment of peoples’ imagination, or just some undiscovered cryptid. But there was too much else WEIRD going on in Point Pleasant, a “high strangeness” for a year or so that went beyond a mere cryptid invasion. Indrid Cold, whatever/whoever he was, was no cryptid. He also didn’t seem like a man from outer space, either. Maybe he was a god, or a spirit, or a daeva, or something else, but as Keel often commented, he seemed trapped by fate, by time, in a different way from us (since he didn’t seem to live in linear time), but still. Not unlike what the Buddha once said about the Hindu gods.

When the movie Mothman Prophecies came out, I expected to be disappointed. I really did not think a Hollywood film could capture the “feel” of the book. And although I thought the film did some fascinating things with regard to poetic license (like splitting Keel into two persons, the naive John Keel played by Buddhist Richard Gere who must be “initiated” by Alexander Leek (Keel backwards) to understand it all), I actually felt in many ways it did. Particularly with regard to the nature of Indrid Cold.

“Alexander Leek” in that movie gives an explanation of how Keel saw “ultra-terrestrials” like Indrid Cold in a very chilling, captivating way. “Leek” tells “Keel” (Gere) that beings like Cold might well be able to see the future, because they aren’t exactly in the same space-time continuum as us. However, that doesn’t make them omnipotent, or omniscient, far from it. Like “Leek” explains — perhaps a window washer on the 14th floor of a building can see a car crash blocks away that we can’t. He knows things before we do, because he has a “higher” or better vantage point. (That view always made me think of the hyperspheres in the novel Flatland.) However, that doesn’t mean he can see everywhere, or everywhen. It hardly makes the window washer worthy of believing everything he says, just because his vantage point is a bit improved.

But more importantly, Keel also felt that beings like “Cold” didn’t strike him as necessarily being benevolent or honest. Keel often commented on how Swedenborg told other spiritualists to dialogue with the spirits, but not to trust everything they said, just because they were dead. Because, frankly, said Swedenborg, for whatever reasons of their own, they frequently lied. Keel seemed to hint that beings like “Cold” might use their slightly better vantage point to manipulate us and he frequently hinted about how various “contactees” were inevitably “used” by such beings.

The bottom line is, Keel’s fundamental message was one of skepticism, or zeteticism, if you prefer. That when being led down the garden path by the latest channeled alien intelligence du jour, as an American politician once said, “trust, but verify”.

I think that’s a good adage to live by, whether it’s all tosh in general, or like Keel, you suspect that “U.T.”s don’t necessarily have to have our best interests at heart.

Goodbye John Keel. I understand you died lonely and isolated, but that’s the way many prophets in their own country and Cassandras have to die. In the movie Mothman Prophecies, Laura Linney tells your alter ego Richard Gere that his wife Debra Messing may be on the other side, but “wherever she is, I bet she’s nowhere near Indrid Cold.” I hope the same is true of you.

Dr. Steven Mizrach

Adjunct Professor, Anthropology, FIU


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8 responses to “PsiOp Radio 81 – 090712 Farewell to Fortean John Keel w/guest Loren Coleman”

14 07 2009
Cryptomundo » More Keel Tributes (02:09:08) :

[…] Radio 81 – 090712 “Farewell to Fortean John Keel” with host SMiles Lewis and guest Loren […]

18 07 2009
PsiOp Radio » PsiOp Radio 81 - 090712 (12:58:51) :

[…] Tribute to John Keel by Steven Mizrach http://www.fiu.edu/~mizrachs […]

18 07 2009
PsiOp Radio » PsiOp Radio Sunday Night with guest CyberFortean Dr. Steven Mizrach (14:32:29) :

[…] Tribute to John Keel by Steven Mizrach http://www.fiu.edu/~mizrachs Share and Enjoy: […]

18 07 2009
Anomaly Radio » Article » PsiOp Radio Sunday Night with guest CyberFortean Dr. Steven Mizrach (14:43:46) :

[…] Tribute to John Keel by Steven Mizrach http://www.fiu.edu/~mizrachs Share and Enjoy: […]

18 07 2009
PsiOp Radio » PsiOp Radio 82 - CyberFortean guest Dr. Steven Mizrach (15:11:47) :

[…] Tribute to John Keel by Steven Mizrach http://www.fiu.edu/~mizrachs […]

18 07 2009
18 07 2009
26 07 2009
Anomaly Magazine » Article » Video of the Week - PsiOp Radio’s Farewell to John Keel with Guest Loren Coleman (00:33:21) :

[…] SMiles Lewis and Loren Coleman discuss the life and work of John Keel on the July 12, 2009 broadcast of PsiOp Radio. […]