Lee Blanchard and Bucky Bleichert are former boxers-turned-cops in 1940s Los Angeles and, when an aspiring young actress turns up dead, Blanchard and Bleichert must grapple with corruption, narcissism, stag films and family madness as they pursue the killer.
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In this podcast we delve into the many signs and symbols in the biggest films covered in the book. From Blade Runner to Labyrinth to E.T., we survey social engineering, Conspiracy Theory, Hollywood CIA, The...
“A film is a ribbon of dreams. The camera is much more than a recording apparatus; it is a medium via which messages reach us from another world that is not ours and that brings us to the heart of a great secret. Here magic begins.” – Orson Welles
Damn this chap Dyer! If only he had just put that Welles quote in his text somewhere, I could have appropriated it as the epigraph for my own forthcoming collection of film essays. But no, he had to go and use it himself! We hates him forever!
In Esoteric Hollywood, Jay Dyer has “has compiled his most read essays, combining philosophy, comparative religion, symbolism and geopolitics and their connections to film,” and now he “invites the reader to consider the existential experience of the various films chosen and how, though it may seem counterintuitive, fictional films can present more ‘reality’ than mainstream media.”
Now, as David Lynch might say, the words here are not what then seem. You might skim over this paragraph in the first section, “Film as Ritual,” and think he’s talking about “the various films chosen” in the book, but actually he’s talking about the book itself, as we can see if we read the immediately following two lines carefully:
Cryptography and cyphers have, for millennia, encoded hidden messages in many forms, and so it will be with this book. Think of it as a hidden message that is intended to be understood, but not immediately apparent. . . . Thus, the reader will travel with me on a mental journey into the psychosphere, understand the semiotic system I utilize, and in turn be able to interpret films in a deeper, esoteric sense on their own.
The message isn’t in the films, it’s in the book. The message is always hidden in plain sight, the method is always revealed.
Before getting to the message, a little background is needed. Leaning on Eliade, Dyer correctly posits that:
Space-age man is just as “religious,” if not more so, than ignorant, savage ancient man. The difference emerges as merely one of form and medium, not substance, and his new temple is wherever the television screen or theater feeds him his new narrative by which to read his world . . . The liturgical icon of old has now become the moving icon of vivacious info-babe, the holy mothers of Channel 5 Monastery.
So far so good. But, all is not well in our groovy, twenty-first century “global village.”
Unfortunately, our new gods do not always issue messages of hope and salvation. Our devas are very much gods of wrath and vengeance, inflicting upon the mass psyche a continual barrage of spells and incantations geared toward confusion and hysteria.
That bit about “gods of wrath and vengeance” will prove to be pretty ironic, but more anon. For now, things are even worse:
Few are those concerned with the virus of programmed liturgical psychodrama their magical mirror screens enchant them with, as they are lulled under the vodoun spell of the zombie.
But aren’t zombies kinda cool? Aha, that’s exactly what They want you to believe! In reality,
[t]he zombie is under the spell that death is life, that parasitism will grant power, that sex is death, when in reality zombies are death feeding on their own death, the fullest blossoming of the covenant of death, which is self-destruction. . . . The iconography of the screen is the crafted narrative and mythology of the establishment’s choosing.
And needless to say, that narrative is self-aggrandizement:
The “secret society” of priests exercise their control of the tribe . . . with the very same ritual psychodrama the mass media mavens of our day utilize, only our ascended Hollywood hegumen are more technologically sophisticated.
For them, the wires and waves of electrical signals are currents are the medium for their message, and the medium’s message is the medium – to further its own existence as the source of meaning thought its faithful presentation of its own mystagogical psychodrama.
Modern man is far from being irreligious, even in our science-driven era. He has, as Michel Foucault said, simply changed his old priests and gods for new ones, and in Esoteric Hollywood, I will decipher how this has been done.
In Part One, “Hollywood Babylon and Kubrick,” Dyer starts, in Chapter One, “The Occult Empire,” to put some flesh on the zombies. Hollywood has been aptly compared to Babylon, since “[t]he holy sites and rites of Hollywood are not the altars of mainstream religion, but another ancient religion, ultimately summed up in the epithet of the ancient mysteries.”
And who are the new priests?
The wizards behind the curtain of Hollywood are drab old studio executives nowadays working with the intelligence agencies, calling the shots for occulted reasons, for the purpose of mesmerizing the Dorothy-like populace of America.
Dyer then draws a consequence that may not be obvious:
The Hollywood magical city of Oz doesn’t exist, in fact, and is instead a place where reality comes closer to the film 8mm. . . . Holly-Oz is where naïve princesses go to become whores or end up in porn, like Betty/Diane in Mulholland Drive, and after they’re used up, the system tosses them away as refuse or kills them like so many stars and starlets who have been “suicided” or sacrificed to the system. . . . “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul?” (Mark 8:36).
The reader should note that the psychodramas now have a name, and a direct historical reference: the ancient Mysteries; and the warning comes from conventional Judeo-Christian religion, for which the ur-Gospel of Mark  serves as a synecdoche.
What we have here, then, is not so much a book of film analysis as another instance of the millennial-long struggle between what might be called the religious, or specifically Judeo-Christian, mentality, and the Hermetic, gnostic, or (in the Greek context) heroic (Heracles) or Titanic (Prometheus) mentality. As Evola says, there are
[m]yths in which there are heroes who confront the tree, and divine natures (in the Bible, God himself is hypostasized) that defend it and impede access to it. And the result, then, is a battle variously interpreted, according to the traditions.
There is a double possibility: in one case the tree is conceived as a temptation, which leads to ruin and damnation for anyone who succumbs to it; in the other, it is conceived as an object of possible conquest which, after dealing with the dragons or divine beings defending it, transforms the darer into a god and sometimes transfers the attributes of divinity or immortality from one race to another.
A review is not the place to decide, or even detail, such a long and complex ideological dispute. It should be noted, though, that Dyer makes no real attempt to make his position explicit or to argue for it. Occasionally, he will simply note that the other view is “stupid.” When he does deign to argue, the arguments are rather embarrassingly jejune, especially for someone claiming to have a bachelor’s degree in philosophy. For example, at one point he simply sneers that all this is “solipsism,” which is the sort of faux-profound point I like to imagine a Plato or Hegel or Blake, even, responding to with, “Gosh, I never thought of that! Thanks so much for bringing that to my attention!”
This Evangelical perspective informs – or distorts – the cinematic analyses on hand, but after all they are merely the window-dressing to attract the readers who will absorb the Abrahamic message.
This distortion occurs in two ways, or areas, which might best be outlined by first contrasting my own perspective. If the Hermetic path is true, in the (forgive me, Heidegger) sense of giving an accurate reflection of reality, then it is a body of doctrine, a science, if you will, that one can understand, or not; and Dyer often doesn’t.
In my own analyses, I have emphasized the contrast of the circle, symbolic of the senseless repetition of phenomenal reality (samsara), and the spiral, in which one casts off ones karma or fate (a process I call “passing the buck”) and instead of returning, ascends to the next level, the Turn of the Cosmic Screw.
Originating in the Pythagorean obsession with circles, which, as we have had occasion to mention in various contexts, is the pseudo-symbol of the circle, horizontal enslavement to the material world, reincarnation, “The Path of the Fathers,” substituted by the Counter-Initiation for the dear, the blessed Spiral, symbol of vertical Liberation, “The Path of the Gods.” As Alain Daniélou expresses it:
The fifths [in an acoustically valid or Traditional system] form a spiral whose sounds, coiled around themselves, can never meet. For us, this limitless spiral can be the joint in the center of the world, the narrow gate that will allow us to escape from the appearance of a closed universe, to travel in other worlds and explore their secrets.
As the great twentieth-century mystic, Neville, puts it:
Without the resurrection, you would know infinite circuitry, repeating the same states over and over again. But, after moving around the circle unnumbered times, the perfect image is formed, removing you from the circle to enter a spiral and move up as the person who created it all.
Throughout, Dyer confuses spiral with circle; for example: “The spiral has the significance here [Vertigo] of alerting the viewer that we are trapped.” And quoting his fellow Christian symbologist, Michael A. Hoffman II: “The resulting ‘evolutionary being’ [in 2001] was revealed to be . . . a homunculus out of the shadows . . . guardian deity of alchemical miscegenation, and entity beyond the spiral of Nature.”
Which is true, except that since Dyer thinks spirals are circles, he interprets this “spiral” to be an instance of the Circle of Eternal Return (Nietzsche, of course), and not a spiral evolutionary advance. But as a Judeo-Christian, Dyer must (deliberately?) confuse the circle and the spiral, seeing both as symbols of Evil: “The spiral [of Babylonian occult mind control] goes even deeper.”
This isn’t entirely pedantic, as, I think, it leads to his Judeo-Christian distortion of the Hermetic path. Lacking the concept of the spiral, Dyer thinks the path of “evolution” is actually just a big, dumb circle and the idea of transcendence is a sneaky-snaky, Satanic siren song leading not to promised freedom and eternal perfection, but to enslavement and death.
Instead of following our Titanic destiny, we should just be nice goyim and bow down to our Lord and Master, the alien space god JHVH-1, who may, out of his inscrutable will, be nice to us and not burn us forever as we deserve. Amen.
By contrast, the Promethean perspective:
Reflection on modern science allows a return to the primordial. Not a return to the past, but a movement into the future from out of the primordial – a development wherein the vital force of evolution becomes consciously self-directing.
Apart from failing to accurately present the Hermetic view, there’s also the issue of where it comes from, if not from the real world itself.
If metaphysics is true, then its elements will occur naturally.
If metaphysics is a “stupid” fairy tale and Satanic snare, they must be put in there, and by somebody.
As Dyer says, “The iconography of the screen is the crafted narrative and mythology of the establishment’s choosing.”
As I began by somewhat solipsistically referencing my own film essays, I hope I may be forgiven for returning to the subject. In my own work, I have been far more interested in what isn’t planned in films, that which slips by when the writers and producers aren’t looking or when they try something and fail. That’s when the mask of Hollywood crap and propaganda slips and reality seeps out.
For example, Dyer traces a wonderful connection from The Black Dahlia (De Palma, 2006) to Lost Highway (Lynch, 1997) to The Big Sleep (Hawks, 1946), yet when introducing the latter, says, “Noir would not be a place one would expect esoteric symbolism.” Which may be literally true, but that’s exactly why it can be a fertile field for it – no one’s looking.
Moreover, Dyer needs to explain who put it there, and that’s where we veer off into Conspiracy Land. Here again, Dyer eschews argument and relies on insinuation, changing his putative actors as suits his purpose. As near as I can tell, they comprise an ever-expanding circle [or spiral?!] somewhat like this:
Cigar-chomping Hollywood execs, behind whom are
Various government and intelligence entities, behind whom are
Global elites, of the money and power sort, behind whom are
It’s clear that the categories are somewhat porous, with people moving from one to another; Dyer is always happy to find a Fleming, for example, move from intel to writing movie scripts, or a Crowley moving from occult leader to secret agent, and one might easily imagine someone moving through all four sectors (Trump? Ahrnold?) either as a career path or as needed.
Nevertheless, the fourth ring is, by its very nature, somewhat amorphous, and Dyer occasionally hints that even those in the third ring are unaware of the occult powers they are playing around with; the Strauss-Kahns are just useful puppets of the Crowleys.
Anyway, the point is that while I love a good conspiracy story as much as anyone, and as a proponent of Feyerabend’s principle that “Anything Goes” when it comes to empirical investigation, I’m also (in addition to being a Natural Born Cheapskate) a Lazy Bastard, and my method has the advantage of simply not needing to work up any institutional backdrop, especially an occulted one. You may find that a convenience as well, or as always, your mileage may differ.
I might suggest an analogy with smoking in the movies. There’s a persistent notion that tobacco companies sponsored or bribed their way into movies and TV. And it does seem that far more smoking occurs on screens than ever occurred in real life. But whatever the dastardly efforts of the coffin nail industry, there’s a much simpler explanation: directors and screenwriters loved smoking, since it ate up time and also gave actors something to do with their hands.
A good example is Red Zone Cuba, which I’ve extensively analyzed elsewhere. The three main characters are two hobos and an escaped con, and all three smoke constantly, especially the escapee, even when in a Cuban jail. This is in spite of never showing any of the penniless three buying or even stealing a pack, to say nothing of the cartons that must be stowed away in their truck. Even the penultimate shot of the film informs us that the convict “ran all the way to Hell with a penny (dramatic pause) and a broken cigarette.”
1. Book cover: “Jay Dyer a writer and researcher from the Southern US with a B.A. in philosophy, his graduate work focused on the interplay of literary theory, espionage and philosophy. He is dedicated to investigating the deeper themes and messages found in our globalist pseudo-culture, illustrating the connections between philosophy, metaphysics, secret societies, Hollywood, psychological warfare and comparative religion. Jay is a regular contributor to the popular Intelligence Hub 21st Century Wire and the scholarly Soul of the East, as well as conducting numerous interviews with experts in fields ranging from espionage to history to economics. Jay’s work has appeared on the web’s top alternative media outlets: Activist Post,Red Ice, Waking Times, Rense, Icke and Infowars, as well as appearing on the Alex Jones Show. Jay has broken national and international news, numerous viral alt news stories, as well as surpassing 1 million views in its first 4 years.”
2. Op. cit.
3. Thus, the medium, as Marshall McLuhan said, is the message. In Videodrome (1983), David Cronenberg’s homage to fellow Canadian McLuhan (and starring future Trump supporter James Woods), the point is not the snuff films being broadcast but that the Videodrome signal causes brain tumors and hallucinations (or are they?). As the McLuhan character, Brian O’Blivion, says, “The battle for the mind of North America will be fought in the video arena: the Videodrome. The television screen is the retina of the mind’s eye. Therefore, the television screen is part of the physical structure of the brain. Therefore, whatever appears on the television screen emerges as raw experience for those who watch it. Therefore, television is reality, and reality is less than television.”
4. The conjunction of info-babes and monasteries recalls Videodrome’s Nicky (Deborah Harry), a TV psychologist who later turns up among the robed-and-hooded torture masters of the Videodrome.
5. The choice of Mark is rich with irony, since Mark seems to preserve ancient Mystery traditions associated with the Jesus movement. What would Dyer make of a modern film featuring, as Mark’s account of the arrest of Jesus does, a youth alone with Jesus, clothed only in a sheet which he loses as he runs away nekkid? See Morton Smith, Clement of Alexandria and a Secret Gospel of Mark (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1973). In any event, “It is certainly possible to read Mark, even in the canonical text, as containing doctrines ascribed notoriously to the Gnostic Cerinthus and to the Ebionites, such as the adoption of Jesus as God’s son as of the Jordan baptism, when an angelic entry entered into him; and the substitution of Simon for Jesus on the cross of Golgotha.” The Human Bible New Testament; translated and introduced by Robert M. Price (Cranford, NJ: American Atheist Press, 2014); reviewed here.
6. One can fairly sense Dyer rubbing his hands together with glee as he intones that “Cooper’s curiosity and desire for knowledge of the beyond [in Twin Peaks] . . . lead to his demise [just like] Fred Madison in Lost Highway.” Serves him right, the sinner!
8. By contrast, the Alt Right has recently been graced with a detailed, closely argued and profoundly meditated account of the other side in Jason Reza Jorjani’s Prometheus and Atlas (London: Arktos, 2016).
9. I myself have a Master’s degree . . . in Science!
10. It’s like when the SJW says, “But not every immigrant is bad” or “I know a black engineer.” Wow, your training in mathematical logic has taught you that one counterexample refutes a general proposition, and I never imagined a black engineer or Mexican non-rapist!
11. As Jason Reza Jorjani notes, Tricksters from Hermes to Barnum must add a little bit of truth to make their spiels successful. Op. cit., Introduction.
14. Oops! “Another key thing to note is that people in these circles often refer to nature with a capital “N.” For example, as Francis Parker Yockey does in Imperium, as does Hitler in Chapter Two of Mein Kampf, for example, and David Duke in his junk. “This is not by accident, in my estimation. It is done because it is a specific rejection of the God of Mt. Sinai – the one true God, and a deifying of nature itself, as Devi makes clear.” Dyer, “The Satanic Nature of Nazism,” here.
15. “[T]he oligarchical plan . . . is not to heal man, but rather to end man.” Dyer’s view of the Hermetic tradition is dramatized in Night of the Blood Beast (Gene Corman, 1958): “An astronaut crash lands back on Earth and apparently dies in the wreckage. His body does not deteriorate however, as he is being used as a breeding ground for an alien race of creatures whose ultimate goal is to assimilate our minds into theirs by killing us, eating our brains, and assimilating all the knowledge and experiences and personality contained therein into themselves. The alien creature thinks that he’s going to save humanity and give us immortality by doing this, but our heroes have other ideas. Will they be able to stop the creatures plan before it managed to create enough offspring to wipe out the whole human race? . . . This story had a very interesting aspect to it, in that we’re left wondering if the creature really is evil, or if it’s actually benevolent and just misunderstood.” B-Movie Central, here.
16. “The ‘infinite demand’ of these finite gods, namely Prometheus and Atlas, disclose the partisans of Revelation as enemy combatants loyal to our would-be slave drivers. The specters of Technoscience drive us on in rebellion against the One True God, with a will to liberate the Earth from those who are content to be His slaves, and who resentfully endeavor to enslave the alpine eagles of the Earth.” Jorjani, op. cit., Introduction fine. By contrast, Thomas Mann, who devoted four thick volumes to retelling the story of Joseph and his brothers, no doubt intends to draw the same moral as Dyer does from his fictional biography of Adrian Leverkühn, who dares to live boldly (Leverkuhn) only to have his meteoric career end, like Nietzsche’s, in syphilitic collapse.
17. Prometheus and Atlas, op. cit., Chapter Six, “The Occultation of Supernature.”
18. Henry: “My philosophy: metaphysics. What is metaphysics? A metaphysician doesn’t believe you’re dead when you die.” Mike Nelson: “So, he’s not much good at an accident.” MST3k, Episode 603, The Dead Talk Back.
19. “There appears to be an archaic force that projects an inexhaustible variety of mythic symbols onto nature, irresistibly framing the world in terms of meaningful relationships. . . . The incomprehensible is turned into what is most firm; it becomes a ‘vault’ or ‘dome’ shielding man from the abyss of meaningless absurdity.” Prometheus and Atlas, op. cit., Chapter One.
20. “Inspector Clay’s dead . . . murdered . . . and somebody’s responsible!” Ed Wood, Bride of the Monster. Thus, the Church Fathers were well aware that the dying and rising God was a common myth, but insisted not that this showed it was a true, general metaphysical symbol, but, being committed to belief in one and only one Christ, argued that Satan had planted these distortions long ago, so as to confuse the pagans. He later did the same thing with those fake dinosaur bones.
21. “Back in my own house on the sixth floor of the Cahuenga Building I went through my regular double play with the morning mail. Mail slot to desk to wastebasket, Tinker to Evers to Chance.” Raymond Chandler, The Long Goodbye (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1953).
26. “The expansion of our consciousness would be best served by allowing for an abiding tension between those conflicting fairy-tales or myths called ‘theories’ without rejecting any one of them simply because in certain situations a particular theory may have advantages over others, and allowing this tension to further proliferate theories that make new ‘facts’ possible.” Prometheus and Atlas, loc. cit.
27. Moreover, two can play the conspiracy game as well. In Prometheus and Atlas, Jorjani reduces the much-vaunted Christian “God” to a two-bit, yet rather sinister, UFO trickster – JHVH-1, as the Church of the Subgenius dubbed him. See Chapter Twelve, “Mercurial Hermeneutics.” No wonder Dyer will sneer at Project Blue Book. Always notice when a conspiracy theorist tells you “nothing to see here.”
28. One might note that focusing the reader’s attention on the location of mysterious “hidden forces” is also an effective way to keep their minds off developing any of those Promethean abilities; one might compare this with Jorjani’s account of how Descartes and Kant constructed entirely materialistic accounts of science precisely so as to occult the very existence of psychic powers and thus derail their general development, and preserving the “conservative religious faith in the dogmas of Abrahamic revelation.” See Prometheus and Atlas, op. cit., Chapters Three and Four. The sense of being trapped by occult forces beyond control or even identification is likely intended to correspond to the “sense of being trapped” felt by Cartesian dualists such as La Mettrie or De Sade, which led “straight to the madhouse of reactionary religious faith.”
29. At most, about forty percent of Americans were smokers, while it’s not uncommon to find films like Lost Continent, where literally everyone is constantly smoking. If you compare that to cellphone use, or PC ownership, or indoor plumbing, it’s clear the industry still had some room to grow before being wiped out after the Surgeon General’s report.
30. For a non-voluntary example, think of how much film has been used up watching characters dial rotary phones.
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