Category Archives: Carl Sagan

Contact (1997)

Generally speaking, cinematic science fiction goes one of two ways. Either it goes after big ideas and weighty philosophical questions or it goes after CGI mayhem and hot chicks in body suits. Sometimes it succeeds at both, but more often than not, a science fiction film falls into one of these two camps. Robert Zemeckis’ 1997 adaptation of the famous Carl Sagan novel, Contact, is unequivocally a Big Ideas sci-fi film which manages to pack a lot of meaty content into a popcorn blockbuster presentation. Though it does boast its own spin on the legendary Stargate scene from 2001: A Space Odyssey in the final act, the film is propelled almost exclusively by solid performances and a fairly robust dramatic clash between the forces of scientific materialism and religious belief. No Hollywood sci-fi film comes without an agenda or esoteric symbolism and the various ways it smuggles in its messaging is especially sly. Contact is somewhat more charitable about theism and the entire realm of metaphysics than you’ll find in just about anything secular these days, but ultimately, it is itself a work of scientistic hermetic theology. More specifically, Contact is a very clever piece of propaganda which promotes the theosophical ideas of HP Blavatsky, Alice Bailey, UNESCO, and the Lucis Trust. Virtually every component of the NWO global agenda can be found in this movie.

Since the dawn of the Enlightenment, we’ve been taught that there is an irreconcilable schism between science and faith. In both the cinematic and literary form, the modern science fiction tradition is replete with stories which dramatize this conflict. With very few exceptions, the forces of scientific progress are in perpetual struggle against the forces of religious belief. The scientists are always portrayed as infinitely resourceful master technicians who are likeable, quick witted and can kick your ass if the story demands it. By contrast, the faithful are authoritarian dolts and mean spirited tight asses. Or as The Omega Man and The Chronicles of Riddick demonstrate, they are embodied as fanatical, vampiric cultists whose sole motivations are enslavement, conversion or conquest. In Contact’s case, the religious characters include a suicide bomber, a status seeking bureaucrat, a vacuous Catholic priest, and a cross between Jeff Spicoli and Joel Osteen. In other words, yet another mostly uncharitable Hollywood portrait of religious people. Since many of the prime movers of the sci-fi genre were themselves globalist technocrats, it makes sense that we’d eventually get a film which reconciles these seemingly opposing forces into an alchemical union to grease the wheels for the dystopian hellscape glorious global techno-utopia that awaits us.

On the surface, Contact presents itself as a sophisticated science fiction story which believably posits the possibility of contact with a higher extraterrestrial intelligence. Though Steven Spielberg has given us two different versions of the benign alien visitation in E.T. and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Contact is following in the footsteps of the loftier speculations of Arthur C. Clarke. Instead of a kid friendly vision of Crowleyan entities you find in Spielberg, you get to watch the whole world build a dimensional portal which does real science-y shit like “folding spacetime” but is really just the most expensive VR machine ever built.

Every character represents an archetypal ideal, and the heroine of the film, Ellie Arroway, is modeled after Hypatia, the Alexandrian martyr for science. For those who remember Cosmos, Sagan lavished mountains of praise on Hypatia in the series despite having no substantial record of achievement in the history of scientific thought. This choice makes sense when viewed through a gnostic lens because she represents the illuminated Sophia. Eleanor is Greek for “shining light” and Arroway is a play on Voltaire’s last name, Arouet. Her nickname is “Sparks” to signify the fact that she possesses Luciferian flame. Right away, Sagan is signaling a connection to gnosticism, Freemasonry, and by extension, the Hermetic roots of modern science. Played with heartfelt vigor by Jodie Foster, Ellie is a paragon of determination, grit, tenderness and the passionate thirst for discovery. She is the fearless seeker who is willing to persist in her quest for extraterrestrial life despite constant rejection and doubt from all corners. She remains steadfast in her convictions when facing the ridicule of the vapid, self-aggrandizing and conniving David Drumlin. She is also the radical empiricist who demands proof of God’s existence when probing the faith of Matthew McConaughey’s Palmer Joss.

This brings us to one of the film’s clever sleights of hand. Ellie is essentially a female version of David Hume or John Locke. In the wake of her second greatest tragedy, all her Catholic priest could offer was a few perfunctory words about how it was “God’s plan”. Pfft. Piss off, religion! She doesn’t believe in God because she needs empirical proof! Not mealy mouthed platitudes! Checkmate, conservatards! Bet you never heard THAT ONE before! Of course, this is by now an insufferably tiresome cliché. Materialism and empiricism is the bread and butter of the entire New Atheist community. For them, there is no valid knowledge outside the peer reviewed science or what can be observed in the realm of sense perception. But what the film doesn’t want you to notice is that this premise is in and of itself an article of faith! To Zemeckis’ credit, he makes this point explicit when Ellie is called upon to provide evidence that she actually did traverse the galaxy. There is no empirical evidence for the claim that all knowledge claims must be subject to empirical evidence. Furthermore, Ellie embodies a set of virtues. She is a heroic archetype. She’s tough. She’s conscientious. She’s honest. She’s principled. She’s loyal. She spends the bulk of the film asking people to believe in her quest for extraterrestrial life. The natural world has nothing to say about prescriptive ethics, duty, honor, integrity or morality. To ground an entire worldview in nothing more than a posture of skepticism and an unquestioned belief in the scientific method leads to either to nihilism or the substitution of politics for religious faith. Humans build and strengthen the architecture of morality through storytelling. We must ultimately subordinate ourselves to a hierarchy of authority which starts with the family and reaches its pinnacle in the nation state. Because we’re imperfect, we crave stories which simultaneously speak to our flawed nature yet appeal to our highest aspirations. The progressive worldview mostly rejects metaphysics. Subsequently, virtue must be smuggled through occult archetypes and esoteric metaphysics and Sagan has very skillfully achieved that in Ellie.

It is also noteworthy that Ellie is initially presented as a child with a dead mother. She eventually loses her father too, and this marks her as yet another Hollywood portrait of a child without parents whose life choices are informed in part to fulfill a longing borne of a prematurely severed connection and in part to insulate herself from the emotional vacuum at the core of her being. It’s little surprise that when she has her encounter with the “alien” species, it appears to her in the form that she would find most comforting: her father. Her life quest is wrapped in the rhetoric of scientific inquiry, but it reads as a sort of spiritual calling. The liberal democratic imperium needs atomized individuals pursuing life ambitions that advance scientific or material progress in one way or another. Preferably, it’s a pursuit untethered from family ties and religious tradition. This is entirely consistent with the professed agenda behind the mythology of extraterrestrial life as Arthur C. Clarke is on record stating in Brenda Denzler’s book, The Lure of the Edge.

Her counterpart, Palmer Joss, presents a clever subversion of expectations. Just as we saw in the relationship between Mulder and Scully in the X-Files, Contact reverses standard male and female attributes. Despite the numerous studies which demonstrate a higher degree of empathy and social skills in women, Sagan wrote Ellie as the hard bitten scientific realist consumed with a need for evidence. By contrast, Matthew McConaughey’s Palmer Joss is the believer. Granted, he’s an earthy crunchy academic theologian who’s influential enough to be anointed the spiritual advisor to the POTUS. His real world analogues are establishment cucks like Rick Warren and Tony Campolo. He represents a form of toothless Christianity that’s been opportunistically coopted by the establishment to help politicize the churches and lend moral authority to political agendas. Once again to Zemeckis’ credit, Joss lands a solid blow against the edifice of Ellie’s scientific materialism when he asks for proof that she loved her father. It’s the only cinematic moment of which I’m aware when a secular rationalist is left speechless by a theist.

Contact isn’t just an apologia for scientific materialism, but a work of occult theology. When Ellie presents the decryption primer to the Security Council, she insists that the civilization who sent the message had benign intentions because it was presented in the language of science and mathematics. Unlike the dumb religious retards who follow divine revelation, the machine plans were proof of a species who had harnessed the power of science to evolve beyond their primitive tendencies toward self-destruction. Here, Sagan and Zemeckis presume that unchecked technological progress all by itself is a virtue that will elevate and unite humanity. It’s exactly the kind of belief that’s promoted by UNESCO, the UN and their theological subsidiary, the Lucis Trust. They are trafficking occult teleology. As Palmer Joss rightfully pointed out as she made her pitch, what she received was a message emanating from a “booming voice from the sky”. Sagan substitutes three dimensional engineering schematics embedded in a digital black cube of Saturn for the Ten Commandments. She wants people to believe that the construction of the machine will only edify the human race. What atheists like Sagan conveniently ignore is the simple fact that fetishizing the scientific method doesn’t capture the imagination. What does animate human spirit is the possibility that our man made ambitions might unite the world and eventually bring us into contact with a higher intelligence.

Of course, this also means that we must also deify the corporate aristocracy behind the democratic imperium. As industrial mogul, S.R. Hadden, John Hurt is the Randian übermensch who funds Ellie’s ambitions, decrypts the extraterrestrial blueprints, and subcontracts with Japanese company to build a second machine. Without rich industrialists to bankroll these moonshot ideas, we will never achieve our globalist utopia, proles. Though he is portrayed as a sympathetic character, he is another spin on a Nimrod archetype. Zemeckis wants you to see him as a benevolent old coot but as his name suggests, he is a representation of the Assyrian despot, Esarhaddon. He is more accurately seen as a David Rockefeller or George Soros. He is among the wealthy capitalists who fund NGOs, populate academia with cultural Marxists, finance every conceivable fifth column organization and function as a de facto shadow government. Throughout the film, Hadden communicates to Ellie using the most sophisticated technology and possesses more intelligence about her than you would think a private citizen can access. When James Woods’ hardass conservative proposes the possibility that Hadden has perpetrated a hoax on the entire globe, your sympathies are already with Ellie, and by extension, Hadden. Tough shit, you dumb Alex Jones loving conspiratards. George Soros did nothing wrong. So shut it.

What’s most stunning about Contact is the degree to which it blurs the line between fiction and reality. Actual footage of Bill Clinton commenting on the Mars meteorite discovery in which he stresses the importance of ascertaining “facts” has been seamlessly inserted. Actual CNN anchors are “acting” as CNN anchors throughout the film commenting on a fictitious machine which opens wormholes. A news highlight discusses a fake group of religious fanatics committing mass suicide, and it just happens to mirror the actual mass suicide of the Heaven’s Gate cult just a few months before the film’s release. I guess it’s just a lucky coincidence that all these things happened in time for Contact’s release. All of which begs a key question. If “real” news outlets like CNN and real politicians who present themselves as the arbiters of truth are willingly inserting themselves into a fake story about a contact with an extraterrestrial intelligence, why shouldn’t we assume that the “reality” they’re presenting isn’t every bit as synthetic as Contact itself?

While I disagree with his interpretation, Germain Lussier points out the ubiquity of telecommunications devices in the film. The fact that our contact with one another is now being heavily mediated, refracted and distorted through electronic media suggests this was subtle predictive programming. The internet may have brought the whole world together in ways that were unimaginable to previous generations, but the degree to which it has been a salutary force is debatable at best and detrimental at worst. I suggest that this film is tipping us to the possibility that the space program is ultimately about building and enhancing global panopticism.

Speaking of fictitious machines, Contact is basing its technological speculations on special relativity, but if we actually think about how the machine was supposed to work, it doesn’t add up. Resembling the classical model of the atom we learned in grade school, the machine was comprised of several interlocking steel rings. Presumably, with enough acceleration, the rings would convert to mass and tear the fabric of spacetime. Not to get all Neil deGrasse Tyson, but there is no known material that could withstand that kind of energy let alone an energy source to power it. But this came from the mind of Carl Sagan. A scientific mind, right? I don’t mind leaps of imagination, but when you’re presenting a speculative machine that’s linked to a very specific theoretical model that is itself unproven and unobserved, how is this different from theistic belief? Isn’t it interesting that the IMDB trivia page indicates that Carl Sagan wanted to ensure the “science” was correct and the word is bracketed in quotation marks? Isn’t it interesting that this very same visual idea was recycled in Event Horizon and instead of uniting us with benign entities, the machine in that film opened a portal to hell? Why should we presume that a dimensional portal will bring us into contact with benevolent beings as Ellie so fervently insists?

After recovering from her VR journey to the center of the galaxy, Ellie finds herself in the position of having to defend the veracity of her experience before an incredulous government oversight committee lead by a relentless James Woods. Without evidence, Ellie is forced to ask the country to believe that she traversed light years and encountered a simulacrum of her father. You should also believe that an Einstein-Rosen Bridge is legitimate science despite the complete absence of empirical evidence. Is it any wonder that Anita Sarkeesian and Christine Blasey Ford were able to weaponize #BelieveWomen so easily? The cool and dispassionate pursuit of the facts doesn’t hold when religious icons are being violated.

Ellie’s vision amounts to her burning bush moment. In that brief encounter, she was filled with a revelation of the preciousness of life that was so profound, she felt compelled to spread the Gospel of Intergalactic Gnosis with the world. As she descends the Capitol building stairs/Mt. Sinai, she passes through the pillars of Boaz and Jachin, and we behold the throngs of New World Israelites gathered together to pay homage to our gnostic savior. Having crossed the abyss on the Kabbalistic tree of life, she has reconciled the sky and the earth and attained Enlightenment. Joss’ profession of solidarity with Ellie doesn’t just signify a romantic happy ending, it’s the alchemical synthesis of science with divinity just as HP Blavatsky taught in her writings. No longer do we have to cling to the divisive notion that science is at war with faith. Scientism is an article of faith, but now, we can make common cause with religious people as long as they’re promoting a One World State God and don’t get carried away with any of that Jesus shit.

As shows like Netflix’s Maniac demonstrate, Hollywood is pushing the public closer to the idea that pharmacologically enhanced VR is going to provide people with the transcendent experience unavailable in our mundane existence. Even pop culture figures like Tom Delonge are going to great lengths to mainstream the existence of UFOs. Burning Man already has a cosmic temple to prep us for the new Cosmic AI God. Grimes has already written the first transhuman cyberpunk pop anthem. Science fiction films which posit the possibility of alien intelligence are a key component of this agenda. And Ellie Arroway was certainly among the most indelible characters of the modern era to illuminate the path.


Carl Sagan, Scientism, and the Liberal post-Enlightenment Consensus

I was sent this quote by a friend, and as much as I’m inclined to agree, I think a more balanced perspective is in order. I still reserve a great deal of affection for Mr. Sagan, but he’s hardly the first to diagnose the decrepitude of mind and spirit that’s emblematic of the classically liberal, post-Enlightenment technocratic age.

John Henry Newman, Edwin Lawrence Godkin, Oswald Spengler and Alexis de Tocqueville were but a few people who also foresaw the American experiment headed towards this unfortunate state of affairs.

If we’re going to be fair minded, we need to redirect the critique back to the worldview espoused by Mr. Sagan. What you find in the writings of those who held a more traditionalist mindset was a warning that the dogmatic emphasis on materialism and scientism would necessarily result in a tendency toward technocratic despotism. It would necessarily result in people attributing moral transgression to objects (i.e. guns) or material privation (i.e. inequality). It would necessarily result in a pharmaceutical industry relating to people as bags of chemicals whose moods and performance can be optimized with drugs. It would necessarily result in people making endless appeals to political power in pursuit of an ever elusive notion of #EQUALITY. It would necessarily result in an education system which indoctrinates the idea that the highest virtue is to place all morality into the arena of politics and that some magical combination of bureaucracy and legislation will result in ever improving outcomes.

Regarding his subtle dig at those who are sympathetic to crystals, astrology or anything that falls under the broad umbrella of New Age mysticism or the Western esoteric tradition, the entire scientific tradition as we know it is more closely aligned with the Western esoteric tradition than it is the Christian worldview. Mind you, I’m not trying to say that Christians are hostile to science by default, but there’s an esoteric spiritual worldview that’s baked into a lot of the scientific worldview that goes mostly unacknowledged. I suggest that has more than a little to do with the longstanding antagonism we’ve been fed surrounding the Faith vs. Science dichotomy.

I’ll always have a soft spot for Carl Sagan, but he can’t have his scientistic cake and eat it too. Liberalism has been the default setting for at least the past couple centuries. We’re seeing it move towards its logical conclusion: global technocracy.

I don’t think you can make this critique in earnest without a willingness to reexamine the underlying presuppositions of the post-Enlightenment liberal consensus.