“The Ultimate Trip”: Stanley Kubrick, Stanford’s Saturn Cult, and Star Wars Counterculture (Part One)

The Ultimate Trip - 2001 A Space Odyssey 1968 New Media by Kultur Arts  Studios | Saatchi Art

“I tried to create a visual experience, one that bypasses verbalized pigeonholing and directly penetrates the subconscious with an emotional and philosophic content”-Stanley Kubrick on 2001

Introduction: Saturn Devours His Children

There is a conspiracy theory among some of the more diehard paranoids online that is usually referred to as “the Black Cube of Saturn.” According to an article “presented by” Vigilant Citizen, who may be described as a symbologist of the Pop Occult

“You might not know it, but the entire world has been worshiping Saturn for thousands of years. The cult has never stopped and its rites are still present to this day. Saturn, dubbed the “Lord of the Rings”, is the reason why we exchange rings at weddings or put halos on the heads of godly people… Before the Great Flood, Saturn was regarded by all mankind as the supreme god and ruler of the kings. Occult researchers affirm that Saturn ruled the kingdom of Atlantis and became the divine ancestor of all earthly patriarchs and kings… Before the Great Flood, Saturn was regarded by all mankind as the supreme god and ruler of the kings. Occult researchers affirm that Saturn ruled the kingdom of Atlantis and became the divine ancestor of all earthly patriarchs and kings.” 

Isaac Weishaupt, a researcher for Illuminati Watcher writes:

The ancient Romans worshipped the god Saturnus, who was the god of agriculture and time, and his reign was known as the time of Golden Age of peace and harmony. The Greek god that was the same as Saturnus was Cronus, the youngest of the Titans. The Carthaginian god Ba’al (or Moloch) was the same god, and devoured children (similar to Cronus who ate children)…

Saturn is often depicted as Baphomet and associated with Satan as a devourer of children. Some theorists claim that the Tree of Knowledge fruit was actually a reference to babies being eaten.”

Weishaupt also gives his opinion on the role of the Hermetic concept of “The Great Work” in the supposed Cult of Saturn and its relationship with “the Black Sun.” In his interpretation:

“The Great Work is the journey to be god-like and make something out of nothing. It is initiated with the first step being the alchemical Black Sun. The Black Sun is the first stage in the achievement of enlightenment or immortality, which is accomplished through the philosopher’s stone.

The philosopher’s stone is known for making lead into gold, and the planetary association of Saturn to metal is lead. The planetary association with the Sun is gold, so turning Saturn into the Sun is the alchemical process of the philosopher’s stone, based on metal transformation.

“The Illuminati are the older elites who will prey on the young (an analogy of the Baphomet devouring children). This allows the Illuminati to achieve their quest for the Golden Age by sacrificing the youth to the devil (aka the material world, aka Saturn) by making them pursue material goods and working a job in never ending servitude based on the masses desire for consumption.” 

(Sidenote: It isn’t clear if the Black Sun in its ostensible Saturn connection has any relationship with the Sonnenrad, an ancient symbol which was later appropriated by the Nazis and has recently become popular in Euro-American far right circles. However, I believe the fact that this symbol is now widely known as a “black sun” and the many instances of overlap with people usually associated with the Cult of Saturn and the eugenics movement is worth mentioning.)

As I said in my post about Travis Scott and Astroworld, I do not personally believe in the metaphysics of conspiracy theories such as the Cult of Saturn. But I do think it’s interesting to view these things as a gateway into the how the real structures of capitalism are understood on an ideological level by both the petit-bourgeoisie middle class and the bourgeoisie itself. When we get into the realm of “transhumanism”, it becomes pretty clear that much of the bourgeoisie earnestly have faith in certain things that, if they were presented in theological or occulted terms, would seem ridiculous. Likewise, I see no reason to believe that many of these individuals wouldn’t also dabble unironically in older, more literal forms of occultism or religion and understand their role in the world in those terms.

Indeed, when we look at the history of one particular subset of bourgeois and petit-bourgeois actors, who I will argue inspired the films of Stanley Kubrick, this will become apparent. 

Part 1: Kubrick, the Bourgeoisie and “The Saturn Cult” 

Both articles quoted above refer to Fraternitas Saturni (The Brotherhood of Saturn) a German occult organization which still exists today. Fraternitas Saturni was founded in the wake of the 1925 Weida Conference, organized to consolidate Aleister Crowley’s control over the Ordo Templi Orientis. Essentially, those who accepted Crowley’s influence over the OTO split from a larger contingent of occultists and, in 1928, formed the Fraternitas Saturni under the stewardship of Eugen Grosche, better known by the moniker Gregor A. Gregorius. Interestingly, the group made a conscious decision not have direct contact with Crowley, instead seeing him as an important teacher but not their leader.

Fraternitas Saturni broke away from Germany’s Pansophia Lodge, which meant cutting ties with influential German occultist Albin Grau. In addition to his qualifications in the world of occultism, Grau is known for producing and designing the look and feel of F.W. Murnau’s horror classic, Nosferatu. The history behind the production of Nosferatu is quite interesting:

“This film version of Bram Stoker’s popular novel Dracula was indebted to Albin Grau, an architect, artist, and significantly, an occultist (sounds about right). He’d been deeply affected by his service in the German army during World War I, a war that he later called a “cosmic vampire.” In fact, while promoting Nosferatu, the theatrical Grau submitted an article to film journal Bühne und Film recounting how he supposedly met a Serbian farmer who claimed his father had been a vampire, vanquished by a stake through the heart. This was meant to illustrate the war’s connection with a fearful, almost supernatural bloodlust.” 

Grau and his fellow filmmakers “also saw Nosferatu as symbolic of not only the war, but the Spanish flu epidemic that had hit Europe from 1918 to 1920–killing millions of people. The pale vampire with his horde of plague-carrying rats would have far deeper significance than a few onscreen chills.” Bram Stoker’s widow, Florence, tried to have Nosferatu wiped from the face of the Earth, as Grau had adapted her husband’s work without going through the proper copyright procedures. Luckily, enough cinemas reproduced the film stock that total liquidation was impossible.

Murnau was, “A cultured and somewhat frosty individual with a perfectionist streak.” By the age of 12, he’d already read books by Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Shakespeare and Ibsen. These two traits, along with Murnau’s later depiction of and collaboration with elite occult forces, are also present in the life and work of Stanley Kubrick.

At a young age, Kubrick read the fairytales of the Grimm brothers and many stories of Roman mythology. By age 12 Kubrick’s father had taught him how to play chess, an interest that became a trope in many of the director’s films, the production of which often involved Kubrick doing hundreds of takes and constantly changing the script. Kubrick’s final film, Eyes Wide Shut, was defined by its relationship to bizarre occult activities allegedly perfomed by the American bourgeoisie.

As Boys Drink Ink’s extensive review of Eyes Wide Shut points out: 

“Among Eyes Wide Shut’s many themes is an examination of ruling class decadence; capitalism’s designation of all things, even people, as objects to be bought, used, and discarded by the world’s wealthiest crooks. This includes alternately conspicuous and obscure allusions to the Freemasons, Skull and Bones, Scientology, the CIA, and other related agencies and secret projects, as connected to history, literature, occultism, and mythology.” 

The review references film critic Adrian Mack’s 2007 analysis of Eyes Wide Shut: 

“Mack observes that the opening shot shows Alice framed between Masonic pillars and in front of a window with the blinds drawn in the shape of a triangle—the pyramidal crest of the Freemasons. In this first few seconds, much is implied about the weighty concepts the movie explores; a naked woman’s body (with her back to us, so we can’t see her face) immediately objectified between visual symbols of one of the world’s oldest and most powerful secret societies of men. Later Bill is accosted on the street by a group of young men—some wearing “Yale” varsity jackets—who hurl homophobic slurs at him. Mack notes that Yale University is “the home of Skull and Bones, which is apparently bound by a circle of mutual, sexual blackmail…Given the history of Skull and Bones—born out of Yale, a school of the elite, and parent organization to the CIA—and its membership of men in positions of extreme power, Kubrick’s reference to Yale is surely no accident.” 

The Boys Drink Ink review also points to Scientology’s shadow over Eyes Wide Shut. Tom Cruise, the film’s star, is one of the most famous Scientologists in the history of the Church and at the time of filming so wasNicole Kidman, his co-star. However, this review fails to note that one of Kubrick’s daughters, Vivian Kubrick, converted to Scientology sometime in the 90s, possibly before the film went into production. As the Daily Beast reports: “Kubrick died the same year that film was released, in 1999. When his funeral was held in England, Katharina says that Vivian showed up with a Scientology member—presumably a “handler,” according to Scobee. The person sat on a bed, saying nothing, while Vivian complained of back pain that she said had been caused 10,000 years ago.” 

Scientology’s founder, L. Ron Hubbard, not only trained in the Navy as an intelligence officer, but later befriended Jack Parsons. Parsons was a famous rocket engineer who founded the federally funded Jet Propulsion Laboratory. He also lived a “double life” as a dedicated Thelemite who maintained personal contact with Aleister Crowley himself. Sara Northrup, Parsons then-girlfriend began sleeping with Hubbard while still living with Parsons (Northrup would eventually become Hubbard’s second wife). Parsons wrote to Crowley at the time:

“[Hubbard] is a gentleman; he has red hair, green eyes, is honest and intelligent, and we have become great friends. He moved in with me about two months ago, and although Betty and I are still friendly, she has transferred her sexual affection to Ron. Although he has no formal training in Magick, he has an extraordinary amount of experience and understanding in the field. From some of his experiences I deduced that he is in direct touch with some higher intelligence, possibly his Guardian Angel. He describes his Angel as a beautiful winged woman with red hair whom he calls the Empress and who has guided him through his life and saved him many times. He is the most Thelemic person I have ever met and is in complete accord with our own principles.” 

Historian Richard Spence claims to have found World War One files in the US Army’s Military Intelligence archives which concluded that Crowley was on the payroll of British intelligence. Crowley himself once wrote, “Investigation of spiritualism makes a capital-training ground for secret service work; one soon gets up to all the tricks.” 

If one focuses on the elements of Eyes Wide Shut which can be read as a criticism of capitalism, there is even a through line from Nosferatu. As Marx famously wrote: “Capital is dead labour, that, vampire-like, only lives by sucking living labour, and lives the more, the more labour it sucks.” Marx also wrote, “The prolongation of the working day beyond the limits of the natural day, into the night, only acts as a palliative. It quenches only in a slight degree the vampire thirst for the living blood of labour. To appropriate labour during all the 24 hours of the day is, therefore, the inherent tendency of capitalist production.” Vampirism is directly referenced one last time in Capital Vol. 1: 

It must be acknowledged that our labourer comes out of the process of production other than he entered. In the market he stood as owner of the commodity “labour-power” face to face with other owners of commodities, dealer against dealer. The contract by which he sold to the capitalist his labour-power proved, so to say, in black and white that he disposed of himself freely. The bargain concluded, it is discovered that he was no “free agent,” that the time for which he is free to sell his labour-power is the time for which he is forced to sell it, that in fact the vampire will not lose its hold on him “so long as there is a muscle, a nerve, a drop of blood to be exploited.”

That last line quotes Engels, who wrote of the “vampire property-holding class of England.”

Elsewhere in Capital, Marx writes of “the coining of children’s blood into capital.” Marx also refers to the English silk manufacturers of 1833, who “secured to itself special seigneurial rights over the children of the proletariat.” He condemns them as, “spinning silk 10 hours a day out of the blood of little children, who had to be placed upon stools for the performance of their work.” In this passage, there is even a description that nearly indicts the silk manufacturers for child sacrifice (and conjures images of cannibalism): “The children were slaughtered out-and-out for the sake of their delicate fingers, as in Southern Russia the horned cattle for the sake of their hide and tallow.” 

We can find Marx further develop these themes when he writes of the child labor employed in straw-plaiting and straw-hat making throughout England in the early 1860s: 

The children commence their instruction in straw-plaiting generally in their 4th, often between their 3rd and 4th year. Education, of course, they get none. The children themselves call the elementary schools, “natural schools,” to distinguish them from these blood-sucking institutions, in which they are kept at work simply to get through the task, generally 30 yards daily, prescribed by their half-starved mothers. These same mothers often make them work at home, after school is over, till 10, 11, and 12 o’clock at night. The straw cuts their mouths, with which they constantly moisten it, and their fingers.” 

Marx’s analys of the development of international credit under capitalism is also significant here:

“By the beginning of the 18th century the Dutch manufactures were far outstripped. Holland had ceased to be the nation preponderant in commerce and industry. One of its main lines of business, therefore, from 1701-1776, is the lending out of enormous amounts of capital, especially to its great rival England. The same thing is going on today between England and the United States. A great deal of capital, which appears today in the United States without any certificate of birth, was yesterday, in England, the capitalised blood of children.”

These passages bring to mind Kubrick’s other film about bourgeois decadence and occult sex ritual, The Shining.

But before we delve too deep into Kubrick’s other work, consider that he actually intended Eyes Wide Shut as an immediate follow up to 2001: A Space Odyssey. He bought the rights to the novel Eyes is based on in 1968. In a strange twist, originally Kubrick considered making Eyes as a sex comedy starring Woody Allen. Allen, of course, unashamedly chased young girls for years and defended Roman Polanski and Harvey Weinstein. Later in his life, Allen was close friends with Epstein. As the Daily Beast puts it:

“It’s not clear when Allen and Epstein first crossed paths, though the two were longtime friends and neighbors on Manhattan’s Upper East Side for years. The director and his wife, Soon-Yi Previn, have been photographed a few times leaving the financier’s townhouse—including in September 2013, five years after Epstein pleaded guilty to child prostitution charges…

Around the same time, Epstein hosted another dinner at his New York home, where he introduced Allen to a connection at MIT. Joi Ito, former director of the MIT Media Lab, “met other influential individuals at meetings with Epstein, including Woody Allen, a senior executive at the Hyatt Corporation, and a former prime minister of Israel,” according to a report commissioned by the school on its ties to Epstein…

The duo also reportedly had another mutual friend: Allen’s former teenage mistress, model Christina Engelhardt, who was 16 when she began dating the director in 1976. Their secret relationship lasted eight years, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Engelhardt tells The Daily Beast that she worked as a personal assistant for Epstein in the early 1980s, back when he was “only a millionaire” and “wasn’t there yet” when it came to sex-trafficking underage girls. She says she told Epstein that she’d dated Allen, but that the two New Yorkers weren’t friendly yet…

Following Epstein’s suicide whilst awaiting trial on charges of sex-trafficking minors, New York Times scribe James B. Stewart detailed visiting Epstein’s Manhattan mansion in August 2018, and spotting the snapshots with Allen and [Bill] Clinton…”

Is it possible that Allen, who had just started to gain notoriety as a filmmaker when Kubrick released 2001, hadn’t yet made a name for himself as a pedophilic acquaintance of various Hollywood abusers? Sure, but we also have to consider Kubrick’s own suspicious history when it comes to the portrayal of children in his films along with external factors at play regarding child abuse during the production of his films. As will be discussed in Part 2 of this study, such things are most blatantly demonstrated by Kubrick’s adaptation of Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita. 

For now, it is Nabokov’s life which deserves consideration.

Nabokov was the descendant of an extremely elite family of Russians that traces its namesake to a 14th Century Tartar prince, “Nabok Murza.” His father was a prominent liberal statesman and leader of the Constitutional Democratic Party while Nabokov’s belonged to a wealthy, aristocratic family. Dmitry Nabokov, Vladimir’s paternal grandfather, was Russia’s Justice Minister during the reign of Alexander II while his grandmother was the Baltic-German Baroness Maria von Korff. In other words, the Nabokov family were precisely the bourgeois-aristocratic types the Russian underclasseslaunched a full scale assault upon during the October Revolution.

Vladimir’s cousin, Nicolas Nabokov, belonged to a family of landed Russian gentry who were forced to flee the revolution in 1918. Starting in 1951, Nicolas spent fifteen years as the Secretary General of the CIA’s Congress for Cultural Freedom, helping that institution disseminate anticommunist propaganda under the guise of radical liberal art, music, literature, and political theory. After a period teaching at various universities, Nicolas ended up at the Aspen Institute. In the decades since its founding, Aspen has been heavily garnered investment from a consortium of spooky organizations, including the Ford Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and, more recently, the Gates Foundation.

A Slate profile of Nabokov’s “disgusting brilliance” reveals that, “The only psychiatrist Nabokov could tolerate was Havelock Ellis, for whom “the individuality of each case is respected and catalogued in the same way that butterflies are carefully classified,” as one of Nabokov’s biographers has explained.” Havelock Ellis was a pioneer in the study of sex and also a social reformer who positioned himself as an early advocate for queer people towards the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century. Like many progressive liberals of his era, Ellis was also a eugenicist. He also become one of the first sexologists to seriously study pedophilia. 

A collection of letters between Edmund Wilson and Nabokov, edited by Simon Karlinsky, shows that Ellis’s work had a deep impact on how Nabokov conceived Lolita. Jasun Horsley summarizes:

“In 1948, Wilson sent Nabokov a copy of “Havelock Ellis’s Russian sex masterpiece,” and nine days later, Nabokov responded by writing: “I enjoyed the Russian’s love-life hugely. It is wonderfully funny.” In the footnotes, Karlinsky describes the 106-page “sex masterpiece” as an account of a young man, sexually initiated at the age of twelve, who in his thirties begins to seek out the favors of child prostitutes (from age eleven on up) in the Ukraine. Karlinsky quotes Nabokov’s memoir Speak, Memory:

Our innocence seems to me almost monstrous in the light of various confessions dating from the same years and cited by Havelock Ellis, which speak of tiny tots of every imaginable sex, who practice every Graeco-Roman sin, constantly and everywhere, from the Anglo-Saxon industrial centers to the Ukraine (from where an especially lascivious report by a land-owner is available).” (Karlinsky, University of California Press, 2001, p. 229.)”

(As a sidenote, while I appreciate Horsley’s research in these topics, he frames the culprit behind the massive culture of child and general sexual abuse as the result of “socialism” and has made statements that I consider transphobic. To be clear, I consider myself a Marxist and don’t endorse Horsley’s personal political interpretation of the information he deals with). 

In addition to these areas of study, Ellis was also among the first Westerners to experiment with psychedelic drugs. In 1896, Ellis published a paper detailing his 24 hour experience after consuming a mescaline drink brewed with peyote. He later gave specimens of the plant to W.B. Yeats, the famous Irish poet.

Yeats was a member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn at the same time as Aleister Crowley, who was also experimenting with mescaline. Yeats and Ellis were both members of the British Eugenics Society, of which Julian Huxley would eventually become president. Julian’s brother is none-other than Aldous Huxley, author of Brave New World and another famous early user of mescaline. Ellis was also a prominent member of the Fabian Society. 

The Fabian Society has a complex history, but to give you an idea of what it stood for, it exists today as little more than a social democratic think tank. It was started by a group of Victorian liberal intellectuals who advocated a gradualist approach to what they considered to be socialism. Like many “progressive” bourgeois societies of the time, the Fabians were definitively pro-eugenics. In addition to poindexters, the Fabian Society was also home to several proto-hippies who dabbled in the occult. One Fabian, Annie Besant, later became the leader of the Theosophical Society.

Theosophy is an occult discipline was established by Helena Blavatsky, whose complex ideas can be roughly summarized thus: “There are learned beings in other realms, sometimes called ‘Ascended Masters’, who have guided the spiritual and physical evolution of the human species since the beginning, and seeking direct or indirect contact with them to gain insight as to how to assist in this process should be the primary goal of occult practice.” If this sounds familiar, it’s because Crowley appropriated this framework for his own agenda and its more or less taken as gospel in the modern New Age movement.

While Blavatsky didn’t live to see the October Revolution, she was yet another figure who is descended from the Russian aristocracy. Both of her parents were children of Russian nobility and shared blood with the German aristocracy. Her great-grandfather was even a Huguenot nobleman who, after fleeing to Russia from France, served in the court of Catherine the Great. In other words, much like Nabokov’s, Blavatsky’s ideas were in no way shaped by or concerned with the material reality of life as a worker or peasant.

After Blavatsky’s death in 1891, the Theosophical Society split, with the majority of the membership accepting Besant’s leadership. Besant is yet another descendant of the European upper crust who became involved in a myriad of political, social, and religious movements toward the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th Century. At one time, Besant was even involved with the more Marxist Social Democratic Federation. She became very close to George Bernard Shaw, whose sponsorship resulted in Besant’s officially joining the Fabian Society.

Besant increasingly aligned with the Fabians liberalism over the more radical and materialist SDF. She later helped start the Malthusian League, which lobbied for birth control and abortion on the grounds that overpopulation was a predominant cause of misery for the British working class. In fact, the “Malthusian belts” worn by all women in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World were directly inspired by Besant’s League. There isn’t room in this essay to give a full explanation of their arguments, but it should be noted that Malthusianism and “neo-Malthusianism” was a position opposed not only by Marx and Engels, but also Lenin. Thus, it’s clear Besant’s commitment to Marxism was dissipating by this time.

Besant became the leader of the Theosophical Society while her Malthusian League was still in operation, but she did technically make a clean break with the Fabian Society and her remaining Marxist associates at this time. As Theosophist leader, Besant was responsible for introducing Masonic concepts into Theosophy through her support for Co-Freemasonry, which allows both men and women to become Freemasons. She also became acquainted with the supposed clairvoyant Charles Webster Leadbeater, who apparently helped Besant gain the power of clairvoyance herself. In 1902, before Beasant became leader of the Theosophists, Leadbeater was caught teaching underage boys under his care how to masturbate. The clairvoyant resigned from the Theosophical Society in 1906, but was readmitted by Besant two years later. 

Throughout her time with the Theosophists, Besant increasingly immersed herself in the Indian struggle against British colonialism and became acquainted with various Hindu spiritual leaders. It was through this passion that Besant “discovered” a fourteen year old Jiddu Krishnamurti. Besant decided that Khrisnamurti had the potential to become the “World Teacher”, a messianic figure in Theosophical theory who would help accelerate the dissemination of Ascended knowledge throughout humanity and bring the Earth to the next stage of its cyclical, progressive development. Krishnamurti became Besant’s adopted son. 

A comprehensive biography of Krishnamurti is also beyond the scope of this study, but needless to say, even after he became disillusioned with the idea of being a World Teacher and left the Theosophical Society, he had a good deal of influence on the development of Western occultism and the New Age. One individual Krishnamurti made an impression on was Aldous Huxley, who (according to the official story anyway) met Krishnamurti in 1938. Huxley was in Hollywood working as a screenwriter, while Krishnamurti was touring the US after breaking with the Theosophists. The two remained friends for the rest of their lives. P. Ramesh details just how much influence Krishnamurti had on Huxley during this time:

“How do we get out of this ‘vast vale of tears’ we have created for ourselves? How do we go about rendering ‘unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s’? Huxley starts helpfully by defIning knowledge and understanding: ‘Knowledge is acquired when we succeed in fitting a new experience into the system of concepts based on our old experiences. Understanding comes when we liberate ourselves from the old and so make possible a direct, unmediated contact with the new, the mystery moment by moment, of our existence.’ So what we need is self-knowledge, without which there is ‘no basis for thought… without knowing yourself what you say is not true’ (this is Huxley quoting Krishnamurti). ‘What does total awareness reveal?’ asks Huxley. ‘It reveals, first of all, the limitations of the thing which each of us calls ‘I’, and the enormity, the utter absurdity of its pretensions…

It is clear that anyone with even a nodding acquaintance with Krishnamurti’s language will immediately recognise his impact on Huxley. In fact, starting with his novel ‘After Many A Summer’ published in 1939 up to ‘Island’ which came out in 1962, Huxley appears to have borrowed from Krishnamurti’s spiritual vocabulary. More than that, Huxley seriously attempted to live the life he was recommending for others. I shall end with an extract from Krishnaji’s comment on their friendship, wherein he says, ‘those (he and Huxley) had a strange relationship with each other, affectionate, considerate and, it seems, non-verbal communication. They would often be sitting together without saying a word.’” (Note that Kubrick’s films increasingly incorporated non-verbal communication of their plot and themes as their imagery became more esoteric). 

These various threads coalesce in the form of two books, one written for academic and public consumption, the other initially created as a series of policy suggestions for the Department of Education. The former work, Joseph Cambpell’s The Hero With a Thousand Faces, became a seminal text of “comparative mythology” which made a mark on Kubrick, the New Hollywood directors of the 1970s and, in turn, has become ubiquitous in American cinema since the mid 20th Century. One article describes Cambpell’s study thus: 

“Having studied hero myths from around the world, Campbell came to recognize a relatively consistent sequence: from the world of common day, the hero is called to adventure, which they—or a loved one—resist. This is followed by some kind of aid from beyond their normal experience, the crossing of the threshold from known reality to an unknown world, an initiatory road of trials through the unknown, a big ordeal that results in ego-death and a new elixir, a return journey, struggle at the return threshold, resurrection of a new self, and the eventual delivery of the life renewing elixir, which redeems a wasteland.

Where many have used this as a simple outline with varying degrees of success, the real power of the Hero’s Journey is that it turns a process of inner transformation into something the camera can see—it makes thoughts invisible to the camera by nature, visible. What Campbell did was help great storytellers translate major psychological experiences and philosophical transformations—as in myth and dream—into visual stories.”

To put it another way, Campbell helped filmmakers portray the effects of deep occult ritualism, extensive meditation, ecstatic sexual experience, and intense psychedelic drug use in a way which could be comprehended by the viewer’s semi-conscious mind. Is it any wonder that Campbell, much like Huxley, had a “chance” meeting with Krishnamurti, much less that this occured while the spiritualist was still being groomed to be a Theosophical messiah? “In 1924, while on a steamship journey to Europe with his family, Joe met and befriended Jiddu Krishnamurti, the young messiah-elect of the Theosophical Society, thus beginning a friendship that would be renewed intermittently over the next five years.”

Cambpell’s description of his “monomyth” concept is also revealing here:

“The standard path of the mythological adventure of the hero is a magnification of the formula represented in the rites of passage: separation-initiation-return: which might be named the nuclear unity of the monomyth….

The composite hero of the monomyth … and/or the world in which he finds himself suffers from a symbolical deficiency. In fairy tales this might be as slight as the lack of a certain golden ring, whereas in apocalyptic vision the physical and spiritual life of the whole earth can be represented as fallen, or on the point of falling, into ruin.

Typically the hero of the fairy tale achieves a domestic microcosmic triumph, and the hero of myth a world-historical, macrocosmic triumph. Whereas the former-the youngest or despised child who becomes the master of extraordinary powers-prevails over his personal oppressors, the latter brings back from his adventure the means for the regeneration of his society as a whole.”

Campbell’s work is quoted numerous times in the other book mentioned above, Changing Images of Man. Campbell reviewed and became a contributor to the final version of Changing Images, which was composed by a multidisciplinary group of intellectuals from Syracuse University and the Stanford Research Institute. The book’s debt to the various types of thinkers and movement leaders discussed thus far can be found in a quote at its beginning from Julian Huxley:

Much advance, both in biological evolution and in psychosocial evolution, including advance in science, is of course obtained by adding minute particulars, but at intervals something like crystalization from a supersaturated solution occurs, as when science arrives at an entirely new concept, which then unifies an enormous amount of factual data and ideas, as with Newton or Darwin. Major advances occur in a series of large steps, from one form of organization to another. In our psychosocial evolution I believe we are now in a position to make a new major advance.”

As for the Stanford Research Institute, it was founded:

“…within Stanford University in 1946, though the idea had been in the planning stages for nearly two decades…Because no good conspiracy theory would be complete without it, we must note that the original plans were made at a meeting held at Bohemian Grove, a wooded retreat with a very dubious history.

Soon after its establishment the institute was losing money. As everyone knows, the real money in higher academe is in government and particularly military research. A new director was brought in, Jesse E. Hobson, who aggressively pursued such contracts. By 1965, the vast majority of it’s projects were with the military.”

As Stuart W. Leslie explains in The Cold War and American Science:

“To turn things around, SRI brought in an aggressive new director whose strategy was to go after the lucrative military R&D contracts. Under the new management, SRI researchers took on electronic miniaturization contracts for the Navy, electronic navigation and antenna systems design for the Air Force, communications research for the Army, and nuclear weapons testing and evaluation for the AEC. In just a few years SRI quintupled its contract revenues from $2 to $10 million and turned a $60,000-a-year loss into a $325,000 surplus. 

By 1955 SRI was earning half its income from defense contracts, many of them classified, and setting a pattern for the decade ahead. By 1965 government contracts accounted for 82 percent of SRI’s revenues, with military contracts accounting for 78 percent of the government share. Those contracts included some controversial studies of land reform in Vietnam, counterinsurgency surveillance in Thailand, and chemical weapons. By 1968 SRI’s research program rivaled the university’s, in numbers if not in reputation, with 1,500 professional staff members (compared with 1,000 university faculty members) and annual contract revenues of $64 million (compared with $76 million for the university). SRI’s military effort dwarfed the university’s. In 1969 SRI held $28.7 million in military contracts, ranking it third among “think tanks” and nonprofit research corporations, just behind MITRE and just ahead of Rand. Stanford, by contrast, held $16.4 million in military contracts that year, fourth on the university list.”

What this means is that an institution that was through and through funded by military money to create products for some of the most brutal excursions of American imperialism also birthed numerous theorists interested enough in Campbell’s ideas of a hero capable of saving a decadent society from itself through personal struggle and spiritual refinement to reference it in their federally funded study. This same institution also incorporated many of the ideas regarding mysticism running through spiritual movements of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, which would also appear in the 60s counterculture and the New Age phenomenon toward the end of the 70s. Now consider that Julian Huxley coined the term “transhumanism” which, as I have noted elsewhere, Epstein and many of his associates invested in heavily.

This brings us to the heart of the matter: Kubrick’s career, at least from the 1960s onward, is pretty obviously a response to certain ideas proliferated by and for certain circles of the bourgeoisie which he finds simultaneously attractive and disgusting. The contradiction in Kubrick’s films regarding his relationship with what the types of conspiracy theorists we quoted at the beginning of this piece would call “the Cult of Saturn” (who I have shown as the members of the bourgeoisie and State bureaucracy who either genuinely believe some of their own bullshit or see the merit in using it as a weapon of psychological warfare) can be best represented in 2001: A Space Odyssey. In Part 2 of this study, I will investigate, among other things, how Kubrick’s work changed with 2001 and also go more into detail about the impact of Campbell and Changing Images on American culture.

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