04-02-2009, 08:47 AM
Was the “New Age Movement” a CIA mind control creation?
9th February, 2009
Steve Ash & Philip Coppens
A Course in Miracles, published in 1975, is a book considered by its students to be their “spiritual path” – some have labelled it the “New Age Bible”. It has sold millions of copies. But could it have been part of a CIA mind control experiment? One of its authors was definitely a key MKULTRA scientist.
New Ageism emerged in the 1970s. Conceptually derived from the New Thought Movement of the early 20th century – which culminated in the ‘New Age’ spirituality that spawned the likes of the Findhorn Foundation – as well as entwined with an emerging psychedelic counterculture and established neo-pagan subcultures, it nevertheless should be seen as a separate development with its own characteristics. The term New Ageism as used here should thus not be confused with these traditions, nor the Oriental Mysticism it often distorts, but rather be seen as a parasitic current within these streams, that due to its clever marketing and well connected promoters has now completely absorbed its host. With its dominant position in the alternative market and commercial media it now sets the agenda. A distinctly escapist one according to many, as well as one tainted with a rather self-centred attitude and faith in mainstream institutions. This article looks at one reason this state of affairs may have come about.
Illuminati or counterculture?
In 1982 Robert Maxwell’s Pergamon Press released the now infamous Changing Images of Man report (a 283 page epic, originally privately released by Stanford Research Institute in 1972). What this strange and lengthy book is all about is a controversial issue, given its speculative nature and vague, contradictory format. According to right wing conspiracy theorists it was a devious attempt by elite ‘Illuminati’ to introduce their subversive ‘New Age’ ideas into mainstream political thought; according to dismissive left wing critics it was an even more devious attempt by the secret Establishment to hijack increasingly popular countercultural philosophies, domesticate them and turn them to the advantage of a global elite. An element of both can be found in the text, which clearly outlines an apparently sincere desire to evolve in an ethical and sustainable direction – though possibly from an unconsciously self-righteous and self-deluding mindset – together with a paranoid fear of immanent system collapse, along with a thinly disguised fear of the ‘ignorant masses’ and a ‘mindless counter culture’ (perhaps true from a dinosaur ‘elite’ perspective).
As the report’s conclusion states: ‘3.There is a serious mismatch between modern industrial-state culture and institutions and the emerging new image of man. This mismatch produces such reactions as the growing challenge to the legitimacy of business institutions whose primary allegiance appears to be to their stockholders and managers, the growing disenchantment with the technocratic elite, the decreasing trust and confidence in governments, all revealed in recent survey data. The mismatch could result in serious social disruptions, economic decline, runaway inflation, and even institutional collapse. On the other hand, institutions can modify themselves and adapt to a new cultural paradigm, though probably not without a relatively traumatic transition period.’ (p. 185)
Among the suggested ‘modified institutions’ was a return to ‘spiritual traditions’, including the ‘foundational Masonic heritage of America’ (complete with pictures of the ‘eye on the pyramid’ from the post 1930’s dollar bill!). But overall the new cultural paradigm hinted at is a distinctly pacifying New Ageism: a culture of acceptance, peace and unity ideal for maintaining social order, though along with a continuing solipsistic mindset.
SRI, a government think-tank
What rang alarm bells for the left was the fact that the original 1972 report by SRI was the result of a study project commissioned by ‘Government departments’, and that SRI had until then predominantly worked for the Pentagon and CIA, as well as private concerns such as the liberal Rockefeller Foundation. Moreover, Stanford University was a central component of many years in State and Military funded ‘mind control’ and psychic research, as well as a wide ‘invisible college’ network, that extended from the likes of Andrija Puharich (and his famous psychic protégées and CIA friends) at its inner core, to their counter cultural fellow travellers, like the maverick artist Harry Smith, a leading member of the OTO at the time, and cult writer Robert Anton Wilson, on its outer fringes (perhaps explaining why the latter sometimes ‘suspected’ that he may have met the ‘real Illuminati’!). Of course there is no evidence that everyone in the network knew all its connections. Intelligence operations are not open source, but all these were no doubt valuable cells in an ideas network. I (Steve) asked a hippy friend once if he thought the CIA was interested in the counterculture. He declared that of course they were, a meme war was on, and both sides were trying to infiltrate each other! A fantasy perhaps, but a plausible idea. Sadly, I thought while the counterculture may be considerably smarter, the State has far more resources, and I couldn’t imagine a hippy ‘infiltrating’ anything like that.
For the conspiracy theorists, it was highly significant that the ‘Masonic philosophy’ suggested by the report was identical to that promoted by Henry Wallace, the eccentric, millionaire, business tycoon; Christian Theosophist and honorary 33rd degree Freemason, who had been FDR’s Vice President, and fellow ‘Shrine’ member. Who as Treasury Secretary had spookily put the aforementioned ‘eye on the pyramid’ on the dollar bill, symbolically marking the ‘new regime’! Wallace had laudably been an architect of the New Deal, and an enemy of the emerging Military Industrial Complex, but was also a fanatical proponent of World Federalism, led by an ‘enlightened’ American State Capitalism. His personal philosophy seems to have been based on a bizarre mix of left leaning Fundamentalist Christianity, Tibetan Buddhism and the 19th century Occult philosophies of the Theosophical Society. Most damningly for the paranoid, he later also supported and helped fund military backed psychic research while out of office. What’s more, later so would his friend and spiritual heir, the millionaire philosopher Arthur Young, at one time a majority shareholder in the Bell Telephone Company, and himself a close friend of Andrija Puharich and business associate of the Rockefeller family. It was enough to make the conspiracy theorists spin, and they certainly did. However, it has to be said that there is no evidence that even if a cabal existed, it was of any great extent, and only these two had any clear esoteric associations at the time. Certainly most of the real elite conspiracies of the period were geared to removing FDR, rather than supporting his projects (such as the famous J.P. Morgan plot, exposed by General Butler in 1934, and those of other pro Nazi sympathisers). But of course only the naïve conspiracy theorist believes in a monolithic ‘Them’; real covert politics are far more complex.
Getting the message out
Wallace had sent his Theosophist guru and adviser Nicholas Roerich to Tibet, allegedly to make contact with the ‘secret masters of Shamballa’, an eccentricity eventually used by his enemies to get him removed from political office. More prosaically, he funded Roerich’s Peace Pact, an international, spiritually oriented, cultural association he hoped would unite all ‘true religions’ for his ‘new world order’. Despite this, Wallace seems to have shared the same biases as the Tibetans against the Chinese and Islam. Nevertheless, it was his naïve approaches to the Soviet Union, and his opposition to the emerging Cold War that was the cause of his final downfall. The main message in the ‘Changing Images of Man’ could be interpreted as a revival of his philosophy twenty years on.
The former publishing tycoon Robert Maxwell, a conservative social democrat (and an alleged Zionist, with Mossad connections), is said to have taken a personal interest in the open publication of the formerly confidential SRI report and had copies sent to all his friends and business associates, apparently believing its message was crucial. Coincidentally or not, Maxwell-owned publishing houses would also later become involved in the New Age market.
One of the most prolific publishers of basic New Age and Theosophical Books is Lucis Trust. This is the most obvious connection between the New Age and the corporate and political world, also publishing texts by the United Nations and financed in part by the Rockefeller Foundation. Founded in the 1920s by the far right Theosophist Alice Bailey and her 32nd degree Masonic partner Foster Bailey, the company was the official publisher of Theosophical Society texts in the US, before being bought up and moved in a New Age direction. Bailey herself had been expelled from the Theosophical Society by Annie Besant, for her anti-Semitic views. The new owners were typically Ivy League elitists, and included the usual Rockefeller clique. A member of the same elite family, the late Lawrence Rockefeller, was also a major sponsor of UFO research and of the famous Harvard professor John Mack, who in the 1990s studied UFO abductions and who also had close links to the New Age Movement.
This, so far, seems fairly blatant. But the history of the New Age Movement and its landmark events and publications is full of less obvious but equally suspicious links.
The Cornerstones of the Modern New Age Movement
Seth Speaks (1970), a book by Jane Roberts, which is considered by many to be the founder of modern ‘channelling’ (standardising earlier experiments), appears to have had no hidden links, but created a template taken up by a myriad of both ‘truth-seeking’ and money-spinning cults ever since. Her channelled material corresponded almost exactly with the books on her shelves, though this does not imply conscious fraud.
The Harmonic Convergence of 1987, an astrological alignment billed as heralding a New Aeon, to fully emerge in 2012, was organized by Jose Arguelles. José and Lloydine Arguelles founded the Planet Art Network (PAN) in 1983 as an autonomous, meta-political, worldwide peace organization engaging in art and spirituality. Active in over ninety countries, PAN upholds the aforementioned Nicholas Roerich Peace Pact and Banner of Peace, symbolizing “Peace through Culture”.
The Celestine Prophecy (1993) was written by Writer and Film Producer, James Redfield, who quit his job as a therapist after studying New Age thought, in order to promote it. His imaginative fictional work was self published but quickly snapped up by Time-Warner Books in 1994, who enthusiastically marketed it next to their other minor New Age titles, making it a bestseller. Time Inc. was initially heavily funded by right wing banker J.P. Morgan, and, from 1922-1967, fascist sympathiser Henry Luce, who would heavily influence its political allegiances. It should also here be mentioned that the allied rivals, the conservative J.P. Morgan and the relatively liberal Rockefeller Foundations were major private backers of the CIA’s MKULTRA project.
The book Conversations with God, by Vedic philosopher Neale Donald Walsch, became a best seller the following year on the tail of this. Since then the New Age market became one of the most lucrative for publishers to enter and has become an autonomous subculture, though metaphorically perhaps much like the remote control drones used by the modern military.
A major New Age publisher in the US is Llewellyn Books. In 1961 the company was bought by Carl L. Weschcke, President of the pharmaceutical company Chester-West Inc. Some conspiracy theorists have privately suggested a link with Sandoz Pharmaceutical Inc, which controls many smaller companies. Sandoz produced the first LSD and worked closely with the CIA in the MKULTRA years. But no evidence of this link has been found. All of this is highly speculative of course and the reality is no doubt far more complex than any simplistic conspiracy theory. But I think what is outlined here demonstrates many key elements: the New Age movement has long been tainted by unsavoury connections.
A Course in Miracles
As mentioned, the above links are far from proven, but the same doubt does not exist for A Course in Miracles (also referred to as ACIM or the Course). The Course was originally written in a collaborative venture by Helen Schucman and William Thetford. In the early form of ACIM (commonly known as the “Urtext”) the “Voice” described them as scribes taking down the words of Jesus. According to Wapnick, Jesus was “a symbol of God’s love and not the historical Jesus of Nazareth”. In 1976, the Course was distributed as a three volume set, which had evolved from the original notes and comprised the three sections of the Course: the Text, Workbook, and Manual.
Helen Schucman was appointed associate professor of medical psychology to the faculty of the College of Physicians of the Columbia Medical Centre in 1965. Shortly after she experienced a series of vivid dreams, and later heard a ‘voice’, which she identified as Jesus, that began to dictate the Course to her. In other words, Schucman dreamt that Jesus spoke to her and revealed a new teaching. Schucman reported that she clearly heard from the voice the words, “This is a course in miracles. Please take notes.” Schucman did as she was told, and for the next seven years, via a process she described as “rapid inner dictation”, she produced nearly thirty notebooks of Jesus messages. With the assistance of her employer, Prof William Thetford, she later collated this into a text which formed the basis of the Course.
From Mind Control to New Age
For five years after his graduation in 1949, Thetford had worked as a research psychologist in both Chicago, and later in Washington, DC. According to Dr Colin Ross, Thetford worked on Project BLUEBIRD, an early CIA mind control program, from 1951 to 1953. He spent 1954 and 1955 as the director of clinical psychology at the Institute of Living in Hartford, Connecticut. From 1955 to 1957 he was an assistant professor of psychology at Cornell University’s CIA-funded Society for the Investigation of Human Ecology (a euphemism for social ‘mind control’). In 1958 he accepted an assistant professorship, which later developed into a full professorship, at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. During a portion of this same period he also served as the director of clinical psychology at the Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital. It was here that he would stay for the next twenty years, during which he received funding from the CIA’s MKULTRA program for research into personality structures, and it was here that he first met and hired Dr. Helen Schucman, hiring her as a research psychologist and assistant.
Jesus Loves Me
Channellers of Jesus Christ would – perhaps should – be treated with suspicion. But amongst the usual list of possible explanations for mounting a hoax, A Course in Miracles has an unusual candidate: CIA sponsored mind control.
Thetford co-headed the CIA’s mind control MKULTRA SubProject 130: Personality Theory, while at Columbia University, between 1971 and 1978. His colleague on this project was David Saunders. Thetford’s professional bio, also available on the A Course in Miracles website, makes reference to his involvement in a Personality Theory Research Project while Professor of Medical Psychology at Columbia University, but the information does not specifically cite this as a CIA MKULTRA SubProject – an omission we would expect to find. When we check dates, it is clear that A Course in Miracles was written in the middle of this project’s existence. The next question should therefore be whether it was part of this project. After all, the project addresses “personality theory” and the Course tackles how to heal the personality.
Some might argue that though the book was published in 1975, the sessions predated Thetford’s involvement with the CIA in 1971. But can we be sure? The story goes that in late 1965, Schucman began to channel the voice in her head. From 1965 to 1972, Thetford directly assisted Schucman with the transcription of the first three sections of the work, which was in fact the great bulk of the material. But one year into his involvement with the CIA, in 1972, Thetford and Schucman were introduced to Dr. Kenneth Wapnick, whom they invited to assist with the editing that was required to render the rough draft of the ACIM manuscript into a publishable format. So though it is possible that the actual sessions fell outside of Thetford’s MKULTRA employment, the promotion and publication fell squarely within it.
Furthermore, it has been alleged that among the subjects deleted from the original versions were remarks concerning “the CIA.” When some of these original versions were first published on the Internet in the late 1990s, they were almost as quickly removed by a court injunction brought by none other than Wapnick himself.
The publisher of the Course was the Foundation for the Investigation of Para Sensory Phenomena. Some observers wonder whether this may have been funded by members involved with or employed by SRI, which at the time was home to the Remote Viewing project – itself sponsored by the CIA. One of the people with connections to SRI was Judith Skutch, the president and founder of the Foundation.
In 1973, Skutch was one of Uri Geller’s first supporters, who was brought to SRI by Andrija Puharich. According to Andrew Tobias, most of Geller’s private demonstrations were done in Skutch’s apartment and it was this foundation that put up $60,000 to pay for SRI’s further study of Geller. As it is now known that funding for such experiments also came from the CIA, we can of course wonder whether the Foundation was a front for the CIA… which would mean that it was the CIA itself who published A Course in Miracles in 1975. That would mean that the Course was from beginning to end a CIA affair.
Could this couple have faked everything? Father Benedict Groeschel, a Catholic priest, knew Schucman both as a teacher and friend. He described William Thetford as “a mysterious character”, and “probably the most sinister person I ever met.” That is an interesting assessment, coming from a friend and Catholic priest.
Only after he retired from teaching did Thetford’s Columbia colleagues (who knew him best as a rare-books expert) discover that during the years they worked with him, he had been employed as an agent of the CIA – one who was, among other things, present at the first fission experiment conducted by physicists assigned to the Manhattan Project. Thetford also was “the most religious atheist I have ever known”, Groeschel recalled. Equally, Groeschel uncovered that Schucman, though outwardly an atheist, had been an admirer of the apparition of the Virgin Mary at Lourdes – quite an uncommon fascination for someone professing a Jewish faith, though, one could of course argue that the Virgin Mary was Jewish, so… Schucman was also embarrassed and feared, Groeschel remembered, that the book would create a cult, or a cult following, which of course it did. In her eyes, it was that “damned book”.
The first victim, or the First Lady?
Was Schucman the unknown victim, or active participant, in a government-sponsored experiment? As an associate professor, she definitely possessed the necessary intelligence to figure whether or not she was abused. Perhaps the channelling sessions were part of a CIA project, on par with the other experiments of similar ilk that occurred at SRI: remote viewing. Perhaps at the time of the experiment, there was never any intention of publishing what was received, but perhaps this decision was made at some point, which could account for Schucman’s description of her work as that “damned book”.
Furthermore, J.W. Gittinger was the primary personality assessor for MKULTRA. He pioneered scientific methods to enable him to identify the most susceptible types of personalities for Dr. Sidney Gottlieb, one of the leading scientists on the MKULTRA project. Gittinger’s work eventually surfaced as his “Personality Assessment System” (PAS). Two years after Schucman went to work for Thetford, they co-authored a paper on Gittinger’s PAS, suggesting they at least knew of him… or may even have written this paper within the framework of the MKULTRA project.
So could A Course in Miracles be part of some mind control experiment – or, to be more precise, a series of experiments to see what the mind was capable of? Author and Yogi Joel Kramer states that the Course could be considered a classic authoritarian example of programming thought to change beliefs. Long time teacher of the Course, Hugh Prather, notes that the Course students often become “far more separate and egocentric”, with many ultimately, “[losing] the ability to carry on a simple conversation”. He admits that he and his wife Gayle “had ended up less flexible, less forgiving, and less generous than we were when we first started our path!” It is definitely not the attitude the New Age Movement proclaims to promote.
A government interest in the occult
While occult phenomena have long been ridiculed by the scientific establishment, the CIA seriously entertained the notion that such phenomena might be highly significant for the spy trade. The Agency speculated that if a number of people in the US were found to have high ESP capacity, their talent could be assigned to specific intelligence problems. This was why, in 1952, the CIA initiated an extensive program involving the search for, and development of, exceptionally gifted individuals who could approximate perfect success in ESP performance. The Office of Security, which ran the ARTICHOKE project, was urged to follow all leads on individuals reported to have true clairvoyant powers so as to be able to subject their claims to rigorous scientific investigation. In 1952, one of the men who went in search of such psychics was Andrija Puharich and in the early 1970s, when SRI reinvigorated such projects, he once again searched the extents of the earth in search of psychic talent, which he found in Uri Geller.
In the 1950s, the CIA also began infiltrating séances and occult gatherings, which may explain why they were interested in a bizarre UFO/medium case in Maine in 1959. A memo dated April 9, 1953, refers to a domestic – and therefore illegal – operation that required the planting of a very specialized observer at a séance in order to obtain a broad surveillance of all individuals attending the meetings.
During the late 1960s, the CIA experimented with mediums in an attempt to contact and possibly debrief dead CIA agents. These attempts, according to Victor Marchetti, a former high-ranking CIA official, were part of a larger effort to harness psychic powers for various intelligence-related missions (PROJECT SCANATE) that included utilizing clairvoyants to divine the intentions of the Kremlin leadership.
Early in 1981, a well-known syndicated columnist Jack Anderson said: “my associate and I revealed a Pentagon secret that raised eyebrows from coast-to-coast. To the sceptics who wrote in, no, we don’t take hallucinogens. The Pentagon and the Kremlin are, indeed dabbling in the black arts, they are seriously trying to develop weapons based upon extrasensory perception…”. A Course in Miracles seems to have been a part of this psychic warfare… the question is: what was its intended purpose? And is it but a stand-alone case, or part of a larger group of projects, which might shed a radically different light on the origins of the New Age movement?
The Changing Images of Man Report (the concluding appendix is an easy summary) can be downloaded as a PDF here:
Stephen Ash is a London based writer, researcher, esotericist and student of parapolitics. He has been involved with counterculture and the alternative sprirituality movement since the early 80s. His latest book is The Black Knights, an occult history of the English Templars and their heirs, he is currently writing its sequel Temple Garden, and researching a new book, a commentary on Aleister Crowley’s Liber Al vel Legis.
Philip Coppens is an author and investigative journalist, ranging from the world of politics to ancient history and mystery. He is the editor-in-chief of the Dutch magazine Frontier, as well as a frequent contributor to Nexus Magazine and New Dawn Magazine. Since 1995, he has lectured extensively, across the world. He is the author of The Stone Puzzle of Rosslyn Chapel, The Canopus Revelation, Land of the Gods, The New Pyramid Age and Servants of the Grail.
The Stargate Conspiracy (audio interview with Lynn Picknett & Clive Prince)