J. Allen Hynek and the Esoteric; or, UFOs and the "Secret Teachings of All Ages"
It’s been a bit of a slow week so far in the world of the outré, so today I’d like to dip into the archival record to share a strange incident that occurred in 1971 when Jacques Vallée and J. Allen Hynek went to visit esoteric researcher Manly P. Hall at Hall’s library at the Philosophical Research Society. The building impressed Vallée greatly because of its elaborate woodwork, iron staircase, and displays of cross-cultural bric-a-brac such as Chinese sculptures. What impressed him most, he wrote in Forbidden Science, was that Hall’s library was the first occult building he had seen that was not dilapidated.
Anyway, after their visit, Vallée asked Hynek for his views on Hall, and in all honesty, I found it a bit surprising to discover that Hynek had been a longstanding fan of Hall’s esoteric speculations on Nephilim, Fallen Angels, Atlantis, pyramid myths, and all of the other detritus of Victorian occultism that Hall had woven together into a tapestry of basically hermetic lore for his 1928 book The Secret Teachings of All Ages.
The incident is briefly alluded to in the Hynek biography The Close Encounters Man and is discussed in a Skeptical Inquirer article. Both depict Hynek’s interest as a teenage dalliance, though Vallée makes plain throughout Forbidden Science that Hynek remained interest in the esoteric until the end of his life.
Vallée picks up the narrative as he and Hynek leave the Philosophical Research Society:
“Tell me one thing, Allen,” I asked him as we left, “is there a secret society under this overtly philosophical organization?”
Surely there is some lesson to be had here that scratching the surface of ufology almost inevitably brings up the occult and the esoteric. And those damned Watchers underlie everything, even the intellectual furniture rattling around the head of the world’s most famous UFO scientist, who pretended—emphasis on pretend—to approach the subject from a dispassionately scientific perspective. The fact that Hynek had long been interested in the occult is probably why he remained interested in and flirted with the endorsing the idea that the UFOs were interdimensional poltergeists.
Before we give too much truck to Hall, it’s important to remember that his book is a steaming pile of garbage. He wove together sources like Ignatius Donnelly and Helena Blavatsky—themselves worthless—and attempted to build atop them an esoteric view of the world. Here is his discussion of Atlantis and culture heroes like Oannes, Quetzalcoatl, and Viracocha, in which you will recognize Graham Hancock’s lost civilization and its Ice Age evangelists who spread its gospel of pyramids and astronomy after Atlantis was lost:
May it not have been that these demigods of a fabulous age who, Esdras-like, came out of the sea were Atlantean priests? All that primitive man remembered of the Atlanteans was the glory of their golden ornaments, the transcendency of their wisdom, and the sanctity of their symbols--the cross and the serpent. That they came in ships was soon forgotten, for untutored minds considered even boats as supernatural. Wherever the Atlanteans proselyted they erected pyramids and temples patterned after the great sanctuary in the City of the Golden Gates. Such is the origin of the pyramids of Egypt, Mexico, and Central America. The mounds in Normandy and Britain, as well as those of the American Indians, are remnants of a similar culture. In the midst of the Atlantean program of world colonization and conversion, the cataclysms which sank Atlantis began. The Initiate-Priests of the Sacred Feather who promised to come back to their missionary settlements never returned; and after the lapse of centuries tradition preserved only a fantastic account of gods who came from a place where the sea now is.
It is both fascinating to see how one bad idea influences others and infinitely depressing to see how every expression of the modern ur-myth of antediluvian supermen who return in modern times traces back to the same family tree of occult speculation.
5/15/2019 10:49:21 am
Jason, using the word "occult" hides "theoshophist".
5/15/2019 06:48:32 pm
How can it "hide" Theosophy when Hall specifically references Blavatsky?
5/15/2019 03:58:26 pm
Your use of the word "truck" is...interesting.
5/15/2019 04:48:48 pm
It's archaic and more common in British English, but it's a real and legitimate use.
A Man From Nantucket
5/15/2019 05:07:37 pm
Obviously not a fan of Peter Wild.
5/15/2019 05:44:10 pm
It was actually the word "give" that seemed awkward.
5/15/2019 07:53:52 pm
Both "hold" and "give" have long histories of being used with "truck," as a literature review shows.
5/15/2019 09:25:56 pm
Would a link kill you?
5/15/2019 10:29:14 pm
A link to what? Hundreds of books? Sometimes, believe it or not, people know things from experience.
5/15/2019 11:35:57 pm
One or two would have sufficient. Take it easy, Host, I'm not asking for links to hundreds of books, just saying my google search failed to substantiate what you said.
5/15/2019 11:47:01 pm
I saw you use of “truck” interesting as well. I remember hearing it in the rural South as a child. As in, “I’ll have no more truck with you. Good day sir; I said Good Day!”
5/16/2019 02:05:27 pm
5/16/2019 02:05:39 pm
"It's archaic and more common in British English, but it's a real and legitimate use."
5/16/2019 06:47:36 pm
"A link to what? Hundreds of books? Sometimes, believe it or not, people know things from experience."
5/19/2019 11:25:02 am
Don't listen to the nitpickers. The Dogs bark but the caravan moves on. Keep on truckin', Jason.
5/15/2019 06:11:16 pm
Let he who is without literary device cast the first shoehorn...
5/15/2019 06:24:10 pm
See you at the nudie bar!
5/15/2019 07:22:14 pm
Very unlikely unless you are into dancers who begin their routine dressed like a Fireman.
Oh No !!
5/15/2019 06:31:59 pm
Manly P. Hall belonged to the romantic notion of esoterica - as anyone who reads his books will know - just like Biblical scholars belong to the romantic notion of Christianity and the Bible - without taking on explanations.
MR MAJESTIC 12 MAN - RIP
5/15/2019 07:01:01 pm
Stanton Friedman, who had the education of a scientist and the intelligence of a child, the man who forged the Majestic Documents, is dead.
5/15/2019 07:34:49 pm
Assuming for the moment that they were forged (likely) I will also assume you have no proof he was the forger.
5/15/2019 08:12:29 pm
The Postman forged the documents because he was the only person who had them before Friedman.
5/15/2019 08:17:47 pm
Philip Klass demonstrated that the President's signature on the said documents showed all the hallmarks of Xerox copying - he found the original signature that was Xeroxed.
5/15/2019 09:03:46 pm
I thought there was a prohibition on posting under other people's names here?
5/15/2019 09:11:17 pm
Friedman stated on a documentary he received the documents in the post - he must have forgotten his statements on the documentary when he wrote his tosh
6/27/2019 08:31:13 am
The person who most likely forged the document was Richard Doty, Philip Klass, by the way, ended up paying Friedman after he put him to a challenge regarding the MJ12 documents :
5/19/2019 11:22:30 am
I've always thought Hynek played to both sides of the aisle, appearing the dispassionate scientist while fanning popular speculative conclusions.
6/27/2019 01:25:55 pm
Knowing how comments often jump on slight misstatements I should correct a small error. In stating "Having read the collected works of Blavatsky and associated Theosophical literature, including money making operations like Clymer et al and also Hall I was disappointed in Hall's "masterwork", a juvenile hodgepodge of unresearched syncretistic mythology and speculation. Just read the memoir by Hall's own son as to the fairy tale worldview of his father and followers." The original version had added the occultist Peter Tompkins, author of The 'Secret of the Great Pyramid' et al , and it was of him I originally referenced as being debunked by his own son (a recent trend as several children of occult authors have written memoirs describing the bizarre upbringings and the circus like atmosphere of their parent's friends and associations). In editing I deleted parts of this section and left it indicating Hall as the person discussed.
6/27/2019 03:42:16 pm
So, you try to discredit Hynek, by mention the fact that he was associated with some esoteric group when he was 16 years old...and you pretend (emphasis on pretend) to be objective?
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I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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