In the first part of my review of David Wilcock’s bestselling nonfiction book The Ascension Mysteries (Dutton, 2016), we learned that Wilcock believes (or pretends to believe) himself to be a divinely ordained spiritual leader born to undo the convulsive Satanic curse that was the 1960s. Can the book get worse? Of course it can. But it also gets sadder as Wilcock describes in unnecessary detail an almost day-by-day account of his childhood, from the age of three onward. The artlessness of his narration and the minutiae of his memories are balanced only by the depressing horror of what Wilcock unintentionally reveals.
Please note that nothing here is intended to diagnose Wilcock with a psychological condition. The diagnoses mentioned in my review are those Wilcock disclosed himself. He did not provide a discussion of whether he sought professional treatment in the past, or whether any treatment is ongoing.
Wilcock describes his childhood in Scotia, New York, a stone’s throw from where I write this in Albany. He says that his mother was heavily influenced by the hoaxes of Carlos Castenada. He tells of how from his earliest childhood he had outlandish, wild dreams that he realized from his mother’s New Age babble must be messages from another world. His mother cried wildly when she became pregnant with his brother because she was dreaming of UFOs and their dangers. He wistfully remembers his love of M*A*S*H* and Happy Days, which both harked back to the 1950s, and he claims that Sesame Street had made him an advanced student before he ever entered kindergarten. He claims to have become “fully aware” of world events due to watching The CBS Evening News, and he says his father’s love of the era’s rock music shaped his understanding of reality. He recalls a rush of emotion at hearing ABBA for the first time, only to have his parents forbid him from listening to disco music because only rock was acceptable.
The childhood Wilcock describes explains a lot, and it is disturbing. He describes a half-crazed ex-Christian New Age mother who actually told him that she would stop being close to him once his brother Michael was born, a disgruntled artistic father who resented the world for making his chosen talents unprofitable, an emotionally disturbed brother who would lash out in violent temper tantrums, and a boy—Wilcock himself—who retreated into fantasy to escape the towering arguments his parents would have each night year after year after depressing year until their divorce a decade later. Wilcock confesses that he was so upset and anxious by the age of five from the stress of his childhood home that he did permanent damage to his face from excessive thumb-sucking. He later became a compulsive eater to bury the pain through secret snacking. “My life turned into a nightmare,” Wilcock said.
Even in describing this, Wilcock can’t quite see his own childhood objectively, and he stops the story over and again to retreat into happier memories of 1970s pop culture, which he seems to have idealized as an escape from a reality that to this day he wishes to deny through appeal to space aliens. All of this is interwoven with his mother’s paranoid conspiracy theories—she blamed the flu vaccine for a health crisis she experienced when Wilcock was three (and he, of course, has super-memory and recalls all the details)—which warped Wilcock’s understanding of what is real and what is not irrevocably. His mother took him to a hippie commune where Wilcock was again traumatized (his word, which he uses ceaselessly to describe his life events) when the hippies made fun of his effete mannerisms and when he witnessed a hippie overdose on LSD, and his mother freaked him out about Freemasons by spinning horror stories when their Masonic neighbors had unidentified people over for an event. Wilcock’s parents worked themselves into terror, imagining that the Masons were robotic zombies enacting dark rituals beneath their bedroom window. His mother and father thought that Rosemary’s Baby had come to life, and his father told him that they had to hide because the Masons would murder them all violently if anyone discovered that they had seen them skulking about in their dark rites. “I was surprised that they were telling both Michael and me this, considering how young we were, and it was one of the most powerful experiences of my entire life.” Wilcock believes now that his neighbors were enacting a Satanic sex orgy. (His description, if true, actually sounds like the neighbors had a “key party” or were swingers and were trying to avoid the prying eyes of the Wilcocks.)
I’ll be honest: I’m not entirely comfortable talking about what increasingly seems to be the trauma that a disturbed boy experienced in an emotionally abusive environment. He frames it as a triumphant story, but it is not. Consider this example that says about everything: He vividly remembers being four years old and seeing a commercial for Keds in which kids put on special sneakers and flew. He begged his parents for those sneakers, and after getting them jumped up and down trying to fly. A normal person would smile at childhood naïveté, but Wilcock considered it a betrayal by the media. He also claimed that the commercials influenced his dreams of flying and were preparing him for “the powers of ascension” to the spirit realm. This is not normal but seems to follow logically from the childhood he describes. Wilcock now believes he has spiritual superpowers granted him by space aliens.
The second example is sadder, and deserves to be quoted in full. It occurs when Wilcock is four years old and watched Star Wars. He identified Obi-Wan Kenobi with a vague paternal figure he conjured up in his dreams, and after seeing the movie started dreaming of Sir Alec Guinness:
The very next morning after I saw Star Wars, the wise old man appeared again as Obi-Wan Kenobi—and the interior of his ship looked even more like some of the scenes in Star Wars. He now appeared to me in the same glowing, luminous form as Obi-Wan had in the movie. This appears to have been an effort to link a being who was very real in the dream plane with a symbol from the physical plane that I could now easily identify and interpret. The old man told me that many people on Earth were going to transform into a luminous form like this, and that if I followed what my mother told me about being a good person, it could happen to me too. I felt even closer to him than I did to my own parents, and when I woke up and realized it was only a dream, I started crying. This happened dozens of times.
Remember, Wilcock was four years old but to this day consider these events to be the defining moments of his life. A normal person would read this as a kid having a dream about a movie he just saw. David Wilcock does not, but the kicker is the end of that description where Wilcock admits that his dream world was more real to him than his waking life, and that he dreamed up characters to provide him with the love and support that he was not receiving in his paranoid, argument-filled home.
At the conclusion of chapter four, we are only up to Wilcock’s fifth birthday.
After this, Wilcock describes increasing disturbances, including nightmares of burning alive, sleepwalking, paranoid fear, a “vibrating pressure” in his skull, and his continued use of pop culture to construct a fantasy world to escape into. He doesn’t call it that, of course; he pretends that pop culture was simply preparing him for “ascension” to He-Man-like acquisition of supernatural power. But anyone not steeped in fringe beliefs would draw a very different conclusion. He describes his entry into school, claiming that all of the kids were destined to “hate me” because he was too smart and tested too high, and he describes being bullied as a child, bullying that lasted through his college years (first for intelligence and then for weight and then for personality and then for drug use) and resulted, he said, from his efforts to talk about ancient mysteries with his elementary school classmates. He painfully recalls losing control of his bowels one night in the sixth grade, and how his growing girth “disconnected” him from his body. He says that he escaped from this by watching In Search of… and getting a “cosmic high” from seeing his mother’s paranoid beliefs confirmed by television.
He also said that Mork & Mindy gave him “cosmic feelings,” but at this point in the book I was too depressed and saddened to make a Pam Dawber joke, especially since Wilcock says that Mork’s conversations with his off-camera father figure Orson (Wilcock’s words—he was actually Mork’s commanding officer), which Wilcock says were just like his dreams of Obi-Wan Kenobi “only funnier.” He seems incapable of psychological self-reflection. “Our limbic, reptilian brain cannot differentiate between the images in a photograph or film and actual reality,” he writes, with blithe unawareness.
By the time Wilcock was eight, his mother had convinced him that he had ESP and encouraged him and his friends to develop their ESP skills. Wilcock said he formed an ESP club because he wanted to be just like Nostradamus after watching a TV airing of The Man Who Saw Tomorrow on HBO. He claims that the other kids didn’t recognize how great Wilcock’s ESP powers were, and he compares these power to those of Jesus, saying that his rejection by his childhood friends made him want to do “the really good stuff” that Jesus could also do, like resurrecting the dead and walking on water. He claims that he was able to make a bully fall off his bicycle by focusing a mental laser at the bike with his ESP. He does not seem to notice that his own confession that he was “disconnected” psychologically from his body seems to find reflection in his desire for flight, astral project, ESP, and other ways to escape the limits of the body.
Wilcock adds that his life changed when his father bought a VCR and color TV and then told him that the world would soon be transformed by an explosion of energy called “ascension.” His mother would force him to talk to a tree at the Schenectady County Public Library and wait for its rustling leaves to answer. Wilcock can’t separate his lived experience from pop culture, and movies blend into his memories almost seamlessly, especially when movies like E.T. depict the kinds of friendship Wilcock seems upset about never having had: “I identified so strongly with extraterrestrials that I felt like I was Elliott, and when E.T. died it seemed like I had lost the only real friend I ever had.” Apparently he had forgotten about Obi-Wan Kenobi by that point.
After his parents’ divorce, his mother became the mother from Carrie, angrily micromanaging Wilcock’s life and threatening punishments for any infraction. Wilcock said that as a result he developed an attraction to dominant personalities and placed himself in submissive positions until the space aliens helped him to overcome his submissive personality. Indeed, he credits himself with overcoming his own “hero-worship” impulses because that act, he says, allowed him to achieve telepathic connection to space aliens. “Good ETs,” you see, are like good people and treat you as equals. “Bad ETs” are like bullies and feed off of hero-worship and submissive impulses. Isn’t it amazing the way the entire cosmos is structured to perfectly reflect David Wilcock’s traumatized psyche?
Tomorrow: David Wilcock goes to high school and college, discovers drugs, and continues to be repeatedly traumatized by life.
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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