2 April 2016


David G Robertson. UFOs, Conspiracy Theories and the New Age: Millennial Conspiracism. Bloomsbury Academic, 2016 (Bloomsbury Advances in Religious Studies)

Why have the dreams of a new and glorious future, a new age of peace and plenty as imagined by the hippies 50 years ago failed to materialise? For a surprising number of people the answer is that They have prevented it happening and They are not just the generations of unimaginative second rate politicians or over greedy business folk, They are the forces of cosmic evil, the secret Cabal that controls the world.
This is what Robertson sees as the central thesis of millennial conspiracism, the merging of occultism, speculative science of conspiracy theory that one can see, for example, in The X Files.

After a couple of introductory chapters charting the rise of new age ideology and some of the leading folk motifs of ufology, Robertson devotes the bulk of the work to an exploration of the background, ideas and following of three leading figures, Whitley Strieber, David Icke and David Wilcock. While the first two are familiar, I must confess I had never heard of Wilcock, who apparently considers himself (or promotes himself) as “the reincarnation of Edgar Cayce, and was one of the major figures in the 2012 apocalypse movement. In each case Robertson goes to conferences and talks with the people who go to listen to their views.

Strieber will be the author best known to Magonia readers, and Robertson tries to make what sense one can of his life and ideas, the latter of which change at a bewildering degree. At the 2012 Dreamtime Convention hosted by Strieber, which Robertson attended, the speakers consisted of Strieber’s (now late) wife Anne; abductee and 'life coach' Raven Dana; animal mutilation and UFO conspiracist, Lynda Moulton Howe; Jim Marrs a conduit for far right conspiracy theories into UFOlogy; psychic Marla Frees; stargates promoter William Henry; free energy proponent Charles “Chip” Wilkins - and Nick Pope. Strieber is now clearly enmeshed in the whole new age counter culture, and perhaps always was, for he turns out to be have been a follower of the teachings of Gurdjieff.

Much more in the heart of conspiracism is David Icke, whose probably promotes, or did promote the wildest conspiracy theories of them all, involving the notion that the royal family are shape shifting reptiles. Icke’s journey from the left of politics to the wilder hinterland of the far right is certainly a curious one, and is perhaps illustrative of the rise of 'fusion paranoia'. Needless to say that 'Zionists' and 'The Protocols' feature in all this.

It would appear that Icke and his supporters are now latching onto the child abuse hysteria, a theme which Robertson clearly sees as more than slightly unhealthy. It, along with the obsession with the royal family, give a clue to who might be manipulating Icke behind the scenes, for these were among the obsession of the La Rouchistas back in the 1990s (they are the source of the wild allegations about political figures which have recently surfaced, see Philip Jenkins, Intimate Enemies: Moral Panics in Contemporary Great Britain,  Aldine De Gruyter, 1992) One of the advantages that Icke gets from his crazy talk about reptilians is that it makes people assume he is mentally ill, and therefore not worth suing for libel, and thus he can smuggle in other stuff under the radar. I hope the same applies for academic textbooks but I am not going to take the risk of repeating them here.

The section on Wilcock raises the question as to how to people respond to failed prophecy, after all the world has failed to end or be transformed since 2012. Wilcock appears to blaming the 'Orion entities' who control the world’s governments and corporations. Against these are 'The Wanderers' who have volunteered to be repeatedly incarnated in human form to work for spiritual development. That sounds familiar for it was the theme of the writings of George Hunt Williamson (his real name by the way), side kick to American Nazi occultist William Dudley Pelley.

If there is a notable omission in this book it is the lack of a detailed treatment of the likes of Budd Hopkins and David Jacobs. The latter in particular merges traditional American far right tropes of the alien-other seeking to infiltrate society and a bring about the downfall of rugged American individualism, and to pollute the pure white blood line. In Jacobs’ ideology the 'others' are designated as hybrids and could be anybody (your neighbour might be a witch/Satanist/communist etc.) The hybrids are envisaged as sexually voracious and the greys replace the 'communist conspiracy' or the United Nations as bringers of the monolithic New World Order.

This book is written by an academic for academics but the core chapters are easily accessible and should be of interest to a wider readership, although readers might want to skip the section on 'the critical study of religion' in chapter two.
  • Peter Rogerson.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great review. Would you mind updating the title? My name is Robertson, not Robinson. Thanks!

Magonia said...

Ooops, sorry! Now corrected.