Friday, March 4, 2016

Guides and mentors: John Keel

As I mentioned in a recent blog my first mentor in the intriguing world of ufology was the Swedish UFO contactee Sten Lindgren. During the first years of the 1970s I participated in many activities initiated by Sten, some of them based on his telepathic inspiration from the space people. But in the autumn of 1972 I had become increasingly skeptical of his many claims of contact. I had listened to so many fantastic stories, believing six impossible things before breakfast, that finally my naïve idealism changed into a more inquiring attitude. In my diary November 23, 1972 I wrote: "It feels good to be "normal" again. These two years have been like som kind of UFO hypnosis. It is obvious that UFOs are much more than one believes from the start... The issue of contactees should be investigated and documented."

A seminal influence in the late Autumn of 1972 was my meeting the Swedish couple Sture and Turid Johansson, who told of their rather frightening close encounter experiences and their involvement in the very complicated contact case of Richard Höglund. These and other cases I investigated slowly turned me into a more critical researcher instead of a naïve new age enthusiast. It was during this period that I discovered the books by John Keel. I found his writing fascinating and challenging. His field experience, intellectual curiosity, criticism of traditional ufology together with an iconoclastic and liberating humour impressed me deeply. When my friends and UFO collegues Anders Liljegren och Kjell Jonsson and I founded AFU in March 1973 our ideological inspiration came from John Keel and Jacques Vallee. Today Doug Skinner runs an excellent website devoted to John Keel.

John Keel (middle) visiting Sweden in 1976. Thorvald (Bevan) Berthelsen (left), Carl-Axel Jonzon (right)

I corresponded with John Keel in the 1970s and 80s and also had the good fortune of having him as a guest in my home when he visited Sweden in October 1976. We were a small group of ufologists who gathered in my small one room apartment in Sundbyberg discussing all aspects of UFO and paranormal phenomena for a couple of days. I was especially interested in hearing of his experiences and theories regarding the Men In Black (MIB) phenomenon and the very physical UFO and contact cases. Keel was  intrigued by this aspect and convinced there were aliens among us. “I´d really like to get one”, was his comment. In my copy of Operation Trojan Horse he wrote: “For my good friend Håkan Blomqvist – the secret to the UFOs is on page 321”. Last page in the book is 320. Typical John Keel Fortean humour.

John Keel and girlfriend eating a UFO cake during their Swedish visit in 1976

Referring to his first book, Jadoo (1957) in Operation Trojan Horse Keel wrote: "Previous to all this I was a typical hard-boiled skeptic. I sneered at the occult. I had once published a book, Jadoo, which denigrated the mystical legends of the Orient." But this is not quite true. Although it is written in typical Keel fashion with a critical and humourous spirit there are several experiences and phenomena in the book which he can´t explain and truly puzzles the young adventurer. He hear the sound of and get a short glimpse of what could be the abominable snowman. A mystical lama give Keel a demonstration of levitation while other lamas move chairs by mental power and prove their ability of remote viewing by telling of a fire going on in a distant village. When Keel checked later, there had been a fire in the village. Instead of "denigrating" these claims he writes: "There was no explanation for these things. I thought I knew all the tricks of the phony western mediums, but this demonstration stymied me." Although a hard-boiled skeptic, Keel does not appear as the typical debunker in Jadoo, rather as the inquisitive romantic adventurer. And I love his humourous comments, like this one: "One lama told me the way to vanish into thin air is to make the mind a complete blank. (If this is true, then I know several people who should have disappeared long ago.)"

After a lifetime of travel, field investigation and study of UFO, Fortean and paranormal phenomena Keel reached the conclusion shared by many researchers into these areas: we live in a multiverse inhabited by a variety of diverse intelligences. In his last book, The Eighth Tower (1975), he wrote: "Today many scientific disciplines are moving in the same direction, not realizing they are mapping a very old country. In a few years, perhaps even in our own lifetime, all sciences will suddenly converge at a single point, and the mysteries of the superspectrum will unravel in our hands." (p. 216). This a strangely prophetic announcement that could have been written by anyone familiar with the Esoteric Tradition. This “country” has been “mapped” by esotericists like Helena Blavatsky, Charles Leadbeater, Geoffrey Hodson, Alice Bailey, Henry T. Laurency a.o. Although John Keel often use the term elementals, has documented their materializations and understand the problem of encountering them he never seems to have considered esotericism as a paradigm or working hypothesis to understand these phenomena. This becomes even more enigmatic as he wrote in the final chapter of Operation Trojan Horse: “My skepticism has melted away, and I have turned from science to philosophy in my search for the elusive truth." Obviously he never discovered esoteric philosophy.

John Keel´s lack of knowledge of the Esoteric Tradition was one of the reasons why another of my guides and mentors, Riley Crabb of Borderland Sciences Research Associates, never liked his writings. While I tried to defend Keel and present his views and investigations as opening new vistas and giving further evidence of a multiverse, Riley Crabb could never see it this way. In a letter to me March 23, 1980 he wrote: "He (John Keel) is a wilderness crying for a voice, and I´ve told him so. His writings, like those of Jacques Vallee, leave one hopeless... Yes D.K. (Bailey-HB) does warn about the trickiness of Deva and Elemental contacts, but he places them understandably in the over-all picture of evolution we get from the Mahatmas of the Himalayas. There is no such inspirational lift from Keel and Vallee, and there can´t be because the two men aren´t even metaphysical kindergartners, they are metaphysical illiterates."

Personally I found a lot of "inspirational lift" from John Keel although neither Keel nor Vallee could be regarded as esotericists. There is a mass of data and conclusions in their books pointing to an interpretation clearly in line with the Esoteric Tradition. Like this quote from Keel´s last book The Eighth Tower (1975): "Today, scores of scientists working in widely separated , unrelated disciplines are crossing the threshold into the world of ancient science. We call it progress, but Merlin will have the last laugh. Science is inching into magic..." (p.44)

To me John Keel and his books opened up a new world with his knowledge, humour and suggestive language. When you read Strange Creatures from Time and Space and are confronted with all the weird and frightening creature encounters the author gives this final "encouraging" prophecy: " "...someone within two hundred miles of your home, no matter where you live on this planet, has had a direct personal confrontation with an Unbelievable... Next week, next month, or next year you may be driving along a deserted country road late at night and as you round a bend you will suddenly see..."
H. P. Lovecraft would have loved that sentence.