Raymond Radford has reviewed UFOs, Conspiracy Theories and the New Age over at the Alternative Spirituality and Religion Review. You can read it here.
I wrote a piece for the Open University Religious Studies blog on the 70th anniversary of the first Flying Saucer sighting, and the relevance for thinking about religions. You can read it here.
The historian rarely gets to see a narrative of this type as it develops. Compared to the origin stories of Christianity or Islam or almost any other religion, the UFO narrative is well documented and its development can be charted quite clearly. Yet there may be illuminating parallels: 70 years after Jesus’ death, Matthew and Luke were just written, new elaborations on claims of inexplicable sightings, now a generation removed from eyewitnesses.
This is about Mansoul, the second book of Alan Moore’s Jerusalem. If you missed part 1, you can read it here. There might be spoilers for Book 1, but I won’t spoil Book 3.
- Unlike Part 1, this section has a single linear narrative, albeit with multiple voices. Little Mick Warren, choking on a cough sweet, finds himself in However, it’s not linear from our perspective of time; the characters jump around from era to era of Northampton’s history. This includes interactions with many of the characters from Part 1, sometimes during the chapters from Part 1.
- This section really needs an editor. It’s rather repetitive in places, with several whole sections repeated in their entirety. Not only that, but there are a bunch of chapters which don’t seem to serve any narrative purpose at all. Like going to see Oliver Cromwell for like 50 pages. I was flicking forward to see how long I had to go on several occasions, and that’s a shame because when the book is good, it’s great, but there are definitely bits that are hard work.
- It is very literary, in the sense that it reads like a book, a fantasy story, maybe for kids. And just as Mansoul is a bigger, brighter, more mythical version of the Boroughs, this is a bigger, brighter and more mythical version of a children’s book. In fact, it later emerges that it is, in fact, a book, albeit one being written by one of the characters in it. Because all time exists at the same time, the events unfolding are already recorded in a book written by one of the characters which is well-known to the other denizens of Mansoul. This theme will recur later, but I can reveal no more for risk of spoilers.
- I was right about there being a present-day plot emerging in the early chapters, revolving around Marla, the young meth addict and prostitute who appeared in chapter 2. Her story left off on a cliffhanger, and she reappears here in quite horrifying fashion.
- I’m pretty sure that the bird-man from the ‘In the Drownings’ chapter of Voice of the Fire makes a cameo appearance here. Which means Jerusalem is a crossover. And if we consider that Showpieces takes place in a mythical Northampton, mostly in Jimmy’s End, mentioned here in Jerusalem… are we looking at the emergence of a Mooreverse? Or more accurately, a Moorehampton?
- The Dead Dead Gang, our central characters for this section, are an archetype. The Bow Street Irregulars spring immediately to mind, or Oliver Twist’s gang or the orphans from Annie…. At the same time, though, another striking parallel is with Little Nemo in Slumberland. In fact, this would be Moore’s third time riffing on it, after Promethea’s ‘Little Margie’ sections, and Big Nemo from last year’s Electrocomics project. This is particularly clear in the An Asmodeus Flight chapter, and Moore’s own illustration on the cover. And in fact, Windsor McCay makes an appearance later on.
- At the same time, there are hints of further connections between the Dead Dead Gang and the cast of Book 1 – John’s secret about Alma’s uncle Jack’s death; Bill’s relationship with Alma and Warry; the nature of the relationship between rabbit-garlanded Phyllis Painter and young Bill, who we suppose to be her little brother.
- For all they supposedly don’t get on, Alan Moore and Grant Morrison sure do have some similar ideas. The magic thing, for one. The motif of seeing time from outside happens often (Superman Beyond, Promethea), and that from that angle human lives look like worms thing that comes up multiple times here was part of the climax of Morrison’s The Invisibles. More than that, though, the motif of being uncertain which is reality and which is the dream, and discovering that one is unwittingly at the centre of world-shattering events, was the set-up for Moore’s recent Joe the Barbarian series, one of his better recent miniseries.
Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments.
Part Three, Vernall’s Inquest, coming soon. And boy, is there a lot to talk about…
My article, The hidden hand: Why religious studies need to take conspiracy theories seriously, was published in Religion Compass this week, and you can read it here (if you have access). It’s an introduction to the field, and a summary of my work in this area to date.
Here’s the abstract:
What seemed like fringe concerns to most then have, with Trump’s election and Brexit and the growth of the alt-right across Europe, become of concerns of mainstream commentators. Moreover, the rise of ISIS and the increasingly overt religious language being employed in the political sphere have made the powerful combination of religion and conspiracy plain. This emerging subdiscipline cuts to the very core of some of the most pressing issues in the academic study of religion––and indeed, the social sciences more generally in this postcolonial environment. This article is intended to set out its scope and some of its future directions.
Not only is it important to consider contemporary religion in its historical context, but we need to consider the study of contemporary religion in its historical context too. Arrarnte elders, Alice Springs, 1896. Via Wikimedia commons. I recently attended a talk by Professor James Cox on cultural memory among the Australian Aboriginal people. In particular,…
By David G. Robertson As Susan Palmer argued in her opening keynote at the CenSAMM conference on Millenarianism and Violence in Bedford last week, children are often the focus of particular attention within millenarian groups. As Mary Douglas argued, this is because the child is conceived of as the embodiment of the group’s ideals. The…
On 7th April, I presented a paper at the CenSAMM conference, Violence and Millenarian Movements, at the Panacea Trust in Bedford. My paper was entitled Pizzagate and the Luciferian Agenda, and you can watch the whole thing below. Here’s the abstract:
In November and December 2016, online accusations of a paedophile ring operating out of a Washington pizza restaurant led to the arrest of Edgar Welch (28) after threatening staff and firing several shots in an apparent attempt to liberate “child sex slaves”. This panic, known as pizzagate, began when leaked emails from Hillary Clinton’s aide, Mike Podesta, were suggested to contain coded language by a number of users on web forums, who began to elaborate upon the narrative until it was widely taken as evidence of a nationwide satanic paedophile ring involving numerous politicians and other power brokers. It is rare is for a conspiracy theory such as this to escalate into violence so quickly, but two things are of particular interest here. First, this ties into the satanic ritual abuse scare of the early 1990s – a phenomenon intimately tied to a Manichaean understanding of the world promoted by certain evangelical millenarian Christians. These ideas have been nurtured and promoted by high-profile independent broadcasters such as Alex Jones, for whom they are part of a sweeping millennial narrative in which a global (and sometimes cosmic) cabal of Luciferians seek to decimate the world’s population and enslave the remains.
I recorded three interviews which will appear on the Religious Studies Project in future, and a full report will appear in the BASR Bulletin next month.
[Updated 28/04/2017 – higher quality video added.]