Spielberg is in several senses, a master. His 80s films constitute part of the very essence of what it was to grow up as a child of the 80s like myself. Those of you who did have a keen sense for that 80s “feel” – a decade when it seemed simpler. Reagan was a good guy leading the free West against a godless empire of commies and atheists, while yuppies could found businesses, and Jacko burned his curls at Pepsi-funded mega-concerts. In the midst of this milder pop culture was a series of Spielberg and Lucas films, from Star Wars to Indiana Jones to Back to the Future that made the 80s even more enjoyable. I recently did an analysis of Raiders of the Lost Ark, noting the esoteric elements found within, and this time we are going to look at that late 70s (1977) gateway to the 80s that was Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
One crucial element I’ve noticed in both E.T. and Close Encounters is a deeper esoteric theme that has been overlooked in all the analyses I’ve seen so far: the nature of symbols, language and communication. This will become clearer as we progress. As the film begins, we are shown mysterious ships that appear in the desert, the French scientist and the cartographer interview an old Mongolian man who says of the UFOs that “the sun came out and sang.” There was a direct connection between the entities and music or sound, and they are directly connected with the sun. Simultaneously, across the globe in India Hindu pilgrims and yogis had gathered to sing to the entities during the daylight, “Ah yah, Ah yah ye.” This is close to the Tetragrammaton, the sacred Name of God in Scripture: Spielberg may be making a direct connection to the entities and the biblical notion of God as Lord Zbaoth, Lord of Hosts. In this instance, however, the “hosts” appear to be closer to the gods, possibly as demons or angelic. Note also that over the old man is the Star of David, a symbol that would be very familiar to Spielberg.
When the “aliens” arrive at Barry’s house, what happens is more in line with supernatural phenomena surrounding the multitudinous accounts of possession. Strange occurences like electrical disturbances and electronics going haywire mark their arrival, and it’s worth noting that the police cars, airplane and trucks go haywire, running in circles. Immediately following the Barry scene, we are shown Roy and his son doing fractions over the family train set. Roy, we notice, has this fascination with models and miniature versions of things. In symbology or semiotics (which is key to unlocking Close Encounters and E.T.), the connection of a smaller image, icon or model with the thing itself is simulacra.
In semiotics, particularly in Plato’s Sophist, simulacrum is intended to fool the viewer into thinking the copy is the real thing. The copy takes on a life of its own, yet viewed in scale it would clearly appear that the copy is not real. This is a perfect analogy for the nature of film itself, as well as the role of the director. The writer and/or film director is creating a simulacra of the real world with models and pictures, piecing and placing them together in a certain way, just as Roy does with the model train and city he has built. One may think of the simulated beings in Blade Runner or the simulated world of The Matrix here. Spielberg has mastered this art of simulation, and is presenting a simulated reality world – that of UFO-invaded America that is intended to produce a certain effect in the population. Can this be taken to a larger scale, to which Spielberg and the director himself is a “toy” of the larger, galactic forces or entities of the cosmos? Are we a Greek scale of being, being “played” and “directed” by the celestial hierarchy?
The models and simulacra also function on another level as foreshadowing of things to come within the film, as police, airplanes and military vehicles will later scurry about in a frenzy, as the plot progresses towards the Devil’s Tower monument in Wyoming. But before that, it’s important to look at the ship that appears in the Gobi desert, the Cotopaxi. The Cotopaxi actually did disappear in 1925 on its way to Cuba, and is part of the origin of the Bermuda Triangle mythology. Spielberg is here trying to tie in the alien mythos to the Bermuda tales, linking up mysterious events under the alien banner. On the surface level, the viewer is being given a new worldview with which to connect the overt imagery under the banner of the only orthodox, mainstream-promoted “conspiracy,” alien UFOs. However, on a deeper level, we can look at the association of “Cotopaxi” with the Colorado city of the same name, as well as the mountain in Ecuador, part of the Andes. Cotopaxi, Colorado is about 3 hours from Denver, which will be relevant as we progress, but before we get there, another element of simulacra that should be mentioned is synchronicity.
Within the film, as happens in E.T., the characters experience a barrage of symbols and images that will later become relevant on a larger scale. In this way, the simulacra function as inter-textual synchronicitous experiences for the characters. Roy continues to see an image that has been placed in his subconscious that he doesn’t understand. The mountain keeps emerging in his experience: in his mashed potatoes and on the TV. He doesn’t realize what it is, but he senses there is something to his inner vision of what will turn out to be the Devil’s Tower monument in Wyoming. In the midst of his near insanity having lost his family, Roy sees on television a special that reports on Devil’s Mountain. In an instant he realizes his synchronicitous image is the spot of an important encounter with the “aliens.”
Consonant with these events, the French scientist Lacombe tracking the UFO events has developed a sign language that corresponds to the notes the entities “sang” to the Hindus and to the old man in the Gobi desert. He presents his signs to an audience of scientists that are part of a secret project to study the “alien phenomenon.” Their symbol is a black pyramid. So far we have a possible Masonic “33” on the plane in the first scene, a “32” on Roy’s son’s jersey, hand signs here and a black pyramid project run, as it turns out, by a shadow government of agents and “men in black” types that are connected to the Air Force and Lockheed Martin. Earlier, the Air Force had met with the townsfolk of Muncie, Indiana and engaged in a press conference of disinformation intent on dispelling public interest in the close encounters occurring. The Air Force spokesmen make reference to bare rationalism, denying knowledge of any and all events. To a degree, this is true, as the real players close to the “aliens” are private military contractors – Lockheed, and not the public government. Note the almost inversion of the star in the logo used in the film.
Two possible associations can be made here. The secret project of scientists geared with the task of studying the UFO phenomenon hearkens to the famed “MJ 12” or “Majestic 12” committee of “agents” that were supposedly studying the existence of aliens and unexplained aerial phenomena related to Roswell. This is of course all bullshit, as is the much promoted Roswell “crash.” In fact, the entire “alien” mythos is itself one large disinformation campaign designed to function as a cover for actual secret aerial and space-based technology and likely drug running. “MJ 12” was more likely the group formed to promote the alien myth to keep prying eyes from looking into the technology that was being developed during wartime. As for the French UFO scientist, it may be a reference to Jacques Vallee, the famed UFO researcher who argued that UFOs were something more sinister: demonic entities invading our plane of existence. As with Raiders of the Lost Ark, the encounter with the gods occurs on a mountain, one of the high places.
To add to the mystery, some researchers have pointed out the possible connection of the Denver International Airport and the numbers the entities give through their interstellar communication. In the film, the mysterious numbers become geographical coordinates. Using Google Earth, I came up in the vicinity of the Denver Airport, but it was not exact. That is certainly possible, but what can be seen here is at least two explicit references to Colorado: Cotopaxi and the coordinates. Colorado is the home of NORAD (at the Cheyenne Mountain Complex), as well as the CIA’s recent relocation–two key shadow government locations, as well as the underground base beneath the Denver Airport (and who knows what else). It should be added that Denver and Colorado factor quite prominently in pop media and fiction: Atlas Shrugged, X-Men: First Class, The Stand, The Passage, Jericho, Red Dawn, The Shining, etc. As readers of Jay’s Analysis know, I have mentioned several times the importance of Denver and Colorado to the cryptocracy.
But Wyoming is also home to underground bases and secret establishments. When we see the government beginning to set up shop in the Devil’s Mountain area, a bus is shown that brings astronauts preparing to go away with the aliens. This is interesting, since the bus has a header that reads “Cheyenne.” Cheyenne, Wyoming is presumably the base from which the shadow government in the film has set up shop to control the alien arrival situation at the Devil’s Tower (Devil’s Tower is four hours north of Cheyenne). However, “Cheyenne” also has reference to Colorado as mentioned, since the NORAD/Cheyenne Mountain Complex is located in Colorado Springs and is one of the most important shadow/continuity of government installations. In Phillip K. Dick’s story Dr. Bloodmoney, it is the capital of a new military dictatorship, while in Jericho it is the capital of the “Allied States of America,” a faction of the new, post-apocalyptic US government. In Red Dawn, it is the farthest the communist forces have pushed American rebels.
While on the topic of bases and names, “Devil’s Tower” is also the name of a British base on Gibraltar, and Gibraltor’s rock looks strikingly similar to Spielberg’s choice of the Devil’s Tower monument. Thus, we can associate Devil’s Tower with the RAF and MI6, as Devil’s Tower is an ancient fortress tower keeping watch over British colonies. Is Spielberg saying the shadow government is the Anglo-American establishment, still keeping its panoptic gaze over its “colonies”? See this Popular Mechanics article on the Devil’s Tower base. Devil’s Tower also has reference to a famous Cold War spying station of the NSA. Is Spielberg saying those that run the alien mythos are actually the shadow government?
Or, conversely as I’ve toyed with in some instances, are the elite saying they are the “aliens”–are they the ascended,superior evolutionary beings that condescend to contact the profane masses atop the high places? Are the key players in the shadow government so removed from the masses as to be another species – “alien” to them, with the intention of playing them in the simulacrum simulation as Roy plays with the trains? Different possibilities and theses can certainly be entertained. I do find it odd that in my research of this, so much of what is portrayed in the film has polyvalent reference to so many sites and places that are home to strategic sites of the shadow government. As the story nears conclusion, Roy flees towards Devil’s Tower and the military begins spraying nerve gas in “chemtrail” fashion upon the escaped visionaries. Earlier, the shadow government had conceived a plan to “scare” all the populace with a bio-leak, and here the military industrial complex releases it in actuality. We know from sites like the Sunshine Project such events are also real possibities. “Bahama, this is Pyramid, over. Call the Dark Side of the Moon,” say the special forces soldiers. Dark Side of the Moon of course brings to mind the Pink Floyd album of the same name.
This may seem a bit far-fetched, but keep in mind that you are dealing with very intelligent people who do think in this symbolic and archetypal fashion. What some have called “mystical toponomy” is what is likely at work here, and can be described as the practice of making associations and connections with events and places based on the symbology, history, and meaning of said events and places. This is a field in which to tread lightly, since the associations are often fuzzy and speculative in nature, and only the most adept are proficient at this art. It is also somewhat dangerous, as the film itself shows with Roy, who begins to go mad making associations that emerge from his subconscious and are, by him, “associated” with synchronicitous events and places in his life.
In the plot, Roy is “chosen” by the gods/entities to gradually experience this initiatory journey until he ascends the mountain to be translated to the heavenly city. Is Spielberg laying out the frightening and enlightening journey of those who would seek out the mysteries of the universe and embark on that journey? The track Roy takes, being called to it and forsaking all that he has to attain the truth certainly lends credence to this view, and shows that perhaps Spielberg is telling us not to be afraid. Fear is what keeps us in our prison worlds of simulacra and models. Are we willing to question our basic presuppositions and worldviews, or are we married to them to such a degree that something utterly mysterious and foreign invading them and challenging them warrants scientistic rationalism as a crutch?
The aliens also seem to have a difficulty communicating. For some reason they cannot just talk, so they use music and eventually the hand signs that the scientist developed. Perhaps the gods or angelic entities also find it difficulty to communicate, and speak through the archetypes and symbols of our experience. I believe the angelic hierarchy or celestial intelligences organize the synchronicitous events and connections we experience, under the providential power and guidance of God. Understanding how these deeper level connections and associations are made is a tricky and somewhat frustrating art, and therefore places the viewer in Roy’s position.
I think it is possible to read the film on all these levels, and Spielberg is certainly someone genius enough to make a film operating on all these levels. I think noticing the profound depth of the simulacra and the models as foreshadowing alone is a gateway to viewing the films on these deeper levels. If we are permitted to take a step through that first gateway, is it possible Spielberg is telling us something more, to the extent that we are to look now at our own experiences and read a possible mystical toponomy at work? It is possible. Are we willing to be like Roy, sacrificing all for the truth of what is happening all around us? Initially, I read the film in a very moralistic fashion, such that the mythos was all about promoting aliens, and Roy was immoral for leaving his family and chasing the aliens.
Yet upon multiple viewings throughout my life, I take a more reflective position. Here is a normal guy confronted with something real that is very out of the ordinary. Spielberg makes it a point, too, to show that Roy’s wife saw things as well, even hiding the news clippings of UFO sightings from him. As Roy has his difficult and very real experiences, his wife continues to degrade and despise him until she leaves. Yet Roy is not a bad guy: at no point in the film does he wrong his wife. He is genuinely enthralled by something otherworldy that happened to him outside his own control, yet the people closest to him are unable to understand him. These perspectives are not mutually exclusive, either. Perhaps Spielberg is telling us about his own transformation through his artwork, and is conveying that journey to us through Roy’s gradual revelation and enlightenment. Maybe I sit here as a crazy Roy, sculpting a devil’s tower of pixels on this keyboard of mystical toponomy to follow, or maybe I’m a madman. Or maybe you are a turkey!