“What prevents the UFO and alien topic from becoming culturally acceptable is that we lack a framework for understanding it or giving it meaning. It remains unpresentable, unfathomable. If we are going to assimilate it - and perhaps even neutralize the implicitly threatening aspects of it - we must develop a narrative and define a philosophical and conceptual model that gives shape and coherence to the phenomenon.”

—Daniel Pinchbeck, The Occult Control System: UFOs, aliens, other dimensions, and future timelines (pp. 4-5).

Daniel Pinchbeck is the well known author of works on psychedelics and shamanism like 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl and When Plants Dream. Recently (2019) he published a text on the UFO phenomenon entitled The Occult Control System (quoted above). Though the text is relatively short it covers a number of significant topics pertinent to The Phenomenon. In this piece I’ll review Pinchbeck’s text. While I’ll raise some critical questions on a few points, overall I think it’s a very solid introductory text in the field.

Pinchbeck begins by noting that the UFO phenomenon is quickly moving from the periphery of conversation increasingly towards the center. The quotation cited above really lays out what Pinchbeck seeks to do in his book.

In that paragraph he makes three crucial points:
1: The UFO phenomenon lacks a philosophical and conceptual model to give coherence and understanding
2: the need to assimilate the experience (point #1 is a crucial element there)
3: Potentially neutralize the implicitly threatening aspects of the phenomenon

The rest of the text in a systematic fashion fleshes out those three points.

I 100% agree with him that the UFO topic needs a framework for meaning making and understanding. On the site I've been engaged in precisely that project; I’ve put forward the frames of ontological flooding and weird naturalism as a way to begin to give shape and meaning to the UFO phenomenon.

I also am in full agreement with Pinchbeck about the need to assimilate The Phenomenon. My earlier pieces exploring the intersection of trauma-healing techniques and the UFO topic are precisely along those lines.

It is on the third point where I think Pinchbeck’s analysis suffers in some key ways. But before raising some critical questions and alternative views on that specific point, first we need to get a better handle on how Pinchbeck understands these three points.

The conceptual model that Pinchbeck primarily (though not exclusively) follows is that of Gnosticism. I’ve written on Gnosticism before in relation to the Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen animated film Sausage Party. In addition, particularly relevant in this discussion is a subsequent piece where I explored the work of David Icke who explicitly merged Gnosticism with UFO/alien lore (and was arguably the first to do so). Pinchbeck doesn’t cite Icke specifically by name in this text but Ickeian ideas are deeply interwoven in Pinchbeck’s work.

The Gnostic viewpoint has some important partial truths to it but also I believe some key mistakes and blindspots—for more on that argument there’s this piece which compares Gnosticism and orthodox Christianity to non-dual Neoplatonic thought. I think Pinchbeck’s Gnostic-influenced take on the UFO phenomenon then has positive partial attributes but also some important missing elements.

Pinchbeck writes:

Perhaps there are, indeed “off planet,” “extra-” or “infra-dimensional” entities manipulating humanity, seeking to advance their own agendas. To be honest, I am quite certain this is the case. (pp.8-9)

Pinchbeck cites the famous Gnostic myth of Sophia (Wisdom) falling and that fall initiating creation. That fall led to micro-tears into reality through which negative forces (The Archons) penetrate. These Archons then go about constructing a psychic-etheric control grid meant to deeply interfere with the human spirit, creating distortion and suffering for humans. The Archons then feed parasitically off the traumatized human energy (again this is in large measure straight out of Icke).

Unlike Icke, however, Pinchbeck has a much more symbolic, imaginal, high strange understanding of the nature of these forces. He (Pinchbeck) correctly notes that the UFO phenomenon forces us to question the foundations of philosophical materialism. The Phenomenon—whatever else it is—clearly points to the realty of consciousness. The Phenomenon is both conscious and technological simultaneously (as Jacques Vallee revealed decades ago). The Phenomenon forces us to re-imagine our metaphysics and in particular our ontology. With ontology (as in ontological flooding) we inevitably end up talking about beings or entities that populate ontological spaces.

As I’ve argued elsewhere the entities known as ETs/interdimensionals/“aliens” primarily reside in the psychic state of consciousness, which is the numinous or high strange dimensions of the gross realm. In this regard, Pinchbeck’s familiarity with the worldspaces brought forward through plant medicines and psychedelics (e.g. ayahuasca, mushrooms, LSD, etc.) are an obvious overlap with the UFO phenomenon. Pinchbeck does briefly mention Vallee’s comparison of the UFO phenomenon to the lore concerning the fairy folk, as well citing Rudolf Steiner’s description of gnomes in this context, though I think he gives these notions short shrift as compared to the more control system perspective he seeks to develop. Worth noting that fairy folk and gnomes are elementals, that is personifications of psychic aspects of the gross realm material world (more on that in a second).

Though to be clear, I do agree that there is such a thing as an occult control system. I often cite the work of Peter Levenda who coined the term “sinister forces” to explain this phenomenon. Levenda’s trilogy of books on the subject is absolutely required reading. Sinister forces are ways in which what we might call “negative synchronicities” repeat throughout history. Levenda’s classic example is the experience of The Nine. In the 1950s nine individuals, many scions of blue blood American aristocracy, led by Andrija Puharich—the man who sought to weaponize psi phenomenon for US intelligence agencies—had a seance/mediumship encounter with an otherworldly entity that called itself The Nine. This entity claimed the nine humans present in the magical working would become the conduits for this “Nine Entity” to manifest in the world. Each of those nine people in very bizarre and creepy ways, were deeply connected to the conspiracy surrounding the assassination of John F. Kennedy years later. Levenda’s question is: how do we explain that coincidence?

Michael Hoffman’s book Secret Societies and Psychological Warfare further reveals the occult and ritualistic elements in the assassination of JFK itself. S.K. Bain’s text Most Dangerous Book in the World: 9/11 as Mass Ritual (foreword by Levenda himself) makes the same type of argument relative to the September 11th attacks, namely that there are bizarre ritual and occult symbolism in the attacks themselves, as if some other force engineered events towards a sinister, demonic, and ritualistic element.

So I do think the occult control system is a valid perspective to bring but I think it could be better contextualized or framed, particularly as it relates to the UFO phenomenon and the abduction experience specifically.

Pinchbeck does see the UFO/alien phenomenon as a psychic phenomenon; he uses the traditional term daemonic. Pinchbeck however pretty quickly elides daemonic to demonic, like here:

"The Grey aliens - removing people from their lives in a trance-like paralysis, performing operations on them, subjecting them to various cruel torments - seem particularly demonic.”  (ibid, pp. 17-18).

This is where I think Pinchbeck’s Gnosticism starts to create a too simplistic, binary, black and white perspective. I think there’s more room for “grey” here.

Pinchbeck takes a pretty standard line around the so-called abduction phenomenon. He mentions Steiner’s depiction of Ahriman—which is a force seeking to trap humanity in literalism, egotistical materialism, and the denial of the spiritual—explicitly twinning it with the abduction phenomenon.

Pinchbeck writes:

Personally, I foresee the approach of this Ahrimanic incarnation in the race to develop a generalized Artificial Intelligence - a super-rational self-aware entity - on the one hand, and in the alien abduction saga on the other. The soulless, unfeeling Greys seem to be Ahrimanic entities who seem to be working frantically to break through the dimensional gateway so they can fully enter into our dimension, incarnating through hybridization (ibid, p. 34).

I agree with him on his point about artificial intelligence and Ahriman. (If you want to explore that topic in further detail there are these two pieces I’ve written on transhumanism). But again I think the abduction phenomenon is too quickly lumped in entirely with the Ahrimanic. Earlier in the text Pinchbeck summarizes the work of David Jacobs, a researcher and hypnotherapist, who has been strongest advocate for a notion of alien takeover through a hybridization program. I mention Jacob’s work and my critiques of it in my piece on alien-human hybridization.

Pinchbeck, in opposition to this bleaker view, mentions the work of Steven Greer. (I’ve explored Greer’s methodology of humane-initiated contact CE-5 in this piece.) Greer is, in my view, too much on the “light side” when it comes to what is known as the abduction phenomenon. But I think Jacobs and Pinchbeck are too much on the dark side. Again I think there’s more ambiguity, tricksterism, and room in the middle, a “grey” zone if you will.

To be fair to Pinchbeck he does explicitly state that he’s sharing a number of different views on the subject and thinks it’s important to explore a multiplicity of perspectives on the phenomenon and avoid the trap of becoming fundamentalist about any of our perspectives. I think that’s a valid point.

Still, the view he’s tending to highlight, I believe, needs some nuance. Steiner, for example, was very clear that Ahriman could not simply be done away with. For Steiner, humans had to learn to incorporate technological and materials elements but in service of Love and integration. In the context of the UFO phenomenon I think the same applies—we’re going to have to figure out how to work with it, or at least significant aspects of it.

That being said consider this quotation:

There is an indication that they [ETs/aliens/greys] plan to fully incarnate into matter or to make use of some proportion of the human population for their own ends, at a time of chaos and catastrophe, which they are helping to orchestrate. It is also possible that this is a daemonic, trickster phenomenon that will always remain a little outside of a definitive, literal manifestation (ibid. p.38).

While he does here open the door very slightly to the daemonic-trickster line of thought I think it’s fair to say he pretty quickly then closes that same door. The first sentence is quite charged and rich while the second feels to me more like a throwaway line. The implication being that “it’s possible but not very likely” in Pinchbeck’s view.

I think there’s definitely more room to explore and flesh out that trickster hypothesis. The work of Joshua Cutchin on the deep connections between fairy folk, the jinn, and the UFO phenomenon is critical here. Vallee’s paralleling of the UFO phenomenon with Marian apparitions is also relevant. John Keel’s structural connections between UFOs and cryptids, as well as the dead are another key example. Also Mike Clelland's personal reflections on the intersection between UFO and high strange animal spirits (owls) is yet another in this line. Pinchbeck doesn’t leave enough room for the eerie, the haunting, and the enigmatic in my view.

As weird as Pinchbeck’s book is in one way, in another sense, I could argue it’s not weird enough. An occult control system is something that might be hidden—occulted—but it’s not particularly unknowable. The central metaphor is a control system after all. We’re all very aware of control systems. I would say that over-reliance on the control system as the primary context within which to situate the abduction phenomenon makes it too knowable and therefore able to be controlled (in this case by the human mind), whereas I think the main experience is the potentially “out-of-control” nature of the whole phenomenon. In a strange way I think that is what is often most terrifying in the phenomenon—not that it might be evil but that it might be inscrutable.

Either way, all the elements of the UFO phenomenon—including hybridization as Peter Levenda and Cutchin have showed—have historical roots. This might not solve the question of whether some, much, or all of that phenomenon are the same as the occult control grid but it does open a wider picture than I think Pinchbeck offers in the text. Pinchbeck’s reliance on Jacobs’ more alien invasion view of hybridization is up for some questioning once we see that the hybridization process might itself be another imaginal, trickster-y construct and experience (as I argued in my piece on it).

Later, near the end of the text, Pinchbeck does say this:

What I gleaned from my study of the crop formations is that there may be extra- as well as infra-terrestrial and other-dimensional forces working with and for humanity, as well as others working against us. The technique for contacting these more benevolent forces requires, I believe, attaining a heightened state of humble receptivity, on the one hand, while on the other hand, finding an appropriate, active way to reach out to them. (ibid, p. 41)

I think the book could have been served by a more detailed fleshing out of how he sees there being benevolent forces at work and how these forces interact (or not) with the occult control system and how they might support humans in being liberated from the control grid. This is what I mean by the the way in which I think the occult control system aspect could have been better contextualized and framed. Without a better understanding of the precise truth-value of the grid, it tends to become an overwhelming meta-context. Again I think it’s valid to consider such a construct as the occult control system but I don’t think that system is itself the final reality or answer. Without a clearer picture of how the occult control system relates to the benevolent forces, I think Pinchbeck’s view can too easily lead to disempowerment (though I think his  intention is quite the opposite to be clear).

Rather than a particular attack on Pinchbeck (which this isn’t), it’s ultimately I think more a problem with the Gnostic view more broadly.

Gnosticism ultimately argues the individual must find their salvation by connecting with the utterly transcendent realm beyond all of fallen creation. There is no redemption of materiality in Gnosticism. Rather matter must simply be transcended. As a partial aside, I find it fairly odd that Pinchbeck spends so much time (rightly) decrying ecological destruction and advocating there should be greater care for life on earth while also holding a strongly Gnostic view. The two don’t jive very well. In point of fact, those two worldviews fully contradict each other. Gnosticism tends to quickly slide from fallen consciousness within creation to creation is fallen and illusory as such. Now arguably Pinchbeck doesn’t go full Gnostic (“you never go full Gnostic”) but he comes damn close.

As it pertains to the occult control system, from a Gnostic standpoint, the only way is “up and out”, i.e. to transcend the entirety of material creation in a form of transcendentalist union with the Absolute Realm of Love, beyond this world.

Which again makes it interesting that Pinchbeck does mention benevolent forces and ends his text by citing, of all things, the key passage on spiritual warfare from the Letter to the Ephesians (New Testament), chapter 6:

“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”

Pincheck concludes by saying:

If we aren’t aiming at the proper targets, we will never hit the mark.

I think he’s onto something there but what’s he’s onto I think doesn’t sit as well with the rest of the more Gnostic-influenced views. The more orthodox Biblical view (and not Gnostic) that Pinchbeck is citing in Ephesians is one in which there are demonic influences (“powers, rulers, principalities”) but that ultimately these demonic forces are outdone by the reality of God (as Love), i.e. what Pinchbeck called earlier the benevolent forces.

So I think the first difficulty around the control grid (and the Gnostic view a bit more broadly) is how does it relate to the benevolent forces and vice versa?

For example, Pinchbeck doesn’t explore the tradition of channeled star being texts like those on the Pleiadians, Arcturians, Sirians, etc. I’ve written about those from a weird naturalist position here. Pinchbeck does make one very brief reference to Bashar and Laura Knight-Jacdyzk but doesn’t really followup on it. Those channeled texts do explore notions of benevolent “alien” or intergalactic beings and would be interesting to hold in tension with stories of time loss, lights in the sky, strange body markings, hybridization, and the rest.

Pinchbeck criticizes love and light New Age-ism for spiritual bypassing, in particular seeking to avoid the darkness. Again I think that’s a totally valid point. But in his desire not to fall into the excessively all love and light view, I think he’s tipped the scales too far in the other direction.

The second critique I’d raise comes back around to the point about the imaginal, trickster-y, psychic quality of this phenomenon. Amidst the many important figures in Ufology that Pinchbeck does cite—like Richard Dolan, Jacques Vallee, and others—one name he doesn’t reference is Whitley Strieber. I think that’s a significant omission.

Now whatever one thinks of Strieber’s views—I don’t agree with all of his views—he has to be dealt with in this discussion. Strieber does not advocate an all love and light New Age-ism by any stretch. He doesn’t however fall into a view that the entire phenomenon—abductions included—should be seen in wholly negative light either. Strieber was the first major public abductee to write of his experience so he’s got some room to speak on the subject.

Strieber’s view is that humans have to grow into having a more conscious relationship with this phenomenon and that, without doing so, the experience will continue to haunt us. Strieber was, after all, originally a horror writer. To riff off Strieber, in a more Jungian way, we might argue that the reason the UFO phenomenon seems to come in a haunting way is because we’re screening it out consciously, thereby putting this experience into the shadow. When in it’s shadow form it must come to humans through the semi or unconscious realm (“twilight state”), leaving humans in a much more vulnerable and disempowered state during encounter. If that idea holds any water, then the disempowerment is not simply a consequence of the experience but actually is shaping (warping?) the contours of the experience and coloring it’s mood from the very beginning.

Wherever we come down on that idea, no one could read Strieber’s truly terrifying accounts of his encounters with The Visitors and come away thinking this was some primrose path of only love and light.

What Strieber did do though was to, as he called it, “live the question. He took on many different potential hypotheses as to the nature of his experience and lived them *as if* they were true. He both quested but also was willing to question his assumptions. He went through a phase thinking it was all love and light and took that on. Then he went through another phase thinking it was all indeed a sinister Invasion of the Body Snatchers-like plot, complete with Gnostic paranoia about the ways in which these beings were appearing spiritual but were potentially demonic. He lived the world from that lens.

Elsewhere on the site, I’ve explored a notion from the philosopher Hegel that how we cognize a reality not only changes us but changes the substance of the reality cognized, which I think is particularly intriguing concept in relationship to this phenomenon (what I call Hegalienism).

So when Strieber ends up ultimately in a position of seeing The Visitors as potentially able to help humans radically evolve while at the same time thinking humans have something to offer to The Visitors, he came by that position in a hard won fashion.

Strieber did title his first book on this subject Communion (later titles included Breakthrough and Transformation). Strieber was after Communion with this terrifying force (recall that the original meaning of terror is holy awe). Incidentally Strieber, like Greer, offers a path of seeking to initiate contact. It would be really interesting to compare their descriptions of their methods with Pinchbeck’s notions of ensuring one is contacting benevolent forces through discerning means.

Again one doesn’t have to agree ultimately with Strieber’s view while they can appreciate the sincerity and depth of his path. That level of nuance and depth is rare to find in UFO literature, where too often individuals tend to fixate on one position and simply dig their heels in—love and light, sinister demonic invasion, hoax to cloak secret government projects, whatever.

Over the years Strieber received thousands of letters of individuals sharing their contact stories after reading his books. Anne Strieber—Whitley’s spouse—read and responded to these letters. Anne and Whitley published a representative sampling of them as The Communion Letters. In that text (Whitley) Strieber makes a point that the vast vast majority of the experiences shared in those letters do not conform to any traditional abduction narrative. For Strieber much of what we have been conditioned to think of as an alien abduction is due in large measure to the desire of various UFO researchers (proponents and debunkers alike) to reduce the multiplicity of experiences into one standardized narrative. That push to iron out the diversity and make of it one unified experience is it’s own kind of occult (mental-rational) control grid.

It was Anne Strieber actually who first suggested to her husband that somehow his experiences were related to the realm of the dead (as previously mentioned John Keel made the same argument). The dead can certainly be problematic at times—hauntings, poltergeist activity, and the like. They can be stuck between the worlds creating pain all around (I’ve explored mediumship and the dead through a weird naturalist here). On the other hand, very often, the dead rattle their bones because we have forgotten them or are not honoring their path. When it comes to the dead traditional wisdom has a process of acknowledging, burying, sending off, and creating proper boundaries both for the living and those living in another form.

Applied to the UFO phenomenon I think much the same is potentially in play. Too much Ufology is spent trying to scrutinize what “their” motivations are or who they are rather than asking who we want to be in relation to them (if indeed they are separate from us and we from them, which is by no means certain I think). Here I think again traditional shamanic insight about how best to create harmony and balance (including energetically cloaking oneself when necessary) and developing harmonious relations with all sentient beings (animism) is key. There is long held wisdom concerning how best to deal with elementals, with the dead, and so on. Again Pinchbeck’s animistic and shamanic plant medicine experiences could be right in line with this view.

Along those lines, The Edgar Mitchell society’s FREE research project would be another example in this line (which I’ve cited many times on the site). That research established that The Phenomenon is deeply interwoven with the development of psychic capacities and, like Keel, Vallee, and Strieber argued, is one branch of a multi-branched tree that includes things like astral traveling, the dead, precognition, as well as plant medicines.

This is not to say that there aren’t negative entities along these lines or that there aren’t layers of potential inception and psychic control grids. Again I agree with those as very probable realities but to equate all encounters with the so-called greys as wholly negative and an aspect of this occult control grid is going well beyond the evidence.

To conclude, I want to return to the Pinchbeck quotation with which I began the piece.

“What prevents the UFO and alien topic from becoming culturally acceptable is that we lack a framework for understanding it or giving it meaning. It remains unpresentable, unfathomable. If we are going to assimilate it - and perhaps even neutralize the implicitly threatening aspects of it - we must develop a narrative and define a philosophical and conceptual model that gives shape and coherence to the phenomenon.”

In summary, I think Pinchbeck is absolutely correct that a framework for understanding and meaning making in the UFO phenomena is solely lacking and vitally necessary. I appreciate him taking the step and offering his views on the subject. I think it’s crucial that more well developed thinkers, particularly of a spiritual bent like Pinchbeck, approach this subject with the seriousness it deserves. He definitely does that in this text.

I also agree that assimilation and integration of the experience is key and while I do agree that reflections on an occulted control grid are an important part of such assimilation (as well as energetic protection), they are I believe only a part of a much larger picture and ultimately I don’t think the most important part. There are other perspectives to take into account as well and give fuller weight to in my view—both Pinchbeck’s idea around benevolent forces and how those might relate to the control gird, as well as the needs for humans to be changed in relationship to this phenomenon in order that the appearance of the phenomenon can actually change.