By Carl Teichrib, Chief Editor
Forcing Change, Volume 3, Issue 10. Posted November 19, 2009
Note: Some sections of this article were originally published a decade ago. However, because of a new movie slatted for release this November, an updated version is being offered to Forcing Change readers.
It’s a strange name for a movie: "The Men Who Stare at Goats," and what makes this more remarkable is that it’s based on a "true story."
Staring George Cloony, Ewan McGregor and Jeff Bridges, this flick – to be released in November 2009 – follows the bizarre story of a United States military program that attempted to employ psychic powers and occult techniques to gain an edge on the battlefield. Welcome to the "First Earth Battalion," a New Age military concept initiated by Lt. Colonel Channon in the late 1970s.
I originally found out about the First Earth Battalion idea in the mid-1990s when I obtained a copy of its "field manual." This book, like the program it was promoting, wasn’t in the normal military style; most of it was presented in the form of graphics, and the text promoted global citizenship, yoga, cosmic evolution, and self-godhood. It even offered a prayer to Mother Earth, and suggested that in the future this First Earth Battalion would be the foundation for an "Army of Light."
But why the movie title, "Men Who Stare at Goats"? Apparently, participants in this occult-military program where supposed to take down enemies by projecting psychic powers. Training for this was apparently done on goats, and the warrior monks – the term used by these mind solders – would stare at goats in an attempt to kill them using mind power alone.
While all of this seems strange, even goofy (the trailer for the movie takes a comedy bent), the First Earth Battalion isn’t the only connection between occultism and the military community. Nor is the United States the only nation that has pursued spiritual/psychic links for battlefield supremacy – Russia, Germany, Great Britain, and other countries have flirted with occult/military programs. However, the US does have the largest and most proficient military in the world, and as a nation that has strong Christian roots, this occult partnering therefore needs some investigation.
I Saluted A Witch
"I Saluted A Witch." So read the title of an article in the July 5th, 1999 edition of Time magazine. What followed was a disturbing expose of a growing trend within the United States Army—the official sanctioning of witchcraft. While the Army has traditionally been viewed as a conservative institution, it found itself grappling with the issue of religious tolerance, including the recognition of New Age and pagan beliefs.
To that end, Fort Hood, the largest military base in the U.S, gave official recognition to Wicca – a religious belief system associated with neo-paganism and what is more traditionally known as witchcraft. According to Time, "Few people outside the base knew the Army had approved such a group until a couple of months ago, when a photo of a torchlight ritual appeared in a local paper." Other military bases followed suit, but there was a backlash.
Congressman Bob Barr, in a May 18, 1999 press release called for “an end to the taxpayer-supported practice of witchcraft on military bases.” In a letter to congressional and military leaders Barr exclaimed,
“This move sets a dangerous precedent that could easily result in the practice of all sorts of bizarre practices being supported by the military under the rubric of ‘religion.’ What’s next? Will armored divisions be forced to travel with sacrificial animals for Satanic rituals? Will Rastifarians demand the inclusion of ritualistic marijuana cigarettes in their rations?”
In a May 21, 1999 column, Congressman Barr explained that,
“…the military is now drafting regulations allowing soldiers to use the powerful hallucinogenic drug peyote as part of a ‘religious’ ritual…What happens if a pilot hallucinates while flying, or if an artillery officer experiences a flashback while calculating coordinates?”
Rice Beer, Sacrificial Chickens, and the Special Forces
One of the most unusual examples of the military linking with pagan spirituality took place during the Vietnam war. In 1964 U.S. Special Forces employed a 10,000-strong montagnard strike force in the Vietnamese high country. The montagnards were native highlanders who were trained by certain elements of the U.S. military and intelligence community to fight against the North Vietnamese regular army (NVA). Besides combating the NVA, the montagnards were also at odds with the U.S-backed South Vietnamese government, and had hopes of establishing an independent highland nation outside of Saigon’s domain. Understandably, tension existed within the montagnard/U.S. alliance (see National Geographic, January 1965).
On September 19, 1964, more than 3,000 armed mountain tribesman located within five US Special Forces camps openly revolted against the South Vietnam government. Such a move put American forces in serious danger. In Buon Brieng, a U.S. Special Forces facility containing a 700-man battalion of montagnards, tension rose to dangerous levels. In order to calm the situation, U.S. Army Special Forces Captain Vernon W. Gillespie agreed to participate in a pagan ritual designed to summon the spirits and bring peace back to the base. Montagnard battalion leader, Y Jhon Nie explained, “We will make a sacrifice, and the sorcerer will invoke the spirits to help us.”
Captain Gillespie (the U.S. commander of Buon Brieng), Y Jhon Nie, and Captain Truong of the South Vietnamese Special Forces donned the traditional ceremonial garb – a black and red long-sleeved top and a similarly colored loin-cloth. Howard Sochurek, a writer for National Geographic witnessed the event and explained what happened next,
“Shortly after 10 a.m. we walked to the ceremonial hut. Huge brass gongs announced the arrival of the sorcerer, a sunken-faced man with watery eyes. A delegation of camp and village dignitaries faced a row of seven jars, each brimful of fermented rice mash and water – a potent concoction. Food offerings lay beside the jars: one pig and a chicken as an offering for Gillespie; a chicken each for Y Jhon, Captain Truong, and the sorcerer. Chanting, the sorcerer communicated with the spirits. After each communication the participants sipped rice beer.
"The climax of the ceremony came when the sorcerer, after one particularly long drought of brew, crouched alongside Captain Gillespie and fastened a brass ring to his right wrist. This – joining a twin ring from [a] previous ritual that had united Gillespie and Y Jhon – would give notice to the spirits that a suitable offering had been made. Captain Truong, too, received a like bracelet, as did Y Jhon. Now all three were bound in alliance. The spirits having been appeased, the ceremony ended. The rice liquor that remained in the seven jars was distributed to the soldiers in the strike force, as were the sacrificial chickens. The tension in the camp eased considerably."(For details see National Geographic, January 1965, pp. 38-42).
After a week of negotiations, the rebel montagnards capitulated to U.S. ultimatums. And while it is likely that Captain Gillespie’s participation within the pagan ritual helped set the tribal soldiers at ease, the fact remains that spiritual forces were summoned.
Transcending Time and Space
For science fiction buffs, Stargate is a successful television show in which the military has acquired a portal device that links Earth to other worlds via a wormhole – a concept in physics that suggests “shortcuts” or tunnels exist in the time/space fabric, and that these tunnels can link different parts of the universe. In the show, the wormhole hypothesis is played out in a cross-galactic drama where, each week, the cast of the series faces different adventures.
Ironically, the US military-intelligence community also had a program named Stargate, and over the last few years, different elements of this project have come to light. Dale E. Graff, former director of Stargate, published some of his experiences in a book titled Tracks in the Psychic Wilderness.
“As part of my responsibilities, I created the name ‘Stargate’ for our total remote viewing effort. Stargate invoked the feeling of exploration, a sense of reaching beyond our ordinary capabilities, or expanding the boundaries of our human potential.” (p.6)
The point of Stargate was to explore, develop, and manipulate psychic abilities, including remote viewing and remote influencing.
What is “remote viewing”? It’s the ability to mentally/spiritually detach yourself from your present physical state and, through paranormal means, engage in espionage and information gathering activities. “Remote influencing,” on the other hand, is the paranormal ability to influence a static object and manipulate it through mind-powers alone. This is also known as psychokinesis, and it includes the moving of physical item, self-levitation, and the influencing of events from a distance.
David Morehouse, the author of Psychic Warrior, explains that once remote viewing is cultivated, it allows the individual to psychically jump into different time/space dimensions. Upon mentally/spiritually entering the desired “reality,” the observer views the intended events and returns to his physical existence with the sought after information. Morehouse, a decorated Army officer, Airborne Ranger Company Commander, and invited speaker at Mikhail Gorbachev’s 1995 State of the World Forum, admits that he was involved in psychic espionage. He also admits that the U.S. military has been utilizing remote viewing for decades.
W. Adam Mandelbaum, a former intelligence asset who claims to have engaged in this type of work, draws a comparison between ancient shamans and these psychic spooks.
“Whereas the ancient shaman painted wall caves, predicting successful hunts, and danced before tribal fires to contact the spirits, the modern-day magus sits on his CIA-issue couch and sends his government-trained astral body into the ether in search of prey. Even today, what might be called ‘Primitive Third Eyes’ exist, veterans of the military-psychic spying program. Now, for hefty fees, they will enter the astral world for information, the world’s most valuable commodity.” (The Psychic Battlefield, p.2)
Bizarre as all this seems, it only scratches the surface of the occult/mind linkages found in the military-intelligence complex. This most recent movie, Men Who Stare at Goats, which painting a comedic aspect to this episode, will probably downplay such programs as quirky but ultimately harmless. Interestingly, serious practitioners of occultism recognize the dangers latent in this realm.
Secrets That Kill
H.P. Blavatsky, the founder of the Theosophical Society and mother of the New Age Movement, penned a very perplexing statement: “there are secrets that kill in the arcane of Occultism…” She goes on to say,
“Thus, if purely material implements are capable of blowing up, from a few corners, the greatest cities of the globe, provided the murderous weapons are guided by expert hands – what terrible dangers might not arise from magical occult secrets being revealed, and allowed to fall into the possession of ill-meaning persons!” (Studies in Occultism, p.28)
Those who have witnessed the violence of occult forces, such as Barney Lacendre, speak to this reality.
Mr. Lacendre, who was once a Cree witchdoctor in northern Saskatchewan, talked of his experiences under the bondage of Native witchcraft – including physically destructive manifestations – in his book, The Bushman and the Spirits. In 1960, after a period of trapline hexes and an encounter with a Christian man who understood the Indian life, Barney realized that Jesus Christ had more power than the evil spirits that operated in his world. After turning his heart to Christ Jesus, a new man was born, and while he evangelized to the Cree communities of northern Canada, he also warned about the darker elements of spiritual bondage.
In his 1979 book, Lacendre wrote,
“Witchcraft isn’t something that’s just practiced in distant heathen countries. It’s going on right now, here in Canada. It’s widespread, maybe more so now than ever before. It isn’t just back in the bush, either. It comes in different forms.” (The Bushman and the Spirits, p.24)
Some may dismiss all of this as so much hocus pocus, but history is replete with observations and examples of spiritual powers and occult forces. Hundreds of millions of people live in day-to-day fear of evil spirits and dark powers. Sophisticated secular minds may claim it’s only superstition; but even a casual survey of such cultures points out that these beliefs are built on something tangible.
Hocus pocus? Obviously mainline institutions, such as the U.S. Army, recognizes some validity to the paranormal or “spiritual” – enough, at least, to pursue occult experiments. It’s more than just goats and a goofy movie. So, what can we glean from this brief exploration of such a different topic?
Simply put: It demonstrates that society’s fascination with occultism isn’t limited to those who are “spiritually-minded” or the paranormal fads of popular culture – it even transcends accepted norms of civil service. Therefore, by understanding this context, we have a better grasp of our culture’s spiritual appetite, and hopefully can be better equipped to recognize the inroads made by occultism. And in the case of Barney Lacendre, realize the freedom from spiritual bondage that comes through Jesus Christ.
The Bible provides a guideline when encountering such spiritual practices, even within a national setting. Deuteronomy 18 gives instruction to the Hebrew nation not to follow the occult ways of those around them. We too can take heed.
“There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For all who do these things are an abomination to the LORD, and because of these abominations the LORD your God drives them out from before you. You shall be blameless before the LORD your God.” (Deuteronomy 18:10-13) FC
Carl Teichrib is editor of Forcing Change (www.forcingchange.org), a monthly journal on issues impacting the church, family, and nation.
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