Jacques Vallée imagined the worldwide weird before ‘Department of Truth’
The conspiracy theories in James Tynion IV and Martin Simmonds’ psychological horror comic The Department of Truth take advantage of the pattern-seeking, dot-connecting part of our brains. Similarly, sometimes it’s the tiny little references in the book’s pages that ultimately reveal much of what’s going on beneath the surface.
In issue #22, the last before Department of Truth goes on hiatus, we find out that all the conspiracy theories we’ve been introduced to are taking on lives of their own, without any sort of control:
The field office lost three agents last week while trying to eliminate a small community of Chupacabra in New Mexico. On the scene they found downed black helicopters that we did not use or create.
There’s a cell of White Nationalists who have moved off the grid. They say they have a dossier that proves the last election was stolen. One of our agents died on the scene. Another two haven’t been responding to our calls.
An armed group stormed a CDC office last night with evidence that the pandemic was faked and a history of vaccine conspiracies that go back to polio, all as a means of mind-controlling the public. When they got there, they found more evidence that hadn’t existed prior.
Earlier in the issue, we conspicuously see a man in a coffee shop reading a book titled Passport to Magonia. With the full title Passport to Magonia: From Folklore to Flying Saucers, this real book was published in 1969, written by a complicated man named Jacques Vallée. If you’re looking for connections, you might find one between The Department of Truth and Vallée’s search for an all-encompassing explanation for weird events.
Vallée, now age 83, has written a slew of books on UFOs over the decades. He’s been a computer scientist who’s worked for NASA, a venture capitalist, and he was the inspiration for the character of Claude Lacombe in Steven Speilberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Vallée has been outspoken about his disgust with the pseudohistory and the tendency of those in the UFO community to lean toward conspiracy theories, and holds distinctly different views on the nature of the phenomenon than what’s seen in that landmark film.
While Vallée once supported the idea that UFOs were of an extraterrestrial origin, Passport to Magonia served as his pivot to a belief that encounters actually represented visitors from a different dimension. These ideas would later be explored by others, too, as seen in John Keel’s The Mothman Prophecies and Whitley Strieber’s “nonfiction” book series, which documented his own supposed alien abduction experiences.
In Passport to Magonia, Vallée discusses the importance of viewing all strange phenomena as part of a bigger picture. UFOs, psychic powers, demons, angels, and everything in between — to Vallée, all of these things are connected. He even considers the 1917 so-called miracle in Fatima, Portugal, and other religious happenings, to be ultimately related to the UFO phenomenon.
Of course, Vallée never bothers trying to explain what this mysterious, ubiquitous phenomenon throughout all of history actually is. Or what it wants, or what being from “another dimension” even means. The non-explanation has always, somehow, seemed more persuasive to him than the idea that there have always been stories of weird things because human psychology is prone to the development of folklore, and that hasn’t changed.
Strangely enough, unlike Keel, Vallée did seem to come back to Earth in one of his most recent books, Trinity: The Best Kept Secret, co-authored with investigative journalist Paola Leopizzi Harris, which focuses on a very nuts-and-bolts flying saucer crash in 1945. This, along with new work on supposed debris from UFO encounters, has been seen by his more mystically-inclined followers as something of a betrayal. But hey, at least it’s gotten him a spot with Harvard’s Galileo Project.
Every February, to help celebrate Darwin Day, the Science section of AIPT cranks up the critical thinking for SKEPTICISM MONTH! Skepticism is an approach to evaluating claims that emphasizes evidence and applies the tools of science. All month we’ll be highlighting skepticism in pop culture, and skepticism *OF* pop culture.
* This article was originally published here