In the California desert, near Joshua Tree and 29 Palms stands a strange domed building that is the focus of belief in UFOs, conspiracy theories, and a small part of the birth of the counter-culture and emergence of New Age ideas. Calling All Earthlings is a documentary that uses that building to look at the time it was built—and also a bit of what faith can look like.
In the 1950s, aerospace engineer George Van Tassel met a visitor from Venus who took him onto his spaceship and revealed the secret of rejuvenation to him. It is from this that Van Tassel got the plans to build the Integratron. This building would create an energy field that would make it possible for people to live much longer lives. While the construction was going on, Van Tassel hosted an annual Interplanetary Spacecraft Convention which drew thousands of people to the desert.
Since this is at the height of the Cold War, this also attracted the attention of the FBI (in part because of letters from local people) as a possible front for Communist activity. When Van Tassel died shortly before the planned activation of the Integratron, many wondered if foul play was involved.
This sounds like it belongs in The X-Files. Filmmaker Jonathan Berman talks with both skeptics and believers as he explores the meaning of this building in the middle of nowhere. I expect this film will be met by some with head shaking that anyone would buy into this, but also by some who will find vindication for their belief in things beyond our understanding.
Put me with the head shakers. But I also thought as I was watching this that these people, with their acceptance of something that seems so absolutely ludicrous, are a model of what many people of faith seem like to those outside of faith. When people of faith tell stories of a man walking on water or feeding 5000 with five loaves of bread and two fish, or when we hear Paul (or Mohammed [pbuh] in another faith tradition) speak of being taken up into heaven, do we seem just as ludicrous as the Intergratron faithful seem to me? Which raises a question that the film never quite gets to—what is the nature of belief? It is that question that I would suggest people consider as they watch the film.
Photos courtesy of filmmaker Copyright 2018 Carpe Stella Productions