EXPLORING THE OUTER EDGES OF SOCIETY AND MIND

Witness of Another World – Exploring the Soul of a Phenomenon

Posted in > BLACK CADILLAC REVIEW by David on October 21, 2019

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A child in rural Argentina walks out of his house in order to attend his daily chores and experiences something so profound that it initiates him as an unlikely emissary for a mystery of cosmic proportions – what sounds like the plot to an upcoming Netflix sci-fi series is the actual, lived experience of Juan Pérez, the main subject in Argentinian filmmaker Alan Stivelman’s 2018 documentary, Testigo de Otro Mundo (Witness of Another World)

1978 –  The young witness, Juan O. Perez, had gone out at dawn to bring in a herd of horses in Venado, Tuerto, Argentina. At 6:45 a.m. as he rode his horse through the morning fog he felt something fly overhead. Next, several objects appeared and began maneuvering overhead, emitting powerful beams of multicolored, changing lights. His horse panicked and he barely managed to ride back home. When he got home, his father reprimanded him and ordered him to go back to get the horses. Back in the field he encountered a large round object on the ground; it had a dome on top with several round windows. A door in the craft opened, and a seven-foot tall being wearing gloves and a cylindrical helmet appeared. The being seemed to be attached to the object by some type of breathing apparatus. He invited Juan to come inside. They boy then tied his horse to the craft’s ladder and climbed in. Inside, he was able to see a panel with buttons, tables, and a small robot-like being that was apparently busy disecting the large bones of some animals resembling either cows or horses. Afraid, the boy jumped out of the object and onto the ground. The tall being followed him out. He then requested that the giant give him one of the giant’s gloves, as proof of the experience, and when he removed the glove he then saw that the being had green, claw-like hands with blue metallic nails. The being then pricked Juan’s right arm, apparently extracting some blood in the process. As he rode back toward home carrying the glove, two flying objects caught up with him and emitted a small slab and sphere that descended and brushed by the horse, pulling off the glove like a magnet. Another curious feature of his report was that while inside the UFO the young witness attempted to touch the being and the object several times, but was prevented from doing it by what appeared to be an invisible barrier. Six days prior to the incident the witness’s father had found a mutilated cow in one of his pastures. (Source: Albert S. Rosales, 1978 Humanoid Sighting Reports database, case # 919, citing Jacques Vallee, Confrontations: A Scientist’s Search for Alien Contact). (1)

The details of this account were presented in Confrontations – A Scientists Search for Alien Contact, published in 1990 by Jacques Vallee, a computer scientist, venture capitalist and investigator of the UFO phenomenon. (2) Looking at 40 cases of reported contact, the book outlines the regularity across time and culture of these accounts which defy our present understanding and seeks to invite a closer examination of the very real effects these events have on the individuals they happen to and communities in which they occur. 

Unknown-4When treated as data points after the fact it is easy to read accounts of witnesses and experiencers as singular events, focusing on details that confirm favored theories as to what occurred, and in the process overlook the integral ways which these events encompass past, present and future experiences and form a centralizing or organizing factor in the personal identity of those who have them. (3) Juan’s story as it unfolds in the documentary shows how the experiential factors exist outside of subjective and objective considerations, providing the ground upon which the terrifying and profound possibilities of these events rest.

In his journals from the period in which Confrontations was published, Vallee speaks of this complexity as he reflects on a colleague’s thought, saying “Aime Michel discovered how transcendence extended to the physical world. He was waiting for the connection while doubting that mere mortals were capable of it.” (4) Crossing boundaries of time, media, culture, lineage and tradition, Juan’s story as expressed in Witness of Another World demonstrates this connection – providing a deeply human window into the personal nature of our interactions with the phenomenon and its role in shaping our perceptions about what is possible.

Messenger for a New Vision of the Cosmos

From the initial investigation of his account and the attention of local media in Argentina – through Vallee’s involvement in the case, written up years later in his book Confrontations – and now with his role as the central character in a wonderfully moving documentary by Alan Stivelman – Juan has become a messenger for a new vision of the cosmos which encompasses the wisdom of indigenous cultures and the resources and technical proficiency of the contemporary global society.

Click Here to Watch the Film – Available October 22, 2019

The documentary opens to an immediate reflection on the longevity of this phenomenon with a montage of images similar to those included in Jacques Vallee and Chris Aubeck’s compendium, Wonders in the Sky: Unexplained Aerial Objects from Antiquity to Modern Times (Tarcher/Perigree, 2010). These images highlight the mediation and the use of media that frames and affects our understanding of the unexplained.  Accompanied by these powerful historic images. Stivelman’s introductory monologue on the mystery of these events sets the tone for us to begin to step outside of the familiar flying saucer mythos that has become the dominant expression of the phenomenon in our time.

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As we have come to know it, the UFO emerged as a mediated concept in popular culture  towards the end of World War II and developed throughout the Cold War period. (5)  Within this climate unidentified aerial phenomenon became tied in the public consciousness to questions of technology, space travel, national security, nuclear proliferation and global progress – however, as we soon discover with the story of Juan Perez, there are much deeper issues at play which are not so easily codified.

Within a three-week period in September 1978 there were four dramatic UFO cases in Venado Tuerto, a small town three hours southwest of Rosario, Argentina. In the first case, a young carpenter named Alberto saw seven objects and two beings on the ground. In the second case, a twelve-year-old boy named Oscar saw three objects and went inside one of them, interacting with a very tall man and a small robot. In the third case, a sixteen-year-old baker named Francisco felt intense heat from a luminous object during a blackout of the local transformer. And in the fourth incident, a twenty-three-year-old man who was driving at night was “teleported” over four miles and had to be admitted to a local clinic for chest pains.”  – Jacques Vallee, Confrontations – A Scientists Search for Alien Contact, p. 121 (Ballantine Books, 1990) (6)

Of the four recorded encounters in this particular region of Argentina during 1978, it seems that Juan alone has become the center of a much wider web of influence. While the other individuals have certainly been affected, he alone seems to have faced what looks very much like an initiatory journey. This extends to his becoming the subject of Stivelman’s documentary – without which he would not have come into contact with the teachings of his ancestral lineage with the Guarani people.

“One strange thing you have seen is for you to believe. You can also see, so it happens to you in your flesh, in your body to make you believe. If you didn’t believe at first now you will believe in this. What has happened in the past, happened for a reason…things appear to those who want to know, so he or she can teach others…” – Plutarco, Shaman Mbya and Guarani Elder (7)

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Entwined With the Phenomenon

Here we have a documentary that is a media object entwined with the phenomenon. Rather than simply a film, Witness of Another World is in itself an aspect and extension of the surprising and world shattering encounter that Juan Perez had in 1978.

This wider conceptual environment in which the phenomenon exists can be understood through the work of Dr. Jeffrey Kripal, Associate Dean of the Humanities and J. Newton Rayzor Professor of Religion at Rice University, who explores it in terms of stories and narrative:

“I read the paranormal as a semiotic event that plays out on both the mental/subjective and material/physical planes as a bridging sign or mediating story between two orders of experience: one conscious and constructed, the other not. Such a project, of course, violates our Cartesian epistemologies involving an interior, solipsistic, illusory subject looking out onto a real but dead, indifferent, and inert objective world ruled entirely by math and mechanism. It is this same useful Cartesian mistake that renders such events “impossible,” even though they happen all the time.” (8)

Coming from the academic discipline of religious studies, Kripal’s words nevertheless mirror elements found in the Guarani elders’ presentation of the phenomenon. Songs, poems and storytelling express a cosmology where humanity is not separate from the universal order – nor are the beings encountered during these events separate – each is an aspect of a greater whole, whose interactions transcend and transmutate the binary divisions of our limited “Cartesian epistemologies.

For the Guarani the phenomenon takes on the role of an emissary from dimensions within and beyond the earth and the celestial bodies in the visible sky – initiating some individuals into the role of intermediating different orders of being. A UFO event such as Juan’s can signal the beginning of a transformation in which the experiencer becomes the sensory system for another level of consciousness.

“So as far as we know, the inward vision, that comes from the clairvoyant, is sent down…the claivoyant was sent by Nanderu (God) and it was his son. He sends him so he can see humans and hear humans.” – Typyrendyju, Shaman Pai Tavytera and Guarani Elder (7)

This deep connection is not anomalous or surprising within the cosmology of the Guarani – the surprise is that nearly the entire world has lost the ability to integrate these levels of being and has become alienated from the cosmos itself. A situation which parallels a global environmental crisis that requires this lived connection to rectify. Juan’s lived experience provides a bridge between worlds, retying some of threads of meaning that have been severed in our contemporary culture.

The Traces It Leaves

08_TESTIGO_DE_OTRO_MUNDO-1.jpgWitness to Another World gives us a rare opportunity to experience the phenomenon in the traces it leaves in the lives of all those that it touches. We see Alan Stivelman’s sensitive exploration of his own beliefs as he creates the documentary. We see Jacques Vallee’s emotional reunion with a boy he met three decades ago in the course of his investigations, who has now become a man seeking to integrate the experiences he had. We see additional witnesses who reflect on their own experiences and the effects of the phenomenon over their lives. And we see the bridging of cultures brought together by a mystery and the emergence of new understanding as the phenomenon speaks to a deeper unity within our divided world.

Looking back to 1978 the importance of this personal element is highlighted in a conversation between Vallee and fellow researcher Jerome Clark that was published by Fate Magazine:

“The thing I really want to emphasize is that the investigator’s first responsibility is to the witness and not to the UFO phenomenon. The average witness is in shock because he’s had a very traumatic experience; what he’s seen is going to change his life. Your intervention, the very fact that you’re talking with him about it, is also going to have an effect on him. Now he may say to you, “I need help to understand what I saw,” but in fact he needs more immediate help as a human being who is deeply troubled by a very disturbing experience.

Unfortunately this element has been neglected. The more UFO investigators try to appear “professional,” the more they ignore that human aspect – and by extension their own ethical obligations. I want to convince my friends in UFO research that whenever we have a choice between obtaining interesting UFO data and taking chances with the life of a human being, we should forget the UFO data.” (9)

Along with Juan’s encounter, Witness of Another World gives us brief glimpses into the other witnesses who experienced dramatic unexplained phenomenon in the area during that period in 1978. Each person has integrated the events in a different way – while all share the unmooring effect that the events had on their lives. For these individuals 1978 was the year that they came into contact with something so radically other that it altered their view of consensus reality.

Visions of the Future

01_TESTIGO_DE_OTRO_MUNDOIn Juan’s case social isolation and a sense of exile from his community followed his experiences. His association with the UFO event served to cast an uneasy frame on the precognitive dreams that he reports experiencing after the events of 1978. Visions of future accidents and even deaths were a systematic shock to his sense of reality and to his relationship with family, friends and community members.

Thirty years later, after decades of alienation, these confusing and painful dream visions become the key to a reintegration within his community and with the wider community of his ancestral relations among the Guarani people. In turn we are all given the testimony of a wider relationship with a cosmos that is alive with unity and diversity constantly communicating through the intermediary of extraordinary every day contact with another realm of being.

In 2003 Jacques Vallee and physicist Eric W. Davis translated details from these types of experiences into a 6-layer Model for Anomalous Phenomena for a paper presented at a conference hosted by the Centro Transdisciplinar de Estudos da Consciencia at the Universidad Fernando Pessoa in Portugal. (10)

“The main argument presented in this paper is that the continuing study of unidentified aerial phenomena (“UAP”) may offer an existence theorem for new models of physical reality.

…the authors attempt to clarify the issues surrounding “high strangeness” observations by distinguishing six layers of information that can be derived from UAP events, namely (1) physical manifestations, (2) anti-physical effects, (3) psychological factors, (4) physiological factors, (5) psychic effects and (6) cultural effects. In a further step they propose a framework for scientific analysis of unidentified aerial phenomena that takes into account the incommensurability problem.” (11)

The experience of a boy in rural Argentina speaks to the possibility of new models of physical reality, new models of consciousness and new models of community – surprising associations for an event associated with a subject like the UFO phenomenon that has been cast off for so long by serious researchers.

A Wider Tapestry of Worldwide Beliefs

In Confrontations, Vallee says that “the material studied by ufology is only valuable to the extent that it fits into the much wider tapestry of worldwide beliefs about contact with aliens throughout history.” With Witness of Another World director Alan Stivelman has given us a chance to see a bit more of this wider tapestry.  Juan’s experience and the complex weaving of relationships around it allows us to see beyond the UFO’s cultural mythos and into the potential of these encounters to speak to us of new worlds lying just beyond the horizon.

The documentary provides entrance to a mystery and initiation that lies at the heart of spiritual traditions around the globe – an outer phenomenon that calls us inward – a vision of high technology calling us back to direct contact with nature – a state of alienation that leads to greater communitas – a domain where scientific understanding emerges from spiritual experiences.

Presenting a vision of humanity’s future etched in a Gauchos tears, Witness of Another World paints a beautiful portrait of a phenomenon which has no suitable name to encompass it. The film is an important reminder to seek out the soul of the phenomenon and the human side to “alien” contact in a time when aspects of the UFO enigma are seeing increasing attention from military contractors and corporate media – watch it with an open heart and you will not need a name to be transported by this moving testament to the mysterious ways in which transcendence extends to the physical world.

Listen to an interview with the director, Alan Stivelman courtesy of Radio Misterioso (12):

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HTTPS://WWW.WITNESSOFANOTHERWORLD.COM

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Footnotes:

(1) http://www.ufoinfo.com/onthisday/September06.html
(2) http://www.iftf.org/what-we-do/who-we-are/affiliates/jaques-vallee/
(3) Sept. 6, 1978; Venado Tuerto, Argentina
6:45 AM. Round object, 30′ in diameter, 15′ high, hemispherical dome on top. Several round windows. Multicolored lights. One giant humanoid, over 7′ tall. Green hand, blue conical nails, long gloves, cylindrical helmet. One robot, not described. Object on ground with hatch open. Witness stands in doorway. Giant occupant pricked witness’s shoulder with nails. Robot inside craft cutting and packaging cattle parts. Witness flees.
http://www.nicap.org/chronos/1978fullrep.htm
(4) “It’s essential to describe the facts as we know them, along with the mistakes that we keep making. Aime Michel discovered how transcendence extended to the physical world. He was waiting for the connection while doubting that mere mortals were capable of it.” – Jacques Vallée, Forbidden Science Vol. 4 – Journals 1990-1999, The Spring Hill Chronicles, p. 155
(5) Brenda Densler, The Lure of the Edge – Scientific Passions, Religious Beliefs and the Pursuit of UFOs (University of California Press, 2003)
(6) Jacques Vallee, Confrontations – A Scientists Search for Alien Contact, p. 121 (Ballantine Books, 1990)
(7) Witness of Another World (Humano Films, 2018)
(8) https://tif.ssrc.org/2011/04/26/reading-the-paranormal-writing-us-an-interview-with-jeffrey-kripal/
(9) Jacques Vallee in conversation with Jerome Clark, Fate Magazine, 1978  http://www.ufoevidence.org/documents/doc608.htm
(10) http://www2.ufp.pt/activa.htm
(11) Jacques Vallee and Eric W. Davis, Incommensurability, Orthodoxy and the Physics of High Strangeness: A 6-layer Model for Anomalous Phenomena (Centro Transdisciplinar de Estudos da Consciencia, 2003)
(12) http://radiomisterioso.com/2019/10/21/alan-stivelman-witness-of-another-world/ 

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Special thanks to Alan Stivelman and Humano Films for providing access to a pre-release version of the film for review. 

Cyborgs, Psychics and Intelligent Plasmas – Speculative approaches to human space travel with Jose Canseco

Posted in > BLACK CADILLAC REVIEW by David on February 3, 2019

“Aliens have been trying to teach us how to time travel but first we have to change our body composition which we are not willing to do we have tried animals and it has failed…Our science is totally irrelevant to aliens” – Jose Canseco on Twitter (1)

On January 30th, 2019 six-time All Star former Major League Baseball player Jose Canseco took to Twitter with a series of posts discussing time travel, alien subtle bodies, and the future evolution of the human species as it relates to space travel.

Screen Shot 2019-01-31 at 5.07.04 PMI admit that this is an odd follow up to the preceding posts he put up on the same day promoting  Brute’s LUX series of custom golf drivers and it probably falls well outside his Major League prowess to tackle the issue of the migration of the human species into space. If you have questions, his follow up tweets offer a chance to hit the golf course with him and pick his brain on aliens and time travel – or if you want to sit that one out simply read on and we’ll  journey through a few of the weirder roads that have paralleled the space race and maybe we can illuminate the questions.

It’s easy to be dismissive, especially with tweets about aliens teaching us time travel, and the very real possibility that Canseco was trying to stir viral attention for his golf promotions, but for the moment why don’t we take a different track and rather than dismissing his curious statements let’s do a thought experiment and explore some of the avenues that he indicates in his tweets – we’ll quickly find that they lead down interesting paths of speculation if we let them and they can help us to consider the magnitude of our culture’s current quest for space travel.

For many of us the day to day seems tough enough without thinking about breaking the boundaries of earth’s atmosphere, but as Abraham Loeb, chair of astronomy at Harvard University , said in a recent article for Scientific American:

“There is no doubt that we will ultimately be forced to relocate as a result of a major catastrophe on Earth, such as the sun boiling off the oceans in less than a billion years, a giant asteroid impact within hundreds of millions of years, a technologically-inflicted climate change within thousands of years or a global nuclear war within tens or hundreds of years. The only uncertainty is the timescale over which such a migration will be forced upon us.”(2)

Future planning puts space travel in a primary spot on humanity’s to-do list, but before we get too excited let’s reacquaint ourselves with the harsh reality of space – take out the aliens in the tweets from Jose Canseco and we can see that he is essentially discussing the simple fact that the human body has a hard time adapting to high terrestrial altitudes and most certainly cannot endure the conditions we find in space. Going further we can add that the human body can’t endure prolonged exposure within an environmentally controlled craft while protected by the heliosphere of our sun – once we get beyond that we have very little idea what will happen to the human body or how fast it will happen and it doesn’t seem likely to get any better than the zero chances for long term survival we see closer to earth.

As NASA clearly outlines in a PR piece titled – The Human Body in Space:

“Space is a dangerous, unfriendly place.  Isolated from family and friends, exposed to radiation that could increase your lifetime risk for cancer, a diet high in freeze-dried food, required daily exercise to keep your muscles and bones from deteriorating, a carefully scripted high-tempo work schedule, and confinement with three co-workers picked to travel with you by your boss.” (3)

Straight from the horses mouth – space is not a happy place for humans. So what’s a space hungry homo-sapien to do with the odds being set against our free wheeling leap into the celestial spheres?

The 6 Million Dollar Man

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“Time travel puts 42, 651 pounds of pressure on a human skeletal structure…can you detach the brain from the body and equalize the pressure it could be done.”  – Jose Canseco on Twitter

Canseco is talking time-travel, but solving the problems of bodily stress in space alone is a no less daunting task – radiation exposure, oxygen deprivation, extreme temperatures, bone loss, changes in gene expression, and more all stand against humanities climb to the stars – one solution popularized during the early days of space exploration was advanced cybernetic development to integrate the human body/mind with machines in the hopes of enhancing its adaptability in space. Sci-Fi fans familiar with the television series The Six Million Dollar Man will recognize one of the most popular examples of marketing this approach to the public.

The series was based on Cyborg, a pulp novel from 1973 by sci-fi writer and aerospace expert Martin Caidin*. In the novel Caidin weaves the story of Lt. Col. Steve Austin, a test pilot who ended up on the wrong end of a crashed plane and became the subject of a top-secret interagency project to blend man and machine:

Steve Austin is a superhero in the television series – in the novel it’s a bit more complicated:

“He was a wonder of scientific perfection– but it was lonely as hell at the top. All the resources of NASA, the Pentagon, and Government Money put the pieces of Lt. Col. Steve Austin’s shattered body back together again. He came out of it more perfect than human. Better than new. A deadly, unstoppable weapon. Now all he needed was to find some human emotion in the tangle of plastic, wire and atomic metal that was fused to the remains of his flesh.” (4)

Before we look at some of the science behind this idea check out how it gets framed in the media. Compare the first edition cover from Caidin’s book and the cover from the edition released to coincide with the television series and we see a drastic change in framing:

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is clearly a sci-fi allegory and example of speculative fiction warning about technological overreach (notice on the 1st edition the novel is compared to The Andromeda Strain and Terminal Man) becomes a muscled up promotional piece for cybernetic warriors once the broader popular market gets involved.

Another TV tie-in edition even has a bold evolution inspired promo line implying that the ‘Cyborg’ is a new breed of human:

“They had taken the wreck of a man and bionically created a superior being – a superman who might even be the first of a whole new breed!”

It’s difficult to blame the folks who really thought this was a solution to our survival problem in space and wanted to promote cyborg astronauts to the public. When you start reading the technical papers and popular science pieces that were coming out in relation to the actual science and medical procedures involved in melding human bodies with machine parts it’s a rather gruesome affair. Just consider the fact that this was the mid-20th century when computers were still the size of a filing cabinet or larger and we’d yet to discover nano-technology…and they wanted to merge that with the human organism.  ‘Nuff said.

Artifact-Organism Systems

“…we have to change our body composition which we are not willing to do we have tried animals and it has failed…”

CVQeTnvWEAAryeZ.png-largeDuring the mid-late 20th century, it seemed feasible that “altering man’s bodily functions to meet the requirements of extraterrestrial environments would be more logical than providing an earthly environment for him in space . . . Artifact-organism systems which would extend man’s unconscious, self-regulatory controls are one possibility.” (5) These alterations were seen within the context of evolution and as the inevitable next step in the development of humanity beyond our current state of existence.

As Manfred E. Clynes and Nathan S. Kline, from Rockland State Hospital, put it in an article published in the September, 1960 issue of Astronautics:

“Space travel challenges mankind not only technologically but also spiritually, in that it invites man to take an active part in his own biological evolution. Scientific advances of the future may thus be utilized to permit man’s existence in environments which differ radically from those provided by nature as we know it.

The task of adapting man’s body to any environment he may choose will be made easier by increased knowledge of homeo- static functioning, the cybernetic aspects of which are just begin- ning to be understood and investigated. In the past evolution brought about the altering of bodily functions to suit different environments. Starting as of now, it will be possible to achieve this to some degree without alteration of heredity by suitable bio- chemical, physiological, and electronic modifications of man’s existing modus vivendi.” (5)

They go on further to describe the requirement for these mechanical adaptations to operate seamlessly with the existing biological functions of the organism –  or the human artifact – ie. the person being grafted into a machine:

“What are some of the devices necessary for creating self-regulating man-machine systems? This self- regulation must function without the benefit of consciousness in order to cooperate with the body’s own autonomous homeostatic controls. For the exogenously extended organizational complex functioning as an integrated homeostatic system unconsciously, we propose the term “Cyborg.” The Cyborg deliberately incorporates exogenous components extending the self-regulatory control function of the organism in order to adapt it to new environments.”(5)

All well and good until the human body says no – it’s hard enough to get an organ transplant to take, let alone a piece of metal or electronics. The reality of going from a speculative cybernetic ideal to real life application in living organisms put the whole cyborg thing on hold as our technological and bio-medical understanding advanced to meet up with our high sighted goals. Today we are much closer to having limited capabilities in this area – but nowhere near what it would take to develop a human-machine interface that could withstand the deadly atmosphere of space travel without the addition of an artificial environment.

Inner Space Astronautics

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Earthrise – On December 24, 1968, Apollo 8 astronauts Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and Bill Anders became the first humans to witness the Earth rising above the moon’s barren surface. (Photo/Caption: NASA)

“…the brain can physically travel without the body…” 

While science continued developing the possibilities of physical augmentation, other methods were theorized that flipped the view from outer adjustments to inner ones.

Apollo 14 astronaut Edgar Mitchell in his introduction to the 1975 anthology, Psychic Explorations: A Challenge for Science, in a chapter titled From Outer Space to Inner Space, defines the ideological impetus for noetic and transpersonal research into space travel when he says that we must “promote the process of metanoia, or a new awakening in which mankind can realize its self-produced dilemma and, through a change of awareness and an expansion of individual responsibility, reestablish the unity of man with man and with the environment,” because, “only when man moves from his ego-centered self-image to a new image of universal man will the perennial problems that plague us be susceptible of resolution. Humanity must rise from man to mankind, from the personal to the transpersonal, from self-consciousness to cosmic consciousness.” (6) During Mitchell’s experience on the moon he had a profound vision of the earth hanging in space that catalyzed a drastic change in his perspective  – as he told People magazine in 1974, “you develop an instant global consciousness, a people orientation, an intense dissatisfaction with the state of the world, and a compulsion to do something about it. From out there on the moon, international politics look so petty.” (7) Viewing the earth from far beyond the boundaries of its atmosphere opened up a new vision of a unified humanity – a humanity capable and worthy to expand beyond the bounds of terra firma and into the mystery of the star swept depths of space.

This shift in perspective, both literal and mythopoetic, provided new ground upon which to understand humanity as a global organism, a biological system whose individual members made up a greater whole. We have to remember that during the Apollo 14 mission, Mitchell was also conducting a personal experiment in psychic functioning. As detailed in People magazine, “without NASA’s knowledge he had set up an experiment in extrasensory perception to be conducted during the mission with four men back on earth. The test involved the men on earth guessing the correct order of certain standard symbols as Mitchell “sent” them from space by telepathy and it was later judged to be a moderate success.

At any rate, in Mitchell’s new resolution, such psi techniques could include ESP, clairvoyance, telepathy and psychokinesis (the use of psychic energy to bring about physical changes, like bending forks with well aimed thinking). All these and more could be employed in the quest for greater realization of the power of the human mind. For this commendable purpose the Institute of Noetic Sciences (Mitchell coined the term “Noetic” from the Greek word for mind) was eventually founded, on a nonprofit basis.”(7)

-Audio BobIONS wasn’t the only organization that was moving in this direction. Robert Monroe, a cable executive from Virginia, had a similar vision of a greater humanity open up to him as he learned to travel within his mind and experiment with sound induced out-of-body experiences. In 1971 he published his seminal work, Journeys Out of Body, which collected his observations on his personal experiments and quickly lead to the development of a more formal organization for his program of exploration – as can be seen from his introduction to the 1977 edition where he celebrates the news that:

“a research facility was formed and became active in 1972. Our work has attracted the interest and co-operation of physicists, psychologists, biochemists, engineers, educators, psychiatrists, corporate presidents, statisticians, many of whom serve on our board of advisers.”

He also outlines how the book served as a tool for normalizing the idea that our conscious selves are not necessarily bound by the body.  “Among the eleven thousand plus pieces of mail received to date, many sighs of relief were reported. The secret could be talked about without the need for sanity hearings. Thus the book is serving its primary purpose.”

At the research facility he mentions that, “over seven hundred persons have participated in our research and experimental training program. Our first Explorer Team has six members. Some fifty more are waiting for our facility to handle their final indoctrination, and their number is growing daily. We hope to be able to expand shortly in physical space, equipment, and personnel so that we can absorb the backlog and the increase. This year, training programs at the Institute may qualify for credit at the college and university level.” (8)

The Monroe Institute, along with the Institute of Noetic Sciences founded by Edgar Mitchell, have played a vital role in organizing and managing the scientific investigation into humanity’s extended capacities and both organizations have been formative in evolving our perception of ourselves as more than the limits of our body. Further on in his 1977 update, Monroe celebrates this, saying:

“Our Explorer Team of six is bringing back data faster than we can process it, far more rapidly and diverse than I alone could accumulate. That which we have sorted is overwhelming in its import. The fact of consensus and agreement from six different explorers-each unaware of the other’s experiences except in joint operations-has had a formidable impact upon those who have examined the material. The details will be reported in another book which is in preparation.”*

This intensive data gathering was seen within the framework of an expanded awareness burgeoning on a global scale in which Monroe and his colleagues played their part. We see this evolutionary focus as Monroe reflects on, “A lot of action to pack into four years. It only strengthens the concept of accelerated change at work-especially the change in human needs.” This accelerated change has not stopped and today we can look back on how useful the tools of inner astronautics and psychical research are for adapting to the changes wrought by the cybernetic potentials of the inter web and our advances in genetics, bio-technology, mass communication, machine learning, climate change and so many other areas where a unified humanity is necessary to ensure our survival.

The Purpose of Dreams is to Prepare Us for Space

While IONS and the Monroe Institute represent organizations that were pursuing space travel through the realms of inner space, these ideas were also being developed by individual artists and researchers. One of the most dedicated being the American counter culture’s infamous Invisible Man, William S. Burroughs, whose entire corpus of work is based on using the techniques of inner space for outer space travel.

“We postulate that man is an artifact designed for space travel. He is not designed to remain in his present biologic state any more than a tadpole is designed to remain a tadpole. This postulate, agreed upon, gives us a standard evaluation. Is a proposed course of action conducive to realizing space conditions? Art, science, technology, what is it contributing to the space program? As for individuals, ask yourself – would I like to be in space with that person? Postulate that there is no privacy and no deceit possible in space: Your innermost thoughts, feelings and intentions are immediately apparent to those around you. So you want to be careful who is around you.”(9)

In this quote from his essay Civilian Defense, Burroughs is basically saying the same things as the NASA PR piece and mirrors the language in Clynes and Klines famous article on Cyborgs in Aeronautics right down to the evolutionary script – he always did make a point of reading the literature. Yet when he talks about the personality conflicts there’s that bit of added psychic context we need to consider – he’s not talking about being crammed in a box with bad neighbors, he’s saying that by the time we make it into space, if we make it into space, we will be a fully psychic species and may not even have physical bodies in the way we think of now. When he says, “your innermost thoughts, feelings and intentions are immediately apparent to those around you,” he really means it!

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William S. Burroughs (Bunker, New York), May 1981. Foto: © Ulrich Hillebrand (kultur-online.net)

He further outlines his speculations on esoteric astronautics in a talk that he presented in 1980 at Naropa University, saying “I think that the purpose of dreams is to prepare us for space and this is why they are a biological necessity. Whether the dream body is able to exist separately from the physical one, that is something that needs to be studied”(10)

Burroughs also helps us to put Canseco’s time travel in relation to our journey into space:

“A Russian scientist has said that we will travel, not only in space, but in time as well, that is, to travel in space is to travel in time, and if writers are to travel in space-time and explore the areas opened by the space age, I think they must develop techniques quite as new and definite as the technique of physical space travel.” (11)

In all of this Burroughs is explicit about his vision for a bodiless evolution of the human species – in one of his most famous routines, The Last Words of Hassan i Sabbah from his novel Nova Express, he states:

“The” word of Alien Enemy imprisons “thee” in Time. In Body. In Shit. Prisoner, come out. “

Every element in this particular routine is directed as a critique against the system of Control that he saw as the inevitable driving force behind the illusory world designed by “board syndicates and governments of the earth,” who he labels as “Collaborators with Insect People with Vegetable People. With any people anywhere you offer you a body forever. To shit forever,” saying that “For this you have sold out your sons. Sold the ground from unborn feet forever. Traitors to all souls everywhere.” Here we see him identifying two forms of people that are against freedom – Insect People, or those functioning within a hive-mind system that lacks all individual personality, and Vegetable People, those existing in a system that is wholly focused on the body and bodily functions. These are ‘traitors to all souls everywhere’ and it is this elevation of the soul over the body which gives us a key to what he elsewhere explains in terms of lucid dreaming or psychic bodies. It also gives us our stepping stone to begin looking at what our future selves might look like.

Visitors at a Cabin in the Woods

“..these aliens are going to teach us how to try and travel…”

01486-1ioznbzhk6skk-xmv_ivjsaOn December 26th, 1985 something happened to the novelist Whitley Strieber that changed the way the world looked at the notion of ‘alien life forms’ – Strieber experienced transformative contact with the unknown, leading to the publication of his groundbreaking book Communion: A True Story in 1987. With this book the public was given a delicate, personal exploration of a contact experience that broke down the boundaries between inner and outer, past and future, perception and memory – we were given an initiation into communion with non-human intelligences that seemed to stretch our conceptual framework to the very limits.

” I have never seen an unidentified flying object. I thought that the whole subject had been explained by science. It took me a couple of months to establish the connection between what had happened to me and possible nonhuman visitors, so unlikely did such a connection seem. In the middle of the night of December 26 — 1 do not know the exact time — I abruptly found myself awake. And I knew why: I heard a peculiar whooshing, swirling noise coming from the living room downstairs.” (12)

Communion is a challenging work, written not to answer questions, but to reframe them in light of Strieber’s experience of contact with an intelligence or intelligences that seemed to exist within the shadows of his daily life and within the hidden pathways of his mind. Although it was quickly shoehorned into the mediated category of ‘alien abduction,’ the complex nature of the experiences introduced in Communion, and further fleshed out in later works, is closer to contact experiences described in religious histories from around the world.

As the scholar of religion Jeffrey Kripal explains:

“If I hear and read him correctly (and I am reading the written tradition off the oral one), what Whitley is proposing is his total body of work is the real presence of intelligent light forms or conscious plasmas in our shared cosmic environment, their long historical interactions with human beings, and their subsequent very real effects on human civilization, particularly through story and symbol, or what historians of religions call ‘myth’. He possesses no certainty about the source or nature of the lights and energies. He has learned instead to focus on their practical and spiritual effects on individual human beings and communities…

…His conception of human nature overflows any ordinary secular notions. He thus thinks of a human being as an ‘incredible inter-dimensional entity’ and suspects that what we normally think of as a person is only one form of human being.” (13)

This expansion of the human being requires an inner development that is just as radical as the development of the cyborg in terms of reconfiguring the human biological organism. However this expansion seems to entail an inner work that might be seen as a natural extension of human evolution, more easily than one could imagine that the natural order is leading us to surgical augmentation and strange acts of experimental butchery.

Reimagining of the human as an ‘incredible inter-dimensional entity’ also brings us back to long standing traditions of esoteric spirituality, providing a historical continuity that is more firm than those offered by the vivisectionists. While it’s unlikely that Jose Canseco had this in mind with his tweets – the underlying resonance with a very real conversation going on around these topics gives us the opportunity to explore areas that we would not normally look at in terms of space travel. In the book Light Changes: Experiences in the Presence of Transforming Light, Annekatrin Puhle Ph.D. points out that “experiences with unusual light confront us with the old pantheistic idea that spirits live everywhere, in everything and in every being in the world. In the past, according to magical thinking, ‘things’ were not dead, but alive and even able to act. The whole world was believed to have been filled with life-spirits. Humans, besides the physical body, possessed another mostly invisible body of a spiritual nature.” (14) Again and again we are confronted with a physical concept the soul and an expanded idea of what it means to be human – could it be here that the answer to humanities potential future in space ultimately lies?

What Strieber and the other inner space astronauts present is a scientifically pursued esoteric spiritual practice that mirrors the highest practices of ancient religions. Some would say that this is simply an atavism best left to the historical record – but there is evidence that this might not be the case.

UFOs and Intelligent Plasmas

“We are in communication with aliens with a very flexible body composition…”

One of the most difficult elements of Whitley Strieber’s experiential narrative is the fact that it flies in the face of the so-called ‘nuts and bolts’ hypothesis for contact with non-human intelligence. Although there are instances that seem to indicate some sort of physical craft – like so many experiencer reports these occasions fit within a wider experiential set that blurs the lines between inner and outer experience making it difficult to shoehorn them into any easy categorization.

It might surprise many readers that this ambiguity is also found in nearly all of the attempts to scientifically examine the UFO issue. There have been a number of serious scientific attempts to directly engage with the phenomenon and each of them has come up against the curious fact that while some of the data indicates a physical craft may be involved, what is far more common is an encounter with what appears to be psychoactive and self contained instances of electromagnetically activated ionized gases – or intelligent plasmas!

Take for example the research conducted by Harley D. Rutledge, former head of the physics department of Southeast Missouri State University:

51b5S3ZBsuL._SX340_BO1,204,203,200_“While he was generally noncommittal on the nature of the UFOs his team recorded, (Harley) Rutledge did relate that the discs and lights observed in the daylight by the teams were obviously plasmas. In his summary he wrote, “The plasma balls seen in daylight certainly suggest remote control.”

Perhaps the oddest finding of all was that everyone on the research team was convinced that the objects responded to being observed. The project cites 32 cases where the UFOs directly responded to the ground station observers. Rutledge and his team concluded that the objects were aware of their presence and would interact with them, sometimes seemingly toying with them.

As the project began to wind down, Rutledge noted in later interviews that some balls of plasma, 2-6 inches in diameter, would actually follow him around and even appear inside buildings. He found, as do many people who become intrigued by the UFO phenomenon, that the deeper you go into it, strange things begin happening.” (15)

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Spartanburg Herald-Journal – Nov 23, 1977 (16)

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The Milwaukee Journal – Dec 28, 1973 (16)

A similar long term research project conducted in Hessdalen, Norway also points to the possibility of UFOs as some kind of unique plasma phenomenon:

“Hessdalen lights (HL) are unexplained light balls usually seen in the valley of Hessdalen, Norway. In this work, it is suggested that HL are formed by a cluster of macroscopic Coulomb crystals in a plasma produced by the ionization of air and dust by alpha particles during radon decay in the dusty atmosphere. Several physical properties (oscillation, geometric structure, and light spectrum) observed in HL phenomenon can be explained through the dust plasma model.”(16)

Italian astrophysicist Massimo Teodorani, who has actively worked with the Hessdalen Light phenomenon, expands on this through a speculative analysis in his book The Hyperspace of Consciousness where he discusses the possibility that this kind of coordinated plasma phenomenon could lead to intelligent or conscious plasmas, saying that:

“…it might be possible to hypothesize that if really plasmas too are able to become in certain conditions real Life forms, then a part of them might evolve towards forms of intelligence that is more or less sophisticated. The consequences of such an hypothesis would be really disruptive, because then for any life form (even intelligent) based on plasma a planetary atmosphere would be an almost irrelevant prerequisite to make them live, as there should be no need of a “habitability zone” for as we have conceived it until now in the ambit of canonical projects such as, in particular, the SETI Project. According to this scenario Life forms based on plasma might truly live everywhere in the Universe. If this were effectively the case all the planets of the solar system – even those with the most poisonous atmospheres – might indifferently harbor life forms of this kind. As it happens on the Earth the trigger – we could denominate it as a “midwife” – for the birth of such plasma forms starts from natural mechanisms due to the geophysical conditions of the soil or underground, to atmospheric mechanisms or to both.” (18) 

While we need to be clear that this is a speculative hypothesis, it certainly fits with experiencer narratives such as Whitley Strieber’s and others, and more so it fits with some of the developments we are seeing in attempts to outline the physics of information. By looking at both the theoretical work in this area along with more detailed analysis of the research conducted at Hessdalen and within Harley Rutledge’s work on Project Identification we may discover an entirely new way of looking at what it means to be human and more so what it means to be alive.

Those familiar with Dr. Diana Pasulka’s book American Cosmic: UFOs, Religion, Technology (Oxford University Press, 2019) will know that there is much more to this question – as she outlines additional research into alleged ‘UFO materials’ that complicates a simple reading of the phenomenon as psycho-active plasmas. These complications are a reason for celebration, however, as they help us to maintain the mystery that has lead us as a species through an incredible course of development. Our quest to understand our place in the universe – and more recently our quest to expand our domains into space challenge us to stretch our boundaries beyond simple binaries like physical and non-physical and into more holistic realms of investigation.

Physicist Paul Davies speaks to these possibilities in a recent Guardian article on his upcoming book,  The Demon in the Machine. As he puts it, “when you look at a living system, the way information is managed is very far from random. It will show patterns that could lead us to a definition of life. We talk about informational hallmarks and these might be used to identify life wherever we look for it in the universe.” (19) Is it possible that a deeper analysis of the UFO enigma could play a part in our understanding of this? From the implications we seen in the data related to psycho-active plasmas there is a very real chance this may be the case!

Our Science is Totally Irrelevant to Aliens

“The only people on Earth who might begin to understand an ‘alien‘ mentality would be those who distance themselves as much as possible from the realm of ‘human’ action, the better to see alternative perspectives.” – Peter Levenda, Sekret Machines: Gods – An official Sekret Machines investigation of the UFO phenomenon, p. 342 (To the Stars, Inc., 2016)

Jose Canseco’s alien non-sequiturs on Twitter provide a wonderful opportunity for us to take a very cursory and surface level look at a few interesting angles in the contemporary history of space travel. As I read over this piece there is so much more that could be said, so many other explorers, scientists and creatives who have in their own small way contributed to this process.

As we move further into the 21st century and become more comfortable stepping beyond our artificial and self-defined limitations we may finally come to a science and a spirituality that allow us some relevance to these hypothetical aliens. Aliens that in many ways may represent something far more human than we can conceive in our present state of awareness.

Footnotes:

(1) https://twitter.com/JoseCanseco
(2) Abraham Loeb, Our Future in Space Will Echo Our Future on Earth, Scientific American, January 30th, 2019
(3) https://www.nasa.gov/hrp/bodyinspace
(4) Back cover synopsis, Cyborg: A Novel by Martin Caidin  (W.H. Allen, 1973)
(5) http://www.guicolandia.net/files/expansao/Cyborgs_Space.pdf
(6) Psychic Explorations: A Challenge for Science, Understanding the Nature and Power of Consciousness, ed. Edgar D. Mitchell (Perigree, 1974)
(7) https://people.com/archive/edgar-mitchells-strange-voyage-vol-1-no-6/
(8) Robert Monroe, Journeys Out of Body (Anchor Books, 1977)
(9) William S. Burroughs,  from Civilian Defense in The Adding Machine, p. 105 (Grove/Atlantic, Inc., 2013 )
(10) http://www.faena.com/aleph/articles/william-burroughs-on-how-our-dreams-prepare-us-for-space-travel/
(11) William S. Burroughs, from an interview Recontre aver William Burroughs, Eric Mottram (Les Langues Modernes (Paris) Jan/Feb, 1965) and found in Conversations with William S. Burroughs (Univ. Press of Mississippi, 1999)
(12) Whitley Strieber, Communion: A True Story (Avon Books, 1987)
(13) Jeffrey Kripal, The Secret Body, p 314 (University of Chicago Press, 2017)
(14) http://whitecrowbooks.com/books/feature/electric_light_phenomena_associated_with_a_dying_or_deceased_person_by_anne
(15) http://www.apmagazine.info/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1031&Itemid=53
(16) https://www.anomalyarchives.org/public-hall/collections/files/project-identification/
(17) https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S136468261000218X?via%3Dihub (17A) http://www.hessdalen.org/reports/hpreport84.shtml
(18) http://www.buzzwordbooks.com/hyperspace-of-consciousness.htm
(19) https://www.theguardian.com/science/2019/jan/26/i-predict-great-revolution-physicists-define-life-paul-davies

91PPFoYr5tL*Notes:

Martin Caidin’s novel The Final Countdown features the now infamous U.S.S. Nimitz in a plot centered around trans-dimensional time-travel. Caidin was also featured in Loyd Auerbach’s book Mind Over Matter: A Comprehensive Guide to Discovering Your Psychic Power, which details his later experiments in Psycho-Kinesis.

In 2012 I had the opportunity to have dinner with the late Carol de la Herran, who was at the time president and executive director of the Monroe Institute. Our conversation completely changed the way I saw Monroe’s work and these areas of research in that Carol was one of the most stable minded and focused executives I’ve ever met – and yet she was also completely comfortable with the role that psychic development played in her daily life. As one of the original team members in Robert Monroe’s experimental groups she had spent a good portion of her life working in these modalities and had completely integrated them into her professional and personal life. It’s easy to dismiss these areas of experimental development until you meet and spend time with the researchers, executives and scientists that have been seriously working in them – after such a meeting one is forced to consider the implications that there might be more here than we would expect based on the public conversation.

 

Outer Phenomenon and Inner Journey – A Review of David Halperin’s Journal of a UFO Investigator

Posted in > BLACK CADILLAC REVIEW by David on February 2, 2019

This review was originally published in 2011 through The Revealer, New York University’s online journal of religion and media.

Riddles chased mysteries, were chased by enigmas, around and around my brain.

–from Journal of a UFO Investigator (Viking Press, 2011)

On June 24, 1947 the U.S. Air Force pilot Kenneth Arnold witnessed a series of angular, wedge shaped objects skipping like saucers across the sky near his plane. Although he described them as angular or wedge-shaped, from his statements about “a pie tin cut in half” the news reports gleaned the word “Flying Saucer.” The media’s misrepresentation of his description stuck, defining the iconic image of the UFO for decades to come.

Journal-of-a-UFO-InvestigatorAmbiguity from eye witness accounts, media misrepresentations, ‘expert’ analysis, and the phenomenon itself, pervades UFO culture at every level.  On this unstable ground David Halperin builds his debut novel, Journal of a UFO Investigator, weaving the tale of young Danny Shapiro as he experiences alienation and personal growth inside the shifting realities of 1960’s UFO research and its heretical place in the cultural struggles of the mid- to late-20th century.

As a noted religion scholar specializing in traditions of heavenly ascent and the heretical messiah Sabbatai Zevi, Halperin may seem like an unlikely candidate for authoring a debut novel about UFOlogy. In truth, however, his expertise allows him to uncover some of the more perplexing and valuable aspects of the UFO narrative, and show how even at its most flimsy, the cultural phenomenon surrounding UFOs can provide real insights into the human condition.

UFO encounters, like apparitions of the Virgin Mary, have in themselves very little effect on the culture at large until they become woven into the fabric of our shared experience. The event itself is usually deeply subjective and, if any outward effect is seen, the changes they produce in the culture are based on fueling individual action and response.  While the Virgin Mary often unites Catholic communities with her appearance, alienation soon follows anyone whose experiences move outside of cultural norms. UFO’s don’t share the orthodox dignity of Marian visions.

Halperin skillfully develops the complex interplay of experience, belief and expression that comes from investigating the unknown against a backdrop of Cold War nuclear fears and the dramatic social changes of the 60’s. As a religion scholar Halperin finds UFOs as harbingers of mystery and personal transformation.

Although there are passing allusions and nods toward genre tropes, this isn’t a book about a super team of UFOlogists encountering astounding alien life, there’s no rogue intelligence agents on the hunt for the truth against global conspiracies, no well funded establishment society dedicated to uncovering the secrets of nature, there is just a boy and his descent into the mystery of life.

At play here is Halperin’s understanding of spiritual traditions, specifically the traditions of divine ascent within esoteric Judaism. While most of us are familiar in some way with the nuts and bolts concept of UFOs as extraterrestrial air craft, there exists a much more varied study of the phenomenon in regards to transpersonal experience. Halperin’s skill is to take the most popularized outward expressions of UFOlogy, the hollow earth theories, contactee narratives, time travel, abduction phenomenon, and show their connections to much deeper, and more respected, traditional narratives of life, death and visionary experience.

These concepts provide insight into the real life phenomenon itself through their interplay in the narrative.  Danny’s journal and his investigations are spurred on by the literary influences in his life, the spurious Shaver mysteries published in Fate Magazine, Gray Barker’s dubious investigations of the ‘Men in Black,’ the early accounts of the Roswell incident, all set against his Jewish upbringing and an increasing interest in biblical studies. As his focus shifts from UFOlogy to the Bible, so too does his interpretations of the strange experiences he relates.

These influences affect how his creative imagination encapsulates the very real emotional pain he faces through his dying mother, and the self effacing alienation of growing up Jewish in the Anglicized society of 1960’s America. In the mirror world of his journal, Daniel experiences a Dantean descent into hell with all the trappings of his UFOlogical career.  The novel presents a powerful, fictionalized exploration of the same psychological mythopoesis that occurs in real life encounters with strange phenomenon.

Halperin’s use of some of the most popularized and cartoonish aspects of UFOlogy to frame what is essentially Daniel’s initiation into life, allows the novel to address wider questions on the legitimacy of the UFO phenomenon itself. Serious studies such as Jung’s psychological analysis of the phenomenon, or Jacques Vallee’s methodical investigations, are left as unspoken influences allowing the narrative to develop a valuable philosophical meditation set against the most trivial aspects of the UFO culture.

Much can be learned from how we conscience the unknown. The Cold War framed UFOs against fears of advanced technology in the hands of enemy forces. As political negotiations between the Soviet Union and the United States pressed on, and the possibility of space flight became a reality which altered the nature of international relations, UFO’s became a third party overseeing a globalized vision of humanity.

For some Evangelicals who address the phenomenon, UFOs are demonic entities signifying the End Times.  For some occultists and esotericists UFOs are transdimensional entities capable of being called up through ritual and intent. For psychologists they represent mass delusions and the power of suggestion.

In all cases the unknown nature of the phenomenon provides ground for ideological development. Something happens, an event is witnessed or experienced, either individually or within a group, and due to the inexplicable nature of its occurrence a potent narrative can emerge that channels all of the unconscious pressures latent in the participants’ lives.

When this process is put through the mass media the effects are much more pronounced. Halperin is well aware of this, and uses the novel to explore how something like the Shaver mysteries, a fictionalized account of subterranean demons called the Dero and their war with the Elder Gods that was published in Fate Magazine during the late 50’s and early 60’s as an ostensibly true tale, can lead to people perceiving real encounters with these beings.

Here one can sense his understanding of heretical movements coming to play. Halperin’s study of false Messianic movements gives him a wonderful understanding of how charismatic visionaries can lead mass movements with signs and wonders. The subtle application of this understanding of the UFO phenomenon, and the gentle respect for the heretic, allows the book to explore some of the more absurd aspects of UFOlogy while fostering an atmosphere of existential dread suitable to the reality of Danny’s emotional development.

It also allows Halperin to address the very real personal transmutation that can occur, even when the impetus for it is based on false assumptions. As a nexus for the interplay of fact and fiction, UFOlogy provides a very potent ground of study. Danny works through his hardest youthful trials in the inner world woven around his UFOlogical career. Life’s ever present pain, which finds no answers in his mundane existence, becomes the impetus for a fantastic quest in the phenomenal world of his imagination.

Halperin’s novel shows how understanding this relationship provides a way to move around the stalemated arguments of religious fundamentalism and atheism, by addressing the manifestation of central mystery that both science and religion seek to answer.  For him the essential struggle with our mortality and the mysteries of death provides a common ground between the paranormal, science and religion. In the imaginal interstices of the outer world and inner world we find the expression of this mystery, and it is this interstice that is often ignored by mainstream science and religion.

This is a novel about the power and emergence of new myths, and the growth of contemporary narratives around timeless phenomenon. It is also about our relationship with the mystery of death, and the constant, subtle reminder that our transience “will always be inside.” More than a mere fictional flight, Halperin has given us an interpretive methodology for approaching anomalous phenomenon, and a touching reflection on the painful rewards of awakening to the beauty of our mortality.

David Halperin’s website: https://www.davidhalperin.net

To read David Halperin’s “The Myth is the Mystery: Reflections on Annie Jacobsen’s Area 51,” posted at The Revealer, click here.

Project Blue Book and the Priming of Paranormal Belief – On the effects of history and its re-presentation

Posted in > ANALYSIS by David on January 2, 2019

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“I was the arch enemy of those ‘flying saucer groups and enthusiasts’ who very dearly wanted UFOs to be interplanetary. My own knowledge of those groups came almost entirely from what I heard from Blue Book personnel: they were all ‘crackpots and visionaries.’ My transformation was gradual but by the late sixties it was complete. Today I would not spend one further moment on the subject of UFOs if I didn’t seriously feel that the UFO phenomenon is real and that efforts to investigate and understand it, and eventually to solve it, could have a profound effect — perhaps even be the springboard to mankind’s outlook on the universe.”

J. Allen Hynek, The Hynek UFO Report, p. 26 (Dell Publishing Company, 1977

We’ll get to the UFOs in a second, first bear with me as I reminisce…

Back in college I had an early morning multi-cultural musicology class that was always met with a very sleepy mind. One day the professor was discussing Irish music and asked if anyone had ever been to Ireland. Half asleep I heard the question and my memory glitched – instead of referencing the physical reality that I’d never left the country, for some reason my head was filled with imagery from a childhood and adolescence spent reading everything I could get my hands on about medieval history – including Irish history. In that brief moment, with my cognitive mind drifting dreamily, my arm shot up and the professor called on me to talk about my experience.

I was shocked awake by the request and sat there somewhat stunned. She repeated her request and asked if I had in fact been to Ireland. With my mind clear I had to admit that no, I’d never been out of the country. It was a rather embarrassing moment – thankfully the rest of the class actually was asleep or so bored they weren’t even listening so there wasn’t much repercussion. However, that experience provided me with incredible insight into just how easy it is for memory, imagination and behavior to blur into a strange and seamless whole.

Since my area of study was and is cognitive philosophy this turned out as a useful bit of personal experience and it’s become even more useful as my current focus hones in on how popular belief is mediated by technology. Surprising enough it’s even come into play in anticipating History’s upcoming Project Blue Book series!

Just take a look at this:

“Set against the backdrop of the Cold War and rising Atomic Era, each episode will draw from the actual Project Blue Book case files, blending UFO theories with authentic historical events from one of the most mysterious eras in United States history.”(1)

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August 3, 1965 — Santa Ana, California (Photos: Project Blue Book files, National Archives) (2)

That’s from History’s About page for the series. Seems like an innocuous marketing statement when you read it and I’m sure most people will pass it over without much thought beyond perhaps excitement or critical disgust at the fictional element implied. The thing is, this simple sentence actual lays out a complex form of ‘social technology’ and the implications of this are impressive, especially in the context of a catalytic topic like UFOs.

In her paper The Fairy Tale is True: Social Technologies of the Religious Supernatural in Film and New Media, Dr. Diana Walsh Pasulka, chair of religion and philosophy at the University of North Carolina – Wilmington, outlines a fascinating aspect of how our memories interact with media. This paper provides a framework that makes this brief promotional sentence come alive in surprising ways.

When faced with a media product like Project Blue Book, our conscious minds might react with a response that is neutral, excited or dismissive, (yes, there are more options, but let’s keep it simple for this thought experiment) however as Pasulka illustrates in her work the conscious mind might not be where we should be looking,  “it is in relation to the unconscious self that cinematic social technology must be reconsidered. The early suspicions articulated by cinema theorists about cinematic deception are correct on many levels. Current research in cognitive science reveals that even as spectators are consciously aware that they are watching a movie, unconsciously they are not. Unconsciously, they are making memories that they  will fuse with memories from their own lives, and they will have a difficult time separating history from its re-presentation and from fictionalized versions of historical events. This process is exaggerated when a spectator is immersed in virtual environments.”(3)  When we look at History’s promo blurb in this light we see that there is something incredibly powerful happening here with a television series that’s about to hit a channel that launched Ancient Aliens into a continuing run which has lasted close to a decade.

If we want to see what that means in terms of the culture all we have to do is look at the Chapman University Survey of American Fears – right here in a nice bar graph we have evidence that this level of media penetration into the culture has profound effects:

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At the outset we can see that the two largest categories are related to the most successful popular media dealing with the ‘paranormal’ – ghost hunting shows and alternative history/ancient aliens – while this could be an indicator that the viewing public is simply very in tune with these areas, if we look at Chapman University’s analysis of the changes from 2016 to 2018 we see that the largest increases are in beliefs related to the idea that ‘Ancient, advanced civilizations, such as Atlantis, once existed‘ and ‘Aliens have visited Earth in the ancient past,’ both of these topics correlate rather well with the most popular show in this arena, Ancient Aliens:

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This little bit of data gives us a nice seed to begin working on a testable hypothesis regarding the effect that the Project Blue Book series will have on popular belief patterns, especially in the atmosphere created by all of the the other media that will be coming out and has come out recently in this area – the Rendelsham Forest documentary, Tom Delonge’s sci-fi series, Jeremy Corbell’s Extraordinary Beliefs series, and so on.

Now let’s be adventurous and add another element into the mix – that contemporary obscure object of desire for so many pundits – the Religious Nones.

Chapman University’s survey indicates that “paranormal beliefs have become the norm in the United States, if we examine how many such beliefs a person holds. Using the seven paranormal items included on the Chapman University Survey of American Fears Wave 5 (2018), we find that only about a fourth of Americans (24.1%) do not hold any of the seven beliefs. What this means is that more than ¾ of Americans believe in at least one paranormal phenomenon.” Statistics are a thorny tool to use, so we have to be careful in how much weight we give this, but indications are good that close to 75% of the U.S. population believes in at least one area covered by the survey.

If we look at data from the American Family Survey (5) the percentage of ‘Religious Nones,’ or those reporting no affiliation with an organized religion, is about 34-35%:

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That 35% is higher than the 24.1% of the population that the Chapman University study indicates hold no reported beliefs in the areas of paranormal belief that they surveyed. Evangelical and mainline protestant dismissal of supernaturalism means that some portion of that 24.1% reporting no belief probably includes individuals that would identify in the American Family Survey as religious.

So somewhere in this mix is a large portion of the population whose spiritual life rests on the paranormal with no mediation from an affiliation with any organized religious system – and with the growing trend of people stepping away from organized religion this indicates there is something very curious happening in the culture. This decentralized spirituality is being shepherded by direct experience, corporate and independent news organizations, entertainment and other cultural communication mechanisms.

When we consider the implications of Pasulka’s research on the mediated cultivation of supernatural belief, the blending of fact and fiction in products like Project Blue Book becomes a key area to keep an eye on. Carefully designed media products like this present experiential narratives and reframed historical imagery that embeds in the cultural memory and augments the reception of the historical record in the popular culture.

It also bears implications beyond just belief as it directly affects our perceptual reception of exceptional experiences themselves. As the novelist and experiencer Whitley Strieber has said:

“What we need to do now is make better sci-fi movies so that we can have better contact experiences.” (6)

And he should know – Communion: A True Story, his bestselling autobiographical account of the terrifying experiences that beset him in the mid-80’s, helped to break down the barrier of silence around these topics in the mainstream culture and initiate a healing process for thousands of individuals who were faced with experiences that they had no context for or support system to deal with.

Project-Blue-BookWhere will Project Blue Book fall into our quest to uncover the truth behind the UFO enigma?

Will it obscure or open these areas?

We won’t know for sure until it’s had a some time to cook in the culture. One thing we can be sure of is that our culture’s spiritual infrastructure is going through a massive shift and it’s probably a good idea to have all the tools at hand we can gather to try and understand what’s going on lest we loose our mooring through the misplaced enthusiasm of a hyper-connected commercial media in this precarious moment in human history.

(1) https://www.history.com/shows/project-blue-book/about
(2) http://www.archives.gov/research/military/air-force/ufos.html
(3) https://www.academia.edu/24878653/_The_Fairy_Tale_is_True_Social_Technologies_of_the_Religious_Supernatural_in_Film_and_New_Media
(4) https://blogs.chapman.edu/wilkinson/2018/10/16/paranormal-america-2018/
(5) https://www.deseretnews.com/american-family-survey/2018
(6) https://scholarship.rice.edu/handle/1911/80216

For more on the merging of technological culture, contemporary belief and the UFO question, see Dr. Diana Walsh Pasulka’s American Cosmic – UFOs, Religion Technology (Oxford University Press, 2019) https://www.americancosmic.com

For another personal reflection on memory and exceptional experiences see Encountering the Super Natural – An Experiential Review: https://davidmetcalfe.wordpress.com/2018/02/19/encountering-the-super-natural%E2%80%8A-%E2%80%8Aan-experiential-review/

Special thanks to Dave Leech, former host of KZSU Stanford Radio’s Thermonuclear Bar, for drawing my attention to History’s Project Blue Book series About page. 

Images from the Project Blue Book series © History, 2018

Mediating the Mystery – A few thoughts on Irish UFOs, Sloppy Journalism and Questionable Experts

Posted in > ANALYSIS by David on November 13, 2018

IrishUFOIf you’re trying to tease out truth from the recent Irish UFO sighting that’s been making the news rounds – don’t forget to relish this beautiful opportunity to watch as an anomalous report gets MEDIATED!

Let’s hold off on trying to explain the event and take a look at one example of the story becoming muddied in just 5 days since it was first reported:

The Washington Post published an article on November 13th, 2018 which says:

“Aircraft experts told the Irish Examiner that the lights were probably meteorites entering Earth at a low angle. “(1)

Actually if we look at the Irish Examiner article from November 12th that’s being referenced it was a single ‘expert’ – ie. a pop science writer/spec writer focusing on the aerospace industry and a bit of astronomy/cosmology.

The Irish Examiner article (which, it should be noted, was written by a contributor listed as Health Correspondent) has this:

“Aviation journalist Gerry Byrne said: “In all probability they were meteorites and it’s not uncommon for meteorites to come in at a low angle, a low trajectory into the Earth’s atmosphere.”(2)

Meteorites it may have been* – but media outlets like WaPo and the Irish Examiner aren’t looking up to the task of finding out if the best they can do is grab the nearest Irish aviation writer for some rough speculation.  At least the first round of reports – like the BBC’s coverage (3) – skipped the giggle factor and just presented the information that was available. The BBC even included an actual astronomer working at an actual observatory for their stock meteorite quote.

For some reason the Washington Post journalist decided to go with the questionable contemporary practice of drawing on tertiary sources for an article – pro-tip for new journalists and bloggers, this isn’t the best choice for mature or accurate reporting.

Also of note – and unmentioned by these truth seeking servants of the 4th estate – the UK military is running their largest field test of autonomous aerial drones at the moment.(4) Something that should be considered and investigated if the purpose is actually to figure out what the pilots saw.

If you’d like to make up your own mind as to the source of this mystery, based on as much evidence as the journalists and ‘expert’ have to go on, The Drive’s WarZone has uploaded the audio from the pilot’s that reported the incident:

Listen As Multiple Airline Pilots Report Very High-Speed Unidentified Objects Over Ireland (Updated): http://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/24849/listen-as-multiple-airline-pilots-report-very-high-speed-unidentified-objects-over-ireland

For those curious as to the expert in question in the Irish Examiner and Washington Post articles, here is Gerry’s (or Gerrys’, since WaPo has him as a plural persona*) Amazon.com author profile to get a sense of his expertise on meteorites and anomalous reports:

“Prize-winning writer Gerry Byrne is a noted broadcaster and writer on aerospace and science topics in Ireland and the UK. Twice voted Science Journalist of the Year in Ireland he also won a popular journalism award from the American Astronomical Society’s Solar Physics Division for a story on the sunspot cycle.

A former staff writer with the Sunday Tribune and The Sunday Press newspapers, Byrne has contributed extensively to New Scientist magazine and the Daily Telegraph on a variety of science issues in addition to featuring on most Irish newspapers, radio and TV stations as a commentator on science and aviation issues.

His next book will be The Barefoot Sailor, a biography of Irish gun runner and yachtsman, Conor O’Brien, who, after supplying guns used by Irish rebels in 1916, became famous for an epic circumnavigation, the first by an amateur yachtsman following the great clipper ship route. O’Brien’s grandfather was sentenced to be hung after leading an ill-fated rebellion in 1848 but his own father supported the British in putting down a subsequent rebellion.

Byrne is also a keen yachtsman and sails regularly from Skerries. He plans a website for adults aiming to take up sailing. In 1999 he sailed part of the Whitbread (now Volvo) Round the World Yacht Race from Uruguay to Florida and co-authored a book on the race. He lives by the sea on Ireland’s scenic East Coast and enjoys views of the Mountains of Mourne. Prospective agents (he seeks US representation) and publishers may contact him on…”(5)

References:

1. https://www.washingtonpost.com/…/pilots-saw-very-bright-uf…/

2. https://www.irishexaminer.com/…/update-ufo-seen-off-irish-c…

3. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-46181662

4. https://www.gov.uk/…/army-start-biggest-military-robot-exer…

5. https://www.amazon.com/Gerr…/e/B001HCZQ8G/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0


Notes:

* Anomalist News (Nov. 15) points out that the use of the term ‘meteorite’ in itself is also a sign of confusion in the reporting:

“As expected, numerous people not involved in last Friday’s aerial event over the Irish coast have pronounced upon its origin. “Meteorite” seems to be the favorite explanation, though technically the light is a meteor caused by a meteoroid burning up in Earth’s atmosphere and “meteorite” applies only to those fragments of the meteoroid that actually get to the ground.”

* I’m in no way intending to insult Gerry Byrne’s writing career – the purpose of highlighting the details from his Amazon Author Page is to simply to point out that he is perhaps not the best person to pull in for this particular story or to offer this particular type of analysis.