Reporting UFOs to the Navy and Where To Go From Here?
Join the Navy they said, see a UFO they said.
With the recent story broken by Politco’s defense editor, Bryan Bender, the UFO community has clearly become very excited. With news that the American Navy is now “drafting new guidelines for pilots and other personnel to report encounters with ‘unidentified aircraft,’ many within the Ufological community view this as a big step towards the long-cherished goal of “Disclosure.”
As with any major announcement such as this, various other news sources have picked up the story, and there seems to be a flurry of commentary and speculation as to what this all means for the future of UFO discourse. Moreover, many within the community have also been quick to point out that the Navy “isn’t endorsing the idea that its sailors have encountered alien spacecraft.”
Red Pill Junkie, a regular contributor to The Daily Grail, pointed out in his article that this is really nothing incredibly new. The Air Force has been down this road before with various defunct projects, such as Blue Book. Moreover, he points out that the military does already have a method to collect information regarding unknown aerial vehicles via the JANAP 146 protocol. Red Pill Junkie’s conclusion is that this new project, which is still in its infancy, is just more of the “same old” stuff. On the flip side, Alejandro Rojas of Open Minds expressed that this is an important day for UFO discourse. In his article on Open Minds, he praised the recent work done by Tom DeLonge and Luis Elizondo of To The Stars fame by saying,
“Elizondo has said that if it where not for TTSA, he may not have made his involvement in the Pentagon UFO program public. It was Elizondo’s revelations that created the media fervor and subsequently brought attention to this topic. That means the efforts of rock star DeLonge, played a large part in today’s story.”
This new announcement by the Navy has raised a lot of questions, but more importantly, drawn a lot of lines in the subcultural sand. Moreover, it raises a key concern that I raised in October of 2017,
“Due to the very democratic, if not anarchic, nature of the UFO community (in that no one person or organization is UFOlogy), DeLonge’s ability to shift the discourse is threatening. Similar to how Donald Keyhoe and others in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s galvanized the extraterrestrial hypothesis into UFO discourse and popular culture, so too may DeLonge’s particular hypothesis regarding UFOs become how the mainstream interprets the whole of UFOlogy.”
I don’t want to take sides here. That is pointless. Rather, I wish to express that nearly two years later, the ideological frameworks established by To the Stars, Luis Elizondo and the rest of the crew, has clearly been responsible for the cultural shifts we now see in contemporary UFO discourse, especially in the popular and mainstream interpretation of modern UFOs. To use a film and television term, the very interested public outside of the UFO community, and many within the community, are taking ideological “beats” from the TTSA and the small collective of people who form the moving parts inside it.
The UFO discourse, regardless of what “side” you have chosen, is being greatly influenced by this band of “insiders.” Trying to argue as to whether this is good or bad is pointless. Proclaiming that one is on “Team TTSA” or “Anti-TTSA” is pretty much meaningless at this point. When it comes to cultural paradigms, especially within subcultural movements, patterns and ideas form whether people like it or not. Spitting bile at Elizondo or TTSA really serves no purpose, nor does massaging their egos.
What we really need to understand is that the Navy will now hold significantly more authority over UFO data from its personnel (it undoubtedly already does). While this move by the Navy is being heralded by some as another step towards “Disclosure,” the obvious problem is that UFO reports made to the military in no way equate to transparency. To think that the Navy will release its new UFO reports to the public is, in a word, idiotic. UFO reports, especially those made by military personnel, will disappear into the ether. This whole new system is in direct opposition to transparency and “Disclosure.” Moreover, the storm of speculation and media attention given to the 2004 Nimitz incident has, especially for those who manage information within military channels, showed a big open hole in how managed information can become loosed upon the public and cause headaches for individuals in government and the military. In other words, an unknown UFO incident with good witness testimony and video footage remained in the shadows for nearly two decades only to become incredibly famous because ex-military and government personnel began work to bring this information out. If it is your job to manage that information, perhaps this new reporting system is a great way to plug that information hole. Nothing keeps people quiet like a ‘non-disclosure agreement’ and the threat of litigation or jail time.
“Want to report a UFO to the Navy? Sure sailor, just sign these legal forms for us real quick.”
There is a lot of nuance within UFO discourse. There is a long history of facts, misinformation and disinformation. There are real objective truths and there are myths. For those of us inside this community who have done our homework, we know that nothing ought to be taken at face value. Mainstream media outlets are incredibly valuable, but they also are there to generate views and “clicks.” The Navy wants its personnel to be safe, and is responsible for the security of a nation, but it also knows that information, no matter what it is, is the most valuable commodity. Ufological history has shown us repeatedly that trust is not earned easily, as it is all too commonly broken in this community. The various agents who work for or represent To the Stars know this all too well.
To the mainstream public who are usually oblivious to the very nuanced history and culture of this community are not armed to defend themselves against this reality. The messaging presented regarding UFOs will be interpreted in a whole host of ways by the general public, however, there is little doubt in my mind that this recent announcement by the Navy was influenced by our friends at To the Stars. The inner-dealings of various groups within the UFO community are affecting the ideological understanding and meanings of what the UFO is as a social and cultural construct. In other words, UFOs are what we mean them to be. The media plays a vital role in developing that meaning, and To the Stars holds a lot of cultural and political cache in those media outlets. I am not crying conspiracy, as that is just plain silly. Rather, TTSA, most likely unknowingly (maybe), is holding the reigns when it comes to our future ideological understanding of how we, and future members of this community, will interpret the UFO phenomenon in the days to come. They hold and wield significant power, and drawing Ufological ‘bi-partisan’ lines, and trying to sort out and shame who is “for” or “against” TTSA is a waste of time. Instead of being vigilant of who plays for what team, we ought to turn that vigilance to those who currently control the message.
I am reminded of an old curse, allegedly from Ancient China, that goes, “May you live in interesting times.” For some, those times are here. For others, this is a road they have seen before. For me, personally, I’m just excited to see what is going to happen next.
- MJ Banias
Note: Lest I receive volleys of slings and arrows, let me be clear. I am not, in any way, trolling or attempting to subvert the projects of To the Stars, Luis Elizondo, Tom DeLonge, nor any other individual connected to this club. I remain romantically and open mindedly skeptical, critical and pragmatic. My six-ish years of active investigation, privately, or with local groups or with MUFON, into the anomalous has taught me a thing or two; chiefly being that no one has a damn clue as to what is going on or what they are doing. Moreover, it has taught me to be leery of those who make bold claims of truth and knowledge in a discourse that hinges upon the unknowable. With all that being said, I remain, as I think we all must, in the “I don’t know.”
For reasons both in and out of my control, I have been revisiting the works of John Keel and Gray Barker. I consider their body of work essential reading for any UFO or paranormal researcher and enthusiast, and not because they are “right” or “trustworthy.” Within ‘UFOlogy’ and paranormal research, there is no “right” or “trustworthy.” The phenomena itself never fits into these ideologies. Rather, they are worth reading because of their active and open agenda to enshrine one honest and fundamental principle; all paranormal research, be it into ghosts, UFOs, cryptids and other weirdness, is essentially an ever evolving mix of fiction and fact. That is not to say that these bizarre and strange events do not objectively happen, but that the interpretation of those events are not objective, but hang upon mythology, archetypes, symbolism and the current historical and cultural paradigms we dwell in.
The Contactee movements of the 1950s and 1960s saw Venusians and men from Lanulos named Cold, and flying saucers with landing struts. The 1980s into the present bore the imagery of navigationally inept grey EBEs who dined on strawberry ice-cream, evil reptilian abductors, and technologically clunky interstellar travelers armed with 20th century syringes for breeding hybrids (though the alien hybrid narrative was mentioned in Keel’s “The Mothman Prophecies” in the mid 1970’s). Today, we engage in much of the same interpretive operation. We track Tic-Tacs with gun cameras and radar, much like we used to stare at photographs of landing marks and crop circles. Countless hours used to be spent pouring over pictures of flying discs with magnifying glasses looking for filament wires or testing the veracity of poorly shot 90’s video footage, God help us, before the age of High Definition. Today, not much has changed. We continue to watch and re-watch “Gimbals” and “Go-Fasts” and “F4s”. We still lament the fact that much data is missing, and if the government truly was democratic, they would finally disclose the “reality” behind the phenomenon. We can trust the government and its former employees, and we can’t trust the government because it is lying to us. Everyone and no one is a disinformation operative. Rick Doty is an outcast who thinks the UFO community is going to the “shit house” yet, most recently, spoke at a UFO conference and has been welcomed back into the fold like the Prodigal Son (to be honest, he is a nice guy).
As the legendary Shirley Bassey and The Propellerheads so eloquently put it,
“The word is about, there's something evolving,
Whatever may come, the world keeps revolving
They say the next big thing is here,
That the revolutions near,
But to me it seems quite clear
That it's all just a little bit of history repeating.”
Every UFO enthusiast and researcher since Arnold landed his plane in 1947 has argued that their era was going to be the most important in all history. That 1948 would be the year that the lid would get blown of this thing. Or was it 1949? Or 1950? 51? 52? I honestly can’t remember because the same claim has been made for every year and every decade. To suggest that these paranormal pioneers were wrong or foolish is hubris. I have little doubt that in twenty years when I am a “UFOlogical dinosaur,” many new young guns will laugh at my belief that 2019 or 2020 or 2021 would chime in the revolution.
Keel points out in The Mothman Prophecies that paranormal enthusiasts have been playing this game before UFOs even became ‘a thing.’ Ancient shamans and prophets who spoke to their gods, medieval men and women of various religions who saw visions and prophesied, and regular everyday Forteans who found themselves communing with Lam or encountering the supernatural or paranormal have all bore the mantle of researchers of the strange, and have always made claims of great change, paradigm shifts, and sought official confirmation of some esoteric force. In all this, the phenomenon has existed. In all this, the phenomenon has evolved and changed with those who chase it. Like it or not, it will continue to do so long after you and I are dead. Barker and Keel never reached “The Truth.” Neither did Corso, Keyhoe or Hynek. Neither will Greenwood, Dean, Jornlin, Graham, Rutkowski, Lukes, Costa, Sprague, Damante, Corbell, Kloetzke, Knapp, Bigelow, Puthoff, Pasulka, Green, Nolan, Clark, Vallee, DeLonge, or Elizondo (and you and me for that matter).
The inherent wisdom that both Barker and Keel understood and attempted to impart upon their readers is that the ontological “Truth,” the destination, is and forever will be unreachable. What matters most of all in this paranormal theatre of the absurd is the journey. The path we tread stretches on well beyond us, and paths are not built all at once, but with the placing of one stone at a time. Those stones we place are the stones of our time. Our collective zeitgeist, our cultural and social ideologies which seem so vital and essential now but will change and evolve as the years progress. Tic-Tacs, Black Vaults, AATIP, and metamaterials will fade into the past as did Catherine Crowe (I bet you had to look her up), Richard Shaver’s stories (if you had to look this one up, you should be embarrassed), and Project Sign (no excuse if you had to look this up, just go back to ‘being normal’). However, those Tic-Tacs, FOIA archives, government programs and alien artifacts stand upon the same path great women and men have walked before us, and future great women and men have yet to trod long after we have become footnotes in the paranormal narrative.
Keel got it right when he wrote,
“Many of the choicest tidbits in UFO lore were not actual events but were put into circulation by contactees who placed their complete trust in their contacters. The entities spun wild tales about crashed saucers being confiscated by the U.S. Air Force, farmers shooting and wounding spacemen, and so forth. Contactees repeated the stories to wild-eyed UFO enthusiasts and so they spread in ever-widening circles until they appeared in articles and books.” (The Mothman Prophecies, 1975).
UFO writers and supposed experts will continue to expound their theories and hypotheses concerning anti-gravity propulsion, raising the planet’s vibration, or the distant stars which allegedly house great civilizations who traverse space, time or dimension to communicate with little old us. Ashtar Command and the Secret Space Program will continue to manifest in different ways and under different names. We will continue to have conspiracies and ‘disinformation’ agents. More government intelligence officers will come forward to talk about their work and what they saw. All the while, the phenomenon itself will, to paraphrase Eliot, hold our coats and snicker.
I return to the expertise of the great Shirley Bassey,
“And I've seen it before
And I'll see it again
Yes I've seen it before
Just little bits of history repeating.”
This all begs a question; what is the point then? Why research at all? Why chase the paranormal or UFOs or the strange? Beyond the simple fact that it is so very fun, do not all human endeavours follow the same pattern? The long well walked roads of mathematics and science have not yet been completed. Future math will build upon contemporary math. Future science will rest its hindquarters on current science. Language, culture, and art are all constantly evolving, ever pressing forward, and never being totally finished. What is the point doing any of it? Because we must. In some strange odd way, it is our compulsion. We are naturally driven to see what is around the next corner or over the distant hill. Interestingly, the phenomenon, whatever it may be, seems to coax us. We are lured to it. Just when we think we are getting close, something changes. Flying saucers become Tic-Tacs. Landing traces become radar tracks. Black and white photographs become HD gun camera footage. Turn and look back every once in a while, and hope that those who come after you will look back also. The path gets longer. More stones will always be needed, so keep placing them down one by one.
- MJ Banias
Imagine ET has given the government a deadline on UFO disclosure? You want to read more about UFOs but have no idea where to start? Here is my quick top five list of books for newbie UFOnauts. Check out these five books about UFOs, and you will have a solid knowledge base to go further and deeper into Ufological research.
To be an "-ologist" assumes you understand what you are studying. It assumes a degree imparted by an academic institution. It assumes one is an expert in their subject. What happens when the objects one studies are "unknown?" Can one be a "Ufologist?" Join MJ on my cultural trek through the UFO community. Welcome UFO People.
In a recent blog post, UFO historian and archivist Paul Dean presented his findings regarding a military organization called the National Air and Space Intelligence Center, or NASIC. Operating out of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, NASIC is responsible for intelligence collection regarding airborne and space-based threats. Dean points out that NASIC’s mission mirrors that of the now (in)famous Advanced Aerospace Weapon System Application Program (AAWSAP) and Advanced Aerospace Threat and Identification Program (AATIP), which has been the subject of significant ufological discourse in recent years.
I spoke with Dr. Hal Puthoff to provide some further context. It became abundantly clear from our conversation, and Dean’s research, that the military is incredibly interested in exotic aerospace technology.
Dean states on his blog,
“I wanted…to demonstrate that NASIC may have been doing what AAWSAP/AATIP did, albeit on a much larger scale. Further, when I began reviewing official documentation and other reasonable sources of information, it became evident that AAWSAP/AATIP and Elizondo frequently use identical language to that of NASIC and its recent predecessors.”
In simple terms, NASIC’s role is to know what is going on in the skies and collect information on current and future threats and exotic aeronautics. Dean explains that there are multiple departments within NASIC, and each has a specific role in assessment and intelligence collection. He explains,
“The first mission of note is that of ‘Air and Counterair’, which aims to ‘…assess the capabilities of foreign aircraft, air-launched weapons, unmanned aerial vehicles and the likelihood of their employment against US forces...’. The second mission worth highlighting is ‘Space and Counterspace’ which, amongst other things, develops ‘…integrated, all-source space and counterspace threat assessment and provide detailed understanding of foreign threats...’. The third mission of note is ‘Disruptive Technologies’ which assesses ‘…emerging technologies that could potentially be used in an air, space and/or cyberspace warfighting capacity…’ against America. A fourth mission is that of ‘Ballistic Missiles’. Here, NASIC assesses ‘…land-based foreign ballistic missile systems with a range of 1000 km and greater, their subsystems, operational capabilities, effectiveness, proliferation, and technology transfer…’
Dean elaborates that the Pentagon run programs made public by the New York Times in 2017 seem to have a similar mission. Dean writes,
“…it should be apparent that some of what AATIP/AAWSAP did was similar to what modern day NASIC does. Despite not having detailed mission overviews, or a breakdown of specific programs, NASIC is clearly involved in the study of ‘advanced aerospace’ regimes which originate from outside the American theatre. Isn’t this at least close to, if not identical, as what some of AATIP/AAWSAP studied?”
Moreover, NASIC has been around much longer than AAWSAP/AATIP, and has significantly larger funding and capabilities. This creates a few obvious questions:
First, why was AATIP/AAWSAP created if a very capable and well-resourced intelligence organization was already handling the advanced and exotic aerospace question?
Second, how many other NASIC style programs exist that we do not know about? AAWSAP/AATIP stayed under the radar for several years. Are there any more programs like it?
I reached out to Dr. Hal Puthoff who has served as an advisor on some advanced propulsion programs for the military. He explained to me that the AAWSAP/AATIP programs were not the only players in the game. He stated that,
“Without a doubt, the AAWSAP/AATIP program was just one among others.”
Senator Harry Reid told George Knapp something similar in a January 2019 interview,
“Other programs that have been done and information they have, including different pieces of evidence.”
I expressed to Puthoff that there was a curious dichotomy between “official” culture, such as academic institutions and the mainstream media, and the military. If Puthoff and Dean are correct, then the military has significant resources sunk into investigating unknown aerospace “threats.” While academia and mainstream media may think UAP/UFOs are a junk endeavour, the military seems to disagree, at least unofficially. He stated,
“The military has access to unequivocal data, academia doesn’t.”
I pressed for more, but Puthoff is notorious for playing his cards close to his chest. Perhaps some of this information is classified. Perhaps it is being sat on for reasons related to To the Stars Academy or his own personal research. Perhaps it is something else entirely. Regardless, he didn’t let me in on any secrets, but I’ve learned to trust my gut. As a result, I’m leaning towards the real possibility that while there may exist some more interesting data concerning strange aerial phenomena, there isn’t a smoking gun hiding in an underground bunker. I have a hunch that data may exist which suggests weird things happen, but it is probably non-sensical and absurd (much like the phenomenon itself). In other words, no one, the military included, has any idea what is going on.
He explained that the reason for multiple programs has to do with the fact that different groups and organizations within the military have different objectives and goals. They function along “horizontal integration” or “vertical stove piping.” To me, it sounds a bit like the left hand not knowing what the right hand is up to. To Puthoff, “let’s just say ‘chosen perspectives’ of what needs doing.”
Dean’s research and Puthoff’s comments seem to corroborate the idea that AAWSAP/AATIP is merely one voice in a larger chorus. While the public has learned of one contemporary “UFO hunting program,” there are undoubtedly countless more projects with similar interests.
I have little doubt that this phenomenon, and whatever force is behind it, finds this all quite humourous (assuming it has a sense of humour). Whether we are dealing with a trickster, a cultural spectre, or some complex non-human intelligence, or something else entirely, it views the various attempts to understand it, both by us and by our various military programs such as NASIC and AAWSAP/AATIP, as quaint and charming. The UFO discourse and narrative portray a phenomenon that not only plays with us but adapts to our attempts at understanding. It is always just slightly out of reach, always just outside of what we deem rational, logical and reasonable. The very survival of the UFO as an objective phenomenon and socio-cultural construct hinges upon it remaining unidentified. It, for a lack of a better term, needs to be unknown. Otherwise, it loses its magic and potency. It loses its power. It becomes mundane and profane instead of “sacred.”
With all that being said, the military’s interest is clear. Moreover, they cannot be blamed. We all have our duties and functions. The purpose of the military is to protect, defend and, when it comes to it, attack. Being able to master the unknown is its job. While we can only speculate as to what the actual “unequivocal data” is, since none of it is public as yet, we know through the hard work of Paul Dean that the military has a vested interested in seeking out that data. These government programs exist and there may be many of them. We don’t need silly conspiracies of secret underground bases and handshake agreements with the Reptillians. Wasting time on the conspiracy is pointless. Rather, beginning to chip away at the very real programs and cultural ideologies of the military and broader UFO community will undoubtedly shed more answers than any Zetan channeller on Gaia TV ever can.
Trying to piece together the various groups and projects aimed at advanced propulsion and UAP is incredibly complex and nuanced. Furthermore, those who possess the data are clearly not interested in sharing it openly with the general public. I would argue that even the “insiders” who have access to information may be “outsiders” to other “insider” groups. As Puthoff told me, it seems that “stove piping” is pretty common in this environment. This web is tangled, and while researchers like Dean are valiantly pulling at the threads, the spider seems to be innumerable steps ahead yet seemingly unaware of where it is going.
- MJ Banias
What if there was physical evidence of a center in the brain whose configuration tracks with an individual’s intuitive capabilities?
In early 2018, researchers caught wind of a scientific study being done by Dr. Garry Nolan, Rachford & Carlota Professor in the Dept. of Microbiology & Immunology at Stanford School of Medicine, and Dr. Christopher ‘Kit’ Green, a physician in private forensic medical practice, and affiliated with the Departments of Diagnostic Radiology and Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences at the Wayne State School of Medicine and Detroit Medical Center.
This was partly unearthed in a book entitled Phenomena: The Secret History of the U.S. Government's Investigations into Extrasensory Perception and Psychokinesis written by author, journalist, and national security reporter Annie Jacobsen. In her book, she interviewed both Dr. Garry Nolan and Dr. Christopher Kit Green, initially due to Dr. Green's earlier work on remote viewing, but during the book preparation process apparently found Dr. Kit Green was still involved in some fascinating studies. Dr. Green says in the book,
"I'm interested in the notion of people injured physically by anomalous events.” Dr. Green goes on, "Often these events are perceived as [involving] unidentified aerial phenomena, or UAPs, drones, high energy radio frequencies that confront people face-to-face and cannot be explained."
The study involved, among others, a group of individuals termed these days as “Experiencers:” individuals experiencing Anomalous Mental Phenomena perceived through the senses including hallucinations, seeing beings and orbs, or hearing messages. One potential goal of the study involved identifying personality commonalities and, maybe, if “experiences” followed families—implying there might be a component that genetics plays in the experience process itself. Nolan and Green insisted that the study was not about determining the factual nature of the experience, just to determine if there were medical or familial relationships. There was also a Phenomenon Radio program hosted by Linda Milton Howe and John Burroughs which featured an interview with Annie Jacobsen discussing this very topic.
In late November of 2018 Dr. Nolan gave a presentation at Harvard Medical School's Consortium for Space Genetics entitled “Can Genetic Differences in Intuition and Cognition Drive Success in Space?” I caught up with Dr. Nolan to discuss the details of his presentation at Harvard for the contents and implications of this data. What I was told was both exciting and intriguing:
“We had groups of patients who objectively had a higher density of neuronal connection between the head of the caudate and the putamen.”
The caudate-putamen is a defined area in the brain based in the basal ganglia. Originally thought up until a decade ago to be mostly involved in motor control, more recently the caudate-putamen has been shown to also be involved with decision making, higher cognitive function, and intuition: non-conscious processing of sparse information. It is not too far a reach to assume that if humans did in fact have ESP capabilities, this area of the brain would make for a suitable candidate involved in processing information derived through anomalous means.
The group of 105 patients were made up of 60% male and 40% female individuals whom were among a group of individuals evaluated through high-field MRI brain scans. These patients selected were psychologically evaluated by Dr. Green and some met with Dr. Nolan. The major observation was that, apparently, the area of caudate-putamen in many of the individuals in the study was greatly enhanced over that of a reference “control” group of ~100 randomly chosen individuals. The connectivity, or density, of increased connections between the caudate and putamen ranged from slightly above normal to up to 8 times the control range. Interestingly, when family members were included as controls, it turned out that the feature of increased caudate-putamen connectivity was also found in some of the included family members. The MRI's of the patients (study participants and control MRIs) were read “blind” by professionals trained in brain physiology and reading of MRIs. In biological terms, the individuals with enhanced connectivity might be classed as hypermorphs, rather than the normal baseline caudate-putamen connectivity.
This signature of high connectivity in the caudate-putamen consists of high functioning individuals—some of whom reported visual and auditory phenomena which include seeing orbs, voices, and entities. These were classed as hallucinations for the purposes of the study. The high connectivity in the caudate-putamen area was correlated, at least in this highly biased cohort, to high IQ, enhanced intuition, high performers, and seems to occur clustered in a few of the families they were able to access.
Dr. Garry Nolan reports that a peer reviewed paper will be coming at some point in the future, but stresses that the data should be at this point considered as extremely preliminary. He felt comfortable enough, he said, to release the information publicly so others can begin to think about the implications. Dr. Nolan also commented that,
"Objectively, the connections [in the caudate-putamen] are real (note that Dr. Green is a trained forensic neurologist). What these connectivity patterns mean in relation to intuition and cognitive function will need to involve neurological studies that involve disciplines of neurophysiology such as functional MRI and more".
When pressed about the concept of how anomalous information might enter human consciousness, earlier in 2018 during a conversation with Dr. Nolan he speculated,
"Antenna are HYPOTHETICAL nervous system components that READ/SENSE and TRANSMIT. I don't think they would be nerves per se. I think they are COMPONENTS of nerves in some people. The idea is that different people are connected to their antenna in different ways. Some more attuned to sight, some to sounds, feelings, etc."
Dr. Nolan remarked in his slides that what he and Dr. Green found in terms of neural connectivity might have been discovered (or intuited) previously by at least two others.
One of these individuals was the distinguished Oleg Sergeivich Adrianov who happened to be a world renowned neuroscientist from the former Soviet Union, and who had over 70 English publications during the span of his career. He was founder of many FSU Academies and Institutes and headed the commission on the anatomy of Lenin’s brain. Oleg noted “Our interest (in Caudate-Putamen over-expression) is based on the literary data (sic)… it participates in higher integrative activity…”. Oleg also made the following comments regarding this specific region of the brain; “of the frontal (neo)cortex for synthesis of single signals for programming future activity” and “and comparing its results with behavioural reactions of ‘foreseeing the future’ phenomena…” Perhaps one of his most telling assertions was “… Numerous clinical data suggests direct relation of the human brain to a higher psychic function.”
Perhaps even more of a startling revelation and coincidence would be is that as early as the 1960’s intuitive and PhD. Viola Pettit-Neal, as stated in a 1971 interview, made such comments as “The caudate nucleus deals with the head antennae-millions of antennae which in the future will deal with the ability of all the extrasensory perception abilities, such as the ability to see events at a distance and the ability for telepathic contact.” Viola also claimed in her book, “The sending and receiving station for telepathic contact is located in the caudate nucleus.” As well as “There were very fine lines, thousands of them, and the caudate nucleus is like a miniature brain for higher stages of development.” Similar references about these regions of the brain and intuited information were made in her book “Through the Curtain” with Shafica Karagulla, MD.
What might these findings mean for Experiencers, people interested in Unidentified Aerial Phenomena, academia, cutting-edge science, or scientists willing to challenge their curiosity? Is there truly a center in the brain responsible for what we consider extrasensory perception? Is information in part distilled and processed in the caudate-putamen, and those with higher connectivity might have access to forms of intuition that others do not? In any regard, these findings are astounding and at the least we should continue to pay attention to this direction of research. Perhaps the world of science, and the paranormal, might begin to find a meeting point through work like this.
(Most grateful and personal thanks to Dr. Garry Nolan for taking the time to discuss this fascinating information and data with me—and his willingness to share his current speculations. And of course, we are indebted to Dr. Christopher Kit Green and his colleagues for all their decades of effort investigating cutting-edge areas of the science of consciousness and cognition.)
- James Iandoli
Rebellion Upon the Fringe and "Looking Awry."
In part 1 of this 2 part series, I presented the notion that UFOs, and the UFO subculture, are cast out to the fringes of culture. The very notion of the Other is uncomfortable to mainstream discourse, and the community which often engages in the mythologizing of that Other, becomes also problematic.
The UFO community is inherently rebellious, and mainstream culture is duty bound to put the rebellion down. It challenges every major established power system, and while ideas of flying saucers and aliens will not undo these power systems, it creates an entire population of individuals who begin to, as Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek brilliantly puts, “look awry” at the world around them. They begin to see, much like Nada in They Live (1988), through the illusory filters of the ideological reality that has been constructed for them.
Plato, the Greek philosopher, explores this in the allegory of The Cave. A person who is born and raised in a cave their entire lives and is only shown shadows of the world projected onto the wall by a fire, believes that to be reality. If released from this prison, they venture outside and see the world for what it truly is, would the others in the cave believe their story if they returned to tell them? Would the others in the cave shift their perception of reality, or would they choose to stay in the darkness?
In dealing with the construct of the extraterrestrial, we come to a very specific conclusion. It, whatever it may be, directly challenges our reality. It problematizes a duality that we inherently assume to be natural. The UFO and the alien are both present and absent, real and illusion, but to us, it calls into question the illusionary difference between human and non-human.
As anthropologist Debbora Battaglia suggests, the alien Other is a “lived experience.” It is a construct that is everywhere. The alien, the flying saucer, UFOs, and various other paranormal symbols, appear in film and television, video games, corporate logos, beverage containers, laptop stickers, smartphone cases, and much more. These mythological realities are entrenched in popular culture, and perhaps more interestingly, under the control of human economic and social systems. One can possess the alien or the UFO, buy it, wear it and slap it on a backpack. I can master the Other and take ownership over it. Yet, simultaneously, people experience a very real moment where the Other has taken control over them. Anxiety dwells in the gap between power; I can “control” the meaning of the UFO, all the while, aware that it can also “control” me.
Battaglia points out that this “ET effect” is intersubjective, and even though a whole subculture exists which potentially challenges the mainstream, the flesh and blood alien itself comes from a very human origin. UFO cults, conspiracy theorists and Ufologists are “prospecting starward for social connection…being both of this world and out of it.”
The UFO narrative at times has significant variation, but a few consistent through lines exist. One of those through lines regards the UFO as sovereign object which seems to have significant “diplomatic” freedom. The UFO as object does not obey laws regarding sovereign airspace or national borders, nor do the extraterrestrial beings apply for visas before landing on foreign soil to scoop up plant samples, mutilate cows, or abduct people.
If we look at the UFO phenomenon as a whole, the alien Other, whatever it may be, may not recognize the construct of a national government. Regardless of whether the UFO phenomenon is physical or mystical, the events that seem to present themselves throughout the UFO and contactee narrative indicate extreme technological and/or intellectual abilities.
On a broader philosophical level, it is silly to assume that human deference to a ruling body, such as a nation, state, or government, would be the same for another intelligence with a totally separate evolutionary path, assuming that intelligence is even biological to begin with. The concept of ‘government’ is a human construct that appeared via a very specific human political evolution. This does not mean that a political system of governance is universal. In simple terms, we cannot assume that another intelligence would consider government as a legitimate form of social organization, assuming "they" or "it" even have social organization. While government is a fundamental aspect of modern human civilization, it may not exist anywhere but here on Earth.
The result of alien visitation then would call into question the concept of nationalism, state loyalty, and even citizenship itself. It would call into question the very nature of society and culture. To put it plainly, humanity could become a planet of stateless refugees. Ironically, the extraterrestrial outsider would make outsiders of all humanity. The ideological prerogative to consider oneself a member of a specific country, for example, would seem silly. A citizen of one nation would no longer need to differentiate themselves from another. While a pessimist could argue that xenophobia is a part of human nature, that anxiety of the other would potentially turn from other humans to the radical alien other; an exophobia of sorts.
Beyond a potential dissolution of citizenship to a particular state (or perhaps the development of a ‘citizen of Earth’ ideology) and government, so too would the human concept of the self be altered forever. The ideologies and illusions of what it means to be human would change insurmountably.
According to theorist Jodi Dean, this entire notion forces people to reassess their own identity. She writes that,
“the alien reassures us that everything is not up for grabs, but anything could be. Some things are certain. We just don’t know what they are.”
Fundamentally, the perception of alien visitation, whether it is real or not, puts humanity into a conflict with itself. Fact and fiction are pushed to the edge when in contact with the alien Other.
The key position of the scientific and political cultures, in other words, the mainstream, is that aliens do not exist, at least not in any way that allows them to interact with humanity, because they would call into question the validity of those establishments. However, if a person comes to the table with an open mind and begins to consider that extraterrestrials may exist and are interacting with humanity, they are pulled into a battle with the self. Regardless of whether someone knows or believes the Earth is being visited, that individual opens themselves up to a possible shift in perception. A sliver of doubt in the contemporary world order, in science and nationhood, in the illusion of mainstream ideology. It is all well and good to hypothesize that extraterrestrials may exist somewhere far away in the distant cosmos; however, to suggest that they are coming here is unthinkable.
Treading down this path puts humanity into contention with itself. The phantom of the self becomes lost in the gap between what it means to be human and alien. To look deeply into the UFO phenomenon, deconstructing the ideologies given us by the media or the charlatan Ufological gurus, we realize that we are staring into a mirror. The extraterrestrial stands as a direct opposite to humanity, yet, simultaneously subverts "us versus them."
That is not to say that humans and supposed aliens would be the same on a biological or materialist level; rather, if we are correct in saying that the extraterrestrial challenges our current paradigm of reality, and the zeitgeist of human social and cultural constructs, does it not then call into question the very nature of what it means to be human? Here, our assumptions concerning what is real and what is not are thrown into a disjointed middle ground, a gap between who and what we are.
The UFO subculture, that group which has essentially climbed into this gap, or fallen into it, is in such a state; human and non-human, existing yet simultaneously not existing. Perhaps this is why the UFO community, the subculture, is so difficult to pin down, to be able to clearly ascertain who is a member and who is not. Moreover, this is why it is so dangerous to established official culture. The UFO community does not exist, rather, it haunts, and it is impossible to kill a ghost.
The "E" Word and the Duality of the UFO Experience
The UFO subculture, as with every subculture, is shaped by minute details and ideological nuance. No subculture can point to a singular event that shapes the paradigms which form its identity. All communities which group together will share, what cultural theorist Dick Hebdidge called, “style.” The UFO subculture most definitely has a sense of communal self, a shared language and ‘jargon,’ and a sort of gravity which pulls members together. While one could easily write out a laundry list of important ‘moments’ within Ufological history, none of those events “are” the subculture’s identity. Rather, it is the collection of moments, their interpretation as well as the broader themes which ran through the popular culture of the day. The UFO subculture is not made up of one thing, but a whole host of things.
That being said, one common motif that runs through these communal moments is the notion of the extraterrestrial, the alien Other. Regardless of one’s personal beliefs regarding the notion of aliens, the history and mythology of the UFO narrative has fused the ET construct to the subculture. Before proceeding, one ought to be clear on the fact that not everyone in the UFO community interprets the idea of the alien in the same way. Indeed, the physical bug eyed alien grey is a common trope, but there exists a wide array of extraterrestrial ideologies. It must be understood that the ‘alien Other’ is best expressed as an intelligence that is non-human but possesses some sort of agency. Currently, there is no public material evidence that a “non-human Other” exists. With that being said, the countless stories, testimonies and experiential interactions with odd beings, monsters, and even divine entities cannot be written off totally. Something strange is going on, it is just unclear what or who that strange is.
Regardless, the UFO community engages in an ideological battle over the source of the phenomenon. Whether it be the Greys from Zeta Reticuli, Blue Avians, or a complex and intelligent overarching control system, the community often confuses its own personal ideologies with facts.
UFO researcher Lorin Cutts, in the book, "UFOs: Reframing the Debate" calls this the UFO mythological zone. The mythological zone is “the gap between fact and belief, what we see and what we want to see, and what we experience and how we interpret it.”
Cutts believes that this divide between truth and fiction is responsible for dysfunction inside the UFO subculture. He explains,
“...look at ufology as a whole- the vast majority lies within this mythological zone. And while there is nothing wrong with open discussion, speculation, and hypothesizing in a field so vast and mysterious, there is a world of difference between these things and passing off totally unfounded statements as absolutes.”
Cutts touches upon exactly what cultural theorists study when it comes to the mythologies that exist around and within a subculture. This mythological ideology forms the reality of the subculture.
This mythological foundation of the UFO phenomenon has made “extraterrestrial” a dirty word, and through transitive property, the term “UFO” as well. Ultimately, this has made UFO discourse counter-cultural, and we must understand that the community itself is pushed out of popular discourse and debate by these ideologies. Even though there are varying interpretations within the subculture of what UFOs are, the mythology which surrounds the subculture limits those differing ideologies and hypotheses to escape into mainstream understanding.
Extraterrestrials, whether they are physical beings or more mystical in nature, pose no real threat to scientific knowledge. To the established academia, those beings are far far away. Furthermore, their arrival here, should they exist, would only broaden scientific understanding for all of humanity. If aliens landed tomorrow, announced their presence, and took credit for centuries of visitation, would the often criticized pseudoscientific and reductionist field of Ufology and UFO discourse die an instant death? Would the study of alien technology and the aliens themselves, become an established academic and scientific discourse? Supposing such an event occurred, no matter how unlikely, the study of which would undoubtedly become established into schools of philosophy, sociology, theology, and the other humanities. The UFO subculture only exists because the entirety of the phenomenon remains unknown. It is due to this unknowability that the community is not allowed to participate in established academic and official culture. Furthermore, it is the mythology that has formed around this unknowability that has shaped the subculture into such a vast collection of ideologies and people.
This cultural bias was apparent after Harvard University professor and psychiatrist, Dr. John Mack, published his famous book, Abduction: Human Encounters with Aliens in 1994. Mack was heavily criticized by his peers for promoting nonsense, and, as historian Greg Eghigian, points out, his colleagues suggested, using quite an inappropriate racial trope, that he was “going native” by working with abductees and members of the UFO community. According to Eghigian, the controversy surrounding Mack’s work began when he started to "believe" his patients, and accept that perhaps some intelligence was behind the tales they recounted. According to Mack,
“What the abduction phenomenon has led me (I would say now inevitably) to see is that we participate in a universe or universes that are filled with intelligences from which we have cut ourselves off, having lost the senses by which we might know them. It has become clear to me also that our restricted worldview or paradigm lies behind most of the major destructive patterns that threaten the human future—mindless corporate acquisitiveness that perpetuates vast differences between rich and poor and contributes to hunger and disease; ethnonational violence resulting in mass killing which could grow into nuclear holocaust; and ecological destruction on a scale that threatens the survival of the earth’s living systems.”
Whether Mack’s patients were truly being taken by extraterrestrials is not important here. What is important is that Mack directly challenged academic and scientific authority. Rather than proper and thorough inquiry into his findings, his community lumped him into the lunatic fringe UFO subculture and attributed his new-found world view to a colonial cultural trope. Furthermore, it only reinforces the ideological fears which haunt the academic and scientific communities; that contemporary Western materialist and logocentric thinking is somehow flawed.
The UFO, both as a social and objective construct, is an object of dissension. It challenges mainstream culture. The UFO phenomenon, and every iteration that stems from it, whether it is a government conspiracy and alien abduction and fairy lore, simply put, is both fact and fiction simultaneously. The objectivity and authenticity of UFOs are in a constant state of duality, shifting in and out of cultural and social frames of reference. UFOs and extraterrestrials do not attach themselves completely to a reality we currently understand, therefore, to make claims of 'Truth' about them is impossible.
The UFO has two masters, the observable daily world we dwell in, and the world of mass media, television, literature and film. UFOs are products of the real and the imaginary. It is difficult to think of UFOs outside of the illusory meanings placed upon them by television shows like The X-Files or films like Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Moreover, various documentary programs, books and magazines have also shaped our collective understanding of what UFOs are. We consume UFOs rather than understand them. The UFO phenomenon is, outside of the illusions we’ve constructed, unknowable to us. We cannot “undo” the hyperreality of fact and fiction which shapes their meaning.
Regardless of this real/mythological duality we have framed the phenomenon in, the UFO haunts our culture. While imagery of alien Predators camouflaging in trees and tall white aliens in flying saucers grace our screens, real experiences of strange sightings and contact with strange unknown entities seem to dot our very real social storytelling. Both imagined and real, the UFO phenomenon challenges these boundaries. Nothing ought to be taken for granted, and UFOs act as a symbol of the transience of knowledge.
As a subculture engaged in the study and storytelling of the Ufological phenomenon, the community is an active counter-cultural movement challenging mainstream popular and official cultures.
In this two part series, I will underscore how the UFO community challenges mainstream ideology, and why this curious culture must exist upon the fringes of social discourse.
- MJ Banias
In his ethical treatise, Nicomachean Ethics, the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle presents an ethical ideal which is commonly known as ‘the golden mean.’ Using a very Greek love of moderation, Aristotle suggests that humans ought to live in a harmonious middle way, staying away from excesses and extremes. Oddly enough, perhaps the UFO community could learn a thing or two from Aristotelian ethics?
In his work, Aristotle argues that eudaimonia, which loosely translates to ‘well-being’ is the highest aim, or duty, of practical thinking. In other words, how you act in this life should be governed by your desire for wellness.
Well-being, according to Aristotle, can only be achieved by making decisions and acting in ways that maintain a balance. In Book II of Nicomachean Ethics, he states,
“First, then, let us consider this, that it is the nature of such things to be destroyed by defect and excess, as we see in the case of strength and of health (for to gain light on things imperceptible we must use the evidence of sensible things); both excessive and defective exercise destroys the strength, and similarly drink or food which is above or below a certain amount destroys the health, while that which is proportionate both produces and increases and preserves it. So too is it, then, in the case of temperance and courage and the other virtues. For the man who flies from and fears everything and does not stand his ground against anything becomes a coward, and the man who fears nothing at all but goes to meet every danger becomes rash; and similarly, the man who indulges in every pleasure and abstains from none becomes self-indulgent, while the man who shuns every pleasure, as boors do, becomes in a way insensible; temperance and courage, then, are destroyed by excess and defect, and preserved by the mean.”
The ideal of “the mean” is to maintain a proper balance in the way we behave and act, and also moderate ourselves. As Aristotle points out, too much courage and bravery can make someone rash, reckless, and even a danger to the lives of others. Too little courage and bravery makes one a coward, and again, can endanger others. Aristotle would suggest that a person must find the middle line; courageous enough to fight for truth, beauty and innocence but not too courageous as to endanger those things.
While I admit to simplifying Aristotle, he argues (in a nutshell) that, we make decisions and communicate with each other based upon three constructs; ethos (our ethics and values), pathos (our emotions) and logos (reason and logic). Aristotle argues that these three constructs must exist in a tempered middle ground. In the case of UFOs and the UFO community, I want to specifically speak to the ideal of logos, the logic and rationality that form our decisions.
On a regular basis, I have, by many within the UFO community, been labelled a skeptic. Within Ufological, and indeed, paranormal discourse, “skeptic” is a dirty word. It holds discursive gravitas in the community; to be a skeptic is to be a heretic. Perhaps the purpose of my article here is to clear the air concerning my position on the phenomenon, but more importantly, to appeal to the logos of the UFO community; we all must walk a middle path.
I’ve written before that the belief system that surrounds anomalous phenomena is a sort of spectrum. It ranges between ardent and extremist believers who follow without question to closed-minded debunkers who refuse to accept the possibility that things exist outside of human understanding. Both of these extremes are, according to Aristotle, unethical and pull us away from eudaimonia. Our intellect is as important as our physical selves, and we have a duty to care for it, to make it “well.”
The Theravada Buddhist tradition even speaks to this notion of the “middle path” for its religious practitioners. In one’s practical life, but also in one’s spiritual and intellectual life, one must avoid excess and extremes as that can destroy the self. The Pāli Canon, one of the most extensive collection of Buddhist texts, states that,
“Avoiding both these extremes...it gives vision, gives knowledge, and leads to calm, to insight, to enlightenment…”
Within any discourse, Ufology, paranormal study, and Anomalistics included, we must strive to maintain a balance between what we want to be true and what is true. Moreover, we must temper those desires. The phenomenon, whatever it may be, can be addictive. It can lead a person down a road of extreme obsession. The UFO community often falls victim to this metaphysical, social and cultural opioid.
It is unreasonable to take the position of, “I think what I think, and nothing can change my mind.” And, as Aristotle would argue, it is unethical. Significant time is spent arguing the finer points of various UFO themed organizations, investigative bodies, Pentagon funded programs, and characters from Ufology’s past and present. Ideological lines are drawn in the sand, and as the bile and venom gets spewed out by believers and debunkers alike, no progress is made. I, personally, am guilty of such actions. Undoubtedly, we all have fought our little crusades knowing full well that nothing would change. No one in this field is innocent of this, and if someone says they are, they are deluded.
I think we must engage in a polite way, and recognize that we have our own biases. When we make a decision to believe in this UFO event or that whistleblower, we may be making a case from pathos (our emotional needs and feelings) instead of logos. It is one thing to say, “I believe” or “I am willing to give the benefit of the doubt,” but those things are not tantamount to truth.
I am a firm believer in maintaining an open mind to multiple possibilities, as that is the definition of true skepticism. A true skeptic does not disregard but regards multiple logical and reasonable possibilities; possibilities that both do and do not concur with believers and debunkers. A true skeptic walks the middle path and operates in the ‘golden mean.’
The researchers worth their salt in the Ufological field are true skeptics. They engage in discourse with an open mind and work hard to be polite (and they will fail at times in this, as everyone does on occasion). They have the wherewithal to admit their mistakes. Moreover, they will not be convinced simply by fancy stories, flashing lights, and rhetoric. They need evidence for every truth claim; it can’t be circumstantial, and it can’t ‘sound true’ but must ‘be true.’ In a world where truth can be mediated and controlled by clicks of a mouse in Photoshop or Final Cut, and where people’s opinions on any given subject can equate to clicks on a website, YouTube channel, and money in a bank account, witness testimony, photographs and video footage must never be enough to hang the truth on.
Aristotle suggests that it is not enough to make conclusions, as those conclusions, at times, can change. Moreover, we must not be governed by the wish for something to be true, because wishing for something to be true “seems to be a good, though it is not.” Through transitive property, we can lump belief into this as well.
Working in the golden mean allows me to believe someone, but also be critical enough to know that my belief does not equate to fact. In other words, my belief can be incorrect, and I have the insight to know that. Moreover, expecting that others should believe, and stating that they are “blind to the truth” because they do not, does not make someone enlightened, it makes them a zealot. If you are going to express that something is a fact, and the evidence leaves room for a shadow of doubt, you have not done your job. A collection of circumstances, testimony and even a video or two is, in a word, compelling. “Compelling” can lead to belief, opinion and speculation, but not to the truth.
Perhaps we must work towards owning and calling out the differences between our beliefs and opinions, and what we know. We must work towards the mean and appreciate that we must be critical of others but also of ourselves. We must not be governed by what we want, but by what is. Let us return to true skepticism, to the middle path, because if we don’t, we are nothing but fools.
- MJ Banias
Experiencing the Otherworldly with my Kids
Dabbling in some Jungian psychology, I put this curious idea forward. If dreams, as Jung posits, allows one to tap into the collective unconscious and experience the world of instinct and archetypes, aren’t we all, in some odd way, experiencers of anomalistic phenomenon?
Driving down the highway only days ago with my two small children in the backseat, the philosophical genius of Raffi was playing in the car. My brain began to wander as my daughter began to sing along to “Wheels on the Bus.” I began to consider Jung and the notion of dreaming, as well as Dr. Dean Radin’s latest book concerning, what he calls, “Capital C” Consciousness. The theory that the human mind is connected to universal systems of knowledge is fairly standard in anomalistics and Fortean ideology, as well as countless religious and spiritual paradigms. As St. Paul writes in his letters, we are all part of the body of God.
I began to muse on the notion that something resides in this dream realm, this world in-between the gaps of consciousness and unconsciousness. Much like Henry Corbin’s mundus imaginalis, I considered the possibility that a Jungian archetype could possibly possess its own agency outside of my mind, and even physicality. My mind simply meandered through these various ideas with no real destination, I was merely wandering.
My son who is too young to talk, but grunts and yells with the vigour of an angry Wookie, shook me from my daydream. He was indicating to me that he did not like the current song being played. “Wheels on the Bus” was over, and the Raffi playlist was continuing into the deeper tracks. Just as I leaned over to press the “Skip” button, a curious line from “The Garden Song” caught my attention,
“Pullin' weeds and picking stones, we are made of dreams and bones
Feel the need to grow my own, as the time is close at hand
Grain for grain, sun and rain, find my way in nature's chain
Tune my body and my brain, to the music from the land…”
Never having paid any mind to Raffi, the coincidence of my anomalistic thinking and the odd feeling of having the right song play just at the right time made me chuckle. Raffi, clearly a New Age philosopher and obvious Fortean, inspired me to formalize my thoughts in writing.
Are we made of “dreams and bones” as Raffi suggests? Am I a simultaneous blend of immaterial consciousness and material structures? Such ideas are problematic due to their general conflict with materialism, the backbone of modern scientific thinking. That being said, some of the more modern physical theories and hypotheses speculate that the material world may be a little less material than initially thought. The universe, according to theoretical physics, can be pretty spooky. While this isn’t hard evidence that Radin, Corbin, Jung or Raffi are “objectively” correct in their postulations, it is an interesting lean into that direction. I will lean along with them.
Moving beyond the idea that “the self” resides totally in the physical body, we can go down a certain path. Let us suppose that Jung’s collective unconscious actually has breadth and depth, much like Corbin’s mundus imaginalis. When we dream, we engage with this strange world.
If the dream world is our connection to some universal system of knowledge, and when we commune with the various symbols, ideas and beings in those dreams, have we actually moved beyond the limitations of the physical brain? When I dream about work, for example, am I actually in some imaginal version of work? Have I gone to another place which mimics my workplace for some unknown reason? Indeed, countless people claim having visions of strange and similar places, being told secrets or important information, only to have them “come true” or affect outcomes in their waking world. Little of this is physically or objectively provable as yet, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.
Moreover, many paranormal researchers argue that visions of UFOs, aliens and other strange beings are simply manifestations of this dream realm. Even Dr. John E. Mack once suggested that alien abductions are not necessarily physical events but happen in some mental and spiritual “outside the box” way. While I personally have no idea what is responsible for the countless stories of extraterrestrials, interdimensional beings, flying saucers, and even Nimitz-harassing Tic Tacs, have we all not experienced strange things before in our dreams?
I personally recall a dream where I had a conversation with my late grandfather. We were in his house, and I spent a good part of the dream world’s “afternoon” with him. Much like Jodi Foster in Contact meeting with a being that manifested as her father, we spoke of old times and the weather, and oddly enough, gardening.
If I asked the French philosopher Jacques Derrida, he would undoubtedly tell me that I spoke with a “ghost” which haunts my lived experience. In other words, a manifestation of previous and current experiences which govern not only me, but my linguistic, cultural and social place. I saw my ideologies appear before me. Jung would say that it was an archetype, a wise old mentor perhaps, and I was experiencing some kind of psychological crisis, and my mind used its own innate methods to begin cleaning house. Perhaps Radin would suggest that my mind tuned to some realm of Otherness, perhaps I “remote viewed” a place or time where my grandfather is still alive. Or, he would just say it was a memory or a plain old dream. It is difficult to speak for the living, as they may read your work and tell you that you are wrong. Raffi, I am confident, will never read my work, so I think I’m safe here; he’d probably say that my “body and brain tuned to the music of the land” or that the “Bananaphone” is actually a complex metaphysical system which links all cosmic reality to one thing that, at times, will “ring ring ring ring ring ring ring ring…”
The broader implication for anomalistics, and indeed, UFO research, is that if dreams are our access point to some imaginal realm, are we all not contactees in some way? We have all seen monsters in our dreams. Many of us have dreamt about aliens, phantoms, strange lights and even God. Are we all experiencers of the anomalous?
The inherent issue then becomes, “if everyone is an experiencer, then no one is.” While a bit of a logical fallacy, we get stuck here. No one is special because everyone is. The abductee/contactee in traditional Ufology has no more knowledge or truth or access than anyone else. They, for all intents and purposes, are not different. What do we do?
Strangely, in this dark hour, we turn to materialism. We make claims suggesting that whatever we experienced was physical and real. It was structured. It was an object. It had a material presence; “I could reach out and touch it.” We get lost in old ideological materialist frameworks. We, as Mack would tell us, choose to become trapped inside “the box.” Ironically, the only way to maintain “being chosen” is to fall back upon the very paradigms which deny the anomalous claim, calling it a lie, a hoax or a delusion.
Perhaps whatever people are experiencing is both material and immaterial. They are “dreams and bones.” Could the ghosts, monsters, and aliens people see in their waking hours seep out of the dream world? Could our interactions with “Capital C” Consciousness turn our deepest desires, fears and anxieties into something physical? Many anomalists have argued that this may very well be the case. Would it then be possible for all of us, dreaming or awake, to experience these spectres? While it is one thing for shamans and priests who have tuned their minds to seeking answers in this bizarre realm, it is another for a random retired farmer to bump into an alien on some idle Tuesday afternoon.
The solution rests with Raffi, and one of his greatest proponents, my daughter. To her, there is no difference between real and imaginary. Everything, in her mind, is possible. UFOs, to her, exist and fly around as often as Boeing 737s. There are aliens on Jupiter, or so she tells me, and she has visited them on her rocket ship. While I know that someday her brain will be corrupted, and her innocence will be lost, she seems to completely dwell in “nature’s chain” with her mind clearly “tuned to music,” a music that I can no longer hear. To her, everyone and everything is special because that is the natural way of things. To her, the monsters in her closet are real; they are imagined and physical, the product of her dreams yet simultaneously moving her dresses out of the way so they have room to stand.
Moreover, and perhaps the most frightening, is that those monsters are real for me too. If Jung is correct, and our unconscious mind is collective, then whatever creatures dwell in her closet can also dwell in mine. Her monsters are my monsters. Perhaps this accounts for the clearly mythological scope of the alien grey. Does it manifest from this imaginal realm because it seems to reflect some collective fear or desire? Jung would tell us that dreams do have very real and objective meaning. Maybe it isn’t that only certain people have been abducted or have experienced alien contact; perhaps we all have.
Chain of Custody, and Why Doggedly Pursuing the Facts is Essential.
In 2017, the (in)famous “2004 Nimitz Flir1 Video” was released by To the Stars Academy (TTSA). Commonly known as the “Tic Tac Video,” it was taken during an encounter in November of 2004 with an object resembling a white Tic Tac off the coast of California. The story has been repeated ad nauseum, but if you need to catch up, I’ve linked to the TTSA website for your convenience.
1) The Nimitz Report
2) An interview with the pilot who took the footage
I admit that this event, all the attached witness reports, anonymous whistleblowers, and documentation is a massive tangled web. I, like so many others, are unsure where it begins and ends. However, right smack dab in the middle of this web (of mythological proportions) is not TTSA or AATIP or AAWSAP or any other acronym under the sun, but some unknown individual who, in 2007, brought this incident too light for the first time.
I want to state that I have no evidence beyond what is already online. Moreover, I wish to thank the illustrious Isaac Koi for acting as my sounding board and allowing me to bounce ideas off of his brain, and providing some great insight.
I will begin at the end. In 2017, TTSA brought the video back out of the murky depths of the ether. Providing details, reports and some insight, the TicTac Video began making the Ufological discursive circuit. On their website, they claim,
“this footage comes with crucial chain-of-custody (CoC) documentation because it is a product of US military sensors, which confirms it is original, unaltered, and not computer generated or artificially fabricated.”
Ok, so “chain-of-custody” according to TTSA’s definition, is simply that the footage is authentic because it came from military FLIR hardware. What is missing, however, is the CoC documentation which explains HOW To the Stars got its hands on this video. So, we can argue the video is authentic. What we do not know is where the video came from.
Who pulled the video from the F-18’s FLIR camera? Who uploaded it to the Nimitz’s computer system? Who pulled that file and made a physical copy? Who authorized its potential declassification and release? Who gave it to TTSA? While these questions may seem immaterial to the believers, these questions are essential to sorting out the story. Moreover, what seems to continuously be swept under the rug in this narrative is the fact that TTSA was not the first to release this video.
Let’s rewind to 2007. On February 3rd, an Above Top Secret Forum user, ‘thefinaltheory,’ posted a story in which he describes his time on the Nimitz in 2005 (note the year). Describing an alleged UFO encounter, thefinaltheory explains that he accessed the Nimitz computer system and made a copy of several files including FLIR footage from the gun camera of an F-18.
Quote (Raw, no edits):
“I logged on to the top secret computer network *NOTE! I edited the name of the network out due to a suggestion/safety* and did a search of our File Server drive for the most recent modified files. This scanned all users, regardless of rank. Nothing was hidden from me. I especially looked for new files and those that were modified around the time of the "sighting".
I found many videos and powerpoint breifs (navy standard) and written reports and even message traffic that was being passed through our radio division. It was all there. I couldnt believe it at first, but then our ship called in the Air Force because even the captain didnt know what the hell was going on.
I burnt all these files to a disk and stashed it somewhere, unfortunently I dont have it anymore....I've forgotten where i put it... though i think it might be out of state at a close relatives house...ugh...
well here is what the video was:
It was taken directly from the cockpit camera of one of our ships fighter pilot jets F-18 I believe but cant be sure. It was in black and white and showed the altitude, the pilots "nickname" and the tempurature and all those little critical stats.
The UFO was floating extremely still in mid air, this was 30,000 ft above ground level. It looked literally and i mean LITERALLY just like a disk, no stupid traingles or any gimicky things like Independence Day or whatever. It looks exactly how the goverment wants you to NOT think it looks like. It's simply put, a disk.
So it was floating, the figher pilot tried to get numerous locks on the UFO but everytime the cross hairs tried to hone in the crosshairs scaled back and forth. I dont know how to put it into words well, but I know what i saw. Crosshairs move in and move back out, it couldnt get a lock whatsoever.
After about I say 10 seconds or so the UFO started to move. It moves in ways that we have never seen before, it spontaniously moved in a half circle upward and paused once again. Then it suddenly teleported about five times all over the pilots screen. The movement is instant and cannot be followed. It simply put, is amazing and so fast the eyes cant see it.
There was a bright light and suddenly it dissapeared, out of sight.”
Being that it was 2007, no one really paid any attention. It was just another UFO story on the UFO forum.
The next day, on February 4th, thefinaltheory posted a second thread including a link to the video (known as “F4” due to its download name) as well as a “cut and paste copy” of a corresponding report. While not official, the report was dated November 14th, 2004 (note the date, which now correlates to the Nimitz event). There is no way to confirm the report, and to most at the time, it was deemed a hoax. Furthermore, it doesn’t jive totally with the current testimony made by the pilots. I don’t want to wade into those waters. I leave it for other researchers to make heads or tails of.
Here is the link for the video as provided by thefinaltheory in 2007.
As was pointed out by Isaac Koi, in 2007, the website was hosted by a German film company. Again, at the time, most took this to be an elaborate hoax. User thefinaltheory never provided any documentation regarding the video. If you wish to see the video now, you can access it via the Wayback Machine. I have also downloaded a copy from that link and uploaded it here.
To convolute this story even further, a second forum user, cometa, came forward, and according to the dozen pages of forum content, aided thefinaltheory in uploading the video file to the German Vision Unlimited server. In other words, according to cometa, the German film company basically allowed the video to reside on their server, so people could view it. Cometa’s profile was disabled by ATS admin. He created a second profile, cometa2.
To add to the mystery, thefinaltheory’s account was created the day of his initial post, and she/he only created two threads, the two cited in this blog post. The last login was in May of 2009. Cometa was a well-established user when he aided thefinaltheory. Again, we can speculate that thefinaltheory and cometa are the same person. Or they aren’t. It doesn’t matter. Much of the content from thefinaltheory and cometa, such as the event logs and reports, have come out in the last year via TTSA and other individuals. I leave the researchers with more time to cut through it and sort out what is what.
Moving on. Some examination was done comparing the original video from 2007 (referred to as F4) and the TTSA TicTac video on Metabunk. According to the video’s metadata, there are some differences. Most importantly, the metadata on the two videos, according to the poster elevenaugust, suggests that the videos were edited and cut differently with different software. This would make sense. Whoever edited the 2007 F4 footage would have different software than TTSA in 2017. Furthermore, the video was edited using North American NTSC formatting, and not using the European PAL format. This proves nothing, but it suggests that the German film company was merely a hosting service, and not responsible for creating/editing/cutting the film. Begs a big question though; who edited the original F4 and why is it identical to TTSA’s 2017 TicTac video?
My last point regarding the content of the footage is a quote from the Metabunk user elevenaugust.
“1- In comparison with the TTS video, it [F4] lasts longer, 1’16.717 vs 1’16.209.
2- There are two missing frames in the beginning of the f4 video.
3- There are three missing frames at the end of the TTS video.”
So, the 2007 F4 video and the 2017 TicTac video are basically the same. We can account for the changes in the metadata because the TTSA version has text explaining the video’s content. TTSA clearly edited the video to provide context. This could account for the differences in metadata, higher resolution, frame rate changes, etc.
Moving forward in time to 2017 and TTSA’s re-release of the F4/TicTac video; we are left in an interesting situation. According to the TTSA,
“While there have been leaked versions on the internet, the CoC establishes the authenticity and credibility that this (TTSA’s TicTac, emphasis mine) version is the original footage taken from one of the most advanced sensor tracking devices in use.”
Ok, according to what? The 2017 TicTac video is the same as the 2007 F4. Herein lies the essential problem; while the video may be authentic, in that it is from a military F-18, how do we know that TTSA’s released video is not simply a copy of the video released in 2007? We have no chain-of-custody documentation proving that the DoD or any government agency gave the video to TTSA or its contractors. All we can do is speculate. Everyone, from the ardent die-hard fans to the staunch overzealous debunkers, is speculating. No one, apart from the contractors and employees of TTSA, are holding any cards. This is why “chain-of-custody” is important. I’m all for taking TTSA at its word, but, as the Lannisters remind us, “words are wind.”
Since no chain-of-custody documentation has been provided, as I stated above, no one knows who pulled the video from the F-18, from the Nimitz, or the DoD archives, or anything. Why is the TTSA version “credible” and “original” when it came out a decade after the 2007 F4? Furthermore, the content of the footage is identical. Why is F4 not “credible” and “original?”
Without any of the chain-of-custody documentation, this all smells a bit off. I’m not saying that the video is a fake; rather, I’m questioning why and how it was released, and to what end. At this point, you should have some questions running through your head.
Does this mean that TTSA’s version of the video is different (that is, from a different source, and not the alleged stolen copy), yet for some reason, edited and cut identically to the 2007 F4? If TTSA does have an “original” and “authentic” copy, why edit it to be the same as the footage released a decade earlier? Moreover, if this is the case, then records will exist for its declassification and release to TTSA or one of its contractors. We could also speculate that the DoD does have the original uncut footage, but only released aspects of the video already in the public domain to TTSA. It is also possible that a DoD staffer saw the post on ATS back in 2007 and downloaded a copy of F4 for DoD records. If the video was declassified/released to TTSA, or one of its contractors, years later, then all they were potentially given by the DoD was a copy of F4.
It may be the case that TTSA’s 2017 TicTac version IS the 2007 F4 video. This would obviously account for why it is identical beyond some cosmetic editing. If that is the case, why does TTSA insinuate that their version is “authentic” in relation to the “leaked versions” on the internet? Perhaps an unknown source provided the video to thefinaltheory in 2007 and to TTSA in 2017?
With all this being said, let’s assume that TTSA has all the proper CoC documentation, and are simply choosing not to release it. Capitalism is king after all. Perhaps they are saving it for a future release? Perhaps they will include it in some future documentary film? I get it. It’s a for-profit company. The only people who know what TTSA has and does not have is TTSA. If all that CoC paperwork does exist however, we are still left with our original leaker, thefinaltheory.
We need to appreciate that whoever thefinaltheory is, he or she got to the finish line first. A decade before the vast majority of the world got the 2017 TicTac, a single post on ATS in 2007 brought the Nimitz event into the light. While it was a whisper, and not a bang, the implications are massive. Beyond the basics of thefinaltheory’s identity, which I would love to know, is how they got the footage.
According to the ATS post, thefinaltheory burned a copy to a disc while serving on the Nimitz and simply snuck off with it. Apart from the legal implications, wouldn’t the computer system on the Nimitz track who accessed what, when and if they made copies? As pointed out by CPO Kevin Day in an interview on Phenomenon radio, every time someone uses radio communication, a log is made, and an audio copy is recorded and saved for future reference. Would not logging in and accessing top secret files on the internal computer system, and yanking those files for copy, also be tracked?
Perhaps thefinaltheory was court marshalled for espionage, or, maybe got away with stealing Top Secret Naval data (which would be damn impressive). Perhaps, as the story goes, it was illegally stolen from a computer onboard the Nimitz. Perhaps thefinaltheory fabricated the story. When you read the account, it does sound a little absurd. Therefore, if the only known source of the original 2007 F4 video was dishonest, then what does that say about the video itself?
Again, this is why the actual chain-of-custody documentation is essential. Without it, all TTSA can do is ask to be trusted and taken at their word. Luis Elizondo concludes his latest blog post by stating,
“Humans have only been able to accomplish all that we have because we are able to receive and process new information, and adapt to new realities. As for the topic of Unidentified Aerial Phenomena, we have a choice. We can allow our beliefs to fill in the gaps or we can continue to doggedly pursue data in hopes that what we know informs what we believe.”
Ironically, the UFO community is being asked by Mr. Elizondo’s current employer to believe. The F4/TicTac video is authentic not because we know, but because we believe. We are being asked to have faith in TTSA and its various contractors. As Mr. Elizondo proclaims, we ought to “doggedly pursue” the data. I agree with Mr. Elizondo, and that is why the chain-of-custody documents for the TicTac video need to be made public. That paperwork is the “data” which will give us the knowledge to “inform” our beliefs.
There are very few people who actually have an answer, and this web is continuing to be spun. With every Twitter post, internet radio interview, and news article, the Nimitz event is being lionized as one of the most important UFO events in history. It very well may be. Half a dozen contractors and Tom DeLonge know how to unravel this tangled and curious web. As for the rest of us, all we know is that at the center of this web sits a little forum post, a man named cometa, and his buddy, thefinaltheory.
I have always been interested in monsters. They are compelling subject matter. Upon them, our various cultures have placed blame and hatred, and we use them to build up societal rules, norms and paradigms. They are our antithesis, that which humans attempt to subvert or kill, yet they are also a reflection of humanity itself, as many famous works of literature remind us, we ourselves suffer from being monsters. Monsters, in every iteration ranging from aliens to yetis, challenge us not only physically, but philosophically.
Two years ago, I was told about the work of Dr. Jeffrey Kripal, a professor of Religion and Philosophy at Rice University. For those who are unaware of his genius, he regularly dabbles in the world of monsters, ghosts and aliens. In an essay from 2014 concerning Whitley Strieber’s famous book Communion, he wrote,
“And what of real monsters? By ‘real’ I do not mean to point to some future biological taxon. I do not think that we will someday shoot a Sasquatch or net the Loch Ness Monster. By real I mean quite simply ‘really experienced,’ I mean ‘phenomenologically actual.’ I mean to remind us that many people, including many modern people, have experienced monsters not as ‘discourses’ or as cultural ‘deconstructions,’ but as actual incarnate, discarnate, or quasi-incarnate beings.”
Kripal raises a compelling idea; a monster that is not objective or subjective, but objective AND subjective. It exists in a dualistic state, it is fact and fiction. Real and not real. A psychosocial construct that is as physical as the smartphone in your hand or the computer you are looking at.
This is not a new idea, if anything, it is ancient. Even William Shakespeare points out in A Midsummer Night’s Dream that,
“And as imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet's pen
Turns them to shapes and gives to airy nothing
A local habitation and a name.”
The point, I suppose, is that monsters are everywhere and nowhere. They haunt us from the gaps which form between the mind, culture and the physical objective world.
Several days ago, I was given the opportunity to view Seth Breedlove’s latest monster documentary, The Bray Road Beast. Originally, I promised Mr. Breedlove a film review. After seeing the film however, I wish to deal with the broader philosophical messages the film raises. That being said, I want to appease Mr. Breedlove as he deserves credit for an excellent film.
The film itself is a great investigation into the story surrounding a large upright dog-like creature, a werewolf if you will, which has appeared multiple times in and around Elkhorn, Wisconsin. A rash of sightings in the early nineties along the quiet rural Bray road was investigated by reporter Linda Godfrey, who today, enjoys great fame and accolade for her books concerning various other monster stories (many of essential reading if you ask me). The film features great interviews with Godfrey herself, multiple witnesses, and other investigators. It also has some hair-raising reenactments and computer-generated scenes which helps the viewer visualize the events. Breedlove works with a shoestring budget, but his expert ability to tell a story and use a camera makes the film look spectacular. The narrative keeps the viewer engaged, and strangely nervous that the beast, whatever it may be, is waiting just out of sight. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and any fan of the paranormal will too. It tells a great story with some really interesting new pieces of evidence.
Can we get back to some theory now?
The film reminds us that the lines between real and mythological, human and monster, are incredibly tenuous. It matters little if the Beast of Bray Road is real; if enough people “see” it, talk about it, and tell stories about it, the beast begins to haunt us in a very real way. This is where the film is successful. It assumes that nothing ought to be taken for granted.
Depending on your personal philosophical bend, reality itself tends to work along a similar vein. The world around us, our daily lives, are a symbiotic blend of truth and myth. We tell ourselves stories all the time.
What is the ‘objective’ truth or value of a one-hundred-dollar bill versus a one-dollar bill. It’s the same paper and the same ink, the only difference is we have all agreed to mythologically value the number 100 more than the 1. Why value money at all? Simply put, as a society, we have agreed to do so. There is no inherent “capital T” truth to money itself. We can go beyond this into any past or present paradigms, such as gender, race, power and politics. Our entire reality is mythological in nature. Societal definitions of “manliness” and “femininity” are great examples of ideological storytelling, and those stories are constantly changing. There is nothing objectively real regarding how a ‘man’ or a ‘woman’ ought to be or act; it is simply mythology.
The overall point here is that, on a daily basis, you and I exist in a world of fiction and storytelling. The drive to Burger King or your son’s swimming lessons is as full of myths as the monster which stalks the backcountry Bray road. If we continue to tell stories concerning the myths we take for granted, such as the value of money, those myths continue to be real. They, for all intents and purposes, are “true.” Yet, in some curious twist, the myths we don’t take for granted, or perhaps would rather not take for granted, such as monsters, remain on the fringes. The funny thing about myths though, and monsters too, is that they tend to pop up every once in a while. Uninvited. Whether through witness accounts or blurry photographs and videos, monsters seem to be a myth that won’t go away.
If we are prepared to say that monsters are not real, then we need to be prepared to throw away all of those other myths we tell ourselves and our children, or at least appreciate that they are illusions. However, we won’t. We will continue in our myths because they form and inform us. We become part of those myths, and we live in a sort of communion with them (no pun intended).
We need to be prepared to accept Kripal’s framework; that monsters are real and unreal. They are from the blending of reality and storytelling, and people encounter them at times. Breedlove’s film presents us with this interesting idea. As individuals, we must accept that monsters are both part of us and apart from us. They exist in our psychosocial reality as well as our objective reality; the big question is how? We do not know, but perhaps we can all agree that speaking and writing about them is the necessary first step to breath anything into existence. We do dwell in mythology after all.
Breedlove expresses a wonderful idea in his film towards the end. Monsters are everywhere. No “hot spot” is really a hot spot. We mythologize places. We tell stories about certain areas and put more “skin in the game” as it were. Perhaps due to the spinning of those tales, monsters tend to pop up a little more. It is not that Bray road in Elkhorn is some special place. Monsters haunt us in our books and films, in our dreams, and perhaps most frightening of all, in our backyards where our children play. It is not that we need to hunt the monsters to find the truth behind them. Rest assured, they are most definitely hunting us.
Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Derrida
A friend sent me a link to a recent French study which links Creationist beliefs to those who believe in conspiracy theories. The research study basically asserts that faith in a higher power which created a universe for humanity is no different than those who believe in the Moon landing being faked or that the government is covering up the existence of aliens and UFOs. It is an interesting study, and while I mostly agree with it, we ought to be cautious buying into it wholeheartedly.
As I read this study, I was reminded of a quote from one of my favourite books, “Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency” by the late Douglas Adams.
“Don't you understand that we need to be childish in order to understand? Only a child sees things with perfect clarity because it hasn't developed all those filters which prevent us from seeing things that we don't expect to see.”
I want to focus on this idea of “filters.” I also want to touch on the myth of objectivity in science and link it all back to UFOs and the UFO community which, discursively, often engages in conspiracy theories.
The study hinges upon a common philosophical concept called Teleology. In simple terms, teleology is the idea that all things function towards some goal or end result. While big in Ancient Greece, teleology today is in contention with modern scientific ideology. For example, as the article presents, “the sun rises in order to give us light.” This statement contains a teleological bias or error. The sun does not rise to give light, rather, it “rises” due to the Earth’s rotation, axis, and that it is a star whereupon we are gravitationally stuck. In simple terms, it has nothing to do with “us” nor “giving.”
Aristotle argued that the purpose of an acorn was to grow into an oak tree. We can argue that this is not really true. The acorn simply is, and its state changes due to DNA and biology. The acorn, objectively, has no purpose or goals. The acorn has no destiny. It is simply existing as an acorn. As the study points out, the belief that a divine creator formed the planet out of mud and placed it on the back of a turtle is a teleological bias. Similarly, believing that the American government or some Deep State cabal faked the September 11th attack, murdered JFK, or is hiding dead aliens in a bunker also hinges upon the same bias. They view all things moving towards a specific end result, or a plan devised to lead to a certain result, when that may not really be the case.
The study itself was simple. The researchers,
“…conducted a survey of 157 Swiss college students designed to ascertain conspiratorial thinking, teleological thinking, as well as their abilities to analytically reason. They also analyzed a survey of 1,252 members of the general French population to look for a link between creationist beliefs and conspiratorial thinking. Lastly, the researchers recruited 733 more subjects to complete an online questionnaire to test whether creationism, conspiracism, and teleological thinking are correlated.”
What they concluded was that the teleological bias that “everything happens for a reason” is common amongst creationists and conspiracists. As the study’s author stated,
"By drawing attention to the analogy between creationism and conspiracism, we hope to highlight one of the major flaws of conspiracy theories and therefore help people detect it, namely that they rely on teleological reasoning by ascribing a final cause and overriding purpose to world events…We think the message that conspiracism is a type of creationism that deals with the social world can help clarify some of the most baffling features of our so-called 'post-truth era’…Because teleological and animist thinking are part of children’s earliest intuitions about the world and are resilient in adulthood, they thus could be causally involved in the acquisition of creationist and conspiracist beliefs. However, our results do not rule out the possibility that acceptance of such beliefs could, conversely, favor a teleological bias.”
As I mentioned before, I generally accept the findings of this study. It makes sense. However, I wish to problematize a few key ideas which this study alludes to.
Before I continue, allow me a brief aside. Science, which I love by the way, will contend that it is an objective act or practice which leads to ‘truth’ and knowledge, and to understanding the reality we live in. Science is progress. The obvious and ironic point of contention here is the teleological bias which presents itself in the very function of science; science is end driven, it has a purpose which leads somewhere. The notion that science generates ‘true’ knowledge or leads us towards ‘true’ knowledge, while other things do not, is a teleological claim. It’s cute.
While exploring teleology in science is interesting, the study itself makes the assumption that science is objective, and therefore free of bias. I wish to address two specific sociological experiences which seem to cast doubt on the above idea; the ‘objectivity’ of science dwells purely within two very subjective realms; language and cultural paradigm. I then want to link this back to the UFO community and how it often engages with science.
Language, in really simple terms, is a series of filters. We use our senses, which naturally filter data from the ‘objective reality’ around us and transmits them into a series of sounds and symbols. That symbolism of language, letters and numbers, but more importantly, what words themselves come to mean through our cultural and social backgrounds also filter data and, in turn, meaning. Trying to think of any object, concept or idea without its specific symbolic representation floating around your mind is impossible. Now imagine trying to communicate those things to someone else without the use of symbols; good luck.
To keep this Ufologically relevant, let’s look at owls as an example. Owls, biologically, are birds. They fly. They are predators. They typically hunt at night. With all that information, consider your ideology here. Owl as predator and hunter versus owl as flying bird. They draw two very different interpretations, two different feelings, two different symbolic states of what an owl is, or perhaps more appropriately, can be. Toss some Ufological mythology into the mix, and owls become symbolic of alien abduction and/or contact, messengers between realms, screen memories, or a link between humanity and The Phenomenon. Owls, like anything else, coexist within multiple symbolic meanings, from simple biological bird to complicated mythological archetype.
Science, whether it likes it or not, functions within a linguistic reality. The study’s author uses the expression ‘post-truth era’ in the summary of the paper. That expression is hugely complex, not just politically, but symbolically. Furthermore, what do we mean by truth? Does this assume that there was an era of ‘actual’ truth where nothing was questioned? The current political situation within the United States also gives significant symbolic impact to the term, whereas fifty years ago, it would have meant something totally different. The very use of that phrase only adds credence to my claim; no discourse or practice is objective.
Another example often thrown around is the expression “anti-science.” Again, what symbols and myths are generated with this expression? Flat-Earthers and climate change deniers could be considered ‘anti-science,’ but what about someone merely being skeptical of scientific dogma and the current paradigm which suggests science is ‘the way, the truth, and the light.’ Is being critical of scientific ideology tantamount to being opposed to it? Last time I checked, criticism does not equate to open rebellion.
What we see here is that the scientific community, particularly established bodies of power within that community, have used the symbolic and mythological power of language to generate meaning in order to retain power. “Post-truth era” and “anti-science” are political and social terms designed to target those who are critical of established scientific ideology. The people and groups who fit into those two categories are considered irrational, yet “rationality” by its very nature depends upon consensus by the majority, and is not always objective. Many things we do on a daily basis are irrational, yet we have all agreed to do those things, therefore they have become rational. No one looks at you funny when you buy bottled water or decide that you need to own an automatic assault rifle, yet both acts, it could be argued, are irrational due to various reasons.
"Anti-science" creationists, conspiracy nuts, and scientists all work within the same framework. Language governs all of them. It creates filters which alters meaning away from objectivity but into the realm of mythology. The problem is that the more words you create and the more ideas you generate, the more filters get put up. As philosopher Jacques Derrida reminds us, language “differs” (I know what something is based upon everything it isn’t) and “defers” (The more words and symbols I add when I communicate, the more those words and symbols adjust meaning). The more information and data you have and provide, the more your ideological framework jumps around. Seeking ‘the truth’ is like walking down a path where every single movement of your body generates an infinite amount of more paths. Where scientists, creationists and conspiracists differ is that they all simply choose different paths. Where they are identical is that they all believe that their path is the correct one.
This leads me to cultural paradigms, and I am reminded of author and scientist Rupert Sheldrake. I am not a scientist, so I cannot comment on the validity of his scientific claims. His peers consider him a parapsychologist and he is often charged with dabbling in pseudo-science. While he very may well be a terrible scientist (I honestly do not know), the criticism hurled at him points to a clear dogmatism, and therefore symbolic mythology, present in the scientific community. An editor of the science journal Nature once charged him with “heresy” because his work openly criticized the scientific community.
As Sheldrake points out in his book, The Science Delusion, science and scientists are not the problem. Rather, it is the economics of science and the bodies which govern it. Disrupting the status quo within the scientific establishment leads scientists on a path towards professional death. Exploring concepts and ideas, even if the evidence points in that direction, that deviates from the standard and accepted ideologies will not be funded or, at times, even allowed to continue.
Sheldrake points out in the book that unconventional ideas are typically pushed aside because journals are only willing to fund research that gets a “high citation index” which really only benefits established scientific fields. What this all leads to, according to Sheldrake, is an “innovation deficit.” Scientists are not allowed to follow their data or evidence if it contains deviation or abnormalities, nor if they wish to study something off the beaten path. To the mainstream, any anomalous data is flawed, or the scientist has clearly lost their mind. What this leads to a slowdown in scientific development and innovation.
I am not suggesting here that science is wrong or bad. Such a statement is silly. Nor am I saying that Flat Earthers are ‘as correct’ as, well, everyone else. The Earth is not flat. Climate change is happening. I can go on. I love science.
What I am trying to get at here is that the idea and act of science, and more importantly, the power structure of science, is entrenched within the same cultural frameworks as everything else. It has its own series of filters, ideologies, social and cultural pressures, paradigms, financial concerns, and desire to remain as the arbiter of human knowledge and understanding. Science and those who do it hold all the power. Those who disagree and challenge that power are considered irrational, stupid or ‘woo woo’ (which are all mythological and symbolic ideologies, and not based in any objective evidentiary truths). This includes those of us out here in the fringes, as well as those scientists who are also pushed to the edges due to their interests.
Within UFO discourse, we see science holding this curious dual position. On one hand, Ufologists often want science and scientists to be more involved in the process. MUFON allegedly investigates UFOs using scientific means, and one often sees great excitement when academic scientists get involved in the UFO debate, especially if they support ‘the cause.’ On the flip side, UFO discourse is quick to point out that science is elitist, embargoed by secret cabals, and, at times, the tool of skeptics and debunkers. Nowhere are the symbolic and mythological paradigms of the illusion of scientific authority more debated than within UFO circles.
We are at a curious place. The UFO community has plenty of scientists working in it, some of them engaged in Tom DeLonge’s To The Stars Academy, while others seem to be working alongside other investors or on their own. Have they found a little niche for themselves, pursuing the un-pursuable? Have they broken out of the established paradigm, appreciative of the fact that science is not so clear cut as their high school teachers may have taught them? Or, perhaps as that one editor of Nature put it, are they heretics?
Bearing the study in mind, the UFO community regularly engages in conspiratorial thinking. On the various online UFO forums and social media outlets, To The Stars Academy has often been labeled as a government program, or involved in purposeful perception management to disinform the public. Robert Bigelow’s NIDS and BAASS programs were also the target of such talk as well. While not directly, the study points to the fact that the UFO community does often suffer from teleological bias. Yet, at the same time, the very debate which circles around UFOs bluntly asserts my earlier points that while science may hold a lot of cards, it doesn’t hold all of them. While it claims higher truths and objectivity, it unfortunately dwells in the same muck as the rest of us. We ALL are governed by our symbols and ideologies.
To The Stars and Bigelow’s former programs, while connected to the government in certain ways, are not necessarily conspiratorial disinformation or intelligence programs. There is no actual evidence which proves some grand conspiracy, but only little circumstantial foot prints which one can follow in any direction. What actually occurs is the conspiracist “feels” something is going on, when really, it could be nothing more than simple coincidence.
The UFO community is a mixed bag. It is a curious collection of science and conspiracy, attempts at truth surrounded by myth. What becomes ever more difficult is deconstructing that jumble of symbolism and meaning into simpler parts. To be honest, it is impossible. The more we attempt to deconstruct, the more constructs we tend to form. UFOs, real and not, force us to question not only our own teleology, but also the teleology of science and other established power systems. Whether this is by citing conspiracies or scientifically driven ‘objective truths,’ we tend to end up in the same place. As Dirk Gently points out, we end up with filters on top of filters. This begs a big question; do all of our Ufological disputes, rivalries, and back biting simply all lead us down the path towards symbolic illusions? If so, the zealot believers and conspiracy theorists, and the skeptics and debunkers all seem to be pulling meaning from a place of teleology.
While the release date is unknown, The History Channel is promising its new series, "Project Blue Book," will be out sometime in the winter.
For those of you living outside of the Ufological universe, according to The History Channel,
“’Project Blue Book’ is based on the true, Top Secret investigations into Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs) and related phenomena conducted by the United States Air Force from 1952-1969. The series is inspired by the personal experiences of Dr. J. Allen Hynek, a brilliant college professor recruited by the U.S. Air Force to spearhead this clandestine operation (Project Blue Book) that researched thousands of cases, over 700 of which remain unsolved to this day. Each episode will draw from the actual case files, blending UFO theories with authentic historical events from one of the most mysterious eras in United States history.”
The project is headed up by none other than Robert Zemeckis, the guy who did "Contact" and "Back to the Future," and stars Aidan Gillen (Littlefinger in "Game of Thrones") as the father of modern UFO research, J. Allen Hynek.
The show is being sold as a fictional series, but one that looks at real Blue Book cases in an attempt to bring awareness to the UFO phenomenon. While the fans of "Ancient Aliens" and other similar programming are undoubtedly excited, I think many within the deeper UFO community are perhaps a touch concerned.
So, being that I am a generous fellow and want to ensure History’s newest show doesn’t suffer the same fate Littlefinger did in "Game of Thrones," (oops, should have said “spoiler alert”) here are the three things the series must do to reach the hearts of the UFO community.
1) Take the phenomenon seriously.
Most of us in the UFO subculture have basically thrown aspects of our life away. I am officially “that guy who is into UFOs,” and it generally sucks. Sure, people still accept you. Sure, you still get invited to parties. However, every time anything UFO related pops up, everyone stops and looks at you, hoping you chime in so they can all have a good laugh behind your back. Personally, I have it easy. My wife accepts my weirdness and my kids are young, so they are convinced UFOs are just part of everyday life (#softdisclosure). My co-workers have come to accept it, or generally could care less. Life is sweet.
However, I know a few people who have lost grant money for academic projects, spouses, and their jobs for even being slightly involved in UFO discourse. Depending on your employers and your industry, it can be pretty dangerous out there. So why put up with the all the crap? The phenomenon, assuming it exists, is undoubtedly the most important scientific, philosophical, theological, social, and cultural pursuit there is. Gaining actual insight into the possibility that there exists an intelligent objective and real “Other” outside of ourselves changes everything. Such a discovery would affect all aspects of existence; humanity is no longer the sole arbiter of the decisions regarding its station on Earth, the Cosmos or reality itself.
Assuming they had the brain capacity, imagine how Neanderthals in Europe felt when Homo Sapiens rolled in. What is the word for when complete and utter fear cohabitates with relief and need? They realized they were not alone (Praise be to the gods!), and then realized they were not alone (Oh hell no!).
Once you begin to pursue this question, this reality, then your grip on daily life becomes a little more tenuous. You begin to look awry at the world around you. Some of us hold on as best we can, but I know others who have slipped away and are different people now. Poof. Gone. Regardless of your personal opinion on this, as some may chalk it up to mental health or stability, the phenomenon has an impact, and often, a very serious one.
With all that being said, let’s avoid, or at least tone down, the tropes of conspiracy, secret “men in black,” and government cover-ups. MJ-12 is so 1980’s; let’s just keep that nonsense to a very minimum. Tell real stories and try hard to keep them authentic; these things change people’s lives, and not always for the better.
2) But don’t take the phenomenon TOO seriously.
If you can laugh about it, you can talk about it. That is a fundamental truth. I’m going to assume that this series will follow an “X-Files” model. Different stories each episode, yet an over-arching plot line that will wrap up by the final episode. Classic. Awesome.
Keeping in mind what I stated above, I am friends with a lot of ‘UFO people.’ Most of them are ‘normal’ everyday folks who drive their kids to gymnastics and drink beer. A few, however, are totally wild and wacky. If there is a box to live inside, they lost that box somewhere on the side of a desert highway and walk a very strange path. Do they take themselves seriously? Hell no! They know they are a little ‘out there’ and they love it.
Nothing is funnier than a Ufologist or UFO investigator who thinks they are Fox Mulder. We all know some of these folks. They walk around in their black utility vests, armed with a pistol, and drive SUV’s full of evidence collection bags and latex gloves. They mean well, but God help them, they need to relax a bit. You would never have seen Hynek rocking a .357 ready to blow a Grey’s head off.
Trying to attract a popular audience is fine. Go ahead. Everyone loves pulp fiction. Have fun. Just try not to make the UFO community look like a bunch of fools who take themselves incredibly seriously. We laugh. A lot. Mostly at ourselves.
3) Move beyond the Extraterrestrial Hypothesis
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Popular media is stuck on the ideology that flying saucers are piloted by aliens from other planets. The mainstream adjusts slowly, I suppose, to strange things. The vast majority of people are tourists when it comes to the UFO enigma. They try a bit of the local cuisine from time to time, dabble in a touch of this or that, and then move on to the next thing. Scratching the surface of the Ufological narrative usually leads a person just deep enough to reach the “nuts and bolts biological aliens” idea. Being tourists, they don’t go much further down, and they certainly do not begin to piece together the varied tales, stories and “evidence.” In truth, no hypothesis really works. Whatever is going on, it is well beyond anything we can imagine.
With all that being said, my dearest producers at History Channel, please recognize that your role in all this is that of the gatekeeper. The mythology you weave through the stories you ‘green light’ will dictate a lot for the UFO community. Everyone starts off exploring UFOs somewhere. “Project Blue Book” will undoubtedly bring a bit of new blood into the UFO community; please try to educate as much as you try to entertain. I know you have superiors, corporate bosses, parent corporations, CFOs, VPs of Marketing, and CEOs. You need to make a profit, I get that. You need ratings. Just avoid sanitizing the UFO for a mainstream TV audience palate. Tell an authentic and grass roots tale as best you can. Damn the man.
UFOs, as a cultural and mythological phenomenon, are incredibly complex. There are narratives on top of meta-narratives. Social and political events affect interpretations and ideological frameworks which in turn shape the phenomenon itself. It is, as Carl Jung called it, “a living myth.” To really simplify what could be pages and pages of philosophy, please, for the love of God, let the plot for your show be more complicated than aliens in jars from a crashed flying saucer in the desert. In ‘truth,’ and I use that word loosely, the UFO phenomenon is much richer, convoluted, absurd, and complicated than aliens in space ships from Zeta Reticuli. Many of my friends and peers in this field have dedicated decades to the study of UFOs. They know the whole alien thing is just one theory, and most likely, not the correct one. Don’t rehash that same old story. We’ve had it. It’s done. Gone. Let it die quietly without a bang, and hell, no whimper either.
Three simple things can go a long way. We love you, History Channel. You kids are alright. Sure, "Ancient Aliens" is pretty ridiculous at times. No UFO researcher worth their salt has ever “suggested” ancient astronauts are responsible for the Pyramids. However, you and your company have gone all-in on the UFO thing and I can respect that.
I’m sure there will be some disagreement with me on a couple things from some colleagues, most likely about my claim that "Ancient Aliens" is only ridiculous “at times,” but they are just posers. They watch it. Everyone secretly loves Tsoukalos with his crazy Swiss hair and body building expertise. I would totally buy that guy a beer. Actually, scratch that, he’s rich so he can buy me a beer.
I hope this helps, and I hope you take some of my advice. I definitely don’t speak for the whole UFO community, but as someone who kicks around Ufological circles, I have a pretty good handle on the situation. Oh, and well-done casting Gillen. That guy basically made "Game of Thrones" the best. Now that Littlefinger is dead, I could care less what happens to Westeros. Full disclosure (easy Bassett), I hope the White Walkers win…
Why We Shouldn't Disembowel MUFON Just Yet
For those who pay attention to the comings and goings of individuals within the UFO community, MUFON has lost another one of its prized members. Primarily to its own inability to do anything right regarding public relations or ethics, Chris Cogswell, its newly appointed Director of Research, has chosen to leave the organization only a few short months after taking the job. Cogswell, being a man of reason and clearly in possession of a moral backbone, has taken issue with MUFON’s inability to cut one of their top brass, John Ventre, loose.
For many on the outer rim of the UFO community, they may recognize Mr. Ventre from his multiple appearances on MUFON’s “tell-all” TV show, Hangar 1. For those who dove a little deeper into the subculture’s pool, they may recall an incident which occurred in May of 2017 when Mr. Ventre vented publicly, on Facebook, his disdain for a show called “Dear White People” and his curious, albeit incorrect, belief that “whites” invented everything.