Let us start with a somewhat impertinent question: Why are you doing this? I mean, why do you find yourself presently with your hands on this book, reading these words at this particular moment? Don’t you have anything better to do with your time? Friends to meet, bills to pay, a lawn to mow, or a TV show to binge-watch? If the answer lies in the fact that you are interested in the topic of this volume—the UFO phenomenon—well hooray, and good for you, fellow weirdo. But is that it?
Have you ever bothered to pry deeper into the origin of this odd interest of yours? Tried to understand the fuel driving your passion for a subject perceived as an absurdity by most of humanity and our social institutions?
One of the reasons you’re reading this essay is because I, its author, have too held a lifelong fascination—nay, obsession really—with UFOs. Like most people lured by the hypnotic power of those bright, multi-colored objects, throughout the years I consumed claim after claim of encounters between witnesses and this Other reality, as if the pages of those books now gathering dust in my library had been laced with an addictive substance.
I took my fix of reports and believed the theories proposed by the so-called experts in the field, only to throw them away and replace them with other solutions to the mystery submitted by charismatic mavericks once they had succeeded their predecessors. Accounts, which I first regarded as genuine evidence of otherworldly visitation, were eventually discarded as crude frauds, whereas new cases were hailed by newcomers as proof that Contact was just around the corner. If all this sounds familiar to you, dear reader, is because it is the typical cycle into which all UFO enthusiasts eventually fall.
Sadly, most of them never do find a way out of it ...
Unlike most aficionados, I decided to stop pedalling the wheel for a moment and approach the problem from a different perspective: I took Jacques Vallée’s speculations to task and shifted my focus not onto what UFOs are, per se, but rather onto what they reportedly do, and the effect of their presence (whether real or imagined) in the affairs of men. Suddenly, the disc once presumed to serve as a vehicle for traversing outer space became a mirror for surveying inner space. And, thus, I finally caught a glimpse of Truth—if not about the nature of UFOs, at least about the nature of me.
For you see, dear reader, the self-truth UFOs taught me some time ago is that I’m an anarchist. And if you keep reading these pages, that proves deep down you’re one too—whether you want to admit it or not.
So, do what thou wilt, friend, and read on… or not.
“Uuuugh. Somebody please tell me what I’m doing here…”
“Doing? You’re doing what any sane man in your appalling circumstances would do.
You’re going mad.”
―Alan Moore, The Killing Joke (1988)
For an adult, there’s no easier way to recapture the feelings of early childhood than by contemplating the night sky. Children are not only constantly exploring the world that’s new to them, they are also learning to recognize and control the fiery impulses fuelling their young bodies, which is why most of their experiences are a mixture of conflicting emotions: Sadness combined with happiness, curiosity blended with repulsion, wonder tinged with fear.
Gazing at the stars brings forth the inner kid in all of us, because that cosmic vastness not only gives humans an incredibly disproportionate sense of scale against which to compare our fleeting existence, but it also serves as an unsympathetic reminder that all those energies unfolding before our eyes are totally beyond our control. Measured by the stellar yardstick, we’re but a bunch of helpless rugrats.
To understand a thing, though, is to begin slowly to have power over that thing. Our species has come a long way since those nights sitting by the campfire, when our nomadic ancestors played to connect those distant dots to create gods and monsters suited for their idiosyncratic mythologies; now we realize those points are suns like our own, so distant that many of them are but a ghostly echo of their former self. And even though those celestial bodies won’t bow to our will (not in the way we’ve already started to tame other formidable forces of nature) they have, nonetheless, yielded to the might of our reason, and we learned to calculate their goings and comings over the horizon with startling accuracy. Predictability begets familiarity, and regularity is an antidote to anxiety.
Other more random phenomena, which were universally considered bad omens by ancient cultures all around the globe, such as the passing of lonely comets or meteor strikes, have also started to fall into the cycle of regularity. Yes, we know sooner or later some vagrant space boulder will challenge our title as the dominant species of Earth—a challenge the dinosaurs failed—but at least we now know it’s not a question of If, but of When.
In his globally acclaimed TV series, Cosmos,1 Carl Sagan tells his audience how, during the age of Copernicus and Kepler, astronomy became the first true modern science by way of supplanting superstition with logic. Glimpsing into the exquisite machinery of the universal clockwork with brand-new mechanical extensions to our senses (telescopes) and applying the principles which became the backbone of the Scientific Method, gave those early natural philosophers enough confidence that there was nothing in Creation which could remain forever hidden from Man’s comprehension; the world we inhabit today is the direct result of said confidence. By first mapping the charts of the heavens, we eventually moulded the face of the Earth.
And yet there remain portents and apparitions still haunting our skies. They have proven so unruly and resistant to reassuringly conventional explanations that they’ve become the biggest threat to our trust in the dominion of Reason—to the point that the vast edifice that modern science has erected, since the days of Galileo, could seemingly come crashing down, were its stewards merely to entertain the existence of these visions and grant a crumb of credence to those who have borne witness to them: “Return to the age of chimeras haunting the nights of our forefathers? Never!” Thus, the logical route of the stewards of this vital scaffolding is the path of denial and ridicule. A method which inevitably backfired in the most unsettling ways ...
Psychedelic raconteur Terence McKenna (1946—2000) was someone who had as much respect for the arrogant orthodoxy of academia as for the naive obtuseness of most UFO advocates, who seem unable to conceive of the phenomenon outside the imaginings of a 1950s pulp sci-fi novel. During his presentation for the “Angels, Aliens & Archetypes” conference held in San Francisco in November of 1987, titled Shamanic Approaches to the UFO, McKenna posited that the phenomenon’s primordial task seemed to be neither charting the flora and fauna of our planet, like some space-age version of Charles Darwin, nor establishing a foothold for an impending colonization fleet. What UFOs were really doing, in his eyes, was something far more subtle and pernicious: eroding our faith in science, and acting as an antidote to a scientific paradigm spawned by the ideas of Copernicus, Galileo and Kepler, which ultimately has brought us to the brink of total collapse:
Rationalism [and] scientific technology which began and came out of the scholasticism of the Middle Ages, and the quite legitimate wish to glorify God through appreciation of His natural world, turned into a kind of demonic pact, a kind of descent into the underworld, the Nekya, if you will, leading to the present cultural and political impasse that involves massive stockpiles of atomic weapons, huge propagandized populations cut off of to any knowledge of their real histories, male-dominated organizations plying their message of lethal destruction and inevitable historical advance. And into this situation comes suddenly an anomaly, something which cannot be explained. I believe that is the purpose to the UFO, to inject uncertainty into the male-dominated, paternalistic, rational, solar myth under which we are suffering ... The UFO is nothing more than an assertion of herself by the Goddess into history, saying to science and paternalistically-governed and driven organizations: ‘You have gone far enough! We are going to turn the world upside down. Your science is going to be shown up for what it is: nothing more than a pleasant metaphor, usefully extrapolated into the production of toys for wealthy children.’
Had Robert Anton Wilson, Pope of Discordianism (the philosophical movement centered around the exaltation of chaos and disorder over conformity and order), been seated among the audience that day, I imagine he would have risen up at that very moment shouting “Hail Eris!!” In Greek mythology, Eris was the goddess of Discord, responsible, according to some legends, of the famous war of Troy, for giving the hero Paris a golden apple and instructing him to present it as a prize to “the most beautiful” of the female deities—a task without hope of a happy resolution, given how the Greek pantheon was famous for being subject to the same base emotions as their human creatures, like vanity and jealousy. It almost feels as if the flying saucer is the modern version of Eris’ golden apple, thrown into the skies just to anger her cousin Athena, goddess of Wisdom and Philosophy. We mortals seem to be trapped inside a cosmic game whose rules and stakes we may never comprehend—yet that does not mean we all can’t get a kick out of it, like Discordians do.
Just what is it about the UFO that makes it so revolting to the classical tenets of science, anyway? I believe that, ultimately, the antagonism is more ideological than theoretical: if we disregard the usual refutations proposed by the inheritors of Carl Sagan’s legacy—i.e. the inconceivable gulfs between observable stellar islands, the massive amounts of energy required to traverse them, and the sheer richness of the cosmic archipelago compounding the irrelevance of our own little reef of the Milky Way—there remains the one element which, ironically, joins both believers and skeptics in their rejection of the high strangeness emanating from shunned close encounter reports: The nonsensical, non-regimented nature of those alleged interactions, which can be classified only as “Trickstery.”
We’ve mentioned the 1950s pulp fiction which helped popularize the stereotype of interstellar visitation during the post-war years, and, even though some of those same publications also assisted in disseminating the earliest sightings and the nascent flying saucer myths, the record shows most that “serious” sci-fi authors of that era viewed the UFO subject with contempt: Asimov, Clarke and Bradbury always scorned the phenomenon and paved the way for the modern atheist-based skeptic movement still championed by the likes of Richard Dawkins and Michael Shermer.
But why would liberal freethinkers, who tried to make a living out of conjuring tales of a universe pulsating with sentient life, made accessible through the same scientific ingenuity which helped defeat fascism in our own world, be so against the notion of non-human interlopers? Their rejections are better understood when we consider the oblique modus operandi of these entities, which flies in the face of the popular vision of how interstellar ambassadors should conduct themselves when crossing our planetary borders. The clichéd “saucer on the White House lawn, take me to your leader” scenario clearly holds no appeal for the UFO intelligences. Instead they give cardboard-tasting ‘pancakes’ to a lonely chicken farmer in Wisconsin. Instead of gathering genetic samples from the most prominent members of our species, such as Albert Einstein or Stephen Hawking, these space veterinarians rely on medieval methods to conduct husbandry with Brazilian farmers (Antonio Vilas Boas) while collecting sperm and ova from post office employees (Barney Hill), Christian housewives (Betty Andreasson) and horror novelists (Whitley Strieber), to name a few of the most prominent abductees. These darn aliens will simply not follow the proper channels! Continued ...
“ANARCHY IN THE UFO! by Red Pill Junkie” is an extract from his contribution to UFOs: Reframing the Debate edited by Robbie Graham.