From MUFOB new series 2, March 1976
The statistics of opinion polls are very clear evidence that the UFO or flying saucer is one of the major cultural phenomenon of our time, (1) and it is fairly clear that this represents the whole socio-cultural spectrum, boasting a high proportion of ‘believers’ in practically all walks of life. Moreover, the experience of all investigators is that the reported sightings are only the tip of the iceberg, and that a fairly high proportion of the population has seen some form of phenomenon of a ‘UFO’ type. This, combined with a media presentation which is usually sensational or satirical, constitutes what Jung described as the ‘Rumour’. (2)
It is, as a MUFOB editorial describes it, a Rainbow, receding as one approaches it, confused in a welter of ‘noise’, demonstrating an illogicality and absurdity which appears to defy objective analysis: and of course the damning lack of physical evidence remains. It is clear also that the UFO phenomenon is parasitic on the aspirations and fears of mankind, taking its form from the subconscious, repeating in a technological context archetypal myth forms. There is also a very evident psychic aspect to the phenomenon, and by that I mean that the witness is a function of the manifestation, in the same way that it was believed that ghosts would not walk without a witness.
Recent work, notably that of Vallée, (3) has identified the homogeneity of the “Rumour” from ancient times to the present. Primitive societies usually possess such a “Rumour” of invisible or occasionally visible non-human entities interfering in human affairs, or at any rate possessing power over them. This “Rumour” is usually institutionalised in the form of a fairy- or spirit-faith which, as Evans-Wentz observed, (4) achieves very considerable coherence.
To some extent this ‘institutionalisation’ is to be observed in present day society:the phenomenon is bundled into the domain of the physical sciences, and scientists are incited to get on with it – similarly, the scientific community ‘exorcises’ the unfortunate vulgus with incanted arguments too familiar to be repeated here. Yet this reaction is in itself significant. The UFO phenomenon is regarded as a manifestation of the human irrational, and as such an enemy to Cartesian methodology and materialism. Is it, as John Keel believes, a Trojan Horse destroying us from within by manipulating our nightmares? Or is it as Aime Michel seems to believe, a great Deus Ex Machine leading man onwards?
There is a sinister aspect to these manifestations holding up a grotesque distorting mirror to the human collectivity, best caught perhaps by Bergman in The Hour of the Wolf. It is an established literary idea, a basic archetype that beings can be created or harnessed out of Magonia, out of the dark side of the human mind. For many ufologists, for many oontactees, the UFO phenomenon has indeed represented an ‘Infernal Machine’ reducing them to insanity and even death, a process often accompanied by psychic phenomena which may themselves be the creation of the victim.In many ways the UFO spectrum resembles the phenomena of parapaychological research. The manifestations of these phenomena are subjective, employing laws which baffle those who attempt to employ verification by repeatability. Indeed the criteria of physical science appear to be of strictly limited use yet no alternative analytical end conceptual system appears to be available. The “Rumour” must thus be damned.
Yet regrettably, it will not go away, and when one considers its overall coherence independent of individual witnesses, one can only conclude that it is a function of human collectivity as a whole. If it is a function of the collective subconscious, as Jung believed, then its historical coherence means that it trust be related to the totality of the human subconscious in its historical totality. Its scale and patterns would seem to preclude everyone having their own custom made ‘thing’. For example, how is one to explain ‘flap’ phenomena of the airship, flying-cross, bigfoot, Springheel Jack or mothman type? Phenomena which, even if rooted in the collective subconscious, occur in limited geographical areas, during specific periods of time, and involving isolated witnesses near-simultaneously, in conditions in which ‘contamination’ cannot have occurred by publicity. Or again, how is one to explain the extraordinarly detailed occupant cases which are reproduced again end again with greet coherence, in a large number of cases and subject to the same conditions no ‘flaps’.
Let us take some further examples: the Trindade photos – it would be a strange hallucination indeed that could affect such a large number of different witnesses, in at least two different locations, and also
produce photographs of the object observed.I am not disclaiming this as a possibility, and the Ted Serios and Stella Lansing photos would seem to suggest that images can be psychically induced on film. But if this is the case our ideas of group psychology are going to need some revising.
Or UMMO? The scale of the affair, and technical details connected with it would seem to preclude a hoax, and it is by no means the only such affair on record. Or Fatima, for example. Much time and attention has been lavished on the events of this case, and much of it may perhaps have a psychological explanation – yet this ‘perhaps’ becomes increasingly weighty when one places the Fatima affair in the context of a long history of such manifestations from the middle-ages to the present day. Once again there is an overall coherence in these manifestations, and the ‘communications’ involved would seem to preclude the elaboration of the affair by the witnesses in each case. At Garabandal, for example, it was further clear that no hysterical explanation in terms of known psychiatric phenomena could be employed, and the contact continued under conditions of scrupulous scientific observation and analysis.
It has been suggested that the Betty and Barney Hill affair was an hallucination shared by the couple, and this explanation has been extended to other so-called ‘encounter’ cases; but the data of the various religious visions would be difficult to dismiss in this way, and its very validity would call into question such ‘normal’ explanations for which there is no direct evidence
It would seem then that if we are dealing with a fabrication of the collective unconscious of Magonia, we have to postulate the existence of ‘autonomous’ syndromes of great complexity and coherence not restricted by factors of time and place, and capable of selected manifestations within the human collectivity. This seems a very disquieting alternative to the Venusians.
A whole spectrum of phenomena are thus ‘parasitic’ in nature and temporal distribution on the socio-cultural conditions in which they occur, and the individual psychology of the witness. As Jung suggests, these signs ere particularly apparent in troubled times, but nevertheless there is a basic, consistent, level of ‘noise’ in all times. To write the whole thing off as just another myth is to beg several questions – as to whether the myth is causally related to the observers of its manifestations: as to the mechanisms by which these manifestations occur; as to the implications of such manifestations for the society in which they
occur; and to the apparently ‘autonomous’ nature of’ the myth, particularly with regard to its ability to provoke manifestations observed by persons ignorant of the myth itself.
How are we to deal with this ‘Rainbow’, denying our attempts to touch and catch it, to quantify and evaluate it? Not with the principles of physical science. The phenomenon is subjective, related to the whole of the human collectivity, not merely in its present technological context, but in its historical totality – and it must be booms in mind that it is very largely the ‘psychic impoverishment’ of urban-technical society that prevents the acceptance of a coherent fairy- or spirit-type faith as a major cultural factor. In its place we have merely a ‘Rumour’ of things seen in the sky.
If however the phenomenon itself is not susceptible to objective study, then we must turn our attention to the collectivity and, as parapsychology is being obliged to, employ conceptual and analytical tools not borrowed from the physical sciences. A ‘Rumour’ is not legitimate matter for scientific study, but it most definitely is legitimate matter for historical study. As René Foueré observes, (5) as one can only deal with indirect evidence, the study of the UFO is this more an historical than a scientific matter – is not history after all the science of indirect evidence? Can one not thus compare the indirect evidence for the UFO phenomenon with the indirect evidence that constitutes all events in the past? By the criteria of physical science, phenomena not subject to verification by repeatability are not scientific phenomena. One can only point out, in this context, that no historical event is subject to verification by repeatability.
Let us consider the way in which history deals with ideas, phenomena recognisably related to such ‘Rumours’ as the UFO phenomenon. An idea, if held by a sufficiently large number of people for a sufficient period of time, with sufficient coherence, becomes a major historical factor, capable of quasi-autonomous existence, and often exerting in its own right a crucial influence on the course of events. And yet it is not a ‘scientific’ phenomenon – as the Marxist historians have found out to their cost. It is susceptible to study and analysis within its socio-cultural and economic context, in relation to comparative studies of ideology, religion and morality, in relation to individual and group psychology. Like the sub-atomic particle in the cloud chamber, the invisible can be studied by the traces it leaves on the environment.
The social sciences have for too long been hidebound by the criteria and ideology of the physical sciences, a situation which has only
recently been challenged. The conceptual and analytical tools of the former are equally valid, their standards equally rigorous. It would seem that their employment would present the most promising possibility of replacing the sterility into which the study of the UFO phenomenon has been led by the methodology and assumptions of astronomers, informaticians, engineers, meteorologists, and the like.