This article will annoy True Believers, and likely infuse True Skeptics with warm fuzzy feelings. I intend to provoke neither response—I’m not a True Believer or a True Skeptic. Those slots on the evolutionary chart represent extreme perspectives, and I’d like to think myself possessed of a more “balanced” sensibility (laugh it up, critics). No matter Colin Wilson’s credo: “The outsider’s salvation lies in extremes.” Not in this case.
The question has been asked: What if it’s all real? UFOs, poltergeists, Fortean events? What if some arm of government, or military intelligence, does have undeniable evidence for any of these? If publicly disclosed, would this new reality lend relevance to day-to-day life? Improve our common lot?
I think I can arguably claim no.
Put down that rock. I did say arguably.
If I can be said to “believe” anything, this would be that thing. The 21st century began not so well, and (if you accept media presentations) apparently is growing yet darker. Well, yes and no. As noted by the late Michael Crichton in his alarming—and bracing—State of Fear (2004), much of our free-floating anxiety is media-generated. Crime statistics alone reasonably prove this, and if you read the book you’ll see for yourself. If there exists a genuine conspiracy, it’s that of media promotion of Dangerous World Syndrome, where nothing, nowhere, and no one, is safe—ever. This mass deception is enhanced by advertising and politicians. Protect Our Children! Safety First! Watch For Terrorists!
I cannot recall where I first encountered the statement, “Would proof of UFO/paranormal/anomalous events even be relevant in today’s world?” Compared to the potency of the very idea, its source doesn’t matter overmuch. Why? When so many people believe the acronym UFO indicates extraterrestrial vehicle, I think my point is reasonably made. This dim acceptance reveals a fundamental lack of critical thinking that reflects on a poor educational system, and America’s seeming hostility toward both ideas and intellect.
What, after all, can one deduce from a society that worships celebrities and athletes, yet refers to highly intelligent members as geeks and nerds? And people like it that way. What started this? In my teens, we called high-achievers “smart” and athletes “jocks.” I mean no insult to athletes, as I have been one myself. I’m sure you understand what I’m saying—at least I hope you do.
Sadly, most get news and information about the world only from TV and the Internet, both controlled by corporate money. And, since schools (including many colleges) rarely teach critical thinking, whatever the Expert of the Day proclaims is swallowed whole. “He/she’s an expert. I don’t know anything. His/her knowledge must be authentic.”
The “fields” of Ufology and paranormal investigation—despite contrary claims from “insiders”—have no experts. True, there are a handful of degreed people contributing exceptional work. George P. Hansen, author of The Trickster and the Paranormal, certainly is high on that very short list. I cannot at present name another whose insight so staggers me, and recommend you seek out his book and articles.
“Funding for scientific investigation of the paranormal,” notes Hansen, “has come almost entirely from wealthy individuals. Virtually no large philanthropic organizations or government bureaucracies have provided substantial, long-term support for the research. The only exceptions are the intelligence agencies—the only section of government formally allowed to use deception. Why does the money come from these sources?”
Hansen has spent eight years in parapsychology, working at both the Rhine Research Center in Durham, NC, and Psychophysical Research Laboratories in Princeton, NJ. He further informs us that “only two laboratories in the U.S. [are] devoted to parapsychology that employ two or more full-time scientists, who publish in peer-reviewed scientific journals.”
The state-of-the-art in Ufology is much worse. Hansen’s writing—thankfully—is marked by controlled emotion and prose as tight as a time-lock. Casual readers might be challenged by explorations into liminality, anti-structure, and reflexivity. But the close effort is rewarded, as Hansen shows “a clear relationship between societal destructuring and the supernatural… Psi is irrational, but it is also real.” Too, he stresses—perhaps above all—the ineffable power (whatever the ultimate source) of both so-called paranormal and UFO encounters to shatter human boundaries and status; how the various manifestations’ deceptive nature puts them out of reach for those armed only with logic and rationality.
Hansen (along with Jacques Vallee and John Keel) contributes ultimate intelligence to the problematic “so what?” posed by this piece. So far as I’m concerned, he “proves” what the psychosocial school has been writing about for decades. Lest I stand accused of hypocrisy in my apparent swallowing whatever the “experts” feed me, keep in mind that Vallee, Keel, and Hansen have done the work. Frankly, that very dedication and integrity probably had more than a little to do with John Keel’s later ill health and death. These three (Vallee and Hansen still are involved with investigations; Vallee—by his own admission—behind the lines) were willing to hold their work up to whomever cared to cast a cold eye. Their encyclopedic knowledge, scrupulous documentation, journaling and personal stamina over decades is nothing short of astonishing.
The sum total of this all still might not ever accrue penultimate relevance, but does illuminate at least one genuine truth (or, depending on your philosophy, cliché): The unexamined life is not worth living.