Project Core, the findings of a Paratopia-inspired survey of highly strange encounters across a wide range of possible experiences, is going public in early 2014. One recurring discussion the Project Core team had was about the tone of the paper. Oddly enough, the scientific faction wanted it to be loose and readable, personal—the typical Paratopia style. After all, that and the basic intelligence to ask some tough, deep questions about the unknown are what attracted them to us in the first place. But Jeff and I wanted the study to be stuffy and scientific—something the layperson might not read all the way through but would respect. After all, the air of legitimacy the title “Doctor” stirs is the only way guys like Jeff and me can get away with doing serious studies like this in the first place.
Is it possibly to hold legitimacy with the impersonal “just the facts” crowd while showing some personality? Who should we risk isolating with the tone of this paper?
When I first publicly entered the high-strangeness scene in 2003, it was in ufology. I made a conscious decision to represent myself as what I was: an apologetic “alien abductee” who had a sense of humor about my experiences because if it were not in my life I wouldn’t believe me. Essentially I saw myself as a skeptic and a cynic who, oh yeah, just happened to have a lifetime of infrequent encounters with what appeared to be a nonhuman intelligence most (Western) people called “alien.” In the self-serious world of ufology, I wanted to start a revolution. I didn’t personally know any other abductees at the time, but from what I saw on TV, I felt that they needed a new voice from within the ranks representing the experience.
For too long had I watched crying, frightened abductees sitting next to non-experiencer authors acting as pseudo therapists, who defined their subjects through their own prejudicial lenses. It may have made for great television, but reality television it was not. I figured that if this was how experiencers felt about their own fascinating lives, it’s because they were stuffed into that box of expectation by writer-therapists and TV producers. Later, I came to know that there was a much larger influence than the unwavering theories of these writer-therapists–namely their erroneous use (and in some cases flat-out abuse) of hypnosis. Hypnosis is not, repeat, NOT a good tool for memory retrieval, because in that altered state the brain does not differentiate between memory and imagination. Therefore, it gives the same emotional weight to both. Now take that tool and apply it to so-called “missing time,” where an alleged abductee can’t remember a period of time during an alien encounter. If you’re willing to take the leap of faith required to engage that setup then you’re left with two options for the origin of that amnesia: aliens wipe the memory (or access to it) or the human response to the encounter is to forget. What gets filled in as memory under hypnosis cannot credibly be said to be accurate. Most likely it is a story co-created by hypnotist and subject. Bits may be true; bits not. All of it carries an emotional weight the subject mistakes for authenticity.
But again, I didn’t know this when I entered ufology. I had read as many abduction books as I could find. Most of those involved hypnotically-retrieved stories. Most of those I believed. But I also had my own stories not retrieved by hypnosis. I had my own terror. I understood that aspect of encounter well. Difference was, I couldn’t settle for it because there was something else there, if one could just see through the veil of fear. Whitley Strieber wrote eloquently of this in Communion and Transformation. Here was an experiencer who respected and awed at Mystery where others sought answers. The hypno-writers took the fear inherent to encountering Mystery and turned it into a fear of malevolent alien doctors. Alternatively, some converted it into a story of misunderstood space brothers and sisters here to save us from ourselves. All of this co-created by the expectations of the client and pseudo-therapist.
Take hypnosis out of the equation and there is still fear. Fear in its original context, begging the question, “What is behind this?” And you dig and you dig and you dig and at every level you find yourself. And when you realize that this has been a growth process all along, you ask not what is this other but, What am I? The other still doesn’t reveal itself as it taunts you to discover it. You’re left alone in your amazing struggle. Alone is where you need to be to ask, Who am I? What is a human being, really? If you can pierce that veil, maybe, just maybe, the other reveals itself as an equal.
In a sense, the abduction phenomenon isn’t about alien doctors growing human hybrids in test tubes; it’s about growing equals. It’s about fostering transpersonal human growth so that those who don’t go and stay mad along the way come out the other side self-actualized. Or perhaps no-self actualized for the cunning mystics in the crowd. As far as I can tell, this whole charade is about one waking oneself up in the Eastern philosophy/First Peoples spirituality/quantum physics/this-is-the-way-things-are-beneath-the-surface-of-seperate-selves-objects-and-energies sense of it.
In other words, this crazy, highly strange, unreal phenomenon is about reality at its deepest. When you go that deep, the rational gives way to the transrational, and because it does, it looks delusional to the rational observer. Looks like heaven or hell to the delusional. Our limitations are our own.
Heavy stuff, right? All the more reason to maintain a healthy sense of humor. That, plus discernment, are the keys to remaining sane on this journey. But if you’re a ufologist daring to be taken seriously by the scientific community or political figures or the public at large, you cannot allow for humor. It’s all so very serious and we’ve been taught that serious equals studious. That means you wear a suit and tie, a straight face, and you get your facts straight during important discussions about the most important topic on earth. Rarely do you rock the boat to call out nonsense and charlatanism where you see it. You debate debunkers, not the guy with the fake UFO photo sitting next to you, to whom the debunkers are pointing. All of this deadening of the soul is to appear presentable in the hopes of winning the hearts and minds of people who think this is all nonsense and you’re wasting your life with kiddy topics.
That dreary, sadly typical presentation does not reflect the reality of the subject. Those people do not speak for me and they do not speak to the phenomenon in any meaningful way. They are a show and a cottage industry based on insecurity and lack of experience. They are children playing grownup.
Do you remember what acting like a grownup meant when you were a kid? It meant a stern demeanor, never cracking a smile, speaking words you thought sounded intelligent. That is the typical ufologist. And what does the subject they study break a person down into? Metaphorically, a child. Not metaphorically, but just about the same… an innocent. This is truly about getting back to freedom and innocence. That sounds weird if all you’ve read is space doctors or space saviors. They don’t save us, they break us, they crack us up, so why not save yourself some time and start smiling now? The doctor is in! Inside you. These man-made fears are a reflection of the reality, for sure. A dark, warped reflection disconnected and dead but with a clue to the aliveness staring in the mirror. That’s all they are.
So, back to the original question: do we present a serious study in a serious manner so that we will be taken seriously? Yes. Because that, unfortunately, is what the world respects. When I came into ufology joke guns a blazin’, I found out right quick how divisive humor was. Some people–experiencers, mainly–got it and found it refreshing. Others–not experiencers, mainly–assumed I was a fraud or trying to be a comedian. I just don’t talk like someone in turmoil or with any depth to them. More like a talk show host, I suppose. How fitting that I became one. That was rough-going at first but soon an audience actually heard that what I was saying didn’t match the tone of the delivery and, confused though they may have been, they stuck with me through several podcasts ending in Paratopia. My partner Jeff took some heat for working with me. Many assumed Jeff was the real deal because he’s got that low, serious voice, and I was the joker somehow blinding him and taking him for a ride. I was stealing his credibility. Of course what they didn’t realize was that Jeff wanted to do a show with comedy in it and he’s got a wicked sense of humor. He’s also not persuaded by frauds. All of this became apparent during the course of the show, if not sooner, and so naysayers were forced to reevaluate us. Or not, as the case may be.
I found out again just how beaten with the serious stick the ufology crowd had been over the years when I wrote the UFO Magazine cover story on the Emma Woods case. Arguably, there was some self-sabotage there with the humor, because anyone who didn’t want to hear the facts about hypnosis, David Jacobs, or any of the surrounding D-list sacred cows could ignore them because I wasn’t to be taken seriously. I was making fun of a grown man who says he believed alien/human hybrids were stalking him through an alien abductee’s AOL instant messenger and that a chastity belt might stop them from raping women. Shame on me for not taking that seriously.
But still, I’ve come to understand that, like all things, there needs to be a balance here. Here, though, it must be tipped toward the serious end, because the ufological audience has been brainwashed into believing that this is the only way to go. Only debunkers laugh. I don’t know about audiences for other phenomena included in this survey. I hope the ghost crowd don’t take themselves too seriously–their heroes are plumbers for crying out loud.
So, Project Core is serious business–but do we also add a little personal flare and humor, dance with what brung us? Yes. Because authenticity is what Mystery respects. In truth, only debunkers, experiencers, and the intelligence we’re talking about laugh. I found that out when I met other “abductees.” My instinct was correct: we’ve been muzzled by the self-styled protectors of us.
That said, fear not mature, studious types: we won’t go overboard with the, how you say, personal charm. But it will be readable. With any bit of luck, not boring. Will it be significant? Will it show that alien abductions, ghosts, angels, psychic phenomena, and on and on are distinct phenomena or manifestations of a singular intelligence? Will it fall on deaf ears? Will it matter?
If we keep our eyes open but not get our hopes up, we shall see.