UFOs & The Excluded Middle

1992 was a watershed year for the UFO community–not due to any revelation from the ranks of the saucer-smitten, but for the publication of Angels And Aliens: UFOs And The Mythic Imagination.  For the first time in recent memory, an author with a fresh perspective wrestled with a modern history of the subject, and more importantly, the people who study, or, at the very least are affected by the phenomenon.  Keith Thompson chose to look at the 20th century evolution of the UFO phenomenon as a developing system of mythology, complete with heroes, villains, power struggles, battles and innocent bystanders.

Before I share my “take-aways” with you from this book, I thought you might enjoy a little insight from the author himself.  Here’s an interview he did in 1995:


QUESTION: Angels and Aliens is, to me, one of the most important books dealing with the subject of UFOs.  I’m curious about the process that inspired the book.  Was there a specific series of events or circumstances that led you to feel a book of this type was necessary?

AUTHOR’S ANSWER: I came to the UFO phenomenon, or it came to me, by a circuitous route.  One evening Walter Cronkite opened The CBS Evening News with a dramatic rendition of a UFO sighting in Michigan.  Dozens of witnesses reported a football-shaped object the size of a car performing gyrations in the sky, before maneuvering out to a nearby swamp.  J. Allen Hynek, the tragic hero of the Air Force’s ill-fated Project Blue Book, arrived on the scene only to be quoted — misquoted, actually — as saying the witnesses had seen “swamp galogo_350s.”  This in turn was taken as proof that the military had no intention of dealing sensibly or honestly with the UFO phenomenon and its ramifications.

My twelve-year-old psyche was captivated by this case, with its cast of confounded witnesses, befuddled military experts, know-it-all debunkers, and of course the media circus surrounding it all.  I grew up in rural northern Ohio, not far from where the sightings took place.  The debate immediately polarized between those who were sure UFOs “had” to be real and those who were equally certain UFOs “couldn’t” be real.  It was my first exposure to the “mythic electricity” that surrounds the UFO domain.  Soon the “Swamp Gas Case” was infamous, and the media forgot about it, and I did too.  I didn’t pay much attention to the UFO phenomenon until quite a few years later.


 QUESTION: What prompted you to return to the subject?

AUTHOR’S ANSWER: In the early 1980s I was associated with Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California.  I coordinated a series of annual think tank-style conferences on subjects such as altered states of consciousness, shamanism, mysticism, quantum physics, and parapsychology.  One day I came across an Omni magazine interview with J. Allen Hynek, the dean of UFO studies, and was impressed by his perspective.  Michael Murphy, Esalen’s founder and my longtime comrade in various adventures of the spirit, suggested that we invite leading UFO researchers to Esalen for a free-wheeling discussion.

There I was, about to receive a symposium of experts on a phenomenon I knew very little about.  I spent two months reading everything I could get my hands on, including the works of Whitley Strieber, Budd Hopkins, Jacques Vallee, and the classic books of John Keel.  It seemed clear that at least some of the “whatevers” called UFOs didn’t fit Big Science’s view of reality.  I ended up spending five days with leading researchers, getting steeped in UFO evidence, a world brimming with surrealism.  This was a phenomenon I could get along with just fine — I felt sure of that much.


 QUESTION: Before the book, you were involved in a public symposium called “Angels, Aliens and Archetypes.”  What struck me about that event was that even though each of you had your own ideas about UFOs, you all seemed, for the most part, to represent a “post-modern” or “new paradigm” or “excluded middle” school of thought — something rare in prior UFO conferences.  Do you view that gathering as significant in terms of increasing dialogue about new ways of looking at this phenomenon?

AUTHOR’S ANSWER: A theme that emerged throughout the two days of that conference, among practically every speaker, was best phrased by Jacques Vallee, who emphasized three points:

  1. the UFO phenomenon is real;
  2. it has been with us throughout history;
  3. it is physical in nature yet it represents a form of consciousness that is able to manipulate dimensions beyond time and space as we know them.

Vallee’s friend and mentor Allen Hynek had arrived at a similar conclusion as early as 1976, when he began expressing his doubts that UFOs are nuts-and-bolts spacecraft from other worlds.  He found it ridiculous to suppose that super intelligence would travel enormous distances to do relatively stupid things like stop cars, collect soil cropcircle2samples, perform repetitive “medical exams” on abducted clients, and generally go around frightening people.

Hynek decided it was time to “begin looking closer to home.”  A key idea at the conference was that UFOs may operate in a multi-dimensional reality of which space-time is a subset — an idea that doesn’t require the reality of UFOs to stand or fall with the extraterrestrial hypothesis.  I like to think the San Francisco conference may have helped encourage new ways to think about the phenomenon.  For instance, Vallee’s idea that the intelligence the phenomenon represents could coexist with us on earth just as easily as it could originate on another planet, or in a parallel universe.


QUESTION: One of the themes we found most intriguing in Angels and Aliens was the idea of ufology viewed as an evolving mythology.  What inspired you to take this approach?

AUTHOR’S ANSWER:  There were a couple of departure points.  First, as I began to immerse myself in the literature and attend various UFO conferences, I was struck that many of the personalities in the field of ufology spent much of their time doing to each other what the personalities of Greek mythology are famous for:  quarreling, settling scores, jockeying for position, seeking revenge, and so forth.  I wanted to find out which of the gods and goddesses, which actors from the timeless annals of mythology might have slipped into the UFO cosmos, like thieves in the night.

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1973 Missouri UFO SIghting

But the idea that ufology involves “mythology” doesn’t mean I dismiss the reality of UFOs, although some readers thought that was what I was saying.  All of life has a mythological dimension, and the UFO phenomenon is no exception.  Myth offers a background of images that allow life to show up with greater richness and depth.  The assumption that UFO events must be either real or symbolic — but not both — is fundamentalist thinking at its worst.  Try as we might, life refuses to be reduced to any flat singular interpretation.  Interesting, that the word “symbolism” is derived from the Greek symballein, which means “to throw together.”  The word denotes the drawing together of two worlds.  Hermes is a spanner of boundaries, a mediator between realms, an ambassador between domains which seem separate but are connected by subtle thresholds.

In Angels and Aliens I was trying to show that UFO reality is complex, multidimensional, remarkably nuanced and textured — and above all, not cooperative with the mental categories to which the Western mind has become so attached.

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Angels & Aliens

In my research, I recently ran across an intriguing book by Keith Thompson, Angels and Aliens: UFOs and the Mythic Imagination.  It was published in 1993 and received some pretty impressive reviews.  Here are just a few:

“Magnificent…no matter what your beliefs, [it] is the most fascinating book written on the subject.” – San Francisco Chronicle

“As original and provocative a book as you’re likely to run into this year…Keith Thompson has issued a bold new challenge to our imagination, and our perception.” – Esquire

“An important work.” – John E. Mack, M.D., Pulitzer Prize winner

“An intelligent, engrossing and often wryly funny analysis.” – Minneapolis Star Tribune

I ordered a used copy from Amazon for $3.99.  It arrived two days later.  I was impressed with the condition (Good), and upon inspe710P8PQ78RL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_.gifction found a few dogeared pages with some penciled stars, exclamation marks, and underlining.  It’s interesting to see what a total stranger found important over two decades ago.

From a quick scan, I learned that the author approached the subject matter with an intellectual energy, smart wit, and an open-ended perspective, while avoiding the dogmatism of true believers and debunkers alike.  According to the back cover, “Angels and Aliens invites the reader to enter a fascinating world with profound implications for our understanding of the human spirit.”

Carl Jung first spoke of the UFO phenomenon as “a modern myth in the making.”  Later, Joseph Campbell insisted that the first function of myths is to open the “mind and heart to the utter wonders of all being.”  Though I have trusted-friends who have seen UFOs, I personally don’t have a definitive opinion.  However, I welcome the opening of mind and heart “to the wonders of all being” no matter how it comes.

As I read this book, I’ll keep you posted of what I learn…


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BeyondTheRabbitEars

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Influenced By Angels (Part One)

Different, but the same?

Many leading scholars believe that the earliest references of angels can be found within the pre-biblical texts of the Sumerians, which later influenced the Egyptians, Babylonians, and Persians.  Because each of these cultures conquered and enslaved the ancient Israelis, it’s theorized that these Sumerian angel beliefs influenced the Hebrews (Judaism), which in turn were shared with Christianity, and both Judaism’s and Christianity’s teachings of angels later inspired the Islamic beliefs concerning angels.  This, of course, is strongly debated, with opposing sides providing plausible arguments.  Furthermore, you’d be hard pressed to find scholars from the three major religions to fully agree on who influenced who.

Not to limit the idea of angels…

Though called by different names, benevolent spirit beings quite similar to angels can also be found within other religions, mythologies, and lore.  Hinduism has avatars, Buddhism has devas and bodhisattvas, the Greeks, Romans, Norse, and Celts all had their specific terms likewise.  In addition, numerous tribal cultures from all parts of the world passed on oral traditions of spirit beings, guardian spirits and guides.  All of which have comparable functions to biblical and mythical angels as helpful spirit messengers, and protectors.  What were the cultures of antiquity and the Middle Ages trying to describe?  Were they speaking of angels in general, or something else akin to angels, or both?

Where did angels come from?

Where did they come from, how did they originate?  No one really knows for certain.  The ancient Hebrew writers suggested angels were created by God (Nehemiah 9:6; Psalm 148:2,5).  In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul took these suggestions to a new level with the bold claim that “by him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities…” (Colossians 1:16-17).  Theologians believe he was speaking of angels, identifying them as created beings, and clearly stating there are certain orders of angelic classes.  I will address types and levels soon.

Even though the Bible mentions angels at least 108 times in the Old Testament and 165 times in the New Testament, the time of their creation is never definitively specified.  It is most probable that it occurred in connection with the creation of the heavens in Genesis 1:1, leading some to theorize that God created the angels immediately after he had created the heavens and before he created the earth.  The reason for this theory is because a pre-Genesis biblical text states, “the sons of God [angels] shouted for joy” when God laid the foundations of the earth (Job 38:4-7).

Real experiences!

In modern times, many people claim to have had “real” experiences with angels, mostly of a spiritual nature, and believe that their existence is important to us as human beings.  They have been commonly perceived as spiritual messengers of a high nature, for which traditions and beliefs usually differ as to whether angels have their own free will, or are only allowed to follow their Creator’s will.

Although many believe that angels can have various appearances, depending on a people’s culture, tradition or belief, they do share one common denominator – angels generally take on the shape of human beings (minus the wings, of course).  Psychologists have suggested the reason for this is, many people believe angels were previously humans, who have since taken on angelic form to protect and guide their surviving relatives.  In other words, they believe their deceased mother, father, or loved one is now a “guardian angel” assigned to specifically watch over them.

The most popular concept…

Almost every religious discipline has developed concepts with various similarities that make the belief in angels popularly held across all cultures.  Most of these concepts revolve around a common principle of a “messenger” asked to do the work of a deity.  Without dispute, the most popular concepts of angels are widely held within the Judeo-Christian traditions.  This is strongly evidenced in biblical passages that lend proof of their existence as messengers of God.

Bottom line:

Angels have been an active part of human history for a very, very, long time… and, continue to be… in both visible and invisible ways.  Virtually every culture in every part of the planet has acknowledged their presence and formed opinions and beliefs about them.  Ancient records and modern accounts testify that they regularly appear and disappear, while providing protection and guidance for human beings.  But… why?  For what reason are they protecting us, and offering guidance and support?  Do they have a certain purpose or agenda in mind?  And… most importantly, to what extent is humanity influenced by their presence?


noah movie falling angels

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Be watching for “Influenced By Angels” (Part Two).  Coming Soon!

What Are You Giving Life To?

In the past two weeks, I’ve been to the hospital three times… twice to congratulate parents with their new babies, and once to say goodbye to a dear friend.  Why do I share this with you?  Well… check out the following video, and you’ll understand…


What Are You Giving Life To?

“All of life is dependent upon something dying”


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WHAT THE DYING HAVE TAUGHT ME ABOUT LIVING
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Music video by Josh Garrels

“Child the time has come for you to go
You will never be alone
Every dream that you have been shown
Will be like living stone
Building you into a home
A shelter from the storm”

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FALLING UPWARD

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