Topic for Discussion: Given the proliferation in recent years of ufo / paranormal / dreamtime imagery in the media (VW’s “Reverse Engineered From UFO’s” ad comes glaringly to mind), do you feel that this is actually changing or affecting the phenomenon itself? Is the mass-media consciousness causing the UFO phenomenon to change the way it interfaces with us?
Researcher Roundtable: Whose Weirdness Is It, Anyway?
By Greg Bishop
One of the first lessons of Buddhism, certain kinds of physics, and the courtroom is that people will see what they expect to see. Robert Anton Wilson gives the example of a university law or psych class (I can’t recall which) where someone runs in unexpectedly during the lecture and tries to stab one of the students. A great majority of the witnesses will swear that the criminal used a knife until the professor brings him back with a banana held in an upraised hand. This error in perception more or less applies as well to things that we haven’t seen or experienced yet.
Not to labor the point too much, but Wilson also recalled in an interview that there was a UFO case he had heard of in which one of the witnesses recalled a longish-shaped UFO landing, while the other said it was nothing but a school-bus going by. Although some may argue about “abduction screen memories” and the like, it is more likely that these people saw some “whatsit,” some “x,” and filled in the details later. Jenny Randles introduced the term “Oz Factor” many years ago to describe the indescribable events and atmosphere that surround a UFO or Fortean event. Part of this phenomenon is the inability of the participants to recall any details or just as likely, the entire episode. The reasons may lie with the cause of the event, be it intelligent or not, but the fault may also lie within ourselves.
The reason for this may be that we have nowhere to put the experience in our mental files. Joe McMoneagle, in his excellent book “Mind Trek” describes the mental processes involved in perception and recognition as a series of millisecond decisions that the brain must make when processing sensory information. Before the impression reaches conscious awareness and recall, it has already been edited to conform to memory and expectation. With nowhere to “put” an anomalous experience, many people will just edit it out.
In the last 10-15 years, the UFO abduction scenario has come to be accepted by most of the population as a possibility or a good story at the very least. The extraterrestrial idea has been with us far longer, and just as a tale will change with each telling, something as weird and abnormal as a flying saucer (or bigfoot, or rampaging aliens) probably went through a lot of interpretation even before the witnesses are interviewed. These experiences are not shared by a large part of the population (Budd Hopkins and the Roper Poll notwithstanding,) and more importantly, have been rejected by the dominant culture, which is reflected in the media culture. Of course the same media tells us what we can and can’t see as well, which adds to the morass of misinterpretation and outright denial.
Media outlets have given us even more places to “hang” a weird experience. In the name of the newest fad, strange experiences are chewed up and spat out to innocent eyes (and psyches.) Many in the UFO field have thrown up their hands in exasperation over the “contamination of the database,” but in a rush to “explain” things, the UFO community joins the larger culture in its misinterpretations. They can’t help it. People must have things explained to them in a way that can be understood. Merging of the self and the “other” (whatever it is that is encountered in an anomalous experience) is not easily accepted or grasped in a western-public school-scientific worldview. This is starting to change, however.
What part of our brains are activated by the anomalous, or by the numinous? Psychologist Mario Pazzaglini used to remark that UFO researchers had little understanding or respect for the unconscious. This is certainly part of the equation when someone comes to us with an inexplicable event, but whatever is roiling around in the vicinity when some perplexed soul happens upon it probably won’t be understood anytime soon. Theories include time windows, bilocation, hallucination brought on by magnetic fields, and the ever popular “misinterpretation.” (Actually, if something is “misinterpreted,” it means that there must be a normal or nearly normal explanation for an event. What gives some people the omniscience to declare what that might be is sometimes laughable, sometimes plausible, but shuts the door on further interest.)
We can perceive more than we want to let on. The evidence for this is actually overwhelming, but more shepherding by forward-looking but classically-trained (but not classically shackled) parties may eventually bring a sea change in popular awareness. Perhaps we might be able to see whatever the “other” in an anomalous experience may be. We might also see that it has an inexorable and intimate link with ourselves, and in some ways, is us.
Author of the book Project Beta, Los Angeles Radio Host, Excluded Middle Magazine Editor, Project Censored Award Winner, Conspiracy Zone contributor, Regional Representative for the Centre for Fortean Zoology, Author of Numerous Magazine Articles, Professional Judge Ito Impersonator, and … Kook. Greg’s interests run the gamut of “Alien Writing”, Consciousness, ParaPolitics, UFO Contactees, Remote Viewing, Fortean Phenomena, CryptoZoology and much much more.
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