I recently gave a talk in the town of Glastonbury on the subject of UFOs. This came about thanks to Andy Thomas who invited me to speak at his 2016 at Glastonbury Symposium event. I would also like to thank Dave Hodrien for initially inviting me to speak on this topic in 2015 for his Birmingham UFO Group; it was that talk which I later developed into the version presented in Glastonbury that is written up here.
As someone who is only comfortable talking about a subjects that I know particularly well I have always avoided giving talks on the UFO subject myself in the past. My deep interest in both the natural world and ideas of extraterrestrial contact has always challenged my ability to comprehend the UFO phenomenon. It is both the elusive nature of UFO phenomena and in particular the bizarre nature of the UFO experience as related by experiencers of the phenomena that challenges our ability to often recognise its context, let alone understand that actual phenomenon.
In this talk I review the UFO phenomenon within the limiting paradigm of science and show that we do find evidence for its absolute physical reality. The characteristics of UFO phenomena that come from this allows us to see its correlation with ideas of spiritual contact as documented in other academic theological studies. When we couple this view of the UFO phenomena with the changing face of consciousness studies we find a potential reality that would seem to permit the seemingly impossible.
What came as a surprise to me was the ability of this approach to provide us with a reasoned context for the repeated failure of ufology over the decades; despite the continuing exposure of human beings to the UFO experience. In one sense UFOs are not strictly evidence for extraterrestrial visitation. Yet, the possibility that they are conduit for extraterrestrial contact remains intact and yet proof of this almost seems to be purposefully evasive.
04 August 2016
It is wonderful to be here in Glastonbury, a location that is well known for some mysterious phenomena that I will be talking to you about today.
It has been said that Glastonbury Tor was once home to a ‘fairy king’ named Gwyn ap Nudd, ruler of the ‘otherworld’ (or Annwyn) in Welsh mythology. A ‘fairy king’ whom was expelled from the Tor according to the lore by a 7th century monk called Saint Collen.
Glastonbury indeed seems to be a special place and to have much to offer in its history. An aspect of this history relates to the subject of my talk here today; this involves the manifestation of unidentified light forms and objects.
On Midsummers day in 1981 the Tor was visited by a dragon. Witnesses to the phenomena described “a dragon shaped glowing orange light writhe out of the ruined church tower on the summit of the Tor”. They reported that the dragon seemed to ‘earth’ itself near Chalice Well at the foot of the hill.
While reports of dragons appear to have been extremely rare, a number of other unusual phenomena have been witnessed over the Tor. Flying saucers have been seen. As have egg shaped objects, fiery red balls of light and the seemingly more common orange balls of light.
My personal interest in this phenomenon comes from my having grown up in a region of Yorkshire where many of these mysterious phenomena that we call UFOs have also periodically occurred.
The transient nature of UFO phenomena has meant that almost all UFO studies have been limited to studying UFO reports and not UFOs themselves. Indeed, all publically available official studies in the US and UK, from Project Sign to Project Condign, have failed to directly study UFO phenomena at all.
In this talk here today I will be looking at the small number of published scientific fields studies; that were undertaken in an attempt to understand UFO phenomena – by studying them directly in the field.
I will follow this by briefly exploring UFO evidence within the confines of the paradigm of science; which simply ignores any notion of intelligence being behind the phenomenon.
In removing the notion of intelligent cause, arguments lose their dependency on this unprovable concept; and this allows us to come to a greater understanding of the UFO phenomenon in its physical manifestation.
Then, before we explore the idea of intelligence being behind the UFO phenomena we will look at the boundary between these concepts as we look at consciousness itself as being both a natural and a supernatural phenomenon.
In closing, I will look at the nature of the alien manifestation that stands out from this perspective. Looking at the phenomenon in this way gives us, perhaps a fresh approach, but also a firmer foundation upon which we can hope to comprehend this and other mysteries that are not easily dealt within the quagmire and paradox that is ufology.
UFO Report based Studies
How this phenomenon came to rise to the attention of officialdom is well known.
It is, however, worth quickly reviewing this to remind ourselves of the forms of phenomena that were reported and their basic characteristics.
The earliest officially documented reports of unusual aerial phenomena are the air encounter reports made by air crew during their bombing raids over Germany and Japan in the last years of World War II.
These unidentified objects were usually solitary objects, sometimes seen in pairs.
They were balls of light, usually yellow to red, but the colours ranged across the visible spectrum.
Seen as luminous, sometimes transparent and sometimes even metallic, these light-forms were often observed keeping pace with aircraft in positions just off the wingtips or either in front or behind the aircraft.
We know of these phenomena today as ‘foo fighters’ – so named due to the eerie feeling that they gave the air crew whom sighted them while on their raids over Germany.
These phenomena appeared to be visually different to what was to follow in the USA. Stanton Friedman and Don Berliner referred them as ‘proto-ufos’ in their book Crash at Corona; the suggestion being that these were not ‘UFOs’, but rather some primitive precursor to the UFO phenomenon.
I would just like to give you my own working definition of the term ‘proto-UFO’. With proto‐ meaning original or primitive, then a proto-UFO is taken to mean an original or primitive form of object that develops into a physical manifestation readily identified and recognised as a UFO. This is limited to manifestations of known physical phenomena.
If a definition of UFO is required then, I will define UFO as simply “any object that can be excluded from any known class of objects by its distinguishable nature; that is observed in the air, upon the land, or in (or upon) a body of water”.
This photograph shows two flying disks witnessed by multiple observers in Pontiac, Michigan. These are two of three disks seen by multiple observers that were described as 2 feet in diameter and 2-4 inches thick. They were seen “sailing over Orchard Lake Country Club” on July 7th 1947.
This form is clearly one of those identified by the first known official US Air Force study of UFO Reports. This was Project Sign; and its final report described these forms as Flying Disks (or Saucers), Torpedo or Cigar Shaped Bodies, Spherical or Balloon-Shaped Objects and Balls of Light. Their motion being described as “capable of manoeuvring, climbing and travelling at high speed”.
Some Project Sign members had been in favour of an interplanetary explanation for these phenomena. However, the report itself simply indicated that other more likely solutions would be prioritised for investigation. After the report was issued the frankness of Project Sign gave way to a seemingly disingenuous Project Grudge (whose outlook more closely resembled that of a public relations exercise than an investigative body) and then Project Blue Book.
It was the U.S. Air Force funded study directed by Dr Edward U. Condon at the University of Colorado that became a thorn in the side of serious research into the UFO phenomenon following Condon publishing his recommendations back in 1968. Condon was a ‘no-nonsense’ physicist who was well respected within the scientific community, and in the Colorado study report he wrote:
The Condon Recommendation
“Our general conclusion is that nothing has come from the study of UFOs in the past 21 years that has added to scientific knowledge. Careful consideration of the record as it is available to us leads us to conclude that further extensive study of UFOs probably cannot be justified in the expectation that science will be advanced thereby.”
– Dr Edward Condon, University of Colorado UFO Project, 1966 – 1968
Condon had not said there was nothing to the phenomenon, only that in his estimation, the study had not contributed to a body of knowledge as it was in 1947. This recommendation was essentially used to shut down responsibility for evaluating UFO reports by the U.S. Air Force. Later in the report he stated that the report’s recommendation against further research “may not be true for all time”. It was simply the case that, according to Condon, continuing to expend resources was unlikely to yield anything else and so was likely unjustified.
It is worth remembering that the study was only able to study the phenomenon by studying UFO reports – and not UFOs themselves. While the study did have provision for field investigations this reportedly didn’t prove to be effective since field investigators would always arrive too late to be of any use in making direct evaluations. In a critique by one scientist, the study failed because “the administrators did not recognise the need for observation stations in the field”.
Peter A Sturrock, Ph.D.
British Physicist Peter Sturrock of Stanford University had been highly critical of Condons conclusions and the methodological mistakes that had been made in the study design. It was Sturrock’s position that:
“The definitive resolution of the UFO enigma will not come about unless the problem is subjected to open and extensive scientific study by the normal procedures established by science and by administrators in universities.”
– Dr Peter A. Sturrock, Report on a Survey of the American Astronomical Society concerning the UFO Phenomenon, Stanford University Report SUIPR 68IR, 1977
Before we begin to look at the scientific studies into UFOs it is worthwhile revisiting attempts at classifying UFO phenomena, as discerned from UFO reports.
These were made in an attempt to identify common traits between UFO sightings based on the physical characteristics of the perceived UFO, the environmental conditions and other circumstances under which the sighting was made. The aim was to organise a body of data so that the relationships between phenomena could be examined in the hope of elucidating something out of UFO sighting reports.
UFO classification; J Allen Hynek
Astronomer and Project Blue Book Consultant Dr J. Allen Hynek devised this, now famous, classification system that classifies UFO reports as: Nocturnal Lights, Daylight Discs and Radar Visual cases – these first three relating to objects observed at a distance.
The next three, made famous by Steven Spielberg are Close Encounters of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd kind. The first being a sighting within 500 feet, the second adding that an object affected the environment in some manner; and the third being the reporting of occupants or entities associated with the object.
Common addendums to this classification include CE-IV (for UFO abductions) and CE-V (denoting human initiated contact). These however are actually subsets of Hynek’s original CE-III (or CE-II if no entities were observed).
UFO classification; Jacques Vallée
Jacques Vallée came up with one of the most comprehensive UFO classification systems to aid UFO reporting studies. His original system dealt with a detailed set of circumstances under which a UFO was seen and included its appearance and motion. He later attempted to unify this system into Hyneks, while also aiming to provision it for more general anomalous phenomena that Vallée came to believe where broadly related to the UFO phenomenon.
Scientific UFO Field Studies – Investigating UFO Phenomena by Direct Observation
There are only a handful of published scientific field investigations into UFO phenomena. The earliest attempt could arguably be the US Geological Survey attempt to study the Brown Mountain lights in North Carolina in 1913. However, the first significant attempt to monitor them was Project Starlight International founded by ufologist Ray Stanford in 1964.
Other studies have been conducted, notably by Canadian Geophysicist Wilbert B Smith. However, a caveat for inclusion here is that the study has been published publicly. Since we cannot learn much from either ‘known unknowns’ or ‘unknown unknowns’, such as the conclusions reached in studies that we are not privy to, let alone aware of, then this is the only viable data set we can use.
The 1973 Missouri UFO Flap
In 1973, four years after the Condon Study recommendations began the demise of the respectability of ufology, the small town of Piedmont, Missouri became the focal point for research when a UFO flap began in the area.
From February of that year Piedmont police would receive more than 500 UFO reports from the outlying region in the Ozark Mountains. One of the most well‐known cases reported is that of Basketball Coach Reggie Bone who, while travelling home after a game with players and team managers, reportedly witnessed the following:
“[We saw a] bright shaft of light beaming down out of the sky. It looked like it was about 200 yards off the road hovering over an open field… it was impossible to determine the size or shape because of the darkness. Anyway, we saw four lights that looked like portholes: red, green, amber and white. We figured they were about three or four feet apart, all in a row.”
– Coach Reggie Bone, February 21st 1973 sighting on US Highway 60 about 20 miles south of Piedmont, Missouri.
In the nearby city of Cape Girardeau, Missouri, Professor and Chair of the University of Missouri’s Physics department, Dr Harley D Rutledge began hearing the stories – not only from the national news media but from students at the University. It seemed as if the majority of people in the Piedmont area had seen something – mostly unexplained lights.
Two students told Dr Rutledge one day that they had seen a flying saucer in the region. Sceptical, yet curious, Dr Rutledge and a colleague from the university drove over to Piedmont to take a preliminary look and they went into the countryside and witnessed some Orange Balls of Light for themselves.
This was enough for Rutledge to seek to undertake a full scientific field study; and using his university’s equipment, resources and volunteers he set about to achieve the following objectives.
1. to measure the physical properties of the lights and/or objects in the sky
2. to identify their origin
The initial two-week intense field study at Piedmont was extended to a wider region when the team returned to Cape Girardeau and found that city was experiencing a UFO flap of its own.
During the field study, multiple teams would communicate by radio and they were able to observe the same lights and objects from different vantage points; allowing observations to be recorded at the same moment in time.
Using cameras with diffraction gratings to analyse light spectra, radio‐receivers to identify any electromagnetic effects and also radar equipment, the eight-year study saw over 400 hours of observations in which they recorded 45 UFOs; with a remainder of 178 sightings that were essentially candidate UFOs that had not been eliminated as having been known phenomenon.
Of these UFO phenomena they recorded Orange Balls of Light would switch on last for a few seconds then switch off. After a few moments an Orange Ball of Light would switch on at a different location. This would often happen multiple times; with the object occasionally returning to the starting point.
Rutledge recorded a phenomenon he termed the Random Flashbulb Effect. This was a series of outwardly random xenon‐like lights that would flash on and disappear; Xenon has a characteristic blue or lavender coloured glow. This effect lasted for a few seconds, after which an off‐white light would appear in the midst of the random flashing; the light/object would then often move away from the flashing region.
Objects seen by naked eye or observed by telescope to be a single light source would inexplicably reveal several points of light in photographs.
While camera shake was inevitable it could not account for the patterns observed. Test shots using known light sources such as the moon and electric lighting gave a different pattern of light paths in long exposure photographs. Multiple light trails, for a singly identified object, as seen in this long exposure photograph, could not be explained by the team.
Observation of the night sky would reveal what the team called pseudo-stars – stationary lights, camouflaged by known constellation stars, that would suddenly inexplicably move – sometimes appearing to react to the action of the observer!
Some light/objects were seen to mimic the appearance of known objects.
While in the Piedmont area, they witnessed triangular formations of red lights that appeared to make sounds like engine noise. Initially the team did not record these as UFO sightings since they simply assumed the objects must have been aircraft. Only later realising that these formations were nothing of the sort.
The team had previously witnessed a military jet appearing to intercept a light/object while they were on a sky watch in the city. After spotting a UFO one evening while on his doorstep in Cape Girardeau, Rutledge observed what appeared to be a jet approaching a UFO – seen by naked eye. However, through binoculars, the aircraft was not recognisable as an aircraft – it was malformed, with an apparently serrated effect on the straight wings. Rutledge concluded that is wasn’t aircraft at all – but a strange form of a UFO.
They would report ‘pseudo‐satellites’. Light objects that were seemingly indistinguishable from satellites, until they made right angle turns in an apparent violation of the laws of physics.
Rutledge Investigation Results
Peak time for UFO sightings was 8:30 pm. Rutledge however, discovered that the variability of peak time in the study was simply due to the change of sunset time throughout year – the peak was in fact dusk.
Numerous shapes of UFO objects were recorded including triangles with red lights, bullet‐shaped metallic objects and semi‐convex discs. Yet, the team had also noted some unusual observer effects and some strange coincidences that appeared to be connected with light/object behaviour.
The team had noticed that, when observing a light/object a change of speed or direction would sometimes seemingly coincide with a decision or an action taken by the observer. For example, after watching an object for a while an observer would raise a camera to take a photograph and the light object with shoot-off or blink out. They also noticed these changes in behaviour would coincide with changes in other instrumentation such as radio equipment.
Rutledge also realised that the coincidence of his own UFO sightings, particularly his daylight sightings of objects that were very short in duration, was such that it indicated to him the possibility that they were being presented as staged events; the objects seemed to want to be seen.
The apparent coincidences with object/light behaviour being associated with observer acts or intentions amounted to around 80 recorded events. Rutledge considered the possibility that meaningful coincidences were part of an intelligence driven experience.
A very subtle phenomenon
“Possibly a great deal of UFO activity is subliminal – which, if true, could have serious ramifications”
– Dr Harley Rutledge, Project Identification, 1980
Astronomer and Project Blue Book consultant Dr J. Allen Hynek visited Piedmont, Missouri towards the end of March of 1973; invited by State Representative Jerry Howard at the request of the local Police Chief. Hynek was reportedly unimpressed with the actual UFO Reports coming out of Piedmont at the time, stating flatly that they had found only “very uninteresting stuff” and “a great number of highly excited people”.
The Hessdalen UFO Flap
Over a decade later in another region of high UFO activity, this time in Norway’s sparsely populated Hessdalen Valley, Dr Hynek would find the convergence of a high intensity of sightings on a tiny population that he would find much more interesting.
The Hessdalen Valley has become famous for its unusual yet frequent manifestations of balls of light and other UFOs including cigar shaped and bullet shaped metallic objects. This phenomenon first began to be reported in Hessdalen back in the 1940’s during the post-war ghost rocket era.
However, a significant increase in reports of UFOs occurred early in the 1980’s and at its peak of activity in 1984 sightings of the ball of light phenomena were reported between 14 and 20 times per week.
Journalist and photographer Arne Wisth visited Hessdalen in February of 1982 to cover the UFO sightings in the region. He had apparently been sceptical and had expected to write a debunking piece until he witnessed the phenomena for himself.
“A star came towards us and near the top of Røhovde Mountain, with a tremendous speed. The star was no longer a star, but an intense growing light source. Above the mountain top it suddenly stopped. Then it sunk slowly down along the top. I fetched my camera with 600mm telescopic lens to take a picture. The sight in the viewfinder was impressive. ‘It’ was great. ‘It’ was oval. ‘It’ came just moving. Then it stopped short again. I had a strange feeling: It has caught sight of us! I pushed the releaser. Suddenly the object was gone. It was like someone pulling down a curtain.”
– Freelance journalist Arne Wisth February 11th 1982 sighting in Hesdalen, Norway
Studies into the Hessdalen Lights were instigated by two, Swedish and Norwegian, UFO organisations in 1984 and 1985; with their Project Hessdalen research supported by the University of Oslo, the University of Bergen and also by the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment through the loan of equipment.
The team installed equipment used to capture data about the phenomenon in common with Dr Rutledge’s study in Missouri. They installed low frequency radio receivers, cameras and radar equipment and in the first month fifty-three observations of UFOs were made.
“Hessdalen is really a UFO laboratory. It’s a place where things are happening and things can be studied”
– Dr J. Allen Hynek
Hessdalen had afforded a unique opportunity to study what were usually rare phenomena. During the 1990’s, Italian scientists, whom had been working on SETI, came across the previously published Project Hessdalen studies, and they travelled to Hessdalen to study the phenomenon themselves.
They set up an automatic measurement station to gather radar and electromagnetic data which would be sent back to Bologna for later analysis. This allowing unmanned monitoring and also complemented manned field studies where visual observations and photography would occur simultaneously.
Run by the Radio Astronomy Center in Bologna Italy the study was called the EMBLA Project – the name is reference to “ensemble-based data assimilation” which is a methodology used in forecasting of atmospheric and oceanic phenomena as it is suited to investigation of transient phenomena.
The scientific study to date has studied the more common light ball phenomenon as shown in the photograph.
The coloured lines beneath the light sources are from the diffraction grating and they are used to determine the wavelengths of the electromagnetic radiation that make up the observed light.
In published scientific data they report that objects appear as physical matter – not illusory or simply light phenomenon. Objects have been observed to range in size from a few inches, up to thirty feet in diameter and have been measured travelling at speeds up to 30,000 km/h.
Colours of balls of light include red, green and blue; often these show as white from the three distinct colour bands.
Blue and red orbs have been observed to exist together, in close proximity, and they are able to form new orbs close by. This is strange because the energy requirement for the formation of blue plasmas is different to that of red plasmas and so they would not be expected to co‐exist if they were normal plasmas.
‘Solid‐like’ Light Balls
These plots show light intensity distribution in the cases of a typical plasma on the left, and a typical Hessdalen phenomenon on the right. The vertical axis is the light intensity and the other two dimensions are the area of the image. This shows that Hessdalen lights are not typical plasmas and, according to the published paper, they are in fact features that would be expected for a solid object.
Producing Metal Particles
Hessdalen Phenomena have also been observed to precipitate metal fragments. Pieces of metal have been collected that the scientists believe are dropped by the balls of light. This is an image of a metal particle that is believed to be produced by the phenomenon. However, scientists say this is yet to be confirmed. The spherical particle in this case is approximately 15 microns across.
In addition to the basic ball of light phenomenon scientists have discovered that the objects can appear as luminous objects of basic symmetrical shapes.
These photographic examples show symmetric luminous objects recorded in Hessdalen that show symmetry and also rectilinear shapes in the cases of the two on the right hand‐side/bottom right.
In the year 2000 the EMBLA project had multiple teams of observers at various viewing stations were they recorded a diversity of phenomenon. The recorded:
- strong irregularly pulsating white lights
- faint regularly pulsating light showing colour changement
- point‐like flashes
- diffuse flashes in the sky
- three co‐moving (red) lights in the sky (that they termed the “Triangle”)
- a small stationary light in the wood
A town meeting was set up where, without being told the results the scientists had discovered, the local people were asked to relay their experiences – while the scientists simply listened. In the preliminary report of the phenomenon the lead scientist made the following observation:
“it must be recognized that the extraordinary match between the sightings by the EMBLA team and the ones reported over and over again by the Hessdalen inhabitants plays in favour of the existence of the visual phenomenon in the bi‐modal form with which it has been reported since at least 20 years;
without any sort of doubt unstructured and plasma‐like lights often co‐exist with ‘structured objects’ for a reason that is it not possible to explain.”
– First Steps of the EMBLA Project in Hessdalen: A Preliminary Report.
Temporal statistics reported for Hessdalen show that the phenomenon is most common just after midnight with a minor peak at 7:30pm. I’m unaware if they have made a determination between sightings at the onset of twilight and dusk so we can’t compare this to Dr Rutledge’s results from Missouri. It’s also worth noting that Rutledge’s monitoring stations in Missouri often finished prior to midnight therefore we have no data to compare with peak just after midnight.
The scientific studies, particularly the Hessdalen study, have been successful in part due to the ability to monitor specific areas for extended periods; more recently with fully automated monitoring stations. The more recent studies show that the Hessdalen Phenomena radiates strongly in the ultra‐violet band; in common with the reports in ufology where witnesses have even been known to suffer conjunctivitis as a result of UV exposure.
So, the Hessdalen Phenomenon: it’s real – so what causes it?
Various scientific explanations have been put forward. Some think it may be a combustion process whereby clouds of dust from the valley floor containing scandium combust in the air. Another idea is that they are macroscopic ‘coulomb crystals’ formed in plasma created by radioactive radon gas ionising air and dust. Also piezoelectricity produced plasmas have been suggested where they are generated by certain crystalline rocks under specific stress – specifically from crystals like quartz – commonly known as Earthlights.
It has also been suggested by scientists involved in Project Hessdalen that the phenomena may result from the spontaneous release of natural Zero Point Energy (ZPE) – quantum fluctuations of vacuum state.
In the words of key Project Hessdalen members in a paper published in 2001:
“We are facing a source of energy of tremendous power which, if definitively understood, could be reproduced in a laboratory and subsequently bridled for our technological necessities”
– Data Analysis of Anomolous Luminous Phenomena in Hessdalen, Massimo Teodorani and Erling Strand, ICPH, 2001
If every you needed a reason to cover up a phenomenon there you have it!
The aforementioned explanations for Hessdalen Phenomena do have one thing in common. They all natural causes. One reason for this is that science essentially adheres to the rule of methodological naturalism which stipulates that only natural processes can be evoked in scientific statements.
So is this a purely natural process?
Is there any evidence of an intelligent process at work?
Indeed, to date, it appears that no published scientific work has reported any indication of intelligence behind the phenomenon. However, given the philosophical framework that science uses, we would suspect that any discussion to that end would be in the periphery of the subject, rather than being dealt with directly in published scientific papers.
Hessdalen Lights Interacting with Witnesses
This photograph shows original Hessdalen researchers Erling Strand and Leif Havik with Dr J. Allen Hynek in Hessdalen during his visit nearly 30 years ago. Both Strand and Havik claimed to have witnessed light phenomena interacting with witnesses. Erling Strand, now an Assistant Professor at Østfold University College, is today the leader of the Hessdalen Project. According to the Fortean Times:
“Several of the original Project Hessdalen people, including Erling Strand, have quietly admitted that in about 10 per cent of their observations they felt the lights interacted with them. If such reports have any credence, then some UAPs [the term the MoD uses for UFOs] may possess rudimentary intelligence, often displayed as a playful, animal‐like curiosity.”
– Fortean Times
In his book Earthlight Revelations Paul Devereaux tells us that Strand told him that he would eventually avoid taking his camera with him during his time in the field. He had realised that he was more likely to see these mystery light phenomena if he left his camera at home.
There was some kind of consciousness effect going on and, like Dr Harley Rutledge before him, Strand had come to recognise the very subtle effects that this phenomenon seemed to possess.
The scientists involved in this research acknowledge that there is a lot that is unexplained with the Hessdalen Phenomenon; not least what causes it. Outside of research papers they do make the connections to UFO report studies.
With partially understood phenomenon such as these – are these phenomena proto‐UFOs?
Are they the ‘vehicles’ or rather ‘agents’ – choosing my words more wisely – for the manifestation of a class of objects called UFOs?
Consciousness & UFO Phenomena – Science, Consciousness and Spiritual Interactions with Lightforms
Beyond being simply a physical phenomenon the UFO phenomenon has been shown to interact with witnesses at a profound level; as we’ve seen with Project Identification and Project Hessdalen.
Paul Devereux, taking this concept further, suggests that not only can UFO phenomena affect the consciousness of the observer – but the individual experiencer may directly influence the phenomenon itself through their own consciousness; resulting in noticeable changes in the forms that some UFO phenomena take.
Consciousness is clearly an important aspect of UFO research and it would be futile to attempt to comprehend the phenomenon without giving the nature and possibilities of consciousness, at the very least, a cursory investigation.
A Disease Called Sacred
“It is thus with regard to the disease called Sacred: it appears to me to be nowise more divine nor more sacred than other diseases, but has a natural cause from which it originates like other affections. Men regard its nature and cause as divine from ignorance and wonder, because it is not at all like other diseases. And this notion of its divinity is kept up by their inability to comprehend it,”
– Hippocrates, 400 BCE
Here, Hippocrates, the Greek Physician whom is considered the father of western medicine, shows us that he had no misgivings toward certain states of mind being rooted in the physical.
Temporal lobe epilepsy, that he is referring to here, has been offered as a diagnosis for a range of human experiences from UFO abduction to spiritual possession. However, at what point have we proven that a diagnosis of a pathology, such as simple temporal lobe epilepsy, isn’t simply a physical symptom with an external intelligent cause?
The aforementioned Rule of Methodological Naturalism clearly shows how science (when performed in its strictest sense) cannot deal with consciousness as an attribute of an intelligent mind. This is simply beyond the scope of science. What science can, and has demonstrated, are the physical and outwardly unintelligent micro-processes that, it would seem, are part of what the intelligent mind is composed.
Leaving Ancient Greece for contemporary Sudbury, Ontario we find a controversial professor and founder of the field of ‘neurotheology’. Dr Michael Persinger has been engaged with scientific UFO research since the 1960’s, first though we will focus on his work on the so-called “God Experience”.
The God Experience
“In the laboratory we have reproduced every aspect of the God experience, every essence, every component of it, from the rising sensation to the feelings of ecstasy to the feelings of a sensed presence to feelings that you are at one with the universe. We can do that experimentally.
– Professor Michael Persinger
Induced Spiritual Experiences
Persinger specifically claimed that “[This work can reproduce] all the major components of the near death experience”. However, it is claimed by Chris Carter, author of Science and the Near-Death Experience, that Persinger’s claims appear “in retrospect to have been hyperbole”.
If we look more closely we find that, while the experiments produced key properties of NDE’s even Persinger, perhaps more humbly, states that: “these induced experiences are fragmented and variable, whereas in NDEs these sensations are integrated and focused within a brief period.”
So, perhaps analogous to the Miller–Urey experiment (the attempts to recreate the chemicals of life in the laboratory) the basic ingredients can be generated. However, the complexity of components that form the whole phenomena are not themselves created.
This does not negate the importance of this work but perhaps it simply relegates it to a set of mechanisms through which the phenomena manifests; rather than being the source of the phenomena in its entirety.
So what does this have to do with UFOs?
Temporal Lobe Effects
In a 1983 paper entitled “Expected Clinical Consequences of Close Proximity to UFO-related Luminosities” Persinger considered the effect that a UFO would have on a human being. In it the authors stated that: “As an observer approached the luminosity (or it approached the observer), the more intense current induction with the observer from the time-varying magnetic fields (by the luminosity) would begin to alter brain function”
He suggests that: “The stimulation of the temporal lobe structures would modify consciousness, perceptual processing and memory”
Field Induced Temporal Lobe Epilepsy
“At critical threshold values, depending upon the characteristics of the induced current, electroconvulsive (ECS) intensities would be achieved. The observer would seizure and become unconscious.”
“Perceptual experiences would be more vivid equivalents of the images generated by the localized electrical seizures associated with temporal lobe epilepsy … or generated by direct surgical stimulation of temporal lobe structures.”
The diagram on the left here shows the expected change in effects on the observer as the distance between the observer and the luminosity decreases.
We see that at a large distance, only visual observation is produced. Closer in and the observer would be able to observe more details of the phenomena’s physical make-up. As the magnetic field strength increases however, the observer would experience physical symptoms on the body.
Closer still the brain is affected and the observer is not observing only the physical object, but begins to experience vivid effects related to simple temporal lobe epilepsy. Closer still would result in amnesia as the memory processes become interrupted. A point could be reached where a UFO fatality could occur.
As you will surely appreciate, here we are getting into some tough questions.
However, looking at this through the lens of science allows us to not trouble ourselves with an intelligent cause being behind the phenomenon. For the moment at least, the rule of methodological naturalism comes to our aid.
Here we can see the correlation between Persingers chart and Jacques Vallée’s UFO classification system that we saw previously.
In Vallée’s chart moving from left we have a close encounter of a UFO or luminosity (CE-1) that equates to Persingers sighting of “Odd ball of light” (7). As we move up Persingers chart and the magnetic field strength increases we are also move right along Vallée’s chart.
Injury and death from an UFO luminosity is easy understand given the perceived energies involved. However, the subtler effects, that Vallee termed ‘Reality Transformation’, are less easy to see.
- Could a magnetic field induced-impairment of brain function account for the altered state of consciousness and memory loss described in Close Encounters?
- Could it account for the eerie feelings people sometimes report?
- Are the ‘living entities’ witnessed solely due to induced field effects on the brain; perhaps as a simple function of magnetic field strength?
Religious Visionary, Near-Death and UFO experiences
Dr Kenneth Ring was a professor of psychology whom had been researching Near Death Experiences (NDEs) for several years when, one day, he received a pre-publication copy of Whitley Strieber’s book Communion from the publisher.
Although he had not been interested in UFOs Dr Ring soon became intrigued after realising that there were some close similarities between the UFO experiencer, as described by Strieber, and the Near Death Experiencers that he had seen in his own studies.
He undertook a clinical study with abductees that led to his 1992 book The Omega Project: Near-Death Experiences, UFO Encounters, and Mind at Large.
Ring argues that the two types of experiences are related due to the shared characteristics between the two groups. He goes on to argue that both the NDE and UFO experience (specifically the abduction scenario) are possibly two variants of a more fundamental phenomenon.
The similarities include the role that environmental crises play within the experience and the life-changing qualities that the experience brings.
Ring argued that both the UFO experience and NDE are moving human species towards another level of consciousness.
Devereaux UFO Encounter
A Lancashire family’s encounter with a UFO shows us another often overlooked aspect to the UFO experience.
Rachel Devereaux, her mother Anne and Rachel’s two sons, had been travelling home. Having left the A65 near Ingleton, North Yorkshire, they were nearing the town of Bentham when a bright light suddenly appeared before them.
The light, they described as compelling and soothing, and that is washed over them inducing feelings of love.
All the family members said that they wished to go away with it, and, after the experience they had all felt an intense feeling of great loss.
Also, they realised that the car journey that should have taken only twenty minutes had lasted for an hour and twenty minutes.
The producers of a Sky TV documentary called The Real 4400 arranged for Rachel to undergo hypnotic regression in which she recounted what happened to her family.
She described a bright light, short beings that floated around her and she heard her sons laughing and she then felt fear for her children; but a voice reassuringly told her that they were in no danger.
The hypnotist, Steve Burgess, felt that what she had recalled were memories of actual events, and while recounting their experiences, both Rachel and Anne were moved to tears.
Love, light, and a feeling of oneness is part of a class of religious experiences related to unusual lightforms as documented by the Religeous Experience Research Unit (an organisation founded by Sir Alister Hardy at Manchester College, University of Oxford in 1969.)
Now based at the University of Wales Trinity St David in Lampeter, the archive contains 6000 accounts of religious experiences of which about 400 involved ‘light’.
In these experiences light manefests sometimes internally (from within) and sometimes externally, with lightforms appearing the landscape. These are reported in the book Spiritual Encounters with Unusual Light Phenomena: Lightforms by Dr Mark Fox.
In one example case, a bereaved husband reported to The Unit that, 25 days following the death of his wife, he twice heard a male voice followed by the voice of his wife say “Take me to see him now.”
Just over a month later in February 1964 the man experienced multiple lights in his home.
Spiritual Experiences and UFO Phenomena
“Early in February 1964, strange lights began to appear in all parts of the room where I happened to be. Beautiful pale blue, slowly fading-in, and staying for a few seconds, then slowly fading out. They were at their best in a darkened room while I was by myself and thinking of her. Sometimes they came singly, very bright and large, sometimes numerous and smaller. In about the middle of February, just before settling down for the night, the lights were extra numerous, fifteen or twenty, but more numerous than previously…
“While contemplating them and wondering as to their significance, a different light appeared, more like a flame of light, about as large as my hands, golden flame-colour, high up in the room, approximately ten feet away. This startled me and brought an exclamation to my lips, unfortunately so, as the flame-light immediately vanished and has never returned…”
The husband went on to point out…
“Incidentally, I am acutely deaf, and cannot hear ordinary conversation. There was no difficultly in hearing the voices.”
This testimony that describes light forms external to the experiencer, while more dramatic than most, is similar to other experiences with light forms – particularly those that appear at a time of crises in people’s life.
We can see a number of correlations here with the UFO experience; clearly the appearance of unexplained lights – the distinction between these ‘lights’ and ‘UFO’ sightings are simply the superficial distinction between the size of the light and the location being often indoors. Superficially they do seem comparable to Rutledge’s lights appearing for a few seconds and disappearing periodically.
Also particularly noteworthy are the apparent consciousness effects where a light seemingly responds to either the thoughts or actions of an observer.
In this case, given that the man is acutely deaf it may be also appropriate to consider other mechanisms for the rendering of voices consciously – such as through stimulation of the observer’s auditory processes – or perhaps via the temporal lobe effects.
This shows us that the light phenomena experienced in the realm of spiritual encounters and those of the ‘outdoors’ UFO phenomenon may not be as separate as many of us first assume.
Consciousness and Contact
A number of commentators, including Nick Pope, have suggested that the concept of flying saucers perceived as spaceships is a modern phenomenon.
Don Cupitt suggests that…
“Only after human beings had begun to think of building spaceships does the human religious experience begin to include apparitions of flying saucers.”
– Mysticism after Modernity, Don Cupitt, London Hodder, 1998
However, according to Pierre Sabak…
“Far from being a modern construct, the notion that the circular ones [the Ophanim] are flying saucers referenced in the biblical and apocryphal sources in which they described them as being angelic ships, and thus celestial vessels. Indicating that the notion of a spaceship is not new.”
– The Ophanim and Deities from Sirius; lecture by Pierre Sabak, Serpentigena, 2016
Reinventing The Wheels
What Sabak is referring to here is the consideration that ufologists have simply been reinventing The Wheels in the modern age.
‘The Wheels’ are an angelic order referenced to as the Ophanim and Sabak argues that there is a clear correlation between them and UFOs and aliens in contemporary ufology; and indeed, the influence of this appears to underlie virtually all religions and cultures and can be seen in our own British culture in its heraldry and structures of government.
With regards to the idea that religious experience began to include apparitions of flying saucers only after people began to conceive of spaceships; what the criticism is reaching at is the idea that witnesses are reporting something that is formed from a preconceived notion – a process called constructivism.
It is also claimed that experiences with light forms, within the confines of religious experiences at least, are in driven by an experiencers prior expectation.
“It is often commented on the relevant literature that visions correspond to prior expectation, leading to the conclusion that, somehow, experients’ cultural and linguistic repertoires of beliefs concepts and values somehow cause the experiences they have, shaping them to conform to these expectations”
– Spiritual Encounters with Unusual Light Phenomena: Lightforms, Mark Fox, 2008
An example would be the consistent descriptions given for visions of the Virgin Mary across cultures.
The studies of UFO phenomena show us that light forms do exist in a physical and measureable luminous state; a light form ‘from without’. So, what do these Great Expectations mean for these, clearly non-visionary, light phenomena – UFOs?
In reference to his shared experience with a UFO that morphed into a human like form, reminiscent to Paul Devereux as Michelangelo’s Vitruvian Man, he tells us the following:
“It was this experience that convinced me that the energy comprising earthlights can be sensitive to the input of consciousness. What I saw was not a spacecraft, but it did display intelligence in the form of a visually transmitted concept.”
– Earthlight Revelations, Paul Devereux, 1989
In my own personal experience, I have recently witness first-hand these superficially perplexing coincidences of UFO phenomena displaying symbolism seemingly relevant to thoughts or spoke words.
While on a sky watch recently with my friend David Griffin on a Yorkshire Moor, among the dozen or so earthlight-like UFOs we saw, we noted two counts of UFOs changing behaviour in coincidence with our own spoken words. You can read about this in my recent UFO Truth Magazine article ‘Pennine Illuminations’.
This contact with light forms is a truly fascinating area. However, human beings have also recorded experiences with light ‘from within’ – emanating from the human being.
It is such an experience that anthropologist Knud Rasmussen describes when relaying the process by which Eskimo Shamans receive their clairvoyant powers:
Quamaneq – Illumination
“[Quamaneq is] a mysterious light which the shaman suddenly feels in his body, inside his head, within the brain, an in explicable searchlight, a luminous fire, which enables him to see in the dark, both literally and metaphorically speaking, for he can now, even with closed eyes, see through darkness and perceive things and coming events which are hidden from others; thus [he can now look] into the future and into the secrets of others.”
– Spiritual Encounters with Unusual Light Phenomena: Lightforms, Mark Fox, 2008
Professor Persinger claims that people experiencing the shamanic process – whether through use of psychotropic drugs, shamanic practice or magnetic field induction in the human brain – all function through temporal lobe effects. In a lecture titled “No More Secrets” Persinger claims to have demonstrated that people in this state have access to a collective knowledge through consciousness coherence with other human beings – a processed facilitated by the Earth’s magnetic field. While studying remote viewers, such as Ingo Swann, they found that on days that the magnetic field strength was low, a remote viewer would achieve greater accuracy in their ability to view.
In other work Persinger has discovered that bio-photons are emitted from the temporal lobe. The level of illumination is weak – reportedly about 1/10,000th that of starlight seen on a cloudy sky however, the effect is evidently real. Photons are quantized packets of light, meaning that they are produced in discreet units rather than continuous. Bio-photons may, therefore, allow connection through consciousness (through interactions located in the temporal lobe) – enabling, conceptually at least, the possibility that the human brain can utilize quantum entanglement – a property that Einstein called “spooky action at a distance”.
Here, we have the proverbial ‘cat in a box’ saga, we have the superposition of quantum states capable of informational transfer over unlimited distance.
Is it possible that this is a process by which other intelligences could communicate with us over otherwise insurmountable distances? Others have also considered that the brain may actual function as a quantum computer – utilising quantum effects in different ways. Could these non-local properties of the brain be the gateway to the cosmos?
Is it possible that coherence and information transfer between lifeforms is not limited to their presence being within the Earth’s magnetic field, but that this ability transcends its biosphere?
This brings us to the early days of ufology and tales of unearthly encounters with Space Brothers. Is it possible that these tales were founded in truth? Is it possible that the claims of many of the late 1940s and 50’s UFO contactees were contact with alien intelligences in a process initiated by exposure to natural, terrestrial proto-UFOs?
On the left we have George King – the odd one out in this group since King never claimed actual physical contact. Next to him is the controversial Billy Meyer – the controversy: did he or didn’t he fake his photographs? Indeed, the same question is asked of George Adamski and others.
One can perhaps see how real contact with the unknown could lead to a UFO experiencer choosing to fabricating aspects of a tale to make it more palatable – more believable – for others.
However, is it possible that these partially understood proto-UFOs are indeed the precursors to the structured craft described in the contactee literature? I’ll leave you to make your own judgements on those aspects of ufology.
For me, UFO photographs are dubious because we simply have no way of know the provenance of the photograph. I am also particularly intrigued by John Keels remark to the effect that UFOs may, quite simply, not be very photogenic. Maybe the need to be believed is so strong that experiencers did on occasion produce fakes.
Addingham, West Yorkshire 1983
Perhaps this cloud-like condensate that Police Sargent Tony Dodd photographed in Addingham, West Yorkshire all those years ago is really how flying saucers become manifest.
This is more consistent with what we have come to understand about UFO phenomena and this also has a parallel in angelic manifestation (such as the Nūbigena, the offspring of the clouds).
It is this etheric quality of the UFO experience that has long been recognised as a source of frustration for ‘nuts and bolts’ ufologists whose acceptance criteria for belief requires that they can ‘kick the tyres’ of the vehicle – or the agent of the alien manifestation.
Of the early UFO contactees one particularly interesting case is that of Howard Menger. From childhood Menger and his brother would tell of seeing flying saucers. Howard would tell of his conversations with extra-terrestrials in the mountainous terrain behind their home. As an adult, on many occasions, his experiences would be corroborated in part by friends and acquaintances.
Those associates would report seeing UFOs, specifically plasma-like lights, interacting with Menger; while they watched from a short distance away – while Menger himself would describe interacting with spacecraft and occupants.
After one such visit to a particular place in the mountains near his home, Menger told his friends that his extra-terrestrial contact felt that the group could be trusted and that she would thus make an appearance at the farm house where they were staying.
According to Mengers witnesses, they went outside with him and saw, away in the distance, in a wood over a field – a light moving down through the trees. The apparition then moved across the field like it was floating and passed through a fence as it moved. It stopped at such a distance that a vaguely human outline could be seen. Howard’s friends claim they saw the lightform, however, they were not able to discern if the apparition was a physical entity.
High Bridge, New Jersey 1956
Perhaps the forms that these apparent entities take is how they actually are. Or perhaps they are approximation of how they actually are – possibly portrayed as a projection or an avatar. One might even suggest that this avatar might constructed of proto-UFO matter – i.e. plasmas.
Add to this the concept that human consciousness can directly impact on proto-UFOs (such as earthlights) – could this simply be explained as an external projection from the human experiencers consciousness? And, even if that was the case – the case that the apparition is driven by the human experiencer – does that really discount the possibility that manifestations can really be caused by consciousness contact with an alien intelligence?
In his work The Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns and Fairies, Robert Kirk, a 17th century Gaelic speaker and minister to a remote Highland parish, documents for us the traditional beliefs of his parishioners that relates to mysterious entities that Kirk termed “The Subterrainians”.
The Secret Commonwealth
We find that Kirks descriptions of fairies follows the trend we have seen towards a cloud like changeable form. Of these Subterrainians, he describes their nature as being of “light, changeable bodies … somewhat of the nature of a condensed cloud and best seen in twilight.”; “Some have bodies or vehicles so spongeous, thin, and defaecat,”, “of congealed air,” and of “chameleon-like bodies [that] swim in the air”.
Tales reported by parishioners even suggest that Kirk himself may have had an experience on a fairy mound:
Robert Kirk on a Fairy Mound
“he sunk down in a fit of apoplexy, which the unenlightened took to for death, while the more understanding knew it to be a swoon produced by the supernatural influence of the people whose precincts he had violated.”
– Letters on Demonology and Witchcraft, Walter Scott 1830, quoted in The Secret Commonwealth 2007 edition introduction
To say we know very little about our own consciousness is gross understatement. In the view of the new wave of academic interest in consciousness that looks beyond the basic mechanics, beyond the functional aspects of it, there is a growing realisation that – decades from now – Western Science will cease standing alone from the older philosophical views of the nature of consciousness. A view that could embrace consciousness with the same regard as science holds for the notions of space, time, mass and electrical charge.
In the words of Adrian Nelson:
Intrinsic Consciousness Movement
“Just as mass and charge are fundamental properties making up the observed world, might awareness, in some unrefined proto form, be similarly fundamental? Among thinkers in academia today, there is the growing sense that we have anthropomorphised consciousness, and that its origins lie not in us, but in a deeper aspect of the world.”
– Adrian David Nelson, Origins of Consciousness, Metarising Books 2015
From this perspective the concept of conscious entities interacting with each other using their innate consciousness is not unexpected. In fact, if the academic Search for Extra-terrestrial Intelligence were to embrace this view of consciousness wouldn’t it seek to investigate the possibilities of consciousness contact with potential extra-terrestrial intelligences in the myriad of newly discovered worlds?
The possibilities that the UFO phenomena can be explained as visitation by interplanetary spacecraft has long been scoffed at by those researchers whom recognise the inexplicable experiences that are often described in UFO lore.
From the inexplicable manifestations such as the Hopkinsville Goblins to the Voronezh Robots and the Silver-suited Spacemen of Pembrokeshire; these all point towards something much more profound than simply visitation by interstellar spacecraft.
It is these edge cases in ufology, involving such bizarre and unusual aspects that encourage us to look for a different answer than the notion of the simple visitation by aliens.
Even the view of consciousness communication and manifestation by extra-terrestrials would perhaps be still adding an anthropomorphic bias.
What the experiences do tell us is that we, as the human experiencers, are on occasion being deceived – but deceived by what?
Are we being presented with the forms that we can simply relate to? Are alien intelligences anthropomorphising the UFO phenomena for us? UFO experiencer Emily Trim who was among the 60 or so children whom witnessed a landed UFO and aliens at Ariel School in Zimbabwe has suggested that this is the case.
When describing voyages high above the earth and journeys to the Moon with alien intelligences the Eskimo shamans are not very different to the UFO contactees such as Howard Menger; some of whom, unlike the Shamans, claim to have taken holiday photos on their trip!
The conclusions presented here are based on the direct studies on UFO phenomena. This scientific data shows us the dominant plasma form that the phenomenon takes – and within these studies both visual observation and consciousness effects parallel those found in encounters in what are considered as spiritual or religious experiences with lightforms.
The question of whether these plasma forms are simply precursors to a higher form of manifestation of object has been considered and remains open.
The possibility that the manifestation of objects described in the UFO experience is caused by temporal lobe transients has been considered and this is ruled out for forms such as flying saucers, triangular formations and UFO phenomena of simple geometrical shapes. Whether or not the higher complexity and detail in witness’s UFO reports is caused solely by induced temporal lobe epilepsy cannot be ruled out.
However, neither can we rule out the possibility that the intelligence behind the phenomena in the ‘reality transformation’ phase (as Vallee terms it) could be an intelligence external to the experiencer.
The correlation between spiritual experiences with light-forms and the UFO phenomena, does perhaps allows us to justifiably revisit the ‘foo fighter’ phenomenon and consider re-evaluate this and other sightings in the context of spiritual encounters.
Given the context that the air crew in the aircraft were under during that wartime scenario the phenomena could be regarded as a form of ‘crisis light’?
Indeed, it is also follows that engagement with proto-UFOs appear to be reinforced by meditation and prayer; and this is something we see in both contactee based religions and CSETI protocols.
It is also claimed that prayer of the opposite intention will also repel.
As with the ‘fairy king’ who was expelled from Glastonbury Tor, vanquished by religious rite; so too it seems may djinn, extra-terrestrials and other entities be kept at bay by the suitable non-physical practice – using consciousness.
Outside of the scientific field studies multiple witness sightings have occurred elsewhere in the world and of particular note are the cases that involve secure military installations. The need to protect military and government sites means that many employ a large presence of people engaged in observations for security purposes around the clock.
The experiences of US military personal, British Police officers and local civilians on the nights that followed Christmas of 1980 have been well documented and so I will not go into details of the case, which has been extensively covered in the literature.
Rendlesham & Hessdalen
The similarities between the Rendlesham UFO Incident and the scientific field studies made elsewhere are easy to make with notable correlations including radar targets indicating objects moving at thousands of kilometres per hour, sighting of a white light in the forest, red, blue and yellow lights (winking), metallic and triangular objects and also a “blue streaking light” lasting only a few seconds. These descriptions are from Georgina Bruni’s book and the photos are all from Project Hessdalen.
The correlation between the physical and observational evidence recorded in the scientific studies of the UFO phenomenon in Hessdalen augment the evidence that phenomenon behind the Rendlesham events were real physical manifestations; inferring that these phenomena witnessed during the Rendlesham incident were not simple misidentifications or delusions.
This correlation would also tend to indicate that the Hessdalen phenomenon itself is not truly unique; but rather it is simply a localised variant of the UFO phenomenon.
Additional claims that this is a real phenomenon comes from the UK Ministry of Defence DIS report on Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon in the UK Air Defence Region were they postulate that certain Rendlesham UFO incident witnesses were exposed to UAP electromagnetic radiation at levels causing neurological effects.
By Anthony Beckett (c) 2016