Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Reading Notes – Scott Rogo’s The Haunted Universe

In this post I am reviewing Scott Rogo’s The Haunted Universe. This book, originally published in 1977, is essentially about materialization as a psychic phenomenon, with a substantial emphasis on UFOs.

It is interesting to note that Heath (2003) in her book on PK (reviewed a few posts ago) quotes Rogo several time, and yet she does not mention a word about UFOs (as already noted in one of my posts). I think that in spite of Heath’s goal to enlarge the approach in parapsychology (particularly by integrating phenomenology), she still had to stay not too far from “mainstream parapsychology.”

Rogo faced the same issue in 1977, but he decided to go ahead anyway. In the acknowledgements section, he wrote: “Finally, I would like to thank those few ‘respectable’ parapsychologists and colleagues who urged me not to write this book, fearing it would adversely reflect on both me and the field. It was their timidity and reticence that helped me realize how important getting this material out in the open really is!” (p. vii). Hence, Rogo’s book is also an implicit critique of parapsychology. Not that the discipline does not do a job at what it does, but rather that it needs to enlarge its horizons if it wants to remain relevant.

In any event, as one can appreciate, the idea of looking at UFOs as a form of haunting is not a new one, and I think that Rogo’s ideas need to be put back on the front burner. The full notice is:

Rogo, Scott. (2006) [1977]. The Haunted Universe. San Antonio: Anomalist Books.

Rationale to go beyond the traditional boundaries of parapsychology

Rogo provides a number of well documented cases of paranormal phenomena that are for the most part ignored by parapsychology. Although, some like Heath have tried to open the door to some of them, the discipline remains uneasy about them, particularly UFOs. I think Rogo’s is still right today when he wrote that “just mention the Fatima miracles, or UFOs, or weeping madonnas, or mysterious lights in the sky to parapsychologists and they will out-icy-stare any group of academicians!” (p. 3). The key, however, is not to return to the séance business of the psychical research era. I think Rhine was right in staying away from that form of research. Yet, the existence of ostensible paranormal phenomena, or macro psi effects, is the main reason as to why parapsychology still exists today.

The issue, in my opinion, remains one of epistemological and ontological bias, and therefore of lack of methodological imagination. Spontaneous phenomena, which are produced through very subtle unconscious dynamics, are not easy to study, especially if one is taking a positivist perspective. But positivism since the 1960s was all but demolished in social sciences because it is not fit for the study human realities. If psi is a human generated phenomenon, then there is no reason as to why the critique of positivism cannot be integrated into psychology in general and parapsychology in particular. Yet, these disciplines have mostly ignored such criticism because they were seeking the financial and symbolic support of powerful social institutions like commercial enterprises research funding, governmental recognition, and academic reputation. After three intense decades of postmodernist anti-positivism critique that spilled over from academia into mainstream society (including the military!), parapsychology should be able “unstiff” a bit.

I think it is in this spirit that, while reflecting on PK and ESP, Rogo wrote: “if the mind can do this much, it can do much more. Within the power of the mind and body may lie the key with which we might solve all sorts of mysteries that continually haunt our world. We see UFOs in the sky, but no one ever seems able to shoot one down. We have long hunted for Bigfoot and a host of kindred abominable snowmen, but they always seem to vanish, gremlinlike, while we are hot on their trail.” (p. 4). Then he goes further in detailing his thesis that: “The possibility and evidence that we are actually populating our universe with psychic creations and beings will serve as the topic for this book. I have no doubt that such things as UFOs and ‘monster’ are physical realities ... realities totally apart from our minds. But I believe that they are psychic realities as well. The enigmatic creatures and vehicles are haunting our planet, but through the power of our minds, we are imitating them and creating more and more of them. (pp. 4-5).

In other words, Rogo’s book is about documenting and trying to provide some explanations for a particular and neglected form of PK, materialization (and dematerialization), which includes UFOs and alien sightings.

Materialization in general

The author provides some of the most interesting cases of materialization and dematerialization that occurred during poltergeists manifestations (RSPK). They include the apparition and disappearance of everyday objects like utensils and jewellery, but also of balls of light floating around, bloods on the walls, and even unexplainable rains of object or strange substance. Not only objects appear and disappear, but also people (teleportation) and strange entities, some terrifying while others are fairy-like. All these cases of various forms of materialization and dematerialization have been documented all the way to the Middle Ages (in the Western culture). The key argument, hence, is that (1) materialization and dematerialization related to RSPK is well documented; (2) RSPKs are known to be the result of human unconscious mental activities, oftentimes associated to socially dysfunctional settings; and therefore (3) various forms of materialization are likely to be of human origin too.

Following the same logic, Rogo provides also some well documented cases of materialization that do not appear to be related directly to RSPKs. He includes miracles and Marian apparitions, particularly the 1905 lights seen in Wales during religious revival activities, the Fatima events of 1917, the Garabandal miracles of 1961-65, and the Zeitoun apparitions of 1968-71. Although these cases appear different from RSPKs, they nevertheless have a number of commonalities between them, and with the UFO phenomenon in general. Among them are: (1) smaller lights surrounding larger lights; (2) lights disappear suddenly leaving a smoke or vapour trail; (3) lights are blinking; (4) lights have strange movements (zigzag, hover, quiver, high rate of speed); and (5) humming sounds. Rogo is also aware that others have made the connection between UFOs and the Fatima events (as early as 1962, by Paul Thomas in the Flying Saucer Review). But Rogo adds that “it is clear to me that the lights seen in Fatima, Wales, Garabandal, and Zeitoun were psychic projections of almost unbelievable magnitude” (pp. 78-79).

UFOs as human generated materializations

Rogo underlines one of the main problems in ETH ufology, which has been also noted by Basterfield (2001), Favre (1978), Phillips (1993), Schwartz (1983), and Viéroudy (1978b), that “none of these theories takes into account the evidence that UFOs might be intrinsically related and connected to the people who view them, and not independent objects at all. In other words, even though UFOs are physical objects, they might be projections from our own minds” (p. 84).

Cultural nature of UFOs

The first argument put forward by Rogo to support his thesis is that the “evidence which supports my theory that, by and large, UFOs are psychic manifestations comes from the fact that UFOs often mock our own thoughts. This would indicate that during a UFO encounter, the object is not independent of the viewers who see it or the culture in which it materializes” (p. 84). Rogo offers examples from real cases, but this issue of the a bit “too human” UFOs and aliens is now a well-known one.

Yet, Rogo add an important nuance, quite useful in the context of parasociology: “UFOs may not be dependent on any one person’s psychic projection [...] They often mimic a cultural aptitude. In other words, our entire culture may be projecting UFOs psychically” (p. 87). He thinks that miraculous events like in Fatima in 1917 fit this description. As well, he thinks that Jung was right in seeing a “cultural need” in the UFO phenomenon. But he disagrees with Jung, in that UFOs are at least somewhat physical in nature, and that UFOs are not only a modern myth as they were seen before the industrial era. Out of this critique of Jung, Rogo proposes that “UFOs reflect the cultural needs and expectations of the society in which they appear” (p. 88). He provides the now well known facts that during the Airship waves of 1899-1900, 1907, 1909, the ghost planes of the 1930s, and the ghost rockets of 1946, what was seen was a few years ahead of its time in terms of available human technology; something that remains within the realm of the imaginable for humans. Hence, it appears that the cultural element plays on both the individual level, and at the social level.

Rogo, for instance, sees a lot of symbolism in the Barney and Betty Hill story. “They were married during a time when racial equality and acceptance was a dream, not a reality. The psychological frustration and self-questioning they must have gone through are aptly presented in their abduction tale” (p. 123). The issue of reproduction and mixed children was clearly at the center of their story, and this was a big issue for mixed couples in those years (even if Betty was infertile).

UFOs and what is known in parapsychology

The second argument proposed by Rogo is that “if a person sees a UFO once it is highly likely he will see one again at some time during his life” (p. 86). Once again he offers real cases to support his argument. The famous case of Barney and Betty Hill fits this picture as well, as they saw UFOs after their 1961 encounters. It is known in parapsychology that some people have more aptitude to produce psi effects than others, especially when it comes to macro psi effects.

Another argument that Rogo proposes is that many UFO events are accompanied by other psychic events. But we have to be clear about what constitute a psychic event in the first place. One of the interesting examples he provides is about witness accounts of telepathic communications with aliens that are always described as ‘clear’ and direct. Yet, research in parapsychology has shown that “telepathically transferred or assimilated information is usually fragmented, symbolic, or distorted. There is no such thing as ‘perfect’ ESP” (p. 91). Hence, alien encounters like the one in the story of Barney and Betty Hill need to be re-thought seriously, in spite of the sincerity of the Hills couple. There seem to be psychical and dreamlike elements in their story. Rogo identifies three psychic elements of UFO sightings that can be directly related to what is known in parapsychology: (1) having the impression that one should look somewhere in particular before seeing a UFO; (2) poltergeist-like activities surrounding the UFO sighting; (3) miraculous healing or unexplainable diseases. All these three elements have been studied by parapsychology and we know these are of human origin. Rogo adds yet another element: most psychic events occur when people are initially asleep as the unconscious mind is freer to express itself, and this fits well many UFO experiences, particularly the abduction cases.

Rogo provides several example of UFO sightings followed some time later by poltergeist activities. It is interesting to note that, once again, the Barney and Betty Hill case shows the same pattern (particularly, Betty’s earrings that she was wearing during the UFO encounter were inexplicably found on her kitchen table with dead leaves a few weeks later).

The relative materiality of UFOs

Rogo also points out the issue of space-vehicle that are constantly violates the laws of physics. Rogo shows that they behave more like animals travelling in group, “playing hopscotch or leapfrog, and are very sensitive to atmospheric disturbances” (p. 87). As well, they have the ability to change shape, something noticed and documented by Jacques Vallée and many others. Lastly, they are very elusive as none was ever captured one. As Rogo states: “None of these facts is consistent with the theory that UFOs are physical vehicles. But they do fit neatly into the hypothesis that they are psychic materializations—physical objects created psychically by our own minds and molded by our own will” (p. 87).

With respect to sightings and interactions with alien entities, Rogo shows that many reports are about entities that are not fully physical. They go across walls; they do not leave tracks behind; they disappear in thin air; etc. For him, “apparitions represent an interface between mind and matter. They are partly physical, partly mental. UFOs and UFO occupants might fall into a similar pattern—projections from our own minds that take on the characteristics and the ability to manipulate real matter. They might be ‘real’ in every sense of the word, but still be products of our own psychic potential” (p. 112).

Rogo also underline that people can actually create UFO through psychic means. Once more, the Barney and Betty Hill case is a good illustration. In 1966, at the suggestion of a friend, they started what they called ‘psychophysical’ experiments, and they were successful in creating a number of UFO sightings, but also poltergeist-like activities. Betty always believed that she was in contact with her captors during those experiments, but research in parapsychology indicates otherwise; she is more likely to be the source of all this.

It is interesting to note, in passing, that Rogo also make a link with the idea of Tibetan tulpas, first introduced in the West by Alexandra David-Neel at the end of the 1920s.

Concluding Remarks

A very good book on the topic, and I would say it is a classic. Many of the concepts and issues I found elsewhere were probably originating from this book from Rogo. In any event, it is also well-written and entertaining.

Copyright © 2009 Eric Ouellet


IQXS said...

Can one truly and honestly attribute the Hill case to self-creation?

The Betty Hill star map still stands solid in it's validation of their onboard experiences.

It was not Betty's creation...but her recollection. This map was proven true by the extensive research of Marjorie Fisher, teacher and astronomer, whose concluding work was reviewed by Walter Mitchell, Professor of Astronomy at Ohio State University, who was impressed and found virtually no errors in her research.

The map matched precisely Zeti Reticuli. Please see: http :// farshores . org/ dy03.htm for further information. (remove spaces)

Thank you for this excellent review!

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Eric Ouellet said...

Thank you for your comments.

The Hill case is a complex one, but I think its parapsychological dimension has been pushed under the rug by most ufologists. It is surprising how many elements of their story fits into known patterns related to PK.

The issue of the star map is interesting, but it can also be seen as equivocal. One counter-argument is that a 2-D paper map in a high-tech flying saucer does not ring too well (after all, we are using digital 3-D maps nowadays, actionable at the finger tip, just a few decades later).

Best Regards,