Saturday, September 27, 2008

UFOs as Psi phenomena

The Roswell story and associated issues like the Majestic-12 documents, as discussed in the previous post, caused a schism in ufology. One of the main impacts was a continental divide between European and North American ufology, the former remaining more heterogeneous in its approach while the latter became much more monolithic in espousing almost in a religious way the ETH. Most of the ufological literature dealing with the paranormal or psi aspects after the 19070s came from outside North America. Here are some noteworthy examples.

Outside North America

In France, Pierre Viéroudy continued to explore the links between UFOs and psi-phenomena, in publishing in the main French parapsychology journal. An historian of science emphasizing the history of parapsychology, François Favre, looked into early 20th research and how they can be useful to understand the UFO phenomena. Jean-Jacques Velasco, inspired by Jacques Vallée’s writing about UFOs as control systems, also wrote texts looking into the psi dimension of the UFO experience. For more information one can refer to:

Viéroudy, Pierre (1978) « Vagues d'Ovnis et psi collectif ». Revue de Parapsychologie N°6, juillet.

Viéroudy, Pierre (1978) « Les témoins d'Ovnis sont-ils des sujets psi ? » Revue de Parapsychologie N°6, juillet.

Favre, François (1978) “Caractère généraux des apparitions” Revue de Parapsychologie N°6, juillet.

Viéroudy, Pierre (1983) « Signification archétypique des apparitions OVNI ». Revue de Parapsychologie n° 15, août.

Velasco, Jean-Jacques (1991) « Ces OVNI qui nous entourent ». Revue française de psychotronique Vol. 4, No. 4.

Favre, François. (1993). « OVNI et psi ». Oniros

In Austria, Dr. Alex Keul developed the Anamnesis Protocol, designed to gather the parapsychological elements of UFO experience when interviewing witnesses. He eventually joined British researchers like Ken Phillips of BUFORA and analyzed data that were collected by using the Protocol. One of their main findings was that most UFO witnesses were people who had previous paranormal experiences. For a good overview of this project one can refer to:

Phillips, Ken (1993) “The psycho-sociology of ufology”, in D. Barclay et T. M. Barclay (Eds.) UFO: The Final Answer? London: Blandford, pp. 40-64.

Also from the United Kingdom, the concept of “Oz Factor” proposed by Jenny Randles, was used to look into the paranormal dimensions of the UFO experience. Randles introduced this idea in 1983 with her book UFO Reality. It is important to note however that her work remains eclectic in terms of topics and the types of hypothesis that she pursues. As well, her work should be considered more within the psychic research realm (implying the existence of non-human entities) than within parapsychology.

Finally, the Australian Journal of Parapsychology had a special issue on UFO, with interesting articles such as:

Basterfield, Keith and M.A. Thalbourne (2001) “Belief in, and Alleged Experience of, the Paranormal in Ostensible UFO Abductees” Australian Journal of Parapsychology 2(1): 2-18.

Harvey-Wilson, Simon (2001) “Shamanism and Alien Abductions: A Comparative Study”. Australian Journal of Parapsychology 1(2): 103-116.

Basterfield, Keith (2001) “Paranormal Aspects of the UFO Phenomenon: 1975-1999”. Australian Journal of Parapsychology 1(1): 30-55.

North American approaches

In North America, the main author in ufology that rejected the ETH remains Jacques Vallée. Although John Keel is also an important reference, and his books have been reprinted on numerous occasions, he did not published much on UFOs after the 1970s. However, his book The Mothman Prophecy was made into a motion picture (that did not show that it was an UFO investigation originally…). Both authors, offer more than one explanation for UFOs, but they are either about ultra-terrestrials or about control systems run by obscure forces within the government. Although the paranormal approach within ufology is now clearly less popular, the psychical approach to UFO is the one prevailing with this minority. The psi or parapsychological approach in North America is now barely present. It is also interesting to note that the US-based Parapsychological Association clearly state that it does not study UFOs. Given the prevalent ufological climate in United States, this position is understandable even if it is unfortunate. However, there a few notable exceptions that I found are:

Spanos, N.P. et al. (1993) "Close encounters: an examination of UFO experiences". Journal of Abnormal Psychology 102(4):624-32, who proposed conclusions similar to Keul in that experiencers of UFO sightings tend to have either previous paranormal experiences, or more open-minded towards the paranormal in general.

Martin Kottmeyer, who in article entitled “UFO Flaps” in The Anomalist 1995-1996 (no. 3, pp. 64-89) studied political and social conditions during UFO waves, and concluded that the loss of “national pride” seems associated with UFO waves.

Where to go from here

The above literature offers bits and pieces of material to develop the proposed research program on UFO waves. However, it is also clear that some conceptual work is also necessary as some key concepts, necessary to provide an analytical framework to empirical case studies, will have to be developed as well.

The first of such concepts, proposed or alluded to by several authors interested in UFOs and psi, is the one of collective unconscious. Carl Jung’s approach to the collective unconscious is a starting point, but all the authors seen so far also stated that Jung’s static view of the collective unconscious does not provide enough flexibility to understand the UFO phenomena. It needs to be revisited.

Copyright © 2008 Eric Ouellet

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