Saturday, February 21, 2009

Reading Notes – Budden’s UFOs Psychic Close Encounters

This post is a review of Albert Budden’s book UFOs Psychic Close Encounters. This book was written prior to Electric UFOs, reviewed in a previous post. It is interesting to note that Budden is somewhat less “aggressive” in this older book. Although he puts electromagnetic effects at the center of the UFO phenomenon, he fully recognizes that there is a psi effect involved in many UFO encounters. He even mentions the concept of PK. It is difficult to know why his tone has changed just a few years later. The full notice is:

Budden, Albert. (1995). UFOs Psychic Close Encounters: The electromagnetic indictment. London: Blandford.

Centrality of electromagnetic effects

The central thesis in this book is very similar to the one he uses in his next book. UFOs, and particularly UFO close encounters, are produced by electromagnetic fields (EMF) that affect the brain. There are numerous possible sources such as natural balls of light, earthlights, telecommunication towers, abnormal geomagnetic fluctuations, etc. His argument is based on researches on electromagnetic sensitivity, particularly the work of Michael Persinger and Anne Silk. The effects of being exposed to high levels of EMF on the human brain and physiology are known. They range from hallucinations, blackout, skin rash and burns, joint pain, to dizziness and altered state of consciousness. In essence, Budden’s argument is that EMF are the material cause of close encounters, but the repertoire of images and notions we have in our mind fills the actual content of the experience. In other words, for Budden UFO close encounters are essentially a form of dream caused by an external, but natural, force. There is no non-human entities involved. To support his thesis, he provides a number of examples drawn from various cases, some of which he investigated himself. From that point of view, Budden’s argument remains the same in his next book. What is different, however, is that he tries to explain why more than one people would have the same “hallucination” and why there are physical traces. These two elements cannot be account for if one only takes into accounts the impact of EMF on the human brain.

PK, poltergeists and UFOs

In this book, Budden considers that the UFO experience can also involve, but not always, a degree of psi effects. On p. 15, he clearly states his thesis: “the unconscious – or more descriptively, the unconscious intelligence (UI) – that utilizes its reality-defying abilities (including psychokinesis, or ‘mind over matter’) to produce the effects of an advanced, magical technology in these ‘stage productions’, its motivating purpose being to establish and maintain an external social identity”. It is interesting to note that indeed, the unconscious being built as one learns how to live in society, social identity is at the core of unconscious processes. This is in line with the notion that people who are poltergeist agents are usually going through an identity crisis (like teenagers and young adults), and at the social level, as noted before, UFO waves seem to occur when the collective identity is challenged. Budden, however, does not make the connection with the collective identity, and the collective unconscious.

For Budden, the UFO experience is a just a particular form of poltergeist (or RSPK). The actual content of these events is different from the UFO ones, but they share the same structure. They involve (1) visionary experiences (aliens displaying magic-like technologies and strange apparitions and blood on the walls in the case of the more intense RSPKs); (2) it can have a contagious effect, but can be experienced by more than one person (involve PK effects) (it can also be construed as some sort of telepathically shared vision); (3) already psi sensitive people are more frequently witnessed of these events (it is something that Rogo and others noticed about UFO sightings, but it is less true for RSPKs. However, it is accurate it the case of hauntings, as some people seem to be more “sensitive” to “ghost” – i.e., they are more able to use unconsciously and unknowingly PK to produce ghost effects); (4) various physical side effects can occur; (5) smaller PK effects can be observed for sometime afterward; (6) physical object or entities can materialize and dematerialize, and existing objects can be assembled to create something meaningful almost instantaneously. On this last one, it has been documented that in the case of RSPKs objects can be assembled in a way that is symbolic. Budden quotes the case of Reverend Phelps in Connecticut where bedding sets were moved and assembled to imitate someone in praying position. For a clergyman, this was obviously very symbolic. In the case of UFOs, Budden does not provide any particular example of objects taken from the immediate environment in order to stage an effect through PK. However, he proposes that like in the case of Men in Black, and many other sightings of “aliens,” many usual earthly objects can be found such as helmets, uniforms, and other equipments that appear “low tech” (like the book, and the rolled map in the Barney and Betty Hill case).

Budden proposes that the main distinction between UFOs and RSPKs is one of interpretation by the witnesses: “one set of witnesses feel that they are encountering spirits of the dead and the other set, alien intelligences. It would seem, then, that when houses or buildings are saturated with ambient electrical fields, poltergeists occur; and when wider areas in the landscape are electromagnetically affected, UFO encounters occur. (p. 76). Once again, Budden offers a number of cases to support his views.

Another key idea is that the phenomenological intensity of RSPKs and UFO encounters is function of three cumulative variables, according to Budden. The first one is the electromagnetic sensitivity of the individuals involved. Some people are more sensitive to EMF, and some are actually extremely sensitive to them. The medical literature actually uses the notion of EMF allergies. The second variable is the intensity of the EMF encountered by the witnesses. The last one could be described as the overall psychic ability, PK in particular, of the individual(s) involved. On this last one, Budden does not provide many details, but certainly the notion that someone who has easier communications between his/her consciousness and unconscious would be an important factor to consider.

Dreams and UFO encounters

Like in the case of RSPKs, there are recurring themes in the UFO encounters that, according to Budden, can be only understood through their symbolic meaning, as they are products of the socialized unconscious mind. For instance, “the tall blond ‘Venusians’; the silver-suited humanoids; the ‘greys’; the robed ‘wise men’; the ‘watchers’; and the hairy dwarf—will be familiar to those in the UFO-study field. Just as we can do the same with dream types: the flying dream; the falling dream; the paranoid or being pursued dream; the wish-fulfilment dream; the erotic dream; the dream where you are being pursued but cannot escape due to paralysis; the anxiety dream; the exposed or nudity-in-public dream and so on. It is clear that entities/encounters and dreams share the same patterns of consistency; both are different but incorporate a range of basic elements in different permutations.“ (p. 70-71).

This is an interesting element, but Budden, however, does not go to the full conclusions of this statement. If UFO encounters are a form of materialized dream, then like dreams they can be interpreted based on the symbolism found in them. If a link can be established between the symbolic content and what’s going on in the interior life of the witnesses, this would certainly reinforce his thesis.

Some comments

This book is in many ways more interesting that his next one, Electric UFOs. Parapsychological research, especially on RSPKs, is integrated in his research. He is not the first one to establish that there are similarities between the two phenomena, but he providers further details as to how they are comparable. As well, his notion of looking at UFO encounters as dream opens the door to a number of interesting and testable hypotheses. But like in Electric UFOs, the role of EMF is given a too prominent role. Although EMF is most likely an important enabler, it is not present in all UFO sightings, and even less in the case of RSPKs. The other problem is that in many cases the witnesses, in spite of extensive psychiatric examination (see Schwartz 1983), do not seem to exhibit any particular psychological signs that are more common in RSPKs (and yet, not always universal in RSPKs).

In the absence of EMF and of particular personality traits, something else needs to introduce in the explanation. In the case of RSPKs, some parapsychologists think that it is the family or work environment dynamics that is problematic, and no individual in particular. Although there might still be a “focus person,” the personality of that individual alone is not sufficient to explain the psychological climate conducive to the production of RSPK effects. Hence, RSPK need to be understood as a collective psi event, and not only an individual one. Then, this brings us to question of UFOs. If RSPK and UFO encounters are just variations of the same dynamics, then there must be UFOs as collective psi event too. Most sightings, however, tend to occur when there is only a few individuals, oftentimes in an isolated area. In such cases, the notion of collective psi (understood as the psi of a small group) does not appear very appropriate. On the other hand, the notion of social psi, especially if there is a UFO wave occurring, appears more interesting. This is especially more interesting knowing that in many UFO waves, there is a symbolic content that can only be understood when the analysis is moved away from the individual level and brought to the sociological one. A clear example of this is the new trend in UFOs in the US and UK where UFO appear to be “organic”.

Copyright © 2009 Eric Ouellet

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