Friday, April 24, 2009

The organic UFO wave

In the last two years, there is an interesting trend emerging in UFO reports: UFOs appear to have an “organic” shape. There are only a few reports I could find so far. These reports are presented below, quoted from sources accessible on the Internet. It is difficult to know if there are other similar reports outside the Internet, but there is enough of them to see the emergence of a trend, as the phenomenological similarities between these reports are striking. From a parasociological standpoint, this new material represents useful empirical evidence, even though the reports are very short and clearly investigated from an ETH perspective.

Jellyfishes, squids, and amoebas

The first report that I am aware of dates back to July 2003, where a man reported seeing two “jellyfish” shaped UFOs over the skies of Northamptonshire in the United Kingdom. This was reported in the Internet version of the local newspaper. Nothing particular came out of it.

Then, in November 2007, in Kent (again in the United Kingdom), several witnesses saw three objects having the shape of a jellyfish. The ufological website has a short report on this sighting. Although this sighting was recorded into an ufological website, ufologists did not appear to have pay much attention to it.

In January 2008, in the now famous Stephenville, Texas, a witness saw something looking like a jellyfish. This was recorded as part of the Stephenville UFO wave, but beyond that it does not appear that it attracted any special attention.

In October 2008, near the town of Empire in Ohio, a truck driver saw a very large UFO that he qualified of “organic”:

"When I saw it, I was trying to take everything in and that's immediately what I thought when I saw it – that it was organic. That's the feeling that I got. I didn't think it could be anything else. It just came across as something organic."

A few days later, in the town of Midvale, Ohio, another witness had a very similar sighting that was qualified this time as looking like a giant amoeba. The conjunction of these two sightings attracted the attention of a few ufologists, particularly Steve Hammons who reported on them on the Internet.

Once again in the United Kingdom, an octopus-shaped UFO was sighted in Lincolnshire in January 2009. According to the witness, the sighting started with a ball of light:

“John Harrison, a resident of nearby Saltfleetby, said he looked out of his window on Saturday night to see “a massive ball of light,” and “tentacles going right down to the ground” over the site. “It was huge” he said “At first I thought it must have been a hole where the moon was shining through but then I saw the tentacles – it looked just like an octopus.”

This story acquired some momentum in the British and American press as the UFO was at first blamed for destroying a windmill turbine. However, it appears that if the witnesses saw the UFO in the same vicinity of the windmill turbine, they never saw the UFO touching the windmill turbine. This time, the organic UFOs “insisted” enough to be noticed.

Steve Hammons wrote another interesting article where he is asking if indeed there is a new trend emerging in the ufological scene, in a web article posted in February 2009.

Parasociological look at the organic trend

The limited interest shown so far by the ETH ufologists on this issue is not at all surprising. These UFOs sightings are challenging directly the technicist “nuts-and-bolts” fundamental assumption of ETH ufology. The mutation from flying saucers to other shapes, particularly the triangular one, could be accommodated by ETH ufologists, as we are still dealing with what appears to be manufactured crafts. But jellyfishes! This is more akin to crypto-exo-zoology! From a purely sociological perspective, it will be interesting to see how long they will continue to ignore them, and then how the ETH ufologists will integrate these sightings into their narrative (while protecting the “nuts-and-bolt” core storyline).

There is another sighting that needs to be mentioned here because it is likely to be ignored by ufologists, as it is most likely a fake. An octopus-shaped UFO was observed and filmed in Brazil in April 2009 . The fake nature of this sighting should not lead us to ignore it, quite to the contrary.

From a parasociological standpoint, this is significant because a fake is used to imitate the new trend in UFO shapes. As Batcheldor (1984) and other parapsychologists have found, real psi effects are oftentimes accompanied with trickery, to unconsciously boost the belief in their reality so that the phenomena can continue to occur. This is a common practice among shamans (Heath 2004), and a key feature of the Trickster archetypical dimension of the paranormal, brilliantly described by Hansen (2001). It is not to say that the individuals who orchestrated the fake were consciously thinking along those lines. Instead, one should see this event as an illustration of the collective unconscious in action (i.e. taking a sociological standpoint rather than a psychological one). The fact that someone, somewhere, felt compelled to use new shared knowledge about UFO and to make it into a fake sighting, highlights that such shared knowledge resonates at an unconscious level too. The verification of this hypothesis can be done by the emergence elsewhere of other fakes taking the biological form of the new trend (which will truly make these sighting as social facts, as defined by the founder of sociology Émile Durkheim).

This new trend is also fascinating because it represents a gradual shift from the “nuts-and-bolt” UFOs, rather than a radical mutation. If we are to follow Méheust’s (1978) approach to the UFO phenomenon, then we should look in the recent past to see if the biological trend in the Sci Fi literature was significant. There is an interesting blog on this issue, which considers that “Science fiction isn't just about rocket ships and ray guns. Many science fiction books, movies and TV shows are based on the biological sciences. This blog discusses cloning, genetic engineering, mutant monsters, longevity treatments and all the other biology behind the fiction.”

One can also think of Canadian David Cronenberg’s films on the theme of horror-biological sci fi that he produced since the early 1970s. As well, there has been a number of books published on this issue, like Leonard Issacs’ Darwin to double helix : the biological theme in science fiction, published in 1977 (London: Butterworths). Clearly, this is not a new issue, but how significant it is?

This is quite difficult to assess. Certainly, environmental issues are more prominent now than before, mostly because governments and large enterprises have now officially espoused the “green turn” in most Western countries. Is the “greening” of UFOs, by way of biological shapes, a sign of time? Are we entering a liminal zone where great advances in genetic engineering are now clearly on sight, but not yet a reality? And that the worries about their danger had time to “cook” since the early 1970s, thus translating into a hybrid high tech-organic shape, for which organic UFOs represent an ideal compromise? These are interesting questions and hypotheses to explore, but a more solid methodological framework to explore them is required.

Another issue to keep an eye on is whether the close encounter narrative will also mutate, as discussed in a previous post. Will the “aliens” coming from the organic UFOs be different from the “nuts-and-bolts” aliens? Historically, UFO sightings have preceded reports of close encounters by a few years. This appears logical as people and ETH ufologists’ unconscious need some time to process the information at a deep mystical level. For that to happen, however, I think that a full-fledge organic UFO wave (i.e. many sightings over a limited geographical area over a few days or weeks, duly reported and ridiculed by the mainstream press) will be first required to get the ETH ufologists engaged in “nurturing” this aspect of the phenomenon.

Copyright © 2009 Eric Ouellet

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Reading Notes on Society and Psyche

I finally found an author who proposes a synthesis of key approaches about the social unconscious. This book has been written about 15 years ago, and has not made a big splash, but it contains a number of very interesting analyses that were thought provoking in the context of parasociology. The full citation is:

Leledakis, Kanakis. (1995). Society and Psyche: Social theory and the unconscious dimension of the social. Oxford: Berg.

Defining the social unconscious

Before discussing Leledakis book, I think it would be useful to introduce a definition of the social unconscious. The best one I have found so far is the one proposed by Haim Weinberg, a group psychoanalyst:

“The social unconscious is the co-constructed shared unconscious of members of a certain social system such as community, society, nation or culture. It includes shared anxieties, fantasies, defences, myths, and memories. Its building bricks are made of chosen traumas and chosen glories”.

(From Weinberg H., Nuttman-Shwartz O., & Gilmore, M. 2005. “Trauma Groups: an overview”. Group Analysis 38(2): 189-204.)

The social unconscious and the Marxist tradition

It is important to underline that social scientists and psychologists have a different perspective when they are discussing the notion of unconscious. Although social scientists are using the works of psychoanalysts like Freud and Jung as a starting point, they clearly go beyond the original ideas. Yet, in many ways they also arrive to the same ultimate destination. Leladakis identifies one key source of inspiration for both the social sciences and psychoanalysis that actually predates the emergence of psychoanalysis: Karl Marx.

One of the important ideas in Marx’s social theory is that people who are in a socially inferior position (namely the factory workers of the 19th century) can only remain in such a situation if they have accepted it. Otherwise, as they constitute the majority of the population, they could rebel and overthrow their capitalist masters. It is in this context that Marx introduced the notion of “false consciousness,” where workers internalized their inferior status and become supporters of the very system that maintains them into an inferior position (i.e., capitalism). This notion of shared false consciousness can be clearly linked to the notion social unconscious. There is something hidden and repressed away from social consciousness that is operating.

Later on, in the 20th century, some scholars affiliated with the neo-Marxist “Frankfurt School” of thought, married this notion of false consciousness with the psychoanalytical theories of Freud about repressed drives. The best known scholars of this school of thought are Louis Althusser and Herbert Marcuse. For them, the true liberation of oppressed social classes could only come from liberating individuals from their socially shared unconscious chains.

Marxism and neo-Marxism are now not as fashionable as they use to be (although the excesses of unregulated capitalism leading to the sub-prime fiasco might reignite some of it), it is clear that the notion of helping others has permeated both psychoanalysis and Marxists approaches about the unconscious. However legitimate such approaches may be, it is also important to underline that they are also prescriptive in that they imply there is something wrong in the unconscious that needs to be liberated (either at the individual or social level). Such focus on what is wrong (like in any prescriptive approach) opens the door to neglecting what is “right”, “functional”, “useful”, etc. Hence, the best way to approach the question of the social unconscious for parasociology remains one that attempts to understand the deep underlying dynamics of the social unconscious, be they applied for the better or the worst.

The social unconscious and Cornelius Castoriadis

Leledakis considers that one of the most significant contributions to understanding of the social unconscious is the one of Cornelius Castoriadis, already introduced in a previous post. Castoriadis was very much interested in understanding how social change occurs, and why it was not something that can be predetermined. It is in this context that Castoriadis developed the concept of social imaginary significations, which can be described as having the characteristics of magma. What this means is that at the unconscious level, shared significations in a given society tend to mutate and evolved but in an unpredictable way, as it occurs at an unconscious level where imaginary and symbolic significations are permutated, recombined, and innovate according to a dynamic specific to symbolism (i.e., outside the realm of the rational). This situation explains why social change can occur as new meanings about society are created, and why it is so hard to predict the direction it will take.

Castoriadis also shares the notion that the individual and the social unconscious are closely related, but are reducible to another. Leledakis, in quoting Castoriadis emphasizes that “the constitution of the social individual does not and cannot abolish the psyche’s creativity, its perpetual alteration, the representative flux as the continuous emergence of other representations. Thus, while the social imaginary significations—and the social in general—are irreducible to their effects on the individual, the individual psyche is also irreducible to its social determination.” (p. 113).

It is also interesting to note that for Castoriadis, quoted in Lelekadis, “the tools and instruments of a society are significations; they are the ‘materialization’ of the imaginary significations of that society in the identitary and functional dimension. An assembly line is (and can only exist as) the ‘materialization’ of a host of imaginary significations central to capitalism” (p. 110). If one changes assembly line for UFOs, and capitalism for science fiction, and accepts the parapsychological notion of psi as something emerging from the unconscious but bypassing both the consciousness and the biological body to create an effect, then an interesting framework emerges. Furthermore, if one accepts that the social and the individual unconscious intersect, but cannot be reduced to one another, then the framework can also accommodate the notion that UFOs are the product of the social unconscious while the witnesses’ own individual unconscious dynamics may have only a limited role in the event. In other words, the UFO phenomenon can be construed as the social psi and individual psi intersecting while not being reducible to one another.

From that point of view, when François Favre states that UFO witnesses are psi subjects he is only partly right, while his critique of Méheust that only considers the social dimension is also only partly right. If this hypothesis is correct, then it can explain one of the core issue in ufology: there is both strong commonality in the UFO experience (from the social psi) while accompanied by an almost infinite number of variations found in UFO reports (individual psi), usually ascribed to the inherent problems of human perception.

Investigating the magma

I agree with Leledakis that Castoriadis made a very substantial contribution to integrating the notion social unconscious into social theory. But I agree also with Leledakis that we need to dig deeper into the key internal dynamics of the magma. One interesting contribution is the one of Jacques Lacan. Lacan introduced a distinction between the imaginary and the symbolic. The imaginary is the original and constitutive element of the unconscious, which exists also among animals. The imaginary is the part of the unconscious that can be described as the original “I” as distinct from the rest of the world by the way of imagery. It is deep intuition that there is a difference between me and the rest of the universe, because I can see images that are different from me. The symbolic, on the other hand, is something that is formed through the acquisition of language, and therefore it is built on learning and internalizing social norms, values, and rules. The symbolic, however, is not the language itself, but it is rather evoking symbols that are then translated into language. The symbolic is therefore a much more sophisticated part of the unconscious. The social unconscious resides there on the symbolic layer of the unconscious rather than on the imaginary layer. However, the symbolic layer draws from the imaginary layer primary images and distinctions which are translated into symbolic representations. As one can see, the link between the unconscious and consciousness is constituted by two series of translation, one entirely internal to the unconscious: (a) primary imagery from the imaginary into symbolic representations, and (b) symbolic representations into spoken or written language.

One thing that Lacan and Leledakis never touch upon is the locus of psi dynamics. Starting with Rhine, most parapsychologists consider that psi abilities are to be found in the unconscious processes of the human mind. But where? Some argue that it is in the most primitive part of the mind. One possibility is that psi abilities are to be found in a layer below the imaginary, where the mind does not make any distinction between the “I” and the rest of the universe. This third, deeper, layer could be called the mystical layer. This notion of “being one and everything in sameness” is at the core of the phenomenology of the mystical experience. As well, it is important to note that the mystical character of PK has been identified as a key characteristic of the PK experience by Heath (2005) (as discussed in a previous post). I think it is also what Jungian psychoanalysts mean by the notion of Absolute Knowledge in their study of synchronicity. Then, psi would occur through yet a translation process between the mystical layer and the imaginary one where somehow sameness is preserved while being applied to distinct images. Hence, psi could be further defined as an act of creation that survives its own contradiction between sameness and distinction. It must be postulated that psi can, yet, still survive through another translation process into symbolic representations, because in many instances psi is meaningful.

From this incremental translation process, it is possible to identify where there are different forms of psi. Micro psi effects that do not have symbolic representations because they can only found through statistical analysis (i.e. valid deviation from chance) are perhaps psi effects that occur only when there is only one translation process (from the mystical to the imaginary), while most macro effects have a symbolic dimension which implies that the second translation occurred (from the imaginary to the symbolic). Psi “on demand” (i.e. none spontaneous psi), which works very rarely, occurs when the third translation is effected (from the symbolic to realm of the language and consciousness). Clearly, the continuum micro psi, macro psi, and psi on demand are on a scale of declining frequency. This approach provides an explanation as to why we have this declining frequency curve, as each translation step represents a major hurdle to overcome.

The UFO phenomenon is in the middle category, macro psi, and thus the two first steps of the psi translation process should be sufficient to investigate UFOs. Yet, if science fiction is a key enabler to the UFO phenomenon, it is clear that the translation process is not a one-way process. The series “reading sci fi” (conscious level of the mind through language) to symbolic representations of spaceships and aliens, to saucer and “big head” imagery to sameness where materialization is no more impossible is thus required under this hypothesis. Then, the same series, in the reverse order needs to occur, but ending with a UFO report (instead of a sci fi novel). Once this circuit is established, the UFO reports can replace the sci fi novel to maintain the phenomenon active.

Leledakis discusses also the notion of translation between the unconscious in general and consciousness (p. 135 and ff.). Concretely, when one has an intuition, a gut feeling, or a new idea, this is translation between the unconscious and consciousness. The same can be said about dreaming. Yet, the unconscious can also bypass the consciousness and affect the body directly through compulsive behavior, psycho-somatic diseases, and automated actions such as walking or ride a bike. Psi, then, could also be considered as the unconscious bypassing both consciousness and the body to acquire information (ESP) or to alter matter (PK).

In the case of social psi, this process would still be present, but it can also occur in a disjointed way where many individual unconscious are sharing something that together bypasses their individual and collective consciousness and physical bodies without producing necessarily a direct retroaction towards them. Oftentimes in the case of social psi, someone else would experience the psi phenomenon, but adding their own individual “coloration” to the event.

Hence, it could be postulated that there are two distinct processes at play in social psi phenomena (such as UFOs). The first one is about the double loop of socially activating the mystical layer of the unconscious, and the second one is about the social unconscious bypassing consciousness and physical bodies to reach out what we call reality.

Copyright © 2009 Eric Ouellet

Monday, April 6, 2009

Reading Notes – Bertrand Méheust

This post is reviewing one of the classical books in French analyzing the sociological dimension of the UFO phenomenon, and how it relates to science fiction. The title would translate in English as “Science-Fiction and Flying Saucers”. Once again, it is a book written in the 1970s, and thus before the Roswell/Majestic hysterical period of ufology. The full notice is:

Méheust, Bertrand. (1978). Science-fiction et soucoupes volantes. Paris: Mercure de France.

The psycho-social hypothesis

Many websites, in French and English, categorize the French sociologist Méheust as belonging to the so-called psycho-social hypothesis (PSH) in ufology. This hypothesis essentially considers that the UFO phenomenon has no material basis beyond misperceiving human-made aerial objects or natural phenomena. It also considers that UFO witnesses simply project images and notions drawn from the 20th century technological culture into mundane phenomena. In some instances, there might be some external influences that make one hallucinate, but the content of those hallucinations are filled with those images and notions drawn from our culture. This approach has been seriously criticized for ignoring many irreducible physical traces. On the other hand, researchers following this approach clearly showed that the UFO phenomenon is “too human” in its narrative structure to be of extra-terrestrial origins.

Contrary to many of those web commentaries, Méheust does not agree with the PSH, simply because the physical traces cannot be ignored (pp. 20 and 39). In fact, he is considering that the UFO phenomenon shares many similarities with psi events (p. 17), and that there is no contradiction between the material and psychic dimensions of the UFO phenomenon (p. 39). Furthermore, he clearly states that he does not intend to close the UFO file like some people who support the PSH (p. 39), and ultimately provides a devastating critique of the PSH (pp. 211-219). Méheust does not espouse strongly any particular hypothesis, but it is clear that he favours the parapsychological approach with a sociological twist. In my view, he is a pioneer of parasociology.

Science-Fiction and UFOs

Méheust got the idea of comparing the narrative structure of UFO sightings and close encounter reports to older science fiction (SF) literature when he read about the 1896-97 airship wave in the United States. His first reaction was to see striking similarities with Jules Verne’s novel Robur le Conquérant, published in 1885. Yet, Méheust also understood that thousands of people saw the airships and that such a large collective hoax could not have been orchestrated at the end of the 19th century. Something else was going on. He then decided to do an extensive review of the SF literature mostly dating from 1880 to 1930. What he found is quite astonishing.

In the book he presents, on various topics, a few quotes some are from the SF and some are from real UFO reports. In each case it is impossible to know which ones are fiction (drawn from the 1880s to 1930s) and which ones are real reports (usually drawn from the 1960s or 1970s). It is also important to underline that the SF literature of before World War Two was already completely forgotten in the 1960s and 1970s, and most of that older SF literature was published in French while the UFO reports are coming from all over the world from non-French speaking countries. However, by 1930s, many American writers were inspired by the French SF and developed their own branch of it. Clearly, if there is a cause and effect relationship here, there is also a mediating element that goes across time and cultures. For him, the UFO phenomenon and SF have a common source in the creative power of the human imaginary (pp. 19-20) (and I would say in the collective unconscious).

Méheust provides a detailed analysis of the SF narrative content, and shows how key elements of the UFO phenomenon were also very common in the older SF literature. For instance, the SF identifies two key types of UFOs, the “hard ones” in the forms of saucers, spheres, eggs, cigars, and “soft ones” mostly in the form of light that can change shape at will (pp. 56-61). The machines were described as having no apparent doors, yet an opening full of light appears with strange beings in the middle of it (pp. 170-171). The interior tend to be furnished in a very minimal way with metallic walls (pp. 61-62). These machines are described as either silent or making a buzzing sound; they move in an erratic way, in zigzag, make 90 degrees turn, fall like a dead leaf, stop and start instantaneously at very high rates of speed (pp. 62-64). Rays of light and various strange lights are also very common in this SF literature (pp. 68-80). Balls of light and physical forms fusing with each other’s (pp. 81-83); materialisation and dematerialisation are also quite common (pp. 94-100).

Mental communication and induction from the people flying those machines was also a common theme (pp. 90-94). Mysterious healing and disease, temporary paralysis by strange rays of light are also found in that SF literature (pp. 102-110). Human machines and compass stopping to work and animals freaking out in the presence of those flying machines; aliens and human pilots immune to human weapons were also common story lines (pp. 110-116). Abduction by rays of light and levitation (pp. 160-164), and teleportation were also part of this literature (pp. 117-126), with the experimentation chambers (pp. 172-174). Again, we have to remember that many of these texts date back to before 1930, with a sizeable portion from before the First World War.

Science fiction and Aliens

If this was just not enough, the humanoids described in the older SF have also many striking similarities to close encounter reports emerging from the 1950s up to the 1970s (when the book was written). Aliens with big heads and short atrophied bodies were very common in the older SF literature, as well as human mad scientists who shared the same description. The notion of having a big head as a sign of being more intelligent is something unique to the Western culture (p. 130), and it is interesting to note that early observations of ETs outside the US were quite different from the usual “Greys”. For instance, when Vallée (1992) went to the USSR, the “aliens” were very tall and not looking like the “Greys”. This was at a time when Russia was not yet “contaminated” by Western ufological myths. In the SF, the theme of the mad scientist who was working with only a handful of servants was very common. Although Méheust did not notice it (probably because he wrote before the Roswell/Majic hysteria), but if one extends the theme of the lonely mad scientist to a collective of mad scientists, then you have a major conspiracy on the go. Of course, only the government would be able to have such a conspiracy able to go on... Once again, the narrative found in SF is very similar to the one found in ufology. Beyond the hairy beasts, the older SF focussed also on tall and beautiful aliens (pp. 136-138) (like the so-called Nordic race). Once again, this theme of beautiful “superhuman” is as old as the Ancient Greek mythology, and does not require much more explanations.

Deep patterns

Méheust was not only able to show that there are very deep similarities between SF and the UFO phenomenon, but also that they are so extensive that it cannot be a matter of coincidence. But he goes further in showing that there are clear patterns in all this: UFOs imitate with a delay of 10 to 20 years what has been described in the SF literature. Although there were a few UFO sightings before 1947, they were clearly a few years ahead of the technology of the time: Airship wave of 1896-97, “upgraded” airships of 1909, jet-like ghost planes of 1933, space rockets of 1946 (pp. 188-195). Then, we have the events of 1947 which were just a decade before the beginning of the space exploration era started with the launch of Sputnik in 1957; and this is precisely at this point that UFOs started to become spaceships from outer space. For Méheust, SF is an expression of the human imaginary that can anticipate in advance technical progress, and it is only limited by the capacity to imagine the future with what exists in the present. The UFO phenomenon occurred historically between the moments of something becomes imaginable in fiction but before it becomes an actual reality (p. 197). These periods could be described as liminal from the point of view of the collective imaginary.

Another important pattern is the dream-like nature of close encounters, already noticed by other authors like Vallée and Randles. The abduction scenario was also part of the older SF, and is imitated in the UFO reports. But the abduction scenario is a very old myth that goes back not only to the Middle Ages with fairies and elves, but also back to the Greek mythology. In such cases, people tend to have a mystical transformation because they visited some strange reality. The UFO is a modern version of what Méheust call a “reality exchanger” (pp. 179-185) where one goes from one reality to another, where they receive some message or acquire some strange (and usually useless) knowledge. Although he does not mention it, this makes me thinking of the narrative structure of the Greek hero who had to go through the underworld and come back to become a hero. The Greek civilization had probably a more positive attitude towards these “reality exchangers” than we do. As posted before, it is interesting to note that American Natives have also a quite different attitude towards dreams and “reality exchange” experience.

Parasociological explanation?

For Méheust the clear continuum between SF and the UFO phenomenon calls for a different approach to study it. He is referring on numerous occasions to Jung’s famous analysis in Flying Saucers. He agrees with Jung that the UFO phenomenon is something that needs to be understood as a shared myth, but disagrees with him when it comes to the issue of the materiality of the UFOs. So, Méheust also introduces parapsychology to explain the phenomenon, and does hesitate to underline that the issue of materialization and dematerialization should be at the heart of the analysis. But he is also careful in that he notices that parapsychological explanations tend to be centered on the individual, and implies that the individual has a large role to play in the production of any psi effects. In the case of UFOs, such assumptions are hard to maintain, especially when there are many unrelated witnesses involved. Without really saying it, he opens the door to approaching psi from a different angle; social psi created out of the collective unconscious (understood here in a much more flexible way than what Jung is proposing) that is witnessed by individuals. In other words, although we are dealing with a human phenomenon, it is created and experienced at different levels of reality (or ontology). Here, we can make an analogy between an economist who studies the present recession and someone who lost his/her job. They both witnessing the same reality, but their respective perspective or ontological standpoints are quite different. I think it is time for parapsychology to entertain the idea that psi is also something that has multiple ontological levels, and the individual one is just but one of them.

It is interesting to see that someone, before me, came to similar conclusions about the UFO phenomenon. On the other hand, it is also a bit discouraging as I have the impression of re-inventing the wheel. My saving grace is that Méheust does not explore in any depth the notions of social psi, and of collective unconscious (once again from a much flexible perspective than what Jung proposed).

The next wave?

Based on Méheust’s analysis of the older SF, it is possible to develop further an empirical model for parasociology. The collective unconscious gets a specific content out of the narrative stories of a society (arts and SF included). When such narrative stories as fiction push the limits of what is considered as possible and impossible (as in the case of SF), then new room is created for psi effects (based on my definition of psi developed in the post about Favre). This fiction then gets forgotten a few years later, mostly because as in the case of SF it is read by kids and teenagers; they become adults, they have responsibilities about the here and now. The imaginary additions to the collective unconscious through fictional literature have now time to “cook”, hence the delay of 10 to 20 years. When there is a “crisis” (for instance the danger of a nuclear war, (for the US in the 1950s) or the end of a great power status and outlook (for France in 1954), the collective unconscious releases some of its content, which may cause poltergeist-like phenomena on a social scale (such as a UFO wave). Once the phenomenon is out, if it is properly cultivated by naïve observers (i.e. ETH ufologists) then it can keep going on in a manner similar to a haunting (i.e., in a reduced and less ostentatious way), mostly affecting individuals rather than collectives. This is certainly a testable model for the next wave of social-level PEMIE (which may not be necessarily UFOs).

However, as we are now well into the post-modern era where there are a multitude of parallel and fragmented fictional narrative stories that push the limits of the possible, it is less certain that we will experience “highly concentrated” PEMIE on a social scale like UFO waves. In the last twenty years, the fantasy literature born with the “Dungeon and Dragon generation” may be the most common denominator. In this case, the imaginary is set in imaginary lands, contrary to the older SF which occurred mostly on contemporary Earth. This may weaken the imaginary power of such literature as it from the onset further estranged from the “real” world. The outcome of this, however, would be an increased number of people reporting being visiting other worlds without having a strong technological flavour (as in the case of UFOs). It is to be expected also that smaller crises rather than national ones will be the triggers. The present recession, which is having many local impacts, may be such a trigger. It is also possible to think that the CE4 scenario will mutate and fit better the fantasy literature narrative. The main narrative of the SF is that humans are both in awe and afraid of their own technology. The main narrative of the fantasy genre is the battle between good and evil where pure hearts and magic give an edge. The post-modern world being what it is, there is now a merger between the SF and fantasy genres. So the mutation of the CE4 narrative might be the best bet. This would translate into the abductees having to do something for the good in general. The experience would be less passive, but the something to do would be only meaningful during the PEMIE, and would appear absurd and meaningless once back in the mundane world. I expect it will be different from the “Space Brother” era and from Marian apparitions, where humans are asked to do something good in the mundane world (i.e., preach peace, pray, build churches, etc). The narrative of the new wave should involve doing something good within the PEMIE world. As well, if SF emerged at a time where technologies were fascinating people, the present-day era is marked by issue about collective identities and fundamental challenges to key metaphysical notions (i.e., clash of civilization, multiculturalism, globalization and culture uniformity, etc.). Hence, the stage is set to withdraw back into a culturally safer world, and the fantasy literary genre offers such a world, although it is likely to be mixed with other genres. In any events, this is a testable hypothesis but only time will tell. The key will be to ensure that these CE4 reports not conforming to the Grey ET scenario will not be excluded by investigators because they do not fit the ETH.

Copyright © 2009 Eric Ouellet