From New Mexico to Silicon Valley, UFOs represent the religion of tech
March 26, 2019 9:06 PM   Subscribe

Belief in aliens could be America’s next religion (The Outline). American Cosmic explores how the once-fringe phenomenon has taken root among the powerful, with "alien locations" as new holy sites, by Dr. Diana Pasulka, Professor of Religious Studies and Chair of the Department of Philosophy and Religion at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, who cites the New York Times cover article from 2017 (previously) as to bringing credibility to this general study, and Jacques Vallée (Wikipedia) as a credible ufologist with a lengthy history of research. Lengthy interview on Spaced Out Radio (YouTube).
posted by filthy light thief (67 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
 
Willing to believe is part of being human.
posted by ovvl at 9:26 PM on March 26


A lot of it is tinged with racism. As in, of course those non-white people couldn’t build those fantastic pre-Columbian or other ancient structures without the help of ET.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:41 PM on March 26 [43 favorites]


This is pernicious horse-shit, on the same spectrum as flat-eartherism. A reminder that many, many books are not fact-checked.
posted by salt grass at 9:42 PM on March 26 [8 favorites]


Is this ufologyology?
posted by M-x shell at 9:45 PM on March 26 [4 favorites]


One of the best plot points of the Mass Effect game series is how it spends two games building up an ancient, extinct alien precursor civilization as wise and benevolent beings and an inspiration to those who follow...and then one of them finally turns up and you find out they were all super arrogant murdering imperialist assholes.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 10:46 PM on March 26 [22 favorites]


I read the book. It was certainly an entertaining read and the parts where she stuck to her areas of expertise (religious scholarship and general social theory) were interesting. I’m assuming there are no outright fabrications.

She seemed less than capable of evaluating scientific claims, however. Maybe this is just an inevitable conflict: the norms of religious studies seem to require accepting people’s beliefs on their own terms, so when someone says something about DNA vibrations, you don’t point it out any more than you would someone talking in terms of angels or souls.

But she also seemed very credulous about her sources: the main one, “Tyler”, sounded to me like he could have been an archetypal biotech con man, but she just totally accepts his claims to have invented multi-million-dollar cancer treatments and so on.

The author’s agenda, to the extent she let it show through, seemed to be promoting Catholicism rather than UFOs. It’s not without problems, but it’s also a very different book than an annoyed skeptic would expect.
posted by vogon_poet at 10:47 PM on March 26 [7 favorites]


Tech people really are just hippies 2.0 aren't they?

Also we watched Mars Attacks last night so this is timely. ACK ACK ACK.
posted by fshgrl at 10:52 PM on March 26 [10 favorites]


I feel not at all surprised by this. There was a lot of Space Jesus belief going on in the seventies; it got shouted down by the Skeptic types in the materialist eighties but it's been quietly boiling away behind the scenes. Now and then it popped into the public consciousness due to things like Heaven's Gate.

If the pendulum's swinging back towards mysticism along that axis, maybe it'll swing away from hyper-capitalist end times, too. That'd be nice.
posted by egypturnash at 11:00 PM on March 26 [3 favorites]


Her two main confidants are both (so they claim) multimillionaires who got rich off of biotech discoveries. So sadly this is a different and worse kind of kooky space religion. But the comparison to some weird monotheist cult being adopted by the Roman elite does seem apt.
posted by vogon_poet at 11:14 PM on March 26 [2 favorites]


Her two main confidants are both (so they claim) multimillionaires who got rich off of biotech discoveries.

We are not drunks! We are multi-millionaires!
posted by flabdablet at 11:19 PM on March 26 [3 favorites]


Tyler is the most curious part of a curious book. Like most of the scientists, government researchers, and tech giants Pasulka quotes, Tyler’s real name remains a secret. But Pasulka has presumably done scholarly due diligence on his background, which would otherwise be hard to believe: Tyler has over 40 biotech patents to his name, many of which he believes were communicated to him by non-human intelligence. He works in a government program where, according to him, the kind of intricate security-clearance labyrinths one might find in an X-Files episode are the norm.

....Eventually though, a team of scientists determines that the object is highly anomalous, unlike any known material on earth.


What does this mean? Who are the scientists, what about it is anomalous?

Tyler seems like a total fraud, most likely, unless the author has truly done due diligence -- but when this new "team of scientists" performs their tests on the "highly anomalous" object, that's a point where we can see some due diligence without betraying the confidentiality Tyler negotiated.
posted by lewedswiver at 11:40 PM on March 26 [1 favorite]


lewedswiver: "Eventually though, a team of scientists determines that the object is highly anomalous, unlike any known material on earth."

Water's unlike any known material on earth too, I mean any other known material.
posted by chavenet at 1:41 AM on March 27 [6 favorites]


Sure is! The stuff gets bigger when you make it cold enough.

I'm not saying it's aliens, but it's aliens.
posted by flabdablet at 1:58 AM on March 27 [13 favorites]


> Jacques Vallée (Wikipedia) as a credible...

Sorry, you lost me there. Did you mean "credulous"? Dude might be an eminence gris of ufology but that might also mean he's the biggest in his field of hokum.

Our culture tend to ascribe the most legitimacy to those avocations or beliefs which have advocates among the famous, wealthy and powerful, which seems to be the leverage Pasulka's book is using: Her UFO believers aren't Subway franchisees from central Indiana, they're globe-hopping, unusually and unaccountably powerful people holding implausible jobs that afford them the free passes they need to visit the same tropey global touchstones that believers in extraterrestrials have been lusting to see the insides of for decades.

I dunno. Her book sounds like bullshit. Two weirdos do not a trend make, and X-Files fanfiction isn't a becoming look for a nominally nonfiction book by an academic writing popular prose about her realm of study. Props to The Outline for at least touching on the explicit racism of ET worshippers and making a point of the implausibilities, I just wish the reviewer was more overtly critical of the book if they were going to give it this sort of publicity.

There are UFO cults and plenty of non-cult-following believers, and Pasulka could have had a good and believable book about what might be an actual phenomenon, without all the adventure-filled yet handwavy woo. However that would have been an unglamorous book of interviews with Subway franchisees from central Indiana trying to get their kids to soccer practice, rather than a film-ready account of a mystery man leading a life of exotic strangeness.
posted by at by at 3:03 AM on March 27 [7 favorites]


How is this new? Elron Hubbard's Scientology. von Däniken's nonsense. Whatever the name was of that cult that expected aliens to come and scoop them all up. We have entirely too much pinhead dancing, and people have been inventing more of it just about forever. It's retrograde.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:54 AM on March 27 [5 favorites]


For what it’s worth, I believe both that there’s life on other planets and that there are unidentified (at least by civilians) objects flying in the sky, but unfortunately there’s no connection between those things. The universe is huge and the speed of light really sucks.
posted by mhoye at 4:23 AM on March 27 [6 favorites]


When I was a child, I knew, technically, that the events depicted in books and cartoons and video games weren't real.

But the distinction between "real" and "not real" wasn't particularly meaningful to me. I could get just as emotionally excited by (and invested in) a fictional event as by a real one - often, more so. I knew it was "just pretend", because adults told me so, but pretend was serious business.

Belief in supernatural beings has often struck me as a similar phenomenon, psychologically speaking. For whatever reason, some people seem to preserve this ability (to ignore the distinction between the "real" and "not real") into adulthood - at least in certain compartmentalized parts of their mind.

Maybe that's what religion is for, in part - to give people thusly inclined a space where they can continue to afford fantastic ideas the kind of emotional significance that children afford to cartoons (but which adults are generally obliged to reserve for real events).

I dunno. I'm just spitballin', of course. It's just hard to imagine that grown adults really "believe" in alien mythologies in the same way they "believe" that the boiling point of water is 100°C.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 4:30 AM on March 27 [8 favorites]


Billions of people believe stuff that is less plausible than “there are aliens visiting the world.” It is sort of like the human brain has no innate need to test things that are believed by your in-group. It’s like you have to be taught that there are a bunch of bullshit artists trying to con you all the time, and some of them might be your parents. This presents certain difficulties which we as a species are trying to deal with, through a variety of variously-effective (and ineffective) strategies.
posted by Gilgamesh's Chauffeur at 5:43 AM on March 27 [7 favorites]


I looked forward to reading this book - as someone who makes alien-themed art, collects old UFO books from the 50s and 60s, and generally wishes they could be the next John Keel, it sounded right in my wheelhouse. Then I heard the author do an interview on Mysterious Universe and the uncritical embrace of the Tyler-types really turned me off.

Ufology is emerging from the Ancient Aliens fad, which is great as that one is dripping with baked in racism, but it's going towards this whole Secret Space Program/break away civilizations idea which is pretty much Fringe Improv. The New UFOlogy seems to be built around personalities, not research or experience, just people who can say with a straight face "I Know A Guy" and then validate another personality in return for their validation (Yes, and-ing).

Basically, we've gone from the They Don't Want You To Know of the 90s to I Want You To Know That I Know of the 10s.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 5:56 AM on March 27 [10 favorites]


Maybe that's what religion is for, in part - to give people thusly inclined a space where they can continue to afford fantastic ideas the kind of emotional significance that children afford to cartoons (but which adults are generally obliged to reserve for real events).

There's something in the New Testament where St. Paul writes that, if the story of Jesus' resurrection is not true (not "true for me" or "true in a way because it expresses our deepest hopes" - true in that it actually occured like, say, the Duke game last weekend actually occurred), then Christians are the most wretched people alive. So it's certainly the case that, at least in some mainstream cases, religious people see themselves as describing reality straight-up, not as indulging in some kind of expressive emotional community.
posted by thelonius at 6:06 AM on March 27 [3 favorites]


"Tyler has over 40 biotech patents to his name, many of which he believes were communicated to him by non-human intelligence. He works in a government program where, according to him, the kind of intricate security-clearance labyrinths one might find in an X-Files episode are the norm. "

I haven't read the book, but I wonder if she addresses the whole Bob Lazar thing that I guess at this point is just outside recent memory. Tyler sounds exactly like Lazar 2.0 to me.
posted by mattwan at 6:13 AM on March 27 [2 favorites]


The book purports to be agnostic about what it calls “the phenomenon” (using that phrase is kind of a shibboleth though). The most interesting and convincing parts are where it dissects how people go from having some strange experience, to connecting and reinterpreting it in terms of the big world of other UFO reports, even to the extent of their memories changing.

Whereas in the past people might have run into Christian texts about saints and reinterpreted the exact same experience that way. This is one of the ways in which UFO mythology has some of the ingredients needed for a new religion.
posted by vogon_poet at 6:16 AM on March 27 [3 favorites]


Bob Lazar's making a bit of a comeback thanks to a new documentary. Unfortunately, it's by Jeremy Corbell who is like Patient 0 of "I Want You To Know I Know" name dropping Broufology.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 6:18 AM on March 27 [1 favorite]


"Whereas in the past people might have run into Christian texts about saints and reinterpreted the exact same experience that way."

So she's taking Vallee's belief that folk tales about fairies etc. were really about aliens and applying it to organized religion? That's neat, I guess, although I think Grant Morrison did it first.

"Bob Lazar's making a bit of a comeback thanks to a new documentary."

Huh. So this is what '90s revival looks like. I guess JNCO jeans went out of business just a couple of years too soon.

Edit: That sounds sneering and dismissive, but it's not meant to be. The people coming into positions of cultural power now are the people who cut their teeth on the culture of the '90s. That's what shaped their worldview, so it's probably inevitable that they'd come bubbling back up. On a similar note, I've been wondering if folk memory of the Seattle WTO protests have influenced the Left's reaction to the current economic state of affairs.
posted by mattwan at 6:24 AM on March 27 [2 favorites]


No the opposite of that, she’s saying people interpret a specific set of experiences to fit with folklore, only now the folklore is aliens instead of fairies or saints. (And I think she would prefer that they interpreted things through the Catholic lens and not the extraterrestrial lens.)
posted by vogon_poet at 6:27 AM on March 27 [4 favorites]


thelonius, the passage in question is 1st Corinthians 15:12-20:

But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.

It's exactly what you said - a claim that religion (at least sometimes) makes claims about real events and the nature of reality. To the outside observer, it's all meaning-and-life-narrative-creation, but to the believer it's totally different.
posted by timdiggerm at 6:28 AM on March 27 [2 favorites]


"No the opposite of that, she’s saying people interpret a specific set of experiences to fit with folklore, only now the folklore is aliens instead of fairies or saints. "

Thanks, vogon_poet, that is neat! Does she make any claims about what the nature of the unnamed actual reality is?
posted by mattwan at 6:29 AM on March 27


Religious mysticism follows the technologies of the times; there were Victorian-era hydraulic diagrams of the passage of souls to the Final Judgment, and spiritualist hokum about “vibrational energies”, and Scientology leaned on the jargon of electrical engineering and cybernetics. Meanwhile, America, having been founded partially by religious pilgrims, has always had a millenarian streak. It was inevitable that the vehicle for the Rapture would eventually become an alien spaceship made of super-advanced technology.
posted by acb at 6:31 AM on March 27 [6 favorites]


She very strenuously avoids making any specific claims about the nature of the experiences. But reading between the lines and given the last chapter of the book in which "Tyler" converts to Catholicism while visiting the Vatican Observatory, I think it's likely she prefers the Catholic religious interpretation.
posted by vogon_poet at 6:42 AM on March 27 [1 favorite]


My dad's family was very much steeped in 60s/70s fringe belief, and I'm also surprised that this is being presented as in any way new. Based on my grandparents' extensive library, the following things go hand in hand: crystals, angels, ghosts, aliens, macrobiotic diets, yoga, astrology, psychokinetic powers, spirit mediums, etc etc etc.
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:00 AM on March 27 [6 favorites]


This is pernicious horse-shit, on the same spectrum as flat-eartherism. A reminder that many, many books are not fact-checked.

Did you read it? If you didn't you shouldn't assume this despite your prejudices. Just because you don't have experience with something doesn't necessarily mean it isn't an actual phenomenon. You can dismiss Flat Eartherism because that's provably false but this topic is nothing like that.

I know this may make some people here foam at the mouth but ...The universe isn't always rational therefore rationality will only take to a certain point of understanding.
posted by Liquidwolf at 7:12 AM on March 27 [3 favorites]


I (very randomly) read this very good book on UFOs that is not precisely a debunking (but it's totally a debunking) and is very much an interesting look at the history and patterns in UFO sightings, if anyone is interested in the subject.
posted by restless_nomad at 7:21 AM on March 27 [3 favorites]


Is this ufologyology?
Ufoliography?

I'm intrigued to read the book. But, treating the biotech guy as something other than a scam artist seems credulous as hell and doesn't inspire confidence.

Though, if forced to pick a religion, one could do a lot worse than the Raeleans. . .
posted by eotvos at 7:23 AM on March 27 [2 favorites]


1st Corinthians, the original Chewbacca defense.
posted by BeeDo at 7:36 AM on March 27 [2 favorites]


I (very randomly) read this very good book on UFOs that is not precisely a debunking (but it's totally a debunking) and is very much an interesting look at the history and patterns in UFO sightings, if anyone is interested in the subject.

That's by John Michael Greer, he's extremely knowledgable on many subjects. What he's basically saying there is the same thing Mark Pilkington said in Mirage Men that the UFO phenomenon was exploited during the Cold War era by the US agencies to keep people watching skies for Soviet aircraft and to hide the US military's own secret aircraft program ( the US would test new technology in the skies but deny it which therefore led to people assuming they were seeing extraterrestrial UfOs, which worked out well for the military ).
But the crux is that the military was exploiting a real pre-existing phenomenon. They didn't fabricate it from scratch.
posted by Liquidwolf at 7:57 AM on March 27 [1 favorite]


I absolutely believe there is life on other planets, but I also believe that the only thing as infinite as the reaches of the universe is the ability of human beings to take any line of intellectual or philosophical inquiry all the way to Woo Town (AND BEYOND!).
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:59 AM on March 27 [2 favorites]


OTOH, I won't be surprised at all if beliefs in meddling extraterrestrials make a full-on comeback in the very near future—it will conveniently explain to all kinds of people how they let things get so fucked up—OTO, a belief in meddling extraterrestrials has been an American religion for nearly a century already and a key belief on the right- and left- wing fringe (and not-so-fringe). Michael Barkun's A Culture of Conspiracy: Apocalyptic Visions in Contemporary America is relevant here.

The degree to which the notion of "ancient astronauts" is steeped in racism and cultural xenophobia has been noted, but it's worth noting, too, the degree to which the notion of "aliens" and "alien invasion" has always functioned as a metaphor for—and an externalized fear of—imperialism and colonization, the fear that haunts the imperialist and the colonizer, a fear made explicit in The War Of The Worlds*, the first great English dream of alien conquest.

(‘The Tasmanians, in spite of their human likeness, were entirely swept out of existence in a war of extermination waged by European immigrants, in the space of 50 years’, writes Wells [Book 1, ch. 1].

‘Suppose,’ Frank Wells asked his brother, ‘some beings from another planet were to drop out of the sky suddenly, and began laying about them here?’ )
posted by octobersurprise at 8:05 AM on March 27 [5 favorites]


Maybe that's what religion is for, in part - to give people thusly inclined a space where they can continue to afford fantastic ideas the kind of emotional significance that children afford to cartoons (but which adults are generally obliged to reserve for real events).

I actually think professional wrestling falls into this category as well.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:08 AM on March 27 [4 favorites]


Ufoliography?

I like the idea that somebody has set out on a voyage across the vast empty chasms of space just to show us their cool new fonts though.
posted by mhoye at 8:23 AM on March 27 [2 favorites]


UFO religion encompasses a wide range of weirdness. It scratches an itch.
posted by Glomar response at 8:51 AM on March 27 [1 favorite]


If any of y'all want to read something wonderful and peer-reviewed on this topic, I highly recommend The Gods Have Landed.

It's about twenty years old though, so not exactly an up-to-the-minute trend piece.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 9:22 AM on March 27 [2 favorites]


I actually think professional wrestling falls into this category as well.

I've been known to describe Lucha Underground as "What I have instead of church."
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 9:27 AM on March 27 [2 favorites]


> Jacques Vallée (Wikipedia) as a credible...

Sorry, you lost me there. Did you mean "credulous"?


Well, choose your own adjective, I guess, but I do like this stuff from the wiki ...

Vallée also proposes that a secondary aspect of the UFO phenomenon involves human manipulation by humans. Witnesses of UFO phenomena undergo a manipulative and staged spectacle, meant to alter their belief system, and eventually, influence human society by suggesting alien intervention from outer space. The ultimate motivation for this deception is probably a projected major change of human society, the breaking down of old belief systems and the implementation of new ones. Vallée states that the evidence, if carefully analyzed, suggests an underlying plan for the deception of mankind by means of unknown, highly advanced methods. Vallée states that it is highly unlikely that governments actually conceal alien evidence, as the popular myth suggests. Rather, it is much more likely that that is exactly what the manipulators want us to believe. Vallée feels the entire subject of UFOs is mystified by charlatans and science fiction. He advocates a stronger and more serious involvement of science in the UFO research and debate.[10] Only this can reveal the true nature of the UFO phenomenon.

Way better than X-Files.
posted by philip-random at 9:31 AM on March 27 [3 favorites]


I read this after Pasulka was interviewed on Erik Davis' Expanding Mind podcast. In both her interview and her book, she talked about the difference between the codes of ethical behavior between her world, that of academia, and that of people involved in high-level research on "the phenomenon" (government-adjacent if not working directly for the government, not your run-of-the-mill ufologists). The former field relies on openness and peer review, while the latter has a strict code of silence.

This seems plausible enough, but in conjunction with the Jacques Vallée phenomenon/UFOs-as-disinformation angle, which Pasulka is aware of, it creates a situation in which you wonder why they're talking to her, and why she believes anything she's told or shown. When she's dealing with cases that don't revolve around these shadowy millionaire geniuses, her training in religious studies shines through more strongly, and her thesis that we're seeing a new religion of some kind being formed via media influence is more convincing.

I feel like she could have spent more time with people who'd had experiences that didn't lead to riches and security clearances. She seems a little too taken with Tyler especially, calling him an "American hero" at one point; this same person, after converting to Catholicism, takes his first communion with the Pope himself. It's almost comical how utterly fictional this guy appears, but I assume the author wouldn't risk her career by making him up, even if he exists in a world of silence and secrecy, and thus none of us could prove or disprove his existence.

That said, it's easy to think that Pasulka's been used, though to what end, exactly, is hard to say—and that itself feeds back into the miasma of UFO disinformation. It's all very, very weird.
posted by heteronym at 10:37 AM on March 27 [5 favorites]


the closest tom delonge will ever get to being a Paul.
posted by Bwentman at 12:17 PM on March 27


Just gonna drop this here, a recent academic (but extremely readable) ethnography of UFO believers (and assorted other conspiracist themes) by Indiana University anthropologist Susan Lepselter, The Resonance of Unseen Things (2016 U Michigan Press). Available for free via Hathi Trust open access here. (See "read online" link on right.) Provides a very different take on the phenomenon.
posted by spitbull at 1:34 PM on March 27 [7 favorites]


it's easy to think that Pasulka's been used, though to what end, exactly, is hard to say

Having read the Outline piece and a little more about Pasulka, but not her book, these are exactly the impressions I get, too. The whole thing feels weird in just that way a story does when some part of the larger motivations or objectives aren't immediately apparent.

The author’s agenda, to the extent she let it show through, seemed to be promoting Catholicism rather than UFOs.

And this feels true to me, too—tho I'm left wondering how a Catholic—and the degree of Pasulka's interest in the discourse of Catholicism suggests that she's more than merely an on-looker—imagines that UFO's are a path to the tenets of Church. (Tho I guess it isn't really any stranger than Rod Dreher playing at being St. Benedict. And in fact, maybe you could trace the Catholic/UFO thing back to Walker Percy's Lost in the Cosmos: The Last Self-Help Book.)

Most charitably, I suspect that "Tyler" is a grifter or charlatan who used the author for his own purposes and who the author uses for her's. Less charitably, he's a composite figure or entirely imaginary. Lacking any other evidence that he exists, it's hard not to come to one of those conclusions.
“I basically believe, and there is evidence for this, that our DNA is a receptor and a transmitter,” he claims. “It works at a certain frequency — The same frequency, in fact, that we use to communicate with satellites in deep space. Humans are a type of satellite, in fact. So, in order to receive the signals and to transmit the signals, we have to tune our physical bodies and DNA. Because of this, I make sure I sleep really well … I rarely drink alcohol, as it interferes with my sleep, and I never drink coffee. Coffee really messes up the signal.”
Here I'm struck by the degree to which this paragraph A) sounds like it was written by Philip K Dick B) is basically warmed over Gnosticism—our bodies literally encode a spark of the Divine and "enlightenment" is knowing how to connect the Divine in you with the Greater Divine unhindered by the grossness of the material world—and C) left wondering if a Catholic author notes that such a thing is, in Catholic terms, a heresy. Or maybe Tyler's conversion at the end of the book suggests a repudiation of this.

So ... as I see it described, the whole book sounds like an eccentric effort to (re)theorize notions of the sacred, the demonic, and the soteriological precisely in ways that syncretize "the strange new gods of venture capital." (A phrase itself with an unfortunate past.)
posted by octobersurprise at 1:39 PM on March 27 [2 favorites]


Maybe the Catholic link is that everyone in the Vatican is a closet Brunoist and believes that life is everywhere.
There's not enough Bruno in modern conspiracies.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 2:45 PM on March 27 [4 favorites]


While Pasulka is a Catholic and has focused on Catholic material in her prior work, I wouldn't say that American Cosmic comes from a Catholic angle, i.e., she's not writing as a Catholic to argue Catholic positions. She seems to take her role as a religious studies professor seriously and avoid making truth claims about most UFO/"religious" experiences in the book. (I say "most" because I'm sure there's an exception I'm forgetting.)

As for octobersurprise's remark about PKD similarities: you're not alone there. I remember finding it odd that seemingly nobody in the book had read Phil Dick (or at least copped to it), and for a religious scholar like Pasulka he seems like a strange figure to overlook or ignore.

On a related note, I read this book as I was reading Jack Womack's Flying Saucers are Real!, which made for an interesting juxtaposition.
posted by heteronym at 2:59 PM on March 27 [1 favorite]


This lovely person has taken up terrestrial residence in Grand Marais, Minnesota. Obviously there are a lot of raised eyebrows and some complaints about the chanting noises from the workshops she leads as a Pleiadian Ambassador, but most of us Minnesotans just say things like "that's different" and go on with our lives.

I stayed a week at a hostel up there last summer and met a bunch of her students. All super nice people - a bit standoffish, but I would be too if I just met a stranger and had been asked "So, what brings you to Grand Marais?" and their reply might have been "Oh, touring the lighthouse, communing with my Intergalactic Nordic Alien friends, a bit of hiking, opening up the Lemurian Portal...you know, normal stuff. You?"

Not gonna lie, I've been to my fair share of metaphysical conventions. They're fun, most everyone is pretty chill and there's lot of shiny rocks and baubles to admire. My favorite TV show is the X-Files...although my simultaneous crushes on both Scully and Mulder were more likely the reason than "oh man he believes in ALIENS!". I think that it's awfully arrogant of us to think that we humans inhabit the only livable planet in the whole universe. There's a lot of universe out there and I have to believe that there's stuff out there that we can't even comprehend. I will hold off on making any Little Green Men claims until there's more information, though, and I'm okay with the fact that I'll probably never get any more of that information. And I think it's fine to look outside of ourselves - sometimes REALLY outside ourselves - for meaning. So long as it doesn't hurt anybody (including the person who is doling out the $$$ to open the Lemurian Portal...if you've got the money, go nuts) and it isn't damaging property or the environment, I say let their freak flags fly. Obviously, it can be taken to a dark place, but so can every hobby, offbeat or mainstream.
posted by Gray Duck at 3:02 PM on March 27 [2 favorites]


There's an extremely strong subtext in the book that 1) extraterrestrials and spaceships are not the right explanation of UFO phenomena and experiences, 2) these phenomena fit very well in the Catholic tradition of paranormal experiences reported by saints and mystics. It's not an explicit argument though, she does maintain scholarly objectivity.

Re: UFO cults, the best one as far as I can tell is the Aetherius Society. They seem to be harmless, their members lead normal lives as far as I know, and they have an absolutely mesmerizing motto:

"Service is the jewel in the rock of attainment."
posted by vogon_poet at 4:17 PM on March 27 [4 favorites]


Personally, one experience I had, back in the early 80s when I spent some time at an ashram, was channeling, and (from my subjective perspective, I make no objective claims of proof to anyone including to myself) what I channeled was a non-corporeal being from somewhere in the outer solar system (maybe only most recently from there but originally from much father away). This humanish-shaped being sort of superimposed itself over and inside me and communicated by feeling pictures in our heart. What this being showed me was "love is oneness and oneness is love". Literally. No more and no less. That has been an extremely useful way of thinking for me ever since. I'll never forget that moment. Thank you strange being, wherever you are! (Even if you were really just a part of me.) Was that experience religious? The topic was love, so I'd say yes.
posted by M-x shell at 8:14 PM on March 27 [1 favorite]


Re: the “arrogance” of thinking we are unique in the universe, I think “arrogance” only applies if there is someone to offend by it. Since that someone has never appeared in any widely observed and intesubjectively verifiable form, I suggest at least entertaining the contrary hypothesis, that it is rather a desperate hope of us sentient earthlings that we (life, or perhaps intelligent sentient life) aren’t a random accident that occurs/ed only once in the vast cosmos. The far more terrifying prospect for humans appears to be that we are what we seem to be, alone on our own planet with language and reflexive consciousness, and even more alone in the universe.

For some of us that is the obvious explanation for religion. And there’s a definitely a certain arrogance (that offends fellow humans in some cases) to the belief that we are the intentional creation of a particular universal subject or omnipotent god(s), who also made other planets full of godlike creatures.
posted by spitbull at 8:31 PM on March 27


Ok but that lady who says she can perform Native rituals because they’re just bastardized versions of the pure “Nordic alien” rituals is just incredibly racist and that’s...maybe more than just different?

She kind of sounds like a cult leader who hates her followers and has figured out she can have more of them, paying her more money, if she only lets them come for weekends.
posted by schadenfrau at 8:36 PM on March 27 [2 favorites]


METAFILTER: like a cult leader who hates her followers and has figured out she can have more of them, paying her more money, if she only lets them come for weekends.

sorry, I absolutely HAD to do that. I think I may just have achieved peak metafiler
posted by philip-random at 10:44 PM on March 27 [2 favorites]


Belief in aliens could be America’s next religion

By "next," you mean "after cryptocurrency," right?
posted by duffell at 5:32 AM on March 28


Ooh, here's a logical fallacy I don't get to use often: I've seen two UFOs, and I still think this woman is a crackpot, as are Vallée, Tyler (if he exists), and the people surrounding them.
posted by aspersioncast at 6:58 AM on March 28 [3 favorites]


I’ve seen many UFOs, but most resolve into aircraft after descending through the clouds.
posted by b1tr0t at 4:50 PM on March 28 [1 favorite]


Yes I used to call them “U2UFO”

As in “unidentified to you” flying object.
posted by spitbull at 3:44 AM on March 29


Ooh, here's a logical fallacy I don't get to use often: I've seen two UFOs, and I still think this woman is a crackpot, as are Vallée, Tyler (if he exists), and the people surrounding them.

That is not a fallacy
posted by thelonius at 4:07 AM on March 29 [1 favorite]


I've always found this particular brand of UFO belief, where UFO's affect the course of human civilization, puzzling.

I mean I understand that at base, faith is not rational, but I've always wondered why would alien life look and function exactly like us? Like why would they have eyes, or a digestive system, or brains, or be constructed in any way like we are? Like what if extra-terrestrial life were like lichens, or mushroom networks, etc? I understand the impulse to make them human-like, but it feels a bit narcissistic to me.

I feel that even the notion that aliens could be lichen or fungus-like is still very close to our own terrestrial experience. I can imagine a future where the definition of "life" is broadened so that we can account for extra-terrestrial phenomena.

Right now, scientists and ufo enthusiasts imagine "life" outside our planet to be defined in a particular way (that life grows and develops, that life is self-replicating, that life can respond, etc.). But what if the rest of the universe were organized in other ways? That systems and patterns of matter lead to complexity that we haven't seen before? I realize that it's too broad of a question to ask, but I guess I'm asking, what if aliens didn't look like us?

(sorry bout the rant).
posted by ishmael at 8:39 AM on March 29 [1 favorite]


Like why would they have eyes, or a digestive system, or brains, or be constructed in any way like we are?

I believe you'll find that the only feasible body plan for sentient aliens makes them look just like humans with prosthetic foreheads on their real heads, and that this has been established science for at least 50 years despite earlier speculation from some of the more wild-eyed astrophysicists.

Everybody wants prosthetic foreheads on their real heads. Fact.
posted by flabdablet at 9:40 AM on March 29 [2 favorites]


"My eyes are down here, Kirk".
posted by ishmael at 12:12 PM on March 29 [2 favorites]


I really wanted to like this book and I listened to her interview with Erik Davis and I bought it the day it was available. I did not like it. I scanned at least a third of it and pitched it the minute I turned the last page. It is a very difficult topic on which to write a good book.
posted by bukvich at 3:21 PM on March 29


I got annoyed by this and started looking around, and the UFO nerds have figured out that "Tyler" is a guy named Tim Taylor and the public record does, amazingly, seem to support the story about him -- really did work at NASA for years on the Shuttle program, is involved with apparently legitimate biotech companies that sell technologies like the bone grafts described in the book, and so on. There's even a record of him visiting the Vatican Observatory at the same time as Pasulka (ctrl-F timothy taylor to see). I am very surprised by this, to say the least!

I'm not updating my beliefs much based on his testimony, but he does seem to be a real person who is, as Pasulka puts it, "high-functioning".
posted by vogon_poet at 8:22 PM on March 29



Everybody wants prosthetic foreheads on their real heads. Fact.
For many years I have been all about having the giant throbbing veins on the temples. Now that is how onlookers know you're packing an outsized brain in the cranium.
posted by Gilgamesh's Chauffeur at 5:23 PM on April 3 [1 favorite]




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