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UFO Narrative Belief System
“A big problem with all this over the years is that pilots and others have seen things which just don’t add up, but have been afraid to share that information for fear that they would be laughed out of the barracks. And, you know, finally, we’ve gotten to the point where we can have a conversation about this without people, you know, wondering if people need to talk to a therapist or something. And so that’s a big deal.” – Miles O’Brien, PBS NewsHour, June 27, 2021
It would be difficult, I think, for anyone in an NDE community not to blink with recognition of the sentiment in that statement. In more ways than one, we are not alone in this world!
The quote, from the July 8 issue of Religion Dispatches, follows a headline: “With Release of Pentagon Report, UFO Narrative Belief System is Suddenly Supported by Military Witness Testimonies.”
The occasion was the June 25, 2021 release of a report, under the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, marking the first-ever acknowledgment by the U.S. government that the many sightings of UFOs in our airspace, witnessed and documented by pilots and military personnel over decades, were in fact real events. The sightings, never officially recognized but widely known to the public as rumors of spooky “unidentified flying objects” (UFOs) now had a new label, “unidentified aerial phenomena” (UAPs). Journalist Diana Pasulka noted the observation of other journalists like Mike O’Brien, that the report “creates a safe space within which to discuss matters related to the sightings of UFOs and UAPs.”
How many near-death experiencers exclaim every day about having the “safe space” of an online NDE group, or a local IANDS gathering, or an ASCISTE forum—a safe place to speak freely, to be oneself, to share a common sense of reality! The individuals who first report experiences not sanctioned by the wider culture are all too familiar with the need for such a space in which to feel free…and normal.
The importance of a protective environment continues, even with the explosion of public information about near-death and related experiences, and now as with UFOs and their kin. We are all familiar with the rolled eyes and snide comments which too often greet these topics in social situations. Ironically, Pasulka notes, the new report “reversed the multi-year—and quite successful—campaign to debunk all types of witness testimonies regarding UAP sightings. The campaign to debunk testimonies, called Project Bluebook, was also funded by the U.S. government.” Like NDE experiencers, the pilots and other citizens who for so long had been forced into hiding, have emerged into the paradox of a mixed acceptance.
What do their witness reports mean? Pasulka quickly nods to a potentially spiritual basis in the UFO/UAP narrative:
Scholars of religion are among those who understand the importance of witness testimonies in the formation of religions. Raëlism [Ed.: one of the new religions] and The Nation of Islam, for example, were formed from the UFO/UAP testimonies of their founders. A cursory review of UAP literature, both primary sources by witnesses, as well as secondary literature by academics, reveals overt religious and often apocalyptic themes in UAP witness reports.
(More on these new religions in my next post.) Meanwhile, Pasulka continues:
Harvard researcher Dr. John Mack’s bestselling book Abduction: Human Encounters with Aliens (1994) featured the testimonies of people whose encounters with alleged extraterrestrials are best characterized as beneficial and spiritual, if frightening… Extraterrestrials are believed to be technologically advanced and are often thought to be supportive of humans’ best interests.
Current UAP military narratives counter the testimonies found in books like Mack’s. They’re replaced with the specter of the reality of extraterrestrials and their danger to humans.
…The UFO/UAP narrative is a belief system that suddenly, with the release of the Pentagon Report, is supported by military witness testimonies. A new development in the vetting of witness testimonies includes internet algorithms related to search engines like Google. After the report was released, though ostensibly unrelated, Google reported a new process of vetting the credibility of user content; that is, videos and photographs uploaded by users of the internet. Coincidentally the video documenting Google’s new algorithm uses UAPs as an example.
According to coverage of the new algorithm, “Google will warn people when search results could be unreliable.” The example Google uses of unreliable information, shown as the result of a search on a phone, reads, “UFO filmed traveling 106 mph.”
This new algorithm will allow regulation of user generated witness testimonies. We’ve had witness testimonies for a long time. Is it really suddenly okay to talk about UAPs? Closer examination of this question reveals that it is only okay to talk about certain sightings—those ensconced within a military framework, and new algorithms will make it easier for internet search providers to vet civilian generated UAP reports.
So, does the new view envision a spiritual reality or a military threat? As Pasulka sums it up:
The consolidation of knowledge of UAPs to military witness testimonies, and the use of internet algorithms to monitor non-military testimonies represents a new development in this new religiosity of the UAP, what Carl Jung has termed “a new mythology.” For scholars and students of religion, this provides a rich opportunity to examine the formation of new systems of belief and practice coalescing around powerful cosmological questions, otherwise known as religions.
Next time: UFO religions.