Who's There?

A Rundown of Theories Used to Account for the UFO Phenomenon

by Mac Tonnies

Extraterrestrial Hypothesis (ETH)

UFOs could be spacecraft from another planet or from various planets. Perhaps the ETH, the most popularly accepted explanation for the UFO phenomenon, is also the correct one.

Aerial Organisms?

Some UFOs might be living creatures, traversing our skies much how jellyfish or squid travel the oceans. These bio-UFOs could have evolved on Earth (unlikely) or they could originate on another planet, or perhaps even in space. This theory doesn't account for the phenomenon's myriad complexities, but it illustrates how wide open the UFO inquiry really is.

Jungian Hypothesis

In this scenario, UFOs and their occupants are actually elaborate fantasy constructs projected into the material world as part of a "collective unconscious," exploiting our species' basest anxieties and hopes. That the modern era of sightings started shortly after the detonation of atomic weapons may not be coincidental.

The abduction experience makes a degree of sense if taken as the voice of a planetary consciousness operating through an archetypical symbolic language. The "gray" aliens--emotionless, drone-like and emaciated--may represent a deep fear of what our own species is becoming under the repressed psychological burden of high-technological society. No wonder they are described as both wondrous and terrifying.

Trans-Temporal Hypothesis

The "aliens'" bipedal posture and other anthropomorphic characteristics invite the notion that "they" are "us"...removed by centuries or millennia. Presumed causal paradoxes aside, our distant descendents might very well find reasons for visiting us--so many that I won't begin to enumerate them in the space available. The "grays'" seeming fixation on human genetics may have a basis in reality; despite recent progress in genetic science, it's safe to assume that we in fact know profoundly little. The aliens could be involved in a careful, deliberate rejuvination of their own epoch, using homo sapien DNA as an ingredient. This theory, already a cliche in the "abduction" literature, is most often attributed to the ETH--which would make little sense if the aliens were based on a suitably non-terrestrial genetic alphabet.

Multiversal Hypothesis

By examining the morphology of close-encounters deep into history, researcher Jacques Vallee has volunteered the idea of a "multiverse" in which alien encounters are actually behavioral conditioning exercises staged by an unseen nonhuman intelligence. Vallee's ideas are some of the most intellectually invigorating of the hypotheses put forth to explain UFOs, and are best described in his books "Passport to Magonia" and "Dimensions." Vallee argues that the social and technological trappings of the close-encounter experience are infinitely subjective, and best understood in mythological terms. Thus encounters with succubi, fairies, sky-gods, etc. can be equated with whatever agency is responsible for today's apparant piloted extraterrestrial craft.

I agree with Vallee that the extraterrestrial hypothesis simply isn't strange enough to account for the sightings made during the last century. The saucer-pilots may well be "aliens"...but aliens of a sort we haven't yet conditioned ourselves to comprehend. In fact, we may never be able to condition ourselves to "their" presence, as "they" will simply adopt to our changing cultural perspectives.

The Persinger Scenario

Laurentian University professor Micheal Persinger suspects that close-encounters have a more accessable explanation. He posits that electromagnetic energy produced in the Earth's crust can induce remarkably consistent hallucinations that experiencers may interpret as alien contact. Persinger has even built a computer-controlled electromagnetic chamber in hopes of validating his theories; test subjects have reported a "sense of presence" not unlike that described by victims of sleep paralysis (a novel brain state cited exhaustively by debunkers to explain "bedroom visitations").

Perhaps even more intriguing is the observation that UFO sightings increase before earthquakes. This is taken to a disquieting and plausible extreme by author Albert Budden ("UFOs: Psychic Close Encounters"), who hypothesizes than man-made EM radiation as well as tectonic stress have the ability to "signal link" with the brians of self-professed "abductees." He explains the abduction experience as the mind's attempt to maintain a stable identity in the face of acute organic crisis. A similar theory might help explain the near-death experience, as well as various "out-of-body" states.

Quantum Mirror Hypothesis

Sketched cryptically in Whitley Strieber's best-selling "Communion," this theory casts the aliens as a large-scale quantum manifestation, the act of observation somehow granting them reality. Likewise, humans would seem just as enigmatic and strange to them. Whatever the validity of the quantum hypothesis (which, admittedly, smacks of New Age gibberish), there is a body of testimony suggesting that the aliens aren't nearly as sagely and all-knowing as they are usually made out to be in science fiction media. Abduction stories are replete with absurd episodes such as aliens displaying overt mystification with articles of clothing and other accessories. The entities encountered by Betty and Barney Hill appeared genuinely startled by the fact that Betty's teeth were removable while Barney's were not. Is this really the behavior one would expect from visiting extraterrestrial anthropologists?

Whitley Strieber describes at least two apparent aliens wearing ridiculously inept facsimiles of human attire as if in an attempt to "fit in." And then there is the story of the alien who clumsily tried to put on an abductee's high-heeled shoes, and yet another account in which an alien donned a cowboy hat in what might have been a misguided attempt to appear rural and unthreatening.

"They is Us"

Some theorists maintain that UFOs are human-made craft and that stories of alien pilots are simply red herrings. To be sure, many UFO sightings have been caused by misidentifications of classified aircraft (such as the B-1 Stealth bomber and SR-71 spyplane). But what of the "true" UFOs (TRUFOs)? Could a secret organization here on Earth (or off it) have "broken the gravity barrier" generations ago and kept its discovery shrouded in secrecy? A similar situation is explored by W.A. Harbinson in his novels "Genesis" and "Inception," in which a reclusive genius harnesses the resources of Nazi Germany to construct his own armada of flying saucers.

In Perspective

Or, of course, the UFO enigma may be a combination of any of the preceding theories (or theories undreampt). Stanton Friedman, an advocate of the ETH, takes the reasonable position that some UFOs are extraterrestrial spacecraft. Maybe...although it's difficult to imagine how this could be conclusively determined--even if the wreckage of a UFO was available for inspection.

The crash at Roswell is a case in point. Granted that the recovered material was from unknown origin, who's to tell whether the material was a.) from another solar system, b.) from our own future, or c.) conjured up out of Vallee's multiverse as part of some unthinkable cosmic indoctrination...?

Occam's Razor suggests the simplest explanation for UFOs will tend to be the correct one. But who's to say what's "simple" in a field that has been roundly ignored by establishment? For our assumptions to be valid we need to know more about our universe and its intricacies...even if our journey takes us to unexplored levels of strangeness.

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