Saturday, March 22, 2008

Oh, dear -- Paul Kimball's blogging about politics, religion and UFOs!

This is why I have some sympathy for the exopolitics types, even though, as with people who believe in God, I think they have it wrong. They look around and see a world where in most countries religion goes hand in hand with political power, none more so in the democratic world than in the supposedly secular American republic (somewhere Thomas Jefferson is spinning in his grave). And yet they sit at the fringes of polite society, despite the fact that they can make a stronger case for their belief system than the religious people can.

While I think UFOs are undeniably real -- I'd go so far as to claim they show every sign of being physical and indicative of some form of intelligence -- I don't profess to know where they're from. They could very well be extraterrestrial craft or even components of an immersive virtual reality that's coexisted with us for millennia (whether ET or indigenous).

My religious agnosticism is more nuanced. I don't dismiss the possibility of some kind of cosmological creative intelligence, but I do dismiss the God of the Christian tradition, making me (according to some definitions) an "atheist." I consider the God of the Old Testament an obvious literary device, a fabrication that might once have wielded some positive cultural influence (although even a passing glance at the bloodshed chronicled in the Bible is enough to shake one's certainty).

There's a tired quip that those interested in UFOs draw their enthusiasm from an unacknowledged need to experience the numinous without the antiquated baggage of conventional religion. To be sure, it would be amazing to learn that we're being visited by beings from elsewhere; then again, the Cosmos is certainly awe-inspiring enough without the need for interlopers, regardless how sophisticated. While this is abundantly evident in the case of various cults that exist on the margins of ufology -- notably the Raelians, Heaven's Gate and perhaps even the devoutly "expolitical" -- it fails more often than not. I suspect even ufologists who approach the subject burdened with misconceptions usually owe their interest to simple curiosity rather than an attempt to slake some existential thirst.


Tom said...

I think Whitley Strieber should've stuck with his line from Communion: "Abandon belief in favor of question. Then you cannot fail to learn more."

Mac, I came across your blog a couple of years ago but lost it in the shuffle until rediscovering it a few days ago while doing a "Kelly-Hopkinsville" image search (and finding your awesome post on that strangest of all high-strangeness cases). I've been wondering--are you familiar with integral philosophy? Such as put forth by the likes of Ken Wilber, Steve McIntosh, Don Beck, et al.? Integral philosophy takes as it's starting point the notion that we live in a universe where the process of evolution pervades all domains, including human psychology and cultural history.

Thru an integral lens, for example, the God of the Old Testament's bloody "wrath" and implorations for his chosen people to rape and pillage makes just as much sense as his 10 Thou-Shalt-Nots. The tribal Judeans of the Torah period were largely at "magic-animistic" and "warrior-ego" levels of development, and every warrior culture needs a supreme Alpha Male dictator to keep things in order (just look at what happened in Iraq once Saddam was removed). That Alpha dictator needs to be meaner than mean and tougher than tough to get his people to obey. But Judaism also was pushing monotheistic religion, which is characteristic of the next stage up: "traditional" consciousness. At that stage of consciousness development, people are able to obey abstract conceptual precepts (such as the Ten Commandments) with fear of punishment or reward _after death_ (another abstraction) being a sufficient motivator. (The stage after traditional is modernist/scientific, then postmodern/pluralistic, and then...integral.)

Anyway, after reading your "Transhuman Ufology" essay, and a "postmodern ufology" piece by Colin Bennett that I think you linked to, I thought the concept of an "Integral Ufology" might appeal to you. It's an idea I've been formulating for some time (since I started reading the master integralist, Ken Wilber, when I was in high school ten years ago), but I haven't written much on the topic yet. An initial stab at it is my blog post about Jacques Vallee here:

I'd be interested to hear what you think...

W.M. Bear said...

Mac, if you'll excuse me for asking, have you actually READ the Bible? I think most people when they make these kinds of comments about the bloodthirstiness of the Bible, etc., are really doing so from a kind of second-hand knowledge filtered, unfortunately, through the myopic lens of Protestant fundamentalism, especially the virulent American variety.

Fundamentalists do not OWN the Bible, although they act as though they do, and they do not have a lock on the figure of Jesus. The God of the Old Testament is, for sure, jealous, often wrathful, and notably punitive. However, for that matter, so are the gods of Homer's Iliad and Odyssey and those of just about any religion that sports them in a kind of mythic array.

The Old Testament only comes across badly if we read it through the distorting lens of fundamentalism. Read as the essentially occult manual that it is, it is full of all kinds of hidden treasures -- highly recommended!

And BTW (as you probably know), Ezekiel's vision of the Divine Chariot is counted by some as the first UFO encounter!

Mac said...


Thanks for dropping by! Thus far, integral philosophy has been a distant blip on my radar screen, but your summary leads me to believe your notion of "integral ufology" just might be spot-on.

Coincidentally, I was at B&N just a few minutes ago and saw Ken Wilbur's face looking back at me from the cover of "A Brief History of Everything." Perhaps I should pick it up.

(A friend once told me I *look* like Ken Wilbur, although I think the resemblance is pretty superficial.)

BTW, glad you liked the Hopkinsville essay. I find myself returning to that case. It's one of Greg Bishop's favorites too.

Tom said...

Hey Mac,

I think you should definitely give Wilber a shot. "A Brief History" is probably the best place to start (unless you're up for tackling its 800-page progenitor, which is also my personal favorite of Wilber's books: "Sex, Ecology, Spirituality"). In the meantime, check out this ultra-simple overview of Wilber's basic integral model, the Four Quadrants:

And you can find a more in-depth explanation of the integral approach here:

One of the basic tenets of Wilber's philosophy is that "nobody is smart enough to be wrong 100% of the time." In other words, every serious theory, philosophy, science, or worldview has at least *something* of value to contribute to a better understanding of the world. And it's the task of the integralist, using the integral model, to separate the wheat from the chaff. One can then construct a more comprehensive, inclusive, and all-around accurate picture of any person, place, or thing--and of reality in general.

In terms of an integral ufology, I'm convinced it's really the only way forward. I've had a serious interest in UFOs since I was in junior high in the early 90s, and I've dipped my head into pretty much every avenue along the phenomenon's weird, winding ways. A lot of those avenues seem to contradict each other, and some seem far more sophisticated than others, but all must have at least something of value to add to the overall puzzle. No one can be wrong 100% of the time. By applying an integral framework, I bet there's a way to create a kind of God's-eye view of the whole maze that might reveal things we'd never noticed before. We'd also be able to begin isolating the real signals from the voluminous noise, and thereby restore a little sanity to the whole ufological enterprise...

Incidentally, Keith Thompson, who wrote "Angels and Aliens," was a one-time president of Ken Wilber's Integral Institute...though he apparently wasn't too studied in the integral approach when he wrote that book (or he likely would've used the power of integral's all-clarifying lens).

One thing's for sure, though: It would be a monumental undertaking to begin organizing the whole UFO field (and related parapsych and crypto phenomena) into an integral framework--and would probably take a group of individuals working in concert to pull it off--but given integral theory's success in pretty much every other domain, I'm sure it would be worth every effort...

So study up on that Wilber, and let's talk. :)


Anonymous said...

I just finished a four part white paper series on the topic of integral UFOlogy and only then decided to see if anyone else had considered the idea. turns out this blog started in 2008 is the only other source I can find. my white papers are posted on the website on the projects page ( if you'd like to see how it came out. This topic has also been addressed here and there on the live radio show, free .mp3 recording of which are posted on the site. - Steve