Although this theme (characterized by vague, if tantalizing, comments by insiders both real and imaginary) has been repeatedly enacted over the last sixty years, many UFO commentators remain oddly unfazed, content to await the next revelation in a disturbingly Kafkaesque pageant.
But while disclosure of alien visitation is eagerly awaited -- even expected -- by many, folklore advises us not to get too excited. It's always been like this, with Fortean forces hovering at the fringes of our perception. I don't think UFOs -- whatever they are – expect or desire official acknowledgment. I suspect that when we observe them flitting across a city skyline, virtually unnoted, we're seeing them in their natural habitat. They appear to thrive on remaining essentially liminal, the subject of endless controversy. Longtime UFO researcher Jacques Vallee thinks we're being manipulated. Even author Whitley Strieber, who claims personal contact with apparent ETs, has conceded that we may never meet them openly.
Perhaps the phenomenon's raison d'etre is to challenge us. Early witnesses described fanciful airships and "ghost rockets." Now we hear descriptions of futuristic spacecraft and diminutive occupants who seem to have stepped out of our own speculation on transhuman evolution and genetic engineering. I think the UFO enigma is both trickster and trigger -- indisputably real, but real in a way that transcends conventional use of the word.
Perhaps if we wait and watch, the phenomenon itself will provide us with the psychological vocabulary with which to understand it. Or maybe it won't, content to let us project our own unspoken cosmic desires.
This piece originally appeared at aboutSETI.com.