Managing Mystery

First published in UFO Magazine August 2006

Everybody Laughs at Xera

A twenty-something called David distributes a pamphlet entitled Visions Now to the seething Saturday crowds in Portobello Road.  David, with his long green hair and a bamboo nose-flute around his neck, leads a dog on a string. His purple robe is embroidered with every kind of magical, occult, and religious symbol.

David’s pamphlet describes his experiences with the Intergalactic Space Government and tells of his meeting with Xera, a female member of this government.  David claims that Xera disembarked from a UFO on the outskirts of Leicester, England whilst he was “out mowing his lawn;” although by now, his neat lawn is a thing of the deep past.  

Encounters with such elemental beings—whose names usually contain a combination of X,Y or Z—are frequent in the world of UFO contactees and abductees, just as they are in the more generally accepted religious world, where the Prophet flies on a winged horse over Jerusalem or Jesus walks on water. These latter mysteries are accepted by over half the population of Planet Earth, yet everyone laughs at Xera and her brood.  Somehow, as distinct from Jesus and the Prophet, the mystery of Xera has not fertilised. The purpose of this essay is to examine why one mystery flourishes and another does not.

David describes Xera as a tall, red-haired beautiful space woman in the tradition of Truman Bethurum’s Aura Rahnes, the beautiful captain of a spaceship that flew Bethurium to Planet Clarion and back.  In turn, Antonio Villas Bojas was abducted and had sexual intercourse with a beautiful blonde from space.  It’s all according to taste: George Adamski met a beautiful youth with blond hair straight out of Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice  It would be nice to think such experiences represent the perfect middle-age fantasies, but such situations are always more complicated than mere compensating ego-projections.  

In Visions Now, David asks Xera how her space ship works. Rather like a guttural translation from a speak-your-weight machine, Xera gives typically blushing descriptions of “crystal drives” and “space warps.” This corny stuff ranges from Buck Rogers to Star Trek by way of Rube Goldberg via hippy grottos.  But when David asks Xera where she comes from, her reply becomes a little more interesting:

Zargon.

Where is Zargon?

Where? Making the story-jump is difficult.

Try.

I come from information space. Time there is the time taken to travel the space between metaphors.

What is information-space?

You create as you tell.

That is the story-jump?

Yes.

Believing in Xera may be one thing, but believing that David created this last stylish bundle of nonsensical astonishments himself would be an even greater fantasy.  Xera’s answer doesn’t sound quite like David doing his thing. The “absurdity” is structured: it appears designed to cause intellectual annoyance, ridicule, and spiteful laughter. What on earth is such pseudo crap about, if anything at all?

Thus the monstrous conceit of our proud, pompous egos sculpts David as a loser who spouts trite New Age nonsense.  Xera is, we say, a figment of his imagination. We have heard all this before from early contactees such as Orfeo Angelucci, Howard Menger, and George Adamski.  What Xera says is like the babble of channelling the ectoplasmic baboonage of paranormal days of yore. Thus do we vanish ideas by re-scaling them and reimagining them in terms of their social value and symbolic prestige.  Style is everything. Jesus and the Prophet had style. Xera obviously does not.

But whilst we might smile at this, the depth of feeling about possible hoaxes cannot be underestimated.  Here is a recent, pretty nasty opinion from the forum of the site www.above topsecret.com:

…we hate hoaxes.  And unless there is a catastrophic change in the management of AboveTopSecret.com we will continue to encourage our members to drag the bloody carcasses of the dead and tortured hoax into the village square so that all can see.

This lynching is the fate of many of Charles Fort’s banned anomalistic events, like David’s meeting with Xera.

As a semiotic comparison we might evaluate two texts, the first by a noted physicist, nominated for a Nobel Prize:

The electron density is calculated by Fourier analysis methods and when completed, automatically shows up centres of atoms as concentrates of electron density.  The different types of atoms can be recognised by the degree of electrical concentration, which depends upon the atomic number. Such analyses are difficult to carry out, but when results can be obtained they can be elegant, since a true contour picture of the electron distribution within a crystal is then obtained.  The final analysis appears graphically in the form of a contour map, contour lines crowding in at high electron densities. In some analyses carried out with organic compounds, molecular arrangements such as the hexagonal benzene ring appear clearly in the final diagram of the crystal structure.

The trick here: to conceal the fact that well over 170 years after Michael Faraday’s discovery of the electromagnetic induction, still no one knows what a magnetic or electrical field is, exactly.  Therefore the physicist’s whole proudly “real” structure is just as based on acts of metaphorical faith as is David’s “fantasy.”

This comparison puts David’s experience, Xera’s statements, and the physicist’s ideas on a more even playing field.  An electrical field is still defined in physics books by using Faraday’s original phrase:  lines of force; which of course do not “exist” any more than Xera “exists.”  We cannot help grasping for such metaphors whenever we describe anything at all.  

Of course in a straight fight, Tolanski’s description of events would be universally regarded as more true than David’s.  Indeed, Tolansky’s metaphors have created a whole scientific and technological culture, whilst those of Xera have not.  Though Tolansky and Xera both deal in mysteries, Xera, as a Star, has failed to reach that Prime Time called Fact because she is such a singular Event that regular bookings are impossible.

The reason for Tolansky’s cultural success is that his metaphors are managed a lot better than merely saying “story-jump” or “information space.” This sharper focusing of metaphor in Tolansky’s piece is a direct measure of psychosocial success since it leads to the creation of all possible worlds of technology and industry and abandons Xera in the half-formed shadows between cultural dusk and dawn.  The narrative in Tolanski’s passage manages to create a powerful self-proliferating meme with all conscious modern history in its rather temporary grasp.

David has no such hive-group, and no such narrative.  He and Xera are alone. Unlike Jesus, they cannot form a meme.  They have no power of self-proliferating advertising save that they now exit in the minds of the readers of this article and David’s obscure pamphlet. But readers will not find David or Xera and her “story jump” easy to remove; these will remain as dormant programs, deteriorating slowly like a newspaper under continuous light rain.

Unless, like Toad of Toad Hall, they escape to play havoc with every single idea of the world as conceived.

Flying Saucer Pilgrimage

Bryant and Helen Reeve’s book Flying Saucer Pilgrimage [1] is similar to David’s Visions Now but gives greater details in those passages that are comparable to Xera’s gromic utterances:

We know that many students are not satisfied with the off-hand and casual explanation with which the saucer phenomena are discussed [sic]. We believe they would like hear what a spaceman has to say about cosmic transportation … to illustrate the quality and depth of some of the technical information [sic] which is coming to Earth via Outer Space Communication Methods but which ordinarily is not made public because of its advanced nature.

The Space Man gives a brief summary of the sequence of operations:

First we isolate a cubic portion of what you call space by “charging” it or “ionizing” it.  The size of the cube is determined by the size of the objects, material and personnel we wish to transport. It may measure a few of your “yards” on a side or some thousands of miles depending on what is being transported.  

Secondly, we create a vibratory null, or silence inside of the cube.  This is something we have learned to do.

Fourthly we tune into the “place” we wish to go – the destination.  

Fifthly, we release the null and find ourselves instantly at our destination.

This passage sheds more light on why one can construct a plausible solid world from Tolansky’s thronged assembly but only a vaporous world from David’s  and the Reeves’ accounts. In Tolansky the metaphors are tuned, coherent; but in the Reeves’ passage the story-jump essential for any meaningful acceptance of causation is difficult to hold in dimensional focus.

Gaps yawn in the narrative, whereas Tolansky manages to narrow the gaps between story-jumps.  Thus, the Reeves’ Space Man is not so much unreal – he’s more like his web site, which compared to Tolansky’s, is still under construction! Such is the nature of the most powerful cultural advertisement.  

Lack of evidence—the standard accusation against the Reeves’ account—is becoming increasingly irrelevant.  In our burgeoning Matrix world of cyber and media, we deal with shows and theatres, performance skills, and the structured conspiracies deep inside commercial breaks. In post-modern terms, reality is beginning to look very like a negotiation, and a pretty down-market one, too; quite different from the world of Victorian Station Masters with their universe conceived as number systems inside railway timetables inside a Rubik Cube.  

The two extremes of the Xera/Tolansky polarities are managed by systems of cultural allowances and group-sanctions, rather than falsehoods and lies.  As distinct from the objective real, the concept of simple falsehood now looks, in the cyber-Matrix world, rather like the heavy-industrialised solid fables of the railways, steel mills and coal mines.  

Meeting Xera of Leicester, therefore, is a matter of experiencing the low frequency of a particular information-dimension.  Since all expression is built of metaphor, the real as a concept still remains a Platonic ideal rather like the average person.

It doesn’t matter if Adamski’s Orthon is real or imagined but that he has been described: this is the peculiar nature of the virtual world conceived as hologrammatic.  Such descriptions are advertisements for what we might call systems animals; for instance, Orthon or Xera.  Once created, they breed swiftly, as if pure information is an unprecedented form of life.  

The mechanistic paradigm is changing before our eyes and our very conception and experience melts like a Dali clock.  Here, Xera exists only as momentary event, thinned out to homeopathic dilution, yet crucially: she has been described.  In modern quantum theory, a description is an experience and more than sufficient for a temporary reality. In these terms any observer, real or imagined, any character created—or indeed met—is involved in Jung’s participation mystique of experience and observation.  

Fast Transient States

Xera is therefore as valid a text as anything else, although she is as partial a text as the computer-scanned marks on the telex in General Ramey’s hand in Roswell in 1947. We may call such states fast transients. The fast-transient concept is a far more profitable way of looking at say, accusations against cold-fusion physicists, the fantasies of UFO abductees, the frauds of such eminent men as the biologist Kammerer, or fraudulent psychic researchers Cyril Burt and Samuel Soal.  

That such sets of temporary circumstances come about may force us to replace objectivities with the occurrence of, say, states of varying frequency.  Of course, quantum mechanics accepts this concept, although this theory of anomalies is tethered to the microcosmic world as a direct example of a politically imposed cultural limitation more than anything else.  It is mystery-management, rather than any kind of truth.

Politics becomes a factor with these impositions of limitations.  Both the Reeves and David are judged to have failed because the possible world-components they describe have not properly fertilized.  Both are judged, therefore, by the bourgeois metaphors of the levels of accretion, the degree of permanence of that accretion, and the minimum acceptance of entities like Xera as  proper social constructs.

Little can be said about such an accusation.  Like ESP or remote viewing, Xera and Orthon lack the high-performance-repetition rate essential for continuous successful appearances.  Note the prime time showbiz metaphor. Just as many a witch-doctor is ousted by vitamin injections and satellite television, Xera’s schedule of appearances – “products” in any effective sense – cannot compete as theatre.

Like Stonehenge, or Keats’ Psyche, Xera is a clock whose burgeoning inaccuracies have thinned her out.  Her only comfort is that she probably knows the same will happen in turn to the injections and the television, which will degenerate from strong to weak systems and become those damned elemental forms described by Charles Fort:  forms who, throughout history, have led commando raids on the common mundane experience, if only to stop that experience from walling itself up alive.

The Venusians of Adamski, the space folk of the Reeves, and David’s Xera of Leicester, in their thinned-out and fragmentary dimensions, are half-completed toy events in a mist of anthropological and behavioural uncertainties.  Streiber’s Gray alien and John Keel’s Mr Cold are such figures, waiting in the cultural wings as possibilities, should their entrance be cued by that vast central conspiracy to support the illusions of matter and solidity.

In the sense that they have been rejected, George Adamski, the Reeves, and David have effectively been tried.  Trials of imagination in action are evident in the Western world: Timothy Leary, Emmanuel Velikovsky, and Wilhelm Reich underwent such show-trials, as did Whitney Streiber and Carlos Castanada.  In a sophisticated consumer-society, these trials are much cooler versions of the Nazi and Soviet show-trials and Christian stake-burnings of the past. But nevertheless, even in our scientific century the imagination must be subject to almost medieval restrictions, as if it were a dangerous radiation.

To stop Adamski’s Venusian scout-ships becoming a little too solid and frequent, the imagination is the centre of a bloody cultural war to secure those schedules of actions within powers and principalities which go by the name of conspiracy.  Conspiracies certainly both create and support those ancient philosophical scallywags: Action at a Distance, and Prime Mover.

Thus the partial world of David’s encounter with Xera, no matter of what little substance, is significant because it competes with such blatant sales-campaigns as the scientific new cosmolology, whose statements are just as fantastic.  Compare The First Three Minutes: A Modern View of the Origin of the Universe by Stephen Weinburgh, or James Trefil’s The Moment of Creation: Big Bang Physics from Before the First Millisecond to the Present Universe. Or sample this fresh, young advertising-protein from physicist George Smoot, master of intellectual consumerism:

By a ten-billionth of a trillionth of a second inflation had expanded the universe (at an accelerating rate) a million trillion trillion times, and the temperature had fallen to below a billion billion billion degrees.  [2]

After that burst on a banjo, the most tired cynical rationalist must admit that, as a comparable near-homeopathic dilution, David’s encounter with Xera is relatively solid.  The decadent accuracies of Smoot’s blessed gravity-waves will fade away like the aether, phlogiston or even that mythological beast, the quark: forms whose half, quarter, and almost-zero lives flit across the conceptual stage as momentary pointer-readings and close encounters both in laboratories or on neat Leicester lawns.  

God Games and Donald Duck

Human Beings can be defined as animals who willingly form countless, outrageously speculative systems of reference.  This vast semiconscious theatre within us makes nonsense of the theory of evolution. We are, perhaps, the only animals who can rapidly and consciously program and deprogram ourselves in order to reach a wide range of goals and group agendas.

Today human beings have countless scores of films running in their heads all at the same time, proliferating far beyond any functional need for food and shelter.  Inmates who escape execution by a second’s reprieve relate that their minds before death were still as full of nonsense as usual, still producing countless Xera clones and Donald Duck adventures.  This limitless stream of images that knows no life or death is a Matrix show more interesting than god-games or evolution.

These cartoon-systems that we project, rather than false in terms of old iron-age industrial logic, are more profitably looked at as forms of possible world-models, partial sets of almost-realized instructions which can behave like live tissue and form a kind of mental coral in the most sensible alert humans.

Some notable work has shown that belief-systems can quite readily assume personalities such as space folk, Xera, or indeed the long-dead.  With such masks in place, these forms of pure organisation appear to lie in wait for hunters or buyers and let themselves be captured or bought.  Once in place, they often capably mimic a complete holograph of authentic life-responses. Be it psychic phenomena or cinema screens, advertisements or quasi-religious mass-suggestion, no animal other than the human needs such massive input of structured artificiality.

Somehow this mad stream is vital.  All things come from it. A human being without illusions or transient states is effectively dead.  Every instant of perception is invaded by such myriad bubble worlds. Rationalisations melt into this quantum foam to become the most amusing, powerful fantasies of all.

Deprived of such limitless theatre, many humans fall into depression, breakdown, and suicide. People in this sense are metaphor-factories.  Both science and entertainment as pure prime-time junk information are powerful narcotics to assist this process of psychic manufacture. The image-input they need, the belief-systems they spin, the part-solutions that result, all have little material substance, yet they form an essential chain of being whose connections mean the difference between sickness and health, triumph or disaster.

In order to experience such a system which sculpts Philip the Ghost, many are willing to accept a mental re-structuring where a series of semi-automated self-deceptions are induced as catalysts.  Arthur Koestler has shown convincingly that creative self-deception is the inspirational basis of arts and sciences both: he cites Johannes Kepler (number mysticism) and Isaac Newton (alchemist) as fantasy-prone intellects.  

Once activated, evil and dangerous programmatic dialectics expand as forms of living organisation and dine off beliefs, gorging themselves as if knowing their days are numbered as an invading host before their story-cover is blown.  Nazism vanished in Germany within a few hours after that nation’s defeat; it left no armed resistance groups. That state of mind vanished as if it had never been, leaving behind almost universal devastation.

Information as a Form of Life

As half-willing hosts, human beings suffer the mental equivalent of very high G-force turns as Xera’s story-jumps—the ultimate in sales campaigns—promise them anything and everything.  The victims of these rampaging ideological viruses, such as many scientists, experience the hallucination that they have found some universal solution, some magic formula which shows how the universe works.  

Nothing but applause and congratulation greet these high follies; such is the nature of anthropological show business.  For a short time, fresh from prime-time’s showrooms, such solutions will unite personal and cosmic elements and produce a fully coherent picture of time and personality, history, and meaningful purpose.  This drug of almost-false inspiration, its character and operations and its pathos and humour, reminds us of animal and biological attack-and-defence systems of jokes and tricks as old as the world, and cruel god-like laughter as humans struggle in their own snares.  

The possessing metaphors within fast-transient systems act like short-lived elementary particles: unstable forms of inspirations forming a kind of intermediate matter between symbol and realization. As with the early contactees, a kind of mall-holograph is formed, all a consumer-ectoplasm constructed of mock-profundities suitable for a mass-market gift-catalogue.  

But these highly charged information-viruses, like earthed electrical signals, soon go to ground, where of course, fairies have always traditionally lived.  Deprogramming organisations report that rescued victims of science, religion, and consumerism appear quite abandoned by some possessing spirit or agenda: the exhausted victim gibbers about the end of the world or the lack of purchasing power to access an ever-evolving range of images.  

Now in our Entertainment State, organisations de-programme compulsive shoppers, along with those who have seen Jesus piloting a flying saucer. Others offer therapy to prepare viewers for the death of soap-opera characters as vaporous as Xera and as full of metaphors as the shape of any purchase.

We are all consumers. In our new myriad-channel century, pure advertisement-stuff is all we have left which might possibly be described as spirit.  Such heightened elements connect the world of product-technology with the metaphysical stuff of belief, and all are signs, texts, and semiotic shapes. In this sense, the Reeves’ Flying Saucer Pilgrimage is as ideologically coherent and capable of producing fuzzy revelation as the New Testament, Mork and Mindy, or the new cosmology.

Cults of Unreason

As for these far too easily dismissed early flying-saucer books, we no longer have the view of the psychologist Christopher Evans in Cults of Unreason [3]  a narrow-minded priggish book ridiculing thinkers like Adamski as foolish eccentrics, mentally unstable and fraudulent.

Evans, with his rather provincial intellectual innocence, assumes that good old-fashioned petit-bourgeois common sense more than suffices to distinguish the real from the false. The scientist Evans, with infernal snobbish cheek, concentrates on Adamski’s “madness,” without the nerve or respect to mention the definitive irrationality of the mysteries celebrated in the great religions of the world.  

As for the madness of science, he doesn’t mention that the full German scientific, psychiatric, and medical establishments, almost without exception, supported and worked for the Holocaust.  A list of later scientific enormities, with far better public relations than National Socialism, would stretch beyond the sun and moon.

Evans would certainly not accept the idea that profound significances can be manufactured from the pure ideological protein of what Coleridge called “the willing suspension of disbelief.” The fallen Ionian objectivity of Evans and his particular milieu is the great methodological panjandrum, dominating the great aging evidence-games of Western culture which strip systems of all anomalies until the equations work, then equate the results to wonderful reality.

In our present Entertainment State, personality and performances have largely replaced traditional forms of causation and valid truths.  No longer is fact so easily separable from fiction.

What would Evans think of today’s schools, where Michael Faraday has no chance against Michael Jackson? When Princess Diana died, an old-fashioned Sherlock Holmes search for killers had hardly a place in media operations.  Within minutes, the search was not to find facts, but to find Elton John and ask his reaction. The opinions and sorrows of stars quickly took over all moral and social reference-levels.

Some generations after Evans, we have less philosophic difficulty with the fuzzy truths which are part-born, almost-worlds, approximations to some abstract realization.  Rather than a tragic misconception or at worst a magician’s trick, a far more profitable view of Adamski’s world-view is as a part-rejected ghost world, an information-dump of all potential fuzzy elements.  When alien contact occurs, it may take the form of a half-abandoned information-dump.

Such a pan-dimensional hybrid reality, with complex imposture as the universal structure—not molecules—still disturbs many.  This Fortean system, as we may call it since Charles Fort was the first prophet of both media and ufology, is far more profitable regarded as a fuzzy framework partially realized.  Thus, Fort’s idea predicted the situation of imagination posed in Jorge Luis Borges’ “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius:” that we create the world by a management of wonders, not by the facts or fictions advertised by Protestantism.

The legendary 1968 Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying Objects, chaired by the notorious Edward U. Condon, was surely our equivalent to the Vatican / Galileo debate.  Denying the validity of UFO claims exemplifies the modern, official vanishing of a whole species of information.

Together, the project committee and the raw evidence played a kind of shadow-game, just as the view from Galileo’s telescope vied with the views inherited from antiquity.  Competing information programs and counter-programs constitute a modern tribal ritual, an anthropological battle-royal between the military-industrial-mythological complex and the UFO sighting claims.

Condon’s study forces us to consider Fort’s idea of “era” forces which play outrageous god-game tricks on one another.  It forces us to think of personalities, politics, and technology as character-actors in the continuing drama of that great evidence-game to decide whether space folk, and many things else, shall be allowed to exist.

This is as potentially explosive as replacing distance/time equals velocity with ds/dt = v.  The tribal spirits are now transformed into programs at war with other programs, warring for the high frontier of concrete realization, of power, prestige, and social and political control over the forces of dread and love.  

Against this battle, almost-forgotten books like Bryant Reeve’s Flying Saucer Pilgrimage and Frank Stranges’ Stranger at the Pentagon [4] begin to look interesting again.

Never before in human history have so many systems prowled and hunted, ravenous for mass-belief.  The yield of such weak belief-fields is not fraudulent but, like ESP, is of low potential energy. When we have stopped laughing at Xera, we might consider how such belief-systems may gain just enough energy of conviction to be, as Jung put it, “intercalated into the cycle of corporeal changes.”

The affluent Western world is made of competing scripts and cellular conspiracies.  In our burgeoning new fifth estate of entertainment, bubbles of pure advertising-concentrate have long replaced those traditional metaphysical and theological conspiracies which supported the historical identities of matter, forces, and fields, and action at a distance.

That solutions-culture which was an essential part of an industrial time of tall, smoking chimneys has been replaced by a culture of active metaphors which invade like old B-Feature aliens.  In our countless-channel cyberspace, metaphor comes by night, and when the world awakes, only a few notice that folk are not saying quite what they said the previous day.

Thus George Orwell’s “writing on the wall” is best viewed as a warning against the commercial break: a thing of original innocence which came to dominate the world in its fast-food growth as a live metaphor.  This is our most potent cultural symbol, more important than Jesus or his rationalist successors who claim that only measurement constitutes truth.

From cave-wall to TV, the raising of images is still the most important of human activities.  Animals do not need such an incredible variety of raw undiluted input which overwhelmingly affects psychological health, social relations, and political and ideological directions.  The art and entertainment industry is wholly based on this ancient practice.

Objective fact is only a minor player, a rumour almost, a fantasy in itself as in their lives humans pass through a series of massive pantomime structures: Royal Courts, Hollywood, the military, scientific, and religious establishments—all pure image control straight out of a new Matrix script.

Human beings thrive largely on patent nonsense through which, paradoxically, they appear to derive all moral sense, as they do from comedy.  Sacrifice for others is patent nonsense: it goes against all common sense and factual practicality, yet such playful silliness defines all humans as entities precious and unique.

Finally, where have Xera and her gaggle of impoverished ghosts gone to?  An old industrial spatial vector informs the grammar of that question.  As Noam Chomsky almost said: grammar, along with metaphor, forms the center of all conspiracies.  As Marshall MacLuhan almost said: in the virtual information-bank there is no space, but there is a great amount of interest.  

So where is David, with his nose-flute, his dog on a string, his coat of many colours?  David is now gone from the mystic throng of the Portobello Road. As a product Magus, perhaps he now sells dreams in cities where his hair is not green and his name is not David.

Footnotes

  1. Reeve, Bryant and Reeve, Helen, Flying Saucer Pilgrimage.  Whitefish: Literary Licensing, 2012.
  2. Smoot, George, and Davidson, Keay, Wrinkles in Time.  New York: Harper Perennial, 2007, p 284.
  3. Evans, Christopher Riche, Cults of Unreason.  New York: Delacorte Press, 1975.
  4. Stranges, Frank, Stranger at the Pentagon. New Brunswick: Inner Light Publications & Global Communications, 1997.

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