Alternate Perceptions Magazine, March 2019
The Jigsaw Puzzle of Ufology
by: Dr. Greg Little
It was in 1985 when Walt Andrus came to Memphis, Tennessee to make a presentation to a local UFO group and a few MUFON members. Andrus was then the Director of MUFON (Mutual UFO Network) and his certainty that UFOs were nuts-and-bolts craft piloted by extraterrestrial beings was apparent during his lecture.
Andrus became interested in UFOs back in 1948 after he, his wife, and son saw a formation of four silvery UFOs over Phoenix, Arizona. In the 1970s Andrus was a production manager for Motorola’s Automatic Production Division and was a graduate of Central Technical Institute of Kansas City. In Ron Story’s (1979) Encyclopedia of UFOs, Andrus related, “…my initial conclusion is that our Earth is being visited by entities from an advanced intelligence in their spacecraft conducting a surveillance of life on this planet” (p. 17). He added, “I cannot lose sight of the probability that they could constitute some unknown physical or psychological manifestation that cannot be explained by present-day science.”
Despite that added caution about other possible explanations, at his Memphis talk, Andrus was clearly irritated when the extraterrestrial hypothesis was challenged. “We already know what they (the extraterrestrial craft) are,” he shot back, “we need to find out what their propulsion system is and where they come from.” I vividly recall asking him about some psychological explanations but they were completely brushed off. “They are definitely physical extraterrestrial craft,” was his reply.
I also asked Andrus about John Keel and the wide range of Keel’s ideas about UFO and a host of related phenomenon. “They aren’t part of the UFO phenomenon,” was his reply. The type of Keel’s reports Andrus dismissed included some of the more bizarre abductions, apparent paranormal events, odd glowing entities, and the like. These are what are sometimes referred to as “high strangeness” reports. They are typically witness accounts of events that are so bizarre and absurd, that at face value, they are usually thought to simply be impossible. Nothing in the known sciences could apparently account for them. Some of these will be related later, but what is important to understand is that nuts-and-bolts ufologists don’t like them and immediately dismiss or ignore them. The main reason is that these reports simply don’t fit their preconceived idea of what an extraterrestrial craft “should” be. Nor do they conform to their beliefs about what alien visitors “would” do on Earth.
Back in 1984 one of the early ufologists, August C. Roberts, wrote a review of my first UFO book (The Archetype Experience) in an issue of the defunct magazine Would You Believe. In retrospect, the title of the magazine was apt because so much of ufology strains credulity. Roberts described ufology as a gigantic jigsaw puzzle. Ufology is clearly a bizarre field split into so many factions, belief systems, and different sectors of events that it defies understanding. In a 1994 book (Grand Illusions) I wrote the following paraphrase of Roberts’ idea and referencing him as the source:
“Imagine a gigantic jig-saw puzzle spread out over the land. The puzzle extends as far as you can see in each direction and you have no idea how far it goes. Its pieces are scattered over miles and miles. No matter where you walk on the puzzle you can’t see all of it. You observe people working on the puzzle in different places, and, as you walk to where someone is busily fitting some pieces together, they tell you they have ‘solved’ the entire puzzle. Others working on the puzzle tell you there is a conspiracy to keep them from solving it. Occasionally, someone loudly announces that the government knows the puzzle’s secret—but won’t tell—and that the government is actively hiding the truth.
As you continue to walk around the puzzle to areas where other people are working furiously to ‘solve’ it, you notice that each person has almost completely focused their attention on their own little area. Their ‘solution’ to the mysterious puzzle only takes into account the small area where they are working. They conveniently ignore all the other areas of the magnificent, enigmatic puzzle. Not surprisingly, no one’s ‘solution’ explains the entire puzzle—only they don’t know it.”
Robert’s idea is, at least to this writer, (one who has traipsed through the field of ufology and its related phenomena for over 40 years) an apt description of the field. Contained in the vast range of phenomena are ufo sightings, creatures and occupants associated with ufos, materializations of beings, bizarre sexual encounters, conspiracy allegations, continual calls for “disclosure,” psychic abilities, contactees, ancient reports of phenomena, religious/spiritual/angelic events, and so many other strange “things” that a comprehensive list is not useful. The bottom line (as to whether or not high strangeness events are related to ufology) can be encapsulated into a couple questions and assertions.
First, it’s clear that all of these phenomena are somehow part of the whole field of ufology, at least in the sense that for the last 260 years all of the above range of phenomena has been welded together into a nearly impenetrable conglomerate. (Yes, it’s really been 260 years.)
One key question is simple, at least in a way. Are the reports of UFOs—genuine unidentified flying objects—and the credible reports of alien abduction really something that is separate and apart from the more esoteric elements of ufology? Was Walt Andrus correct back in the 1980s when he related that genuine UFOs are extraterrestrial nuts-and-bolts craft and the rest is “something else”?
Perhaps the “something else” is phenomena related to psychological processes? On the other hand, many UFO cases that had what seem to be “nuts-and-bolts” craft definitely also involved the “high strangeness” element. Does that mean that perhaps UFOs aren’t just nuts-and-bolts craft with alien occupants? What exactly should be ignored by ufologists? What is relevant and irrelevant in ufology?
Countless UFO books from the 1960s to the present have asked the big questions: “What the hell is going on? What does this all mean?” The answers they give vary widely. Some writers assert it’s all extraterrestrial. On the other hand, skeptics say that nothing is going on other than human imagination and human misperception mixed in with hoaxes and a bit of psychological disturbance. But that’s not a satisfactory answer nor is it the correct one. That’s not to say that imagination, misperception, and psychological disturbance haven’t influenced ufology—they all have to a very real extent. But those who have truly studied the field of ufology know that something is going on.
Perhaps dismissing the entire field is the right approach for those who have a need to deny the reality of a genuine phenomenon outside of human control or understanding. Saying “nothing is there” can create a feeling of safety in a world where so much happens so fast and is out of one’s control. So be it for the skeptics. If the belief that it’s all about nothing gives people comfort, then that’s fine for them. With respect to the comfort of belief systems, I’m actually in favor of both creationists and evolutionists—if they leave the others to their personal belief systems without somehow infringing on the “nonbelievers.” People tend to believe what they choose to believe and do so for reasons they seldom understand. But many, many others know that something is there at the heart of the entire UFO field. All those “other” oddities, the high strangeness events, swirl around ufology—as John Keel and a few others knew. Not many people know that John Keel shared a set of beliefs about the UFO phenomenon with a highly respected psychologist and theorist—Dr. Carl G. Jung. (We’ll get into these ideas later.) Jung recognized that there was a reality to the UFO phenomenon and repeated a brief summary sentence many times—“something is seen, one doesn’t know what.” It is still an apt assessment. For some 260 years, many people have seen and interacted with “something,” something that leads many to believe it’s extraterrestrial. Others think it’s spiritual or psychic—plus a whole lot of other solutions have emerged.
The Historic Emergence of the Ancient Astronaut Theory Came With the First Contactee
As prior articles have shown, the first true contactee emerged in the mid-1700s.(Link) That contactee’s series of visitations were virtually identical to modern contactees and included psychic events, a long spiritual awakening, meetings with materializing extraterrestrials, and trips into space. In more “modern” times, writers have interpreted various biblical stories as alien visitations, but in the true meaning of the term “contactee” we can’t label the individuals in the Bible who reported angelic contacts as contactees. (They never saw the “angels” as extraterrestrials.) Oddly, it was also this first 1700’s contactee who also was the source of the ancient astronaut theory.
He asserted that Earth was not only visited by extraterrestrial beings but that they played a role in history. That’s why I say that ufology has been some 260 years in the making. When Swedenborg made his first declarations about beings from other worlds visiting Earth, he was both criticized and admired. Have we really made much progress since then?
Finding the Needle in a Haystack of Needles
Roberts, who died in 1994, gave an apt description of the UFO field with his massive jigsaw puzzle analogy. One can, for example, come to the conclusion that it’s all extraterrestrial—if everything that doesn’t fit that explanation is ignored or dismissed. Someone else can conclude that it’s all psychological—if a lot of physical evidence is ignored or explained as “irrelevant.” Another person can conclude that it’s related to psychic phenomena or spiritual manifestations. And others seeking more mundane explanations might conclude that it’s swarms of insects, “space critters,” plasma discharges, government experimentation, hoaxes, and the like. In sum, “ufology” covers a truly vast range of phenomena that almost defies human understanding. The “piecemeal” approach of looking at case-by-case has its place in this, but there is a fundamental set of problems with it.
One problem I realized many years ago came to my attention when I was ardently doing what an Editor of FATE Magazine recommended. He recommended that every Fortean case (seemingly anomalous and bizarre events) be carefully examined and taken to the final conclusion. I did that with several cases. One was the 1872 disappearance of The Iron Mountain. Another was the “Memphis Snake Shower” of 1877. (Link) Both cases were “solved” but it took a lot of time and, with the advent of the internet, the cases live on as unsolved mysteries on countless websites. The problem is that there are simply too many cases in ufology, too many related phenomena cases, and thousands more each year being piled on. While many call it “looking for a needle in a haystack,” back in 1984 (The Archetype Experience) I called it “looking for a needle in an ever-growing haystack pile of needles.”
There is No Smoking Gun
Ufologists continually use the phrase “smoking gun” as if they have somehow found THE case that solves everything. There is no “smoking gun” case. No one case solves ufology. There is no disclosure, nor will it occur, because there is nothing definitive to disclose. The government deceives. We all know that. It’s always been so. So do people. The “government” will be the first to know if and when a flying saucer is about to set down on the White House lawn, but they will be as surprised as the rest of us—assuming that ever happens. And they won’t know much earlier than our TVs will let the entire world know. In essence, the point here boils down to it truly being a massive puzzle. A puzzle of so may pieces that it’s almost incomprehensible. Yes, there is something going on. And it probably has a whole lot of interacting processes and events going on at the same time. Some of it we can grasp. Some we can’t. It’s like the Gestalt Psychology adage, “you can’t see the forest for the trees.” We see the trees: The individual UFO cases; The Contactees; The Ancient Alien phenomenon; The old texts and archaeological ruins that look “alien”; The reports of psychics; Abductees, and more. But the forest is another thing. Something is there, one doesn’t know what.
Despite this seemingly fruitless search ufologists have engaged in for so many decades, there are some real answers. Some people may well be able to comprehend what is going on. The problem is encapsulated into the role of beliefs. One a belief gets set; it becomes a nearly impossible task to change it. And the truth can be astonishing and unexpected. For many, perhaps it is best to deny any of it is real. For others, they can have their comfort in believing that it’s extraterrestrial.