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UFO Skeptic

Fear, Sanity, and Crossing the Line

By Michael Swords

We are intrigued by the UFO phenomenon. We are amused, excited, fixated by it. Some of us reject it, some loudly, violently. The violence betrays an excitement as well. Some of us sympathetically study and critique it. And some go "all the way" and cross the line. They arise in the mornings emotionally living in a world visited now and often by occupants of UFOs. This latter group is very different from the rest of the entire spectrum of violent debunkers to deeply interested and sympathetic UFOlogists (and also most thrill-seeking camp-followers). Oddly, the debunkers and the sympaths have something much more in common with one another than the sympaths care to admit: neither of them will really, fully, emotionally, cross the line. Why not? Is there something in common which produces the debunker's violence and the sympath's arm's length "objectivity?" Perhaps there is . . . an emotional something rather than an empirical one.

I would like to contribute something to that interesting psychosocial mystery, but do it in an oblique manner. I would like to do it in the words of C. S. Lewis, the great Christian theologian, as well as science fiction author. The materials below are from Perelandra, written in 1944. Other than omitting some irrelevant (for our purposes) interspersed phrasing and sentences, I have changed one word: Lewis' "eldila" (an extraterrestrial angelic being, which might be good or bad) for "extraterrestrial." I leave in the part about the "angels" and spirits, as it applies to the matter-at-hand of current UFOlogical ideas, and crossing the line. I will also leave out the name of the character to be visited by the storyteller, and you can for "X" substitute the name of your favorite contactee/abductee or crossed-the-line UFOlogist. We enter Lewis' story as he walks across the English countryside to visit his friend "X" who has told him that he has seen and communicated with these extraterrestrial beings.

"I kept on telling myself that it would be perfectly delightful to spend a night with X and also kept on feeling that I was not enjoying the prospect as much as I ought to. It was the 'extraterrestrials' that were my trouble . . . to have met an extraterrestrial, to have spoken with something whose life [may] be practically unending . . .

"Much worse [was] my growing conviction that . . . the 'extraterrestrials' were not leaving him alone. Little things in his conversation, little mannerisms, accidental allusions which he made and then drew back with an awkward apology, all suggested that he was keeping strange company; that there were--well, Visitors--at that cottage.

"As I plodded along the empty, unfenced road which runs across the middle of the common I tried to dispel my growing sense of malaise by analyzing it. What, after all, was I afraid of? The moment I had put this question I regretted it. I was shocked to find that mentally I had used the word "afraid." Up till then I had tried to pretend that I was feeling only distaste, or embarrassment, or even boredom. But the mere word afraid had let the cat out of the bag. I realized now that my emotion was neither more, nor less, nor other, than Fear. And I realized that I was afraid of two things--afraid that sooner or later I myself might meet an 'extraterrestrial', and afraid that I might get 'drawn in'. I suppose everyone knows this fear of getting 'drawn in'--the moment at which a man realizes that what had seemed mere speculations are on the point of landing him in the Communist Party or the Christian Church--the sense that a door has just slammed and left him on the inside.

"As to my intense wish never to come into contact with the 'extraterrestrials' myself, I am not sure whether I can make you understand it. It was something more than a prudent desire to avoid creatures alien in kind, very powerful, and very intelligent. The truth was that all I heard about them served to connect two things which one's mind tends to keep separate, and that connecting gave one a sort of shock. We tend to think about non-human intelligence's in two distinct categories which we label 'scientific' and 'supernatural' respectively. We think, in one mood, of Mr. Wells' Martians, or his Selenites. In quite a different mood we let our minds loose on the possibility of angels, ghosts, fairies, and the like. But the very moment we are compelled to recognize a creature in either class as real the distinction begins to be blurred: and when it is a creature like 'these extraterrestrials' the distinction vanishes altogether. These things [do not come and go as do] animals--to that extent one [may have] to classify them with the second group; but they have some kind of material vehicle whose presence could (in principle) be scientifically verified. To that extent they belonged to the first group. The distinction between natural and supernatural, in fact, [is breaking] down; and when it does so, one realizes how great a comfort it had been--how it had eased the burden of intolerable strangeness which this universe imposes upon us by dividing it into two halves and encouraging the mind to never think of both in the same context. What price we may have paid for this comfort in the way of false security and accepted confusion of thought is another matter."

As Lewis plods onward toward X's cottage and the threat of emotional acceptance and being drawn in, he lives the CSICOPian nightmare of being forced more and more to confront the unincluded and be pushed across the line.

"My only sensible course was to turn back at once and get safe home, before I lost my memory or became hysterical, and to put myself in the hands of a doctor [a Ph.D. in a 'respectable university', no doubt]. It was sheer madness to go on."

Or to risk looking through the telescope.

"This was upon me now. I staggered on into the cold and the darkness, already half convinced that I must be entering what is called Madness. But each moment my opinion about sanity changed. Had it ever been more than a convention--a comfortable set of blinkers, an agreed code of wishful thinking, which excluded from our view the full strangeness and malevolence of the universe we are compelled to inhabit?"

Lewis is almost ready to cross the line.

Debunkers and sympaths walk Lewis' dark road with somewhat different attitudes and emotions, but in the end they both sense the precipice and back away--one screaming and back-turned for "home," one wary and hesitant in limbo. Those who have leapt into the dark precipice, who have been "drawn in," are fundamentally changed, and may not recognize their profound difference from their wary friends, or realize the power of the barrier which separates them. They may "talk UFOlogy" but do so from parallel universes only partly intersecting. One must continue to hold back and talk science; the other may not anymore see the need to.

Where are you on Lewis' path? Is there a "correct" place to be, or merely a preferred one? And, can we understand one another, or at least tolerate? It may be "easy" to be taken up involuntarily and hurled across the line into the precipice, but it is (it seems) a very difficult matter to voluntarily allow oneself to be drawn in without such "assistance."

The above is from a Roman Catholic who has crossed the precipice toward God, afterlife, soul, and angels, but who remains a wary watcher at the Edge of UFOs and their Inhabitants. The author and one of his brothers also saw, along with several human occupants of West Virginia's Kanawha Valley a reasonably good Close Encounter of the First Kind. CEIs are, short of something like Father Gill's "distant" CEIII, the ultimate UFO tease. They can pixy-lead you "away from home" but not all the way to Fairyland. A CEI is an incomplete form of knowledge, just at the right emotional distance to allow one to know what one saw and stay safely on this side of the precipice . . . but not run away.

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