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
"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
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
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"
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.