The study of consciousness, otherwise known as neuroscience, is intimately involved with the UFO Close Encounter phenomenon, and obviously needs further research.
Some neuroscientists believe that consciousness is no more than a product of the brainÆs nerve cells, called neurones. On the other hand Professor David Chalmers (1995), at the University of California, writes that consciousness '... might be explained by a new kind of theoryö that ô... will probably involve new fundamental laws, and the concept of information may play a central role. These faint glimmerings suggest that a theory of consciousness may have startling consequences for our view of the universe and of ourselves.'
This brings us to what I see as the major issue of neuroscience which is: can consciousness somehow leave the body, as for example during Out-of-Body Experiences (OBEs)? If OBEs are shown to be genuine, a whole host of further questions arise with enormous implications, not just for Ufology, but for religion, medicine and society in general. Some of these questions are: what is the medium of consciousness both within and outside the body, what is the nature of the interface between consciousness and the brain, and where might consciousness go beyond the body? This final question can be split, because the average Near-Death-Experience (NDE) seems to have two stages.
During part one you may find yourself floating above your body, as during an OBE, able to see the landscape around you, but seemingly invisible to anyone else still in their body. From a scientific perspective this is baffling, because, in order to see, the human eye needs to interact with light, and anything that interacts with light ought to be visible to others. This implies that anyone who is invisible should be blind.
During part two of a NDE the person may find themselves in a completely different realm, or landscape, sometimes after passing through a dark tunnel. This realm, wherever and whatever it is, is the main topic of this article, because UFOs may also access it.
Physicist Paul Davies seems to think that further research into consciousness is important, and includes an interesting chapter on the subject in his book Are We Alone? Implications of the Discovery of Extraterrestrial Life (1995). In the last chapter of his earlier book The Matter Myth, Davies disputes the notion of the 'ghost in the machine.' The '... image of the human mind as a sort of nebulous substance that exists independently of the body.' (Davies & Gribbin, 1991:302) His reason is that research into the nature of matter shows that the deeper one looks into the atomic realm, the more 'solid' matter stops being solid, and instead appears to be made of little more than interacting, possibly multidimensional, energy fields. Baffling though it may be, solid, indivisible building blocks of matter do not seem to exist. Davies therefore rejects dualistic 'ghost in the machine' thinking '... not because there is no ghost, but because there is no machine.' (ibid.303)
While this is clever, and illustrates that most people's understanding of what matter is made of lags a long way behind that of the average quantum physicist, what does it actually mean? One suggestion (which is probably not subscribed to by Paul Davies) is that it means that, at some fundamental level, consciousness, matter and perhaps even space, are 'made' of the same substance, but are formatted differently at the scale of the human body. If so, then there may be no reason why consciousness needs to be limited to the confines of the body. Consciousness and the body may simply be two phenomena that tend to remain superimposed, or connected, for the duration of one's life, but which under special circumstances, such as during a UFO 'abduction', or a NDE, may operate separately.
An increasing number of Close Encounter experiencers report feeling as if they were somehow out of their bodies during their experiences. Research into OBEs or NDEs would surely be of great interest to neuroscientists, yet in a recent New Scientist report on the second biennial Tucson (USA) Neuroscience Conference entitled 'Towards a Science of Consciousness' NDEs were not even mentioned! This seems puzzling, or even perhaps suspicious.
Late in 1995, an episode of the TV science show Towards 2000 featured the Dutch cardiologist Dr Pim Van Lommel explaining that his research into Near-Death-Experiences in 10 separate hospitals had revealed that NDEs are genuine examples of consciousness leaving the physical body and entering what appears to be an extra-dimensional after-death realm coexisting with normal four dimensional spacetime. He further claimed that his research had shown that NDEs are not hallucinations, or the result of a lack of oxygen to the brain. Neither medical drugs, nor anaesthetics, had any bearing on the NDE, and length of clinical death did not affect the depth, or detail of the experience.
Likewise, a leading English neuropsychiatrist, Dr Peter Fenwick and his wife Elizabeth have published The Truth in the Light: An Investigation of Over 300 Near-Death-Experiences in which they conclude that the mind and brain can function separately. To try to explain how this might be possible they refer to an old, but largely ignored, theory of mind called the Transmission Theory:
'In its simplest form, a transmission theory states that mind and brain are different and are linked together in some way. Sense data is transformed by the brain for transmission to an external mind. Mind in its turn can will an action which is transmitted to brain and so is able to initiate brain processes and thus actions.' (Fenwick & Fenwick, 1995: 260)
The existence of other realms or dimensions accessible by consciousness is frequently referred to in writings on shamanism, spiritualism, and mysticism, as well as in the UFO literature. Any religion with a transcendental god must surely also believe in such a realm. Do such realms exist, or are they perhaps all different aspects of the same multi-functional realm? Can UFOs and/or aliens access this realm and, if so, how do we set about researching the subject? Proof of such a realm, especially if it were populated with sentient beings, would be one of the greatest discoveries in the history of science, quite apart from possibly facilitating contact with some form of extraterrestrial intelligence. Let us look at a brief historical review of theories about the existence such realms.
In ancient Greece, the philosopher Plato expounded his Doctrine of Forms which claimed that everything on earth had its spiritual equivalent, or Form, in a higher, changeless realm which, while invisible to the senses, was apprehensible by the mind, or soul, which, like the Forms, are immortal. Physicist Paul Davies often echoes this idea when he points out that the laws of physics and mathematics appear to exist independently of spacetime. Since Plato's time, descriptions of this realm have varied, but it has remained steadfastly invisible and apparently only accessible to the majority of humans under special circumstances such as while in a trance, during NDEs, at death, or during a Close Encounter.
For example, the seventeenth century Swedish scientist, scholar and mystic Emanuel Swedenborg reported that such a realm existed and was accessible via consciousness. At times he remained in a trance for more than 24 hours, claiming that he was communicating with his friends in this spirit world. Well before UFOs were the subject of the popular press, Swedenborg insisted that within this realm one could also interact with beings from other worlds.
Earlier this century the influential Jesuit theologian, philosopher and palaeontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1955) put forward several controversial ideas which were not well received by the Catholic hierarchy. He invented the term ænoosphereÆ which was the consciousness equivalent of the biosphere, the realm of all living things on the surface of the planet. Chardin suggested that all living things were connected both physically and psychically and that consciousness would evolve to become increasingly dominant.
More recently, the biologist Dr Rupert Sheldrake (1981) proposed the hypothesis of Formative Causation, which suggested '... that self-organising systems at all levels of complexity are organised by morphic fields, which ... contain an inherent memory, transmitted from similar past organisms by the process of morphic resonance. In what was seen as an attack on Darwinism, Sheldrake proposed that morphic fields contained behavioural, social, cultural, and mental fields and '... involved the transmission of formative influences through or across time and space without a decrease due to distance or lapse of time.'
This gives morphic resonance an other-dimensional flavour. Sheldrake's ideas so outraged the scientific community that it was proposed that his books be publicly burned, which no doubt only served to further publicise them. Nevertheless Sheldrake is highly qualified and his ideas are timely and impeccably argued. He and sympathetic colleagues speak of Neoplatonism which postulates a transcendent realm of changeless archetypes or Forms and also emphasises that just as all living beings are animated by immanent souls, so the entire cosmos is animated by the world soul. (ibid:166)
In his book UFO Chronicles of the Soviet Union (1992:90) ufologist Jacques Vallee quotes Professor Alexis Zolotov who proposes the existence of an informational field with a complexity beyond that of electromagnetic and biological fields. He seems to believe that UFOs may somehow access this realm.
In his popular series of anthropological books American writer Carlos Castaneda has his mentor Don Jun Matus dividing reality into two realms: the world of our everyday experience, which he terms the 'tonal', and an extraordinary paranormal realm called the world of 'the second attention' or the 'nagual'. (Coincidentally, it is interesting to note that the Irish have traditionally referred to clairvoyants as possessing 'the second sight'.) As an accomplished seer, and therefore a powerful personification of this realm, the term 'nagual' is also used to refer to Don Juan himself.
Castaneda claims that mastery of this realm enables the 'nagual' to teleport, or visit other worlds, and interact with conscious inorganic beings that are to be found there. Castaneda's most recent book The Art of Dreaming (1993) details the lengthy training that enabled him to enter this extraordinary realm. The obvious implication of this is that humans who cannot enter the world of 'the second attention' are only perceiving a limited, subordinate part of reality.
One of the most imaginative and provocative speakers in this field, is Terence McKenna, a colleague of Rupert Sheldrake's, whose book The Archaic Revival (1991) is recommended to all UFO researchers. McKenna too believes that some sort of informational realm is accessible by human consciousness. 'The Oversoul is some kind of field that is generated by human beings but that is not under the control of any institution, any government, or any religion. It is actually the most intelligent lifeform on the planet, and it regulates human culture through the release of ideas out of eternity and into the continuum of history.' (p.61)
While suggesting that the entities seen during Close Encounters may not actually be extraterrestrials, McKenna does not rule out this possibility. Nevertheless he considers that, like the shamans of old, we have a responsibility to get to know this information rich realm. 'The imagination is the true ground of being. There is a dimension parallel to time, outside of time, that is accessible only to the degree that one can decondition oneself from the history-bound cognitive systems that have carried one to this point.' (ibid.64)
In his important article Alien Abductions: A Shamanic Perspective on UFOs (1990) Australian UFO researcher Bill Chalker took his readers on a guided tour of otherworldly shamanistic realms, especially the 'Imaginal realm', a term coined by the French Islamic scholar Henry Corbin. This realm has all sorts of inhabitants that may interact with humans, either invited, or uninvited. Chalker notes the similarities between Close Encounters and shamanic initiations, both of which may result in their participants developing paranormal abilities.
It is important to realise that what is being suggested is that some of the inhabitants of this other realm, while not normally visible, unless one is in an altered state of consciousness, do under certain circumstances seem to have the ability to materialise within spacetime and act as physical beings with paranormal powers. It is this dual role that makes them so bizarre and interesting.
Likewise, in his book Daimonic Reality: A Fieldguide to the Otherworld (1994) Patrick Harpur writes that, throughout history, myths and folklore have described entities that, as creatures of both the Otherworld and Earth have the capacity to be invisible or solid. They have been called sprites, nymphs, elves, genii, gnomes, spirits, fauns, leprechauns, satyrs, dwarves, giants, hobgoblins or, as the ancient Greeks preferred, daimons. Harpur writes '... never quite divine nor quite human, the daimons ... were neither spiritual nor physical, but both ... They were paradoxical beings, both good and bad, benign and frightening, guiding and warning, protecting and maddening.' (Harpur, 1994)
One thing that most daimons have in common, apart from the ability to materialise and dematerialise, is their glowing red eyes. Such eyes are frequently reported during UFO Close Encounters. This suggests that many so called aliens may be merely daimons using space-age props.
In his classic UFO book Passport to Magonia (1969) Jacques Vallee also equates otherworldly beings with UFO aliens. For example, Celtic fairies were thought to use their fairy rings to abduct people into a strange magical realm where time was distorted. For over a thousand years European folklore has been full of tales of this nature.
The suggestion that is emerging is that the known laws of physics only apply while one remains within spacetime, but can be overridden by any being, human, alien, or otherwise, who can 'enter', or move his or her consciousness, into the other realm that so many of these writers refer to. But how does one enter this other realm? Perhaps this is what mystics and yogis are learning to do when the venture deep within their consciousness during meditation. It has long been noted that these are the very people who most frequently develop paranormal abilities.
This transcendental realm seems to be many things to many people. The shaman uses it for healing, clairvoyance, and communication with spirits of the dead, while the mystic generally sees these accomplishments as distractions on his, or her, path to the Absolute. That this Otherworld may contain aliens, spirits of the dead, daimons, and even gods, hardly makes things less confusing. What we need is some sort of road-map to help us discover the topology, or 'landscape', of this other dimension or realm.
In his book The Visionary Human: Mystical Consciousness & Paranormal Perspectives (1991) Nevill Drury writes: 'Historically, transpersonal maps of altered states have derived either from the psychedelic research undertaken during the late 1960s and early 1970s, or from frameworks based substantially on eastern religious traditions. While I would certainly not dispute the very considerable contributions that Hindu and Buddhist concepts have made to transpersonal thought, it seems to me that ultimately the most complete frameworks of mystical and visionary consciousness will be those which transcend specific belief systems altogether.' (p.98)
Further on Drury writes: 'In short, we are beginning to accumulate a real body of data on dissociative and 'peak' states of consciousness which in turn have a direct bearing on the authenticity of religious beliefs. We may well be entering a new phase where religious and mystical experiences can be demystified and subjected to some sort of testing and validation. Without doubt, a new pragmatism has appeared on the horizon.' (p.99)
What might such a 'new pragmatism' reveal? In Raymond Fowler's book The Watchers II (1995) he writes that abductions and NDEs are: '... different sides of the same paraphysical cause!' and that, '... UFOs and their entities come from behind death's Great Door.' Some UFO researchers have suspected this for years, but it does not make our work any easier. Rather than just UFOs, we now seem to be researching the fundamental nature of reality itself. In this context it is interesting to note that according to Professor John Mack, the primary reason that Harvard University set up a committee to investigate him was because he had had the temerity to claim that his research with UFO abductees had led him to believe that, not only were they sane, but that science's current view of reality might be inadequate or incomplete.
What do researchers outside the UFO field have to say? An article in The Quest magazine reports on the 3rd 'Annual Conference of the Institute of Noetic Sciences' in the United States, which had the theme: 'The Sacred Source: Life, Death, and the Survival of Consciousness'. One of the speakers, Jeffrey Mishlove, while discussing 'Human Survival and the theory of Hyperspace', suggested that other dimension may facilitate the survival of human consciousness after death. (Rosen & Fowler, 1994)
Similarly, in his latest book Breakthrough: The Next Step (1995), Whitley Strieber writes of people seeing what they thought were dead relatives during Close Encounters. Were these clinically dead people that an alien intelligence is able to furnish with temporary, or virtual, bodies for their return from an after-death realm? In the book Strieber strongly advocates meditation as a method of attuning one's consciousness to that of the alien intelligence.
In the book Dialogues with a Modern Mystic (1994) by Andrew Harvey & Mark Matousek, the highly articulate Harvey says: 'Unless we know what death is while we are in the body, we're going to go into a darkness we don't understand. What the mystic does is to remain alive while dead and dead while alive, to burn steadfastly in the fire beyond what we call 'life' and what we call 'death'. ' I assume that this means that by learning to take one's consciousness into the after-death realm while still alive, one can remain conscious and lucid within that realm after bodily death. Andrew Harvey, an Oxford University graduate, gained his Illumination, or personal experience of this realm, from the young Indian mystic Mother Meera, who now works in Germany. (Harvey, 1992)
Perhaps we reveal the limited nature of our spiritual awareness by seeking the 'technical, nuts and bolts' nature of UFOs. It seems that the intelligence behind the Close Encounter phenomena has long since discovered, and is using, or perhaps actually lives in, the realm that we have been discussing. A realm that most humans only enter at death, or during NDEs, but which mysticism has been describing for eons.
Furthermore it seems that conscious access to this realm may facilitate what we could term a 'physics of the paranormal' whereby solid objects and sentient beings can materialise from that realm into spacetime, and vice versa. If this is the case, then arguments about whether UFOs are real, or all in the mind, are absurd, and do little more than delay constructive research. It also suggests that the average physicist's or neuroscientist's understanding of the link between consciousness and matter is woefully inadequate.
In this respect it is interesting to note that in his book Miracles Are My Visiting Cards (1987) the parapsychologist Professor Erlendur Haraldsson writes that his extensive research had uncovered no sign of fraud by the modern Indian mystic Sathya Sai Baba, who for over forty years has been materialising small solid objects such as rings and pendants for his followers. Startling though it might be, this research appears to show that consciousness is not only able to affect matter, but can somehow also produce it. Let us not fool ourselves into thinking that the Pentagon would not be interested in such research.
Veteran UFO researcher Jacques Vallee also believes that Close Encounters demonstrate a connection between consciousness and physical reality. As he says: 'The UFO Phenomenon exists. It has been with us throughout history. It is physical in nature and it remains unexplained in terms of contemporary science. It represents a level of consciousness that we have not yet recognised, and which is able to manipulate dimensions beyond time and space as we understand them.' (Vallee, 1996)
So how do we continue to study this realm? It would help if researchers in such fields as quantum physics, topology, neuroscience, parapsychology, transpersonal psychology, ufology, mysticism, and shamanism actually started talking to each other. New research methods may be needed, but the history of 20th century science is full of examples of scientific creativity in the face of baffling problems. The fact that we can investigate black holes, the ozone layer and the origins of the universe demonstrate that one does not have to take something to a laboratory to study it.
But how does one grasp the idea that an entity, let along a UFO, can æexist' in a realm or dimension that does not seem to have any visible physical location within spacetime? It might help to imagine what it would be like to be conscious, but not to have a physical body, as in our dreams, where we make do with imaginary bodies. Mystics have always taught that one must abandon one's ego if one wishes to enter transcendental realms, or merge with the Absolute.
Research into Artificial Intelligence and Virtual Reality may also help us comprehend this problem. Jacques Vallee (1988: 288) calls this other realm a multiverse, and believes that information theory may help us understand it. For example, one of mankind's most sophisticated inventions is the Internet, which, while requiring a vast web of computer hardware to run, is nevertheless an artificially created informational realm in which one can cavort without one's body.
The notion of downloading one's consciousness into Cyberspace has been around for several years now. Indeed many parents bemoan the fact that that is precisely what has happened to their teenaged offspring. It is ironical that we have gone to so much trouble and expense to create Cyberspace, which is already beginning to resemble a massive traffic jam, while it appears that, with suitable training, consciousness itself may be able to leave the body and interact with other beings within a fantastic, nonlocal, informational realm that requires no prior programming, and whose limits appear to be beyond normal human conception. Some futurists have even suggested that this may be the next step in human evolution.
As Terence McKenna writes in his book The Archaic Revival (1991:64) '... we have bootstrapped ourselves to the point that we can leave the planet, leave the monkey shell, leave all earthbound conceptions of ourselves behind, and push off into pure imagination.'
There are hundreds of other thinkers who have speculated on the mind-body connection, and on the existence of other realms. Such speculations are as old as religion, shamanism and mythology, and any metaphors used tend to represent the technology of the times. For example, following the computing theme, one could perhaps describe the brain as a read/write or input/output device that links the body, within the confines of spacetime, to consciousness that exists within some sort of hyperspatial realm that is able to sustain information, but whose ultimate nature we have yet to discover.
This means that if those neuroscientists, who insist that consciousness is just a product of the brain's cells, don't soon start publishing some meaningful research, the public in general, and ufologists in particular, may begin to wonder whether they are either incompetent, and/or are perhaps working to some hidden agenda. The connection between consciousness and the hyperspatial, or paranormal, behaviour of some UFO and their occupants could not have escaped the attention of military researchers. One reason that some neuroscientists may be prevaricating in their published research might be that they know that behind the scenes classified research is being conducted to discover what military or national security potential might lie in this field.
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Source: Journal of Alternative Realities - Volume 3, November 1996