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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

UFOs from Middle Ages to Modern Times


I remember the thrill I felt from the 1960s well into the 1990s at the prospect of UFO sightings and alien abductions. To me they suggested something unknown, enchanting, and perhaps miraculous about the world we inhabit. They were proof that we couldn’t understand ~ couldn’t “prove” ~ everything that happened around us.

In contrast, this last decade has been a drought of UFO excitement. Most of the UFO information we encounter is recycled from past decades, and anyone who openly accepts the idea of UFOs or aliens is greeted with heaps of scorn and ridicule, except on the History Channel. That’s why I’m glad to see a new book by Jacques Vallee, a French astronomer and leading commenter on UFO phenomena. Vallee always has taken the broad view ~ including the possibilities of archetypal symbolism or other-dimensional activity ~ to better understand UFOs, and seems to be expanding his perspectives even more with Wonders in the Sky: Unexplained Aerial Objects from Antiquity to Modern Times.

Here is a portion of his recent interview on Salon.com about the new book.
Why is the idea of ancient UFO sightings a controversial one?
Most UFO believers believe the phenomenon began in 1947, when a civilian pilot named Kenneth Arnold saw several objects that he described as behaving like saucers skipping on water. And he saw them from his plane flying over Mt. Rainier in the state of Washington. And that was the beginning of the flying saucer era in the media. I came to a point where I wondered when the phenomenon had begun, and I found a lot of material describing objects that seemed to behave the same way [as UFOs] and entities [resembling aliens] that dated back to the Middle Ages. At that time they were called angels or demons or leprechauns or elves or fairies and so on. So I published a book called "Passport to Magonia" that caused something of a scandal with the believers, because I was shaking that idea that UFOs were a recent phenomenon.
Stephen Hawking has discounted reports of UFOs by suggesting they only appear to "cranks and weirdos?" Why don't you think these ancient witnesses were just delusional?
Because delusions have their own pattern, and these don't seem to fit them. A delusion is usually single-witness and there are many multiple-witness cases in the book. You also have authority figures, astronomers and well-known people making claims. You have Michelangelo seeing a triangle with three lights of different colors in the sky and making a painting of it. It's staggering when you hear modern scientists saying only idiots and crazy people report UFOs. The consuls in ancient Rome made a law that they had to have an annual report on any unexplained aerial phenomena. They were not looking for UFOs, they were looking for astrological warnings of famines, or revolutions and wars and death of emperors and that type of thing. Many of them were copied by historians, and they have survived. 
Click here for the complete interview.


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