UFO Sightings 2015 Videos Disappoint, Can A Dying Movement Save Itself With Mysticism?

Have UFO enthusiasts forgotten about the more sublime pleasures of their field as 2015 UFO sightings videos continue to disappoint?
Have UFO enthusiasts forgotten about the more sublime pleasures of their field as 2015 UFO sightings videos continue to disappoint? Columbia Pictures

UFO sightings continue, but in 2015 the UFO’s cultural moment has largely passed. That the ubiquity of cellphones hasn’t provided any better evidence—just the same trickle of mostly ambiguous images—suggests that UFO sightings aren’t harbingers of extraterrestrial first contact, abductors, or alien tourists.

So what do you do with a pool of evidence that’s either out-and-out fraud or worthless in discerning any real-world truth? For many UFO enthusiasts the reaction is tight policing of hoaxes and the slim hope that declassification and disclosure may soon provide the top secret evidence they are certain exists. But what if UFO sighting enthusiasts chose another path instead: voluntarily turning away from truth propositions to a UFO-flavored mysticism that embraces the ineffable qualities of the paranormal?

UFO Sightings 2015 – More High Weirdness, Please

It’s not uncommon for even relatively “grounded” extranormal pursuits to butt up against High Weirdness. Bigfoot might be an unknown ape for camp chair cryptozoologists, but there are plenty of enthusiasts who imagine Sasquatch as a pandimensional wanderer. This mentality is anathema to “serious” investigators, who prefer endless circling around paltry evidence and believe in the inevitability of academic or scientific legitimacy.

This has proven even more true for UFO sightings. The dominant vernacular for the UFO has long been science. There is the assumption that the UFO represents technology in some general sense. More reputable organizations like MUFON (Mutual UFO Network) and early voices like J. Allen Hynek spent untold amounts of effort distancing themselves from that fuzzy border between them and the UFO fringe.

This was not always the case. The modern day UFO movement is generally traced to foo fighters and other anomalous sightings in the 1940s, with the flying-saucer-as-alien-spacecraft interpretation cementing itself in the pop culture imagination through the sci-fi, B movie 50s (though the US Air Force abandoned flying saucer for “UFO” in 1952). But the UFO has always had its outposts in the mystic.

UFOs and Mystic Movements

Aleister Crowley’s summoned muse, Lam, bears an unmistakable resemblance to the alien Greys so often presumed to inhabit UFOs. Modern occultists following in Crowley’s footsteps have redefined Lam as a “subterranean burgeoning of Lucifer-Gnosis,” a term that allows for both extraterrestrial and interior possibilities (an entity that crosses from the Holy to the profane, and could be an entity of pure thought or a physical, extraterrestrial thing).

Lam, meet the "Visitor" from the cover of Whitley Strieber's COMMUNION.
Lam, meet the "Visitor" from the cover of Whitley Strieber's COMMUNION. Ted Seth Jacobs

Whitley Strieber, the novelist who first brought alien abduction into the mainstream with his “true story” account, Communion, was similarly unwilling to insist upon scientific fact in relation to his own alien experiences. Years later, in reflecting on the impact of Communion, Strieber lamented the public focus on the anal probe over “the powerful, sublime and important” spiritual dimensions to his alien encounter.

Strieber dismisses the UFO community’s urgent need for legitimacy in the eyes of human society, writing, “In the late eighties, I dreamed daily of final, open contact. I longed for the moment that I would be able to stand up to my oppressors and detractors and silence them with the truth. I was a baby then. In the years since, I have learned a lot.” And while Strieber would insist on the physical reality of his “visitors” today, in Communion he is open to the possibility that his visitors could have been “from inside the human unconscious.”

Some mainstream communities, including subreddit r/UFOs, have members turning away from the agonized need for scientific legitimacy. “This sub, and in my opinion the UFO community as a whole, needs a healthy dose of Lovecraft,” PumpkinDevourer posted to r/UFOs, arguing that the desire for academic acknowledgment has driven UFO enthusiasts to over-extend their assertions on insufficient evidence.

While there is grave doubt that any real truth exists in the sporadic facts of UFO encounters, the UFO’s philosophical and imaginative presence has its own profound weight. UFO enthusiasts, just like the rest of humanity, exist inside minds that can only imagine so much, forever chained to the limitations of their subjectivity. And all the while that UFO enthusiasts worry over this or that photo, or grouse at their lack of mainstream legitimacy, they’re losing the nobility of their pursuit. Sometimes, truth propositions can wait and the purity of mystery can be nourished. Here we are, looking at the stars, trying to expand ourselves and make understandable what we don’t understand. That doesn’t make UFO enthusiasts scientists, it makes them explorers.

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