The following cases show that abductions experiences can involve far more than pure fantasy.
The first reported alien abduction during the modern UFO era occurred in 1957 and involved a Brazilian law student named Antonio Villas-Boas. In the morning of 16 October while ploughing on his parents’ ranch, he noticed an extremely bright red star overhead. As it approached it changed into an egg-shaped craft which landed on 3 telescoping legs.
His tractor engine died. He was then confronted by a short humanoid being, which he pushed away, causing it to stumble and fall. But 3 other humanoids grabbed him and he was carried on board the craft. The beings were 5 ft tall, wore tight-fitting siren-suits and helmets, and communicated with one another by making growling sounds. They stripped off his clothes and ‘washed’ him with an oily-looking liquid. Blood samples were taken from under his chin.
Left alone, Villas-Boas noticed a strange odour in the room and finally vomited. A naked woman then entered. She was slim, with blue eyes, high cheekbones, a pointed chin, very pointed breasts, and bright red pubic hair. The woman began to caress him and he was surprised that he felt sexually aroused. They had sex twice, and the woman also took a sperm sample. Before she left, she pointed to her stomach and then to the sky. After getting dressed, Villas-Boas was taken to another room. He thought of stealing a box with a clocklike face as proof of his experience, but one of the beings immediately pushed him away. After a tour of the ship he climbed down a ladder to the ground and the craft took off. He had been on it for more than 4 hours.
Villas-Boas suffered from excessive sleepiness for about a month after the incident. An examination revealed 2 scars on either side of his chin. He was also found to have suffered radiation poisoning. At the time the case was too bizarre for anyone to accept as authentic, even though Villas-Boas was a sincere, intelligent young man, who eventually became an attorney. It is significant that he remembered the abduction consciously and that no hypnosis was used. The case set the tone for the abduction reports that would follow.
Just prior to the above incident, Villas-Boas had 2 other strange experiences. On 5 October 1957, he could not sleep because of the heat, opened the shutters of his house, and saw a bright, fluorescent light, which seemed to sweep up into the sky. Shortly afterwards he looked outside again. The light was still there and moved towards the window. He closed the shutters but the light bled through the slats and through the tiles of the roof, while he and his brother watched. On 14 October, he was ploughing a field with his brother late at night when they saw a bright light hovering in the sky. He tried to get close to it, but it kept moving away.
The famous abduction of Betty and Barney Hill on 19 September 1961 had several parallels with the Villas-Boas case, though the latter was not publicized until 1966. The Hills saw a UFO following their car on a lonely road in New Hampshire. Barney got out and saw figures inside. Terrified, he got back into the car and drove off at high speed. Shortly afterwards, the couple heard a series of electronic beeps and felt drowsy. Later they heard a second series of beeps and found that they were nearly home. It was only some time after the event that they realized the journey had taken 2 hours longer than it should have done.
Betty became obsessed with UFOs and began to have disturbing dreams, which she discussed with her husband. Her husband developed ulcers as a result of anxiety caused by his experience, and also developed warts around his groin; he later remembered an instrument being placed over his genitals on the UFO. Under hypnosis they recalled that after the first set of beeps Barney had inexplicably turned off the main road and stopped before a group of figures on the road. They were taken on board a landed craft and subjected to a medical examination.
Betty believed she had communicated with the alien leader telepathically. The couple agreed that the aliens were about 5 ft tall, with broad foreheads, but Betty remembered large noses and black hair, while Barney recalled no noses, just 2 slits for nostrils, and no hair. The hypnotist took the view that they were recounting a fantasy. It is worth noting that after the Hills’ close encounter, they began to experience poltergeist phenomena in their home, and that Betty had a past history of paranormal experiences.
The following abduction occurred at Bebedouro, Minas Gerais, Brazil, in the afternoon of 4 May 1969. 24-year-old José Antonio da Silva, an enlisted soldier, was fishing on a lagoon when suddenly he heard voices, became aware of figures moving behind him, and felt a burst of light strike his leg.
He dropped his fishing rod and fell to his knees.
Two beings, about four feet tall, wearing aluminumlike suits and what appeared to be helmets, seized him and dragged him to an object sitting on a dirt road. The object was shaped like an upright cylinder and had black platforms at each end. The soldier was taken inside, where the beings put one of their ‘helmets’ on him. …
Da Silva felt the craft rise. The beings talked animatedly among themselves in a language he did not recognize. After a long period of travel, he felt a jarring that suggested their craft had landed. The soldier was then blindfolded and led to a large room, where they removed the wrap from his eyes.
A being stood in front of him who was extremely hairy and slightly taller than the rest. His waist-long hair was reddish and wavy. … When the others took off their helmets, they were of similar appearance.
Da Silva watched as the beings, at one point more than a dozen, examined his fishing equipment and took one of every item he had in duplicate. Later the witness noticed on a low shelf the bodies of four human men, one black, and became terribly frightened. Later still, the beings gave him a dark green liquid to drink out of a cubical stone glass.
The dwarf leader then began a strange conservation with the soldier, mostly about weapons, which was conducted entirely with gestures and drawings. Da Silva also understood that they wanted him to help in their relations with humans. When the soldier refused, the dwarf snatched the crucifix from the rosary Da Silva always carried with him. As the soldier began praying, a Cristlike figure appeared to him, making revelations.
Shortly afterwards, Da Silva was blindfolded again and taken back to earth. As the craft landed, he felt he was being dragged and lost consciousness. He woke up alone near the town of Vitoria, about 200 miles from where he had been fishing. He was dehydrated and hungry, but drank from a stream and was able to catch some fish as he still had his rod with him. Only his identity card, which the aliens had examined, had disappeared. He had a swollen knee where the ray had struck him and three open wounds on his neck where the helmet had rubbed against his skin.
He had been away four and a half days
Fig. 9.1. Alien encountered by Antonio da Silva, May 1969 (courtesy of Harry Trumbore)
One of the central questions in this case is how Da Silva travelled the 200 miles from Bebedouro to Vitoria, and where his physical body was during his 4.5-day absence. If there had been witnesses and video equipment at both locations would they have observed him being taken aboard a craft, the craft taking off, the landing of the craft at the other location, and his emergence from it?
Most of the abduction could easily be a vision. Jacques Vallee points out the striking parallels between the man’s experience and initiation ordeals. Initiation rituals are characterized by the following general scenes: the candidate is confronted by members of the occult group wearing a special costume; he is blindfolded; he is led by the arm along a rough and difficult route; he is taken into a specially designed chamber with no windows; he is brought into the presence of a ‘master’; he is given a test and made to answer questions; he is shown a variety of symbols designed to remind him of death; the situation suggests he may not survive the ordeal; he is given ritual food or drink; he is blindfolded again and led outside.
All these elements are present in the case of Antonio da Silva
On 25 October 1974, Carl Higdon, an oil-field driller, was hunting in a forest in the Wyoming countryside. He spotted 5 elk, raised his rifle and fired at one, but felt no kick from the high-powered weapon and heard no report. Absolute silence descended on the forest. The bullet seemed to float from the barrel and fell to the ground 50 ft in front of him. After retrieving the bullet, he heard a twig snap (a common feature in otherworldly encounters). He turned to see a bow-legged humanlike figure, about 6 ft 2 inches tall, standing near him.
His skin tone was like that of an Oriental, and the face seemed to blend into the neck. As in so many other cases, the being was dressed in a one-piece suit. His right arm ended in a cone-shaped device. The man, who later revealed that he was called ‘Ausso‘, greeted him by saying, ‘How you doin’?’, and then asked if he was hungry. Before Higdon could answer, a small package floated toward him.
Inside were 4 pills, and he found himself taking one.
Fig. 9.2. Alien encountered by Carl Higdon, October 1974.
He then spotted the creature’s ship in the distance, and was asked if he wanted to come along. Before he could answer he found himself inside a transparent cubical craft, strapped to a chair and wearing a helmet.
Ausso and another ufonaut were with him, and the 5 elk were crammed inside in a cage behind him. When Ausso pointed his arm at the controls, the craft began moving and Higdon saw the earth receding below him. Moments later they landed on a dark planet that Ausso said was ‘163,000 light-miles’ (!) from earth. Outside was a huge tower with a bright rotating light, and he saw what looked like 5 humans standing in the nearby plaza. When Ausso pointed his arm again, Higdon found himself inside a room in the tower.
A device came out of the wall in front of him and examined him for several minutes. Ausso then told him he was not what they needed and would be taken back. Ausso returned his rifle and floated the remaining pills out of his pocket.
The next thing Higdon remembered was walking along a road, feeling dazed and confused. About 2.5 hours had passed. He still had his rifle, but didn’t know who he was or where he was. In the distance he saw a parked truck and decided to use it for shelter, not realizing that it was his own vehicle. The truck stood in the middle of a mudhole, with no tracks to show how it had got there. He used the two-way radio to call for help and was eventually found. His truck had to be towed out, and those involved concluded it must have been deposited there from the air. He was taken to hospital, and late the next day he began to regain his memory and equilibrium.
The bullet Higdon had fired at the beginning of his adventure was examined by an expert, who could not explain the state it was in. The lead had disappeared, it showed none of the deformation expected of a spent bullet, and it looked as if it had been turned inside out. Much of Higdon’s experience, however, sounds very dreamlike; some of the details were recalled with the help of hypnosis. Higdon passed a lie-detector test, and was considered to be a reliable character. Other people had seen lights in the sky on the night of the abduction.
Another incident very different from the modern standard abduction took place in Emilcin, Poland, on 10 May 1978. A 71-year-old farmer, Jan Wolski, was travelling on a horse-drawn wagon along a country road when he encountered 2 ‘freaks’, as he called them. They had greenish faces, wore one-piece overalls ending in some kind of foot flipper, and walked by making supple jumps like divers on the seabed. Suddenly they got into his wagon on either side of him, but Wolski continued on his journey without saying anything. He thought they must be ‘foreigners’, since they had slanted eyes, prominent cheekbones, and spoke in an unknown language.
A short while later they came across a strange vehicle in a clearing, looking like ‘a bus hovering in the air’. The humanoids signalled to Wolski to step onto a platform that was lowered from the object.
He did so, then rose up into a dark rectangular room where he met 2 more ‘foreigners’ who told him to remove his clothes. After a brief examination with ‘two plates’, he was told to get dressed. He galloped all the way home, then returned with his sons, and they found a series of trapezoidal, almost rectangular footprints. A 6-year-old boy who lived nearby said he had seen an aircraft resembling a bus fly very low over a barn, then climb vertically into the air and vanish.
This incident is regarded as a benchmark abduction account, with little or no contamination from the outside world and none of the media exposure that characterizes American abduction stories.
Fig. 9.3. Left: Jan Wolski .
Right: The craft encountered by Wolski, May 1978 (courtesy of Harry Trumbore).
Not recommended for interstellar travel!
Another intriguing case took place on the evening of 3 January 1979. Americans Filiberto Cardenas, his friend Fernando Marti, and Marti’s wife and 13-year-old daughter were driving home when their car engine quit. The 2 men got out and began to look under the hood. They suddenly saw alternating red and violet lights reflecting off the engine and heard a sound ‘like many bees’.
The car began to shake, the light turned a brilliant white, and Fernando began to crawl further under the hood for protection. Meanwhile, Filiberto felt paralyzed and began to rise into the air, shouting ‘Don’t take me’. Fernando saw him rising up, and by the time he got out from under the hood, all he could see was a bulky object that ascended and moved away. The next thing Filiberto remembered was being nearly run over by a car on the Tamiami Trail about 16 km from where he had been lifted up.
The police were sufficiently puzzled by the story that they listed the type of offence as ‘close encounter of the third kind’ in their official report.
Under hypnosis, Filiberto said he had been given an examination that left numerous marks on his body. A caped, human-looking figure then spoke to him at length, both telepathically and in perfect Spanish, and showed him many remarkable scenes displayed on the walls. Filiberto then remembered being taken to an undersea base.
He was again paralyzed and examined, and a sperm sample was taken. Afterwards, another caped, enthroned figure gave him instructions illustrated with images on banks of TVs. After many similar experiences that seemed to go on for many days, he was dropped off near the Tamiami Trail after a lapse of about 2 hours.
Richard Thompson comments:
‘It is possible … that Filiberto Cardenas was actually carried off into the sky as Marti testified. But the experiences he related under hypnosis may have been partially generated by his own mind. Or they may have been projected into his mind by the agency that carried him off.’
There was a second meeting with the aliens, when Filiberto and his wife voluntarily walked up a ramp into the alien ship and had a friendly conversation with its nearly human occupants. They were subsequently able to remember this experience without hypnosis, but there were no independent witnesses to confirm its objectivity.
The following multiwitness case took place on 17 November 1971. At 9.30 pm, a Brazilian named Paulo Gaetano was driving his car, accompanied by another man, Elvio B. As they passed the town of Bananeiras, Paulo felt the car was not pulling normally, and he mentioned this to his companion, who reacted by saying that he was tired and wanted to sleep. The engine stalled and Paulo had to stop the car on the side of the road. He then saw an object about 12 ft away.
A red beam of light was projected at the car and seemed to cause the door to open. Several small beings appeared, took Paulo into the craft, and made him lie down on a small table. After fastening his arms, they lowered from the ceiling an apparatus resembling an x-ray machine. He felt a cut near his elbow, and the beings collected his blood. (Investigators from a UFO research group photographed the wound 3 days later.) Then he was shown 2 panels, one of them a plan of the town of Itaperuna, the other a picture of an atomic explosion. Paulo felt heavy.
He remembers being helped by Elvio, but does not recall how they got home.
Elvio’s story, however, is very different. He reported that near Bananeiras, Paulo had begun to show signs of nervousness, saying there was a flying saucer following them, when in fact it was only a bus. Elvio added that the car had slowed down and stopped, and that he had come to Paulo’s assistance after he had fallen to the ground behind the car, with the door on the driver’s side remaining open.
Elvio managed to get Paulo on his feet and started with him by bus towards Itaperuna, where Paulo was examined by the first-aid station. The police sent a patrol to the site and found Paulo’s car on the highway. Elvio was unable to explain what had happened to Paulo and why the door was open. He did not remember when Paulo had got out, and could not explain why they had taken the bus. The police found no trace on the car that could explain the wound on Paulo’s arm.
Vallee comments that some experiments with microwaves suggest it is becoming technically feasible for sensory impressions to be projected into people’s minds at a distance. He asks:
‘Is this part of the technology that is involved in the UFO phenomenon? … [A]re we dealing with a technology that systematically confuses the witnesses?’ .
Another possibility is that instead of the mind being influenced by means of advanced psychotronic devices acting on the physical brain, the mind could be affected directly on the astral level without the use of any physical technology.
The above accounts show that some abductions seem to have a physical component. There is certainly a great deal of evidence that UFOs can manifest physically and leave physical traces. In some cases people may have been physically taken on board these vehicles, and there are a few abduction cases in which the abducteé was apparently dropped off miles from the pickup point. If humans are occasionally taken on board materialized craft, then a physical medical examination is not inconceivable, though it may only be a simulated one, conducted by paranormal entities rather than by extraterrestrial scientists. However, many aspects of abduction experiences sound like visions or dreams.
Abduction cases with definite physical elements seem to be rare compared with the numerous cases where there is no hard evidence of anything extraordinary, only events remembered mainly under hypnosis. In these cases the entire experience could be taking place on the mental plane, and reflect a variety of influences. Some of these cases could be generated during the hypnosis session itself, while others may originate in an actual unusual experience.
Popular culture has had a major influence on abduction accounts. From the beginning of the 20th century, films, books, etc. have often presented stories about alien spacecraft, big-eyed aliens, and abductions, including medical examinations, implants, scars, memory blocks, and missing time.
Several elements of the Hills’ abduction tale, for example, seem to be derived from the movies Invaders from Mars and Killers from Space, an episode of the television programme The Outer Limits, and a book by Donald Keyhoe entitled The Flying Saucer Conspiracy that Betty had read just after her strange experience . The vast increase in media attention for abductions in the past couple of decades means that no abduction stories are likely to be entirely uncontaminated by cultural influences.
The abduction motifs that first emerged in the Villas-Boas and Hill cases could therefore have originated partly from cultural influences and partly from the witnesses’ imaginations. But this is unlikely to be the whole story. For the motifs that find their way into popular culture and into our own minds are themselves largely drawn from the ‘memory of nature’, the ‘collective unconscious’ or, in occult terminology, the astral world — the thought-atmosphere in which our minds are constantly immersed.
That something more than individual imagination is involved is underlined by the fact that during the 1960s, even before the Villas-Boas and Hill cases were publicized, John Keel had collected many other reports by people who had cloudy memories of having been stopped on lonely highways and taken into some kind of a structure (not always a flying saucer), where they were medically examined.
Keith Thomson suggests that ‘perhaps something quite ancient from the world soul was making its periodic return, in a novel form, as part of a larger cycle or spiral of manifestation’ . Abductions are, after all, a recurrent theme in mythology and folklore.
Some abductions begin with a sighting of something strange, often a bright light, which helps to trigger further experiences that do not take place in our physical reality. It seems that the more people who report abductions and the more publicity they receive, the greater the chance of other people tapping into the same nexus of ‘archetypal’ themes and images, especially when in trance or under hypnosis.
This may also happen during the transition between waking and sleeping and during dreams — for even dreams are not simply products of our brains. The brain is an extension of the mind, which operates on different levels of the astral plane, and is part of the collective mind of Gaia.
Comparing abductions to visions, apparitions, and hallucinations does not therefore mean that they are generated solely in our own heads. In one close encounter, a woman remembered leaving her bed one night and joining a male friend, and they walked across the fields to a waiting aircraft, which then took off.
The woman was taken to a huge mother ship and shown round. The next day her friend reported an identical experience, describing walking with her across the fields to the aircraft, and corroborating every detail on the plane till they parted company, when the man remembered going to a planet with golden cities on it.
Victoria LePage writes:
Many researchers now deem it highly probable that UFO witnesses, especially those involved in close encounters and abductions, are reporting events that have a genuinely objective basis but which are perceived imaginally, as dreams are, through the lens of a subjective and entranced consciousness, and in terms that are according to their own unconscious prejudices, expectations, neuroses and level of intellectual or psychospiritual development.
The subtle, mental body may undergo a purely visionary abduction experience based on a series of standard archetypal elements. And some experiences could involve astral travel, i.e. the temporary separation of the subtle mind from the physical and astral bodies.
* Both types of experience may be influenced by eternal agencies, as the astral world is inhabited by various kinds of beings, both high and low. In rare cases visionary or out-of-body experiences might begin after the witness has been taken on board a physically materialized craft.
However, as Michael Talbot says, most medical examinations are probably only a symbolic representation of the probing of the subtle anatomy of our ‘energy selves’ or souls . Only an advanced adept could unravel all the various physical, astral, and mental factors involved in any particular abduction experience.
* The astral ‘model body’ or ‘design body’ (‘linga-sharira‘ in Sanskrit) is said to be able to travel no more than a few meters from the physical body. However our consciousness can be transferred to a higher astral form or subtle body (sometimes called the ‘mayavi-rupa‘, or ‘illusory form’) that can travel far from the physical and astral bodies, either spontaneously or intentionally.
Michael Grosso says that ‘there is such an admixture of mythic and psychic elements, it is hard to take UFO narratives at face value’. And John Whitmore comments:
‘the patterns alleged to have been discovered by abduction investigators often have religious overtones or similarities with more traditional types of religious experience. In addition, the abduction experience is often given a religious meaning by the percipient, and these interpretations are habitually overlooked or ignored by the UFO investigator’.
Jacques Vallee, too, stresses that abduction stories should not automatically be taken literally:
At close range, UFO phenomena act as a reality transformer …, triggering for the witness a series of symbolic displays that are indistinguishable from reality. These displays, which frequently begin with a bewildering series of blinking colored lights of extraordinary intensity, induce a state of intense confusion for the subjects who are vulnerable to the insertion of new thoughts and new visual experiences.
The response of the ufologists to the confusion of the abductees has been disastrous. By taking the symbolic displays at face value, and by hypnotizing the witnesses in an effort to dispel their confusion, many well-meaning researchers have actually reinforced the alternative reality induced by the UFO sighting, thus exacerbating what may be a spurious side effect and losing sight of the main experience. …
[T]he symbolic display seen by the abductees is identical to the type of initiation ritual or astral voyage that is embedded in the traditions of every culture. In that sense, the UFO experience is a very real trigger that releases powerful imagery we are all carrying in our ‘collective unconscious’ …
In one case, a woman awoke in bed to see a helicopter over her house as if the intervening ceiling and roof had disappeared. She also saw 2 unusual humanoid beings at the foot of the bed. Fortunately 2 friends were able to witness this scene: they saw a blue sphere of light around her (as she did) with brighter lights shooting through it, but they heard no helicopter and saw no beings. The blue light apparently created a virtual-reality scenario.
Kenneth Ring says that abduction experiences can be regarded as a variation of the archetypal initiatory journey, with its familiar sequence of separation, ordeal, and return.
The separation stage is the abduction, with the individual usually being spirited away against his or her will. The ordeal takes the form of the medical examination, which can be compared to the dismemberment motifs in traditional shamanic initiations. Among the Buryat of Siberia, the shamanic apprentice is taken away by his ancestors, and then tormented by the Saajtani, who poke around his belly with knives, cutting whole chunks of flesh off him, and throwing them about. The ‘spirits’ cook his flesh to ‘ripen’ it, and the initiate acquires his inner knowledge during this procedure.
After being examined, abductees, like shamans, may receive teachings, instructions, or revelations. Finally they return to their normal surroundings. They frequently suffer feelings of confusion, disorientation, time loss, and memory impairment, but there is often a sense that something extraordinary has happened that will leave a lasting imprint.
Ring argues that, like near-death experiences, which are another variant of the initiatory journey, abductions take place in an alternate reality — the ‘imaginal realm‘.
There are often significant surface differences between UFO encounters, angelic visitations, shamanic journeys, and near-death experiences. Yet, as Keith Thompson says,
in all of these realms we find archetypal images of initiation involving otherworldly journeys amid extraordinary — and apparently autonomous — beings. Many ufologists, seeking to keep their precious field of study unique and discrete, question such parallels because, they say, there is no evidence that the beings described in non-UFO reports are ‘from the same place’ as UFO beings. What they seldom point out is that there is no evidence, either, of where ‘UFO beings’ are from!
[I]t requires an act of will not to notice thematic parallels between ceremonies of dismemberment undergone by shamanic initiates inside traditional round initiation huts, on the one hand, and the invisible ‘medical’ procedures experienced by UFO initiates inside rounded operating theatres inside disk- or oval-shaped craft, on the other.
Paul Devereux mentions the intriguing work going on with DMT, the most hallucinogenic substance known. It is produced naturally in the human brain and occurs in psychedelic plants that have been used by shamanic peoples from time immemorial. For years people who have used this substance have reported rather similar experiences, such as encountering alien intelligences.
Also noteworthy are the experiences of a man who has experimented with trying to enter the lucid dream state directly from the waking state. He reported that, deep into the extreme relaxation and concentration required, he is interrupted by the tangible experience of being ‘examined in the dark by robots’ or being ‘operated on by small beings’.
Some researchers suggest that the ‘aliens’ are reflections of ourselves — alien-ated, dis-eased with ourselves and one another, and with the dis-spirited, impersonal, and uncontrollable society we live in. In a similar vein, Michael Grosso interprets abductions as symbolic evidence for disturbances in the collective unconscious.
Visions of unhealthy-looking beings (the grays), who sometimes claim to come from a dying planet, who examine captives and take genetic material to create a hybrid species mean ‘we are the sick ones, and … we, as a species living on planet Earth, are in need of regeneration’. The fetal appearance of these beings suggests the child, the continuity of human life. According to Grosso, ‘The «new man,» the future of the species, is in great danger — our future is threatened with extinction. …
If we learn to cooperate with the forces of rebirth, we may yet rise from the «examination table,» resuscitated from our planetary near-death experience’.
Mythology and astral visitations
References to human interaction with:
- monstrous animals
- and other nonhuman and otherworldly entities can be found throughout the world’s religious, mythic, and folkloric traditions
Some of these entities were believed to kidnap people and subject them to stressful and surreal ordeals. ‘Aliens‘ seem to be part of this spectrum of paranormal beings.
Fig. 10.1. An early painting of a woman being abducted by a mythical satyr(courtesy of Keven Randle)
Some materialistic writers have argued that the ‘gods‘ of old were really ‘ancient astronauts‘. There are certainly several accounts in religious writings that could be interpreted along UFO lines, though they need not involve extraterrestrials. The biblical Book of Ezekiel, for example, opens with Ezekiel’s description of how in 593 BC, on the banks of the Chebar River in Chaldea,
‘a stormy wind came out of the north, and a great cloud, with brightness round about it, and fire flashing forth continually’.
In its midst he saw ‘the likeness of four living creatures’; each had a human form but with 4 wings and 4 faces (those of a man, a lion, an ox, and an eagle). In the midst of the creatures was ‘something that looked like burning coals of fire’. Beside the creatures he saw four wheels on the ground, each being ‘a wheel within a wheel‘, and above the creatures he saw ‘the likeness of a firmament, shining like crystal’. Above it was ‘the likeness of a throne’, above which was seated a human form surrounded by brightness. Ezekiel fell on his face before ‘the glory of the Lord’, and then heard a voice speaking to him.
He subsequently had several similar experiences, and described how the ‘spirit’ had lifted him up and taken him to other places. Some people today believe Ezekiel encountered a space vehicle piloted by extraterrestrials, while others believe he had a vision.
In the light of modern close encounters his experience could have been partly physical and partly visionary.
Fig. 10.2. Left: The vision of Ezekiel, as interpreted by Raphael (1518)
Right: The spaceship encountered by Ezekiel, as interpreted by engineer Josef Blumrich (1974)
Vedic literature contains many accounts of encounters between humans and other humanoid races, including interbreeding and abductions. The beings are sometimes benevolent and sometimes malevolent, and often come from other worlds. It also contains references to flying cities, flying horse-drawn chariots, and various types of aerial craft, some of which could vanish abruptly.
In evaluating religious and mythological stories it is of course crucial to bear in mind that not everything is meant to be taken literally. The narratives may combine descriptions of actual events and experiences with allegory, symbolism, and pure fantasy. Some genuine encounters with unusual beings and other ‘alien’ manifestations may take place on the physical level and others on the mental level.
As already shown, the extraterrestrial hypothesis is of little use in explaining such phenomena as it fails to account for the varied appearances and often strange and paranormal behaviour of the beings in question.
The modern UFO phenomenon seems to be essentially a space-age version of the long-standing interaction between humans and the denizens of the psychic world. As Jacques Vallee says, we seem to be confronted with the reappearance of an occult current, coloured with ‘our new human biases, our preoccupation with science, our longing for the promised land of other planets’.
Witnesses interpret encounters with otherworldly phenomena according to their cultural and personal preconceptions. For example, an African man saw silver-suited figures and a ball of red light and thought they might be the spirits of his ancestors. The Hawaiians claim to have observed UFOs for a thousand years, in many colours and shapes, including balls of fire, cones, and discs; they call them akualele, or ‘flying spirits‘. During periods of UFO sightings elsewhere in the American Southwest, Hopi Indians have observed blue star kachinas (‘spirits’) in the night air above the mesas.
In the West, with its pervasive science-fiction imagery, many people who experience strange luminosities or think they have seen strange beings automatically assume they have had an extraterrestrial experience. Those who turn to ufologists for help do so because they believe their experiences can be explained by extraterrestrial visits.
But some people may believe they have experienced a oneness with the Divine, made contact with their own higher selves, had an inner revelation or, alternatively, had an encounter with demonic beings. SomeChristian fundamentalists see UFOs as demonic, while others suspect they might be angels. If all the evidence is considered, they can be seen as sometimes the one and sometimes the other — including everything in between!
In the Middle Ages there were numerous reports of demonic possession and sexual exploits with male and female demons (incubi and succubi).
Beginning in 1230 with the establishment of the Inquisition, stories of demonic possession and witchcraft would cause misery and death for tens of thousands of people for the next several hundred years.
The 15th-century work Malleus Maleficarum (The Witch’s Hammer) set out several criteria for possession that bear a striking resemblance to modern descriptions of alien abduction. People possessed by demons were allegedly able to float through the air, communicate telepathically, and had knowledge of future events and enhanced intellectual abilities.
Witches were said to be able to pass through solid doors and walls, to fly, to steal and eat babies, to disguise themselves by taking on the shapes of other beings, and to engage in sexual orgies. Thus similar themes existed then as now, and rather than being purely imaginative inventions they could be derived in part from actual physical or astral experiences.
The ‘medical examination’ to which abductees frequently claim to have been subjected is reminiscent of the medieval tales of encounters with demons. Betty Hill was the first abducteé in modern times who reported that a long needle was inserted into her navel and caused her pain.
But it is interesting to note that in a 15th-century French calendar showing the tortures inflicted by demons on people they have taken, the demons are depicted piercing their victims’ abdomens with long needles.
Fig. 10.3. A 15th-century representation of demons inflicting tortures. From the Kalendrier des Bergiers (courtesy of Jacques Vallee)
Priests and nuns sometimes claimed they had been seduced by succubi and incubi respectively. Although they often awakened only after the demons were gone, nocturnal ejaculations were seen as physical evidence that the demons were collecting sperm for interbreeding purposes.
Nuns began to claim they had been raped in the night by incubi and injected with sperm collected by the demons.
Once such tales became popularized, many townspeople began to have similar experiences, with certain events occurring in a specific order. As time passed, the act of having sex with demons came to be seen as a definite sign of witchcraft. Women claiming this experience were arrested and their bodies examined for any scars or marks that would indicate the presence of their demonic lovers.
Some of them were then executed.
Fig. 10.4. An incubus straddling the chest of a sleeping victim (courtesy of Kevin Randle).
Clearly, nocturnal emissions alone hardly amount to evidence of sex with demons! In some cases, tales about incubi and succubi may well have been rationalizations of forbidden sexual impulses arising from enforced celibacy. But this does not explain everything. Many countries have traditions of similar attacks, sometimes called ‘old hag’ attacks, which are characterized by paralysis and a feeling that someone is pressing down on the sleeping person.
Nowadays, such experiences are simply attributed to ‘sleep paralysis‘, but giving a phenomenon a scientific-sounding label is not the same as explaining it. It may be that during the transition between waking and sleeping, people are more susceptible to receiving impressions from the inner self or other astral entities, of a high or low nature. Some of the descriptions of ‘demonic’ attacks, past and present, suggest that sexual interaction with ethereal entities is quite possible, and sometimes these entities can assume a visible or tangible form.
‘Spirit’ materializations were commonly reported during the heyday of spiritualism in the late 19th century, and sexual contact with these entities was sometimes claimed as well. H.P. Blavatsky accepted that this really did happen, saying:
‘If there are «Spirits» capable of drinking tea and wine, of eating apples and cakes, of kissing and touching the visitors of séance-rooms, all of which facts have been proven as well as the existence of those visitors themselves — why should not those same Spirits perform matrimonial duties as well?’
She added that there is a ‘ghastly connection’ between the ‘spirit’ husbands and wives of mediums and the fauns, satyrs, incubi, succubi, sylphs, nymphs, and ‘elementaries’ reported by medieval mystics and kabalists.
According to Blavatsky and her adept teachers, succubi and incubi were often the astral corpses or shells of discarnate humans, but had nothing to do with the higher human soul. In particular, the astral souls of humans of a particularly lustful and malicious nature (known as ‘elementaries‘) may be conscious after death, especially if their lives have been cut short. Largely devoid of reason, they follow their animal instincts and try to cling to material life by vampirizing the living.
Such ‘demons’ can become tangible and visible by attracting matter from the surrounding atmosphere, from the body of the victim if the latter is a medium, or from any other person in whom there is little cohesion of the lower elements, possibly as a result of some disease. Ethereal attackers can also be generated by the victim’s own intense imagination, or they may be sorcerers or black magicians who have the power of projecting their astral forms.
Franz Hartmann relates a case in which a young man killed himself after a married woman had rebuffed his passionate advances. After his death, his astral form became attracted to her, and as she was of a mediumistic temperament, he found the necessary conditions to become partly materialized. It required a long-continued effort of her will and a course of treatment before she finally managed to rid herself of the incubus.
Evans Wentz heard of a case involving a man who was in love with a ‘fairy woman’ who visited him every night. Finally he became so worn out that he began to fear her. To escape, he emigrated to America, but she continued to haunt him there.
During the summer of 1975, a single mother living with her 4 children in a dilapidated house reported a plague of ghostly manifestations. Most involved a semisolid, 6-ft-tall apparition.
The mother and her eldest son also reported seeing 2 dark solid figures with oriental faces in the bedroom, at times struggling with one another. In addition, the mother claimed that on several occasions she was sexually assaulted by 3 semivisible beings who left large black-and-blue marks on her body.
Long before metallic spacecraft and their occupants arrived on the scene, small humanoid beings from the otherworld were enshrined in folklore and mythology. Such creatures are in fact nearly universal, with the various types of fairies being among the best known.
Jacques Vallee says that most of the entities encountered in early UFO sightings during the last half century fall into 2 main groups:
(1) small, dark, hairy beings with small, bright eyes and deep, rugged, ‘old’ voices, who resemble the medieval gnomes
(2) beings with human complexions, oversized heads, and silvery voices, who resemble the sylphs of the Middle Ages or the elves of the fairy-faith
These types have since been largely displaced by the widely publicized grays.
Although fairies are generally thought of as small creatures, some were reportedly as tall as humans or even taller. Some were said to have beautiful human forms, others to be ugly. In Ireland, they were also referred to as the ‘good people’ or ‘little people’. Such beings were often seen playing, dancing, singing, making music, floating or flying through the air, and engaging in battles, hunts, and food gathering.
There are stories of them stealing or borrowing things from humans, especially food, helping with domestic chores, entering into bargains, deceiving or attacking travellers, and guarding or revealing treasures. As in some modern alien encounters, they were sometimes seen pailing water from streams and wells. There are also stories of them threatening, pinching, beating, paralyzing, blinding, and even killing human witnesses.
In other stories they would place humans in trances, play pranks, and then flee, climb to a cloud, or simply vanish. Physical evidence, such as footprints, was sometimes reported in connection with such incidents.
It is impossible to say for certain to what extent any particular fairy story is factual or fictional, or involved a physical, psychic, or mental experience. Interestingly, the word ‘fairy‘ comes from fai-erie, meaning a state of enchantment. Fairies were usually regarded as nonhuman nature-spirits (elementals), or as the ‘spirits’ of the dead (decaying astral shells or corpses of discarnate humans, rather than genuine human souls). Sometimes they were regarded as fallen angelic beings who had been exiled from heaven. They were considered to have ethereal bodies that were normally invisible, though perceptible by clairvoyants.
Fairies were said to live underground (e.g. in hollow hills), undersea, in the sky, or in an invisible world, where time ran at a different rate. They are described as mischievous, capricious, sometimes irritable, but not wicked. It was believed that they could change form according to their whim or the mind that sees them, and could appear or disappear suddenly.
Like modern aliens, they often worked at night, and showed great interest in reproductive matters: they allegedly seduced humans and gave birth to their offspring. There are numerous accounts of abductions by fairies. Many people claimed to have been kidnapped and taken to their underground palaces. Some men returned with bizarre tales of having been forced to mate with the fairy queen. The fairies would also kidnap females, especially pregnant women or young mothers, and steal healthy children, sometimes substituting a child of their own, known as a ‘changeling’.
This belief is found not only in Europe but also in China and the American Pacific.
It seems unlikely that fairies literally bred with humans or swapped their own children for human children! During his first-hand study of fairylore in the early 20th century, Evans Wentz was shown several contemporary ‘changelings’. He concluded that many changelings were so called merely because of some bodily deformity or because of some abnormal mental or pathological characteristics capable of ordinary rational explanation, but that other cases involving a change of personality were often best explained by possession.
Stories about manifestations of small humanlike creatures — sometimes associated with UFOs — are found today among various cultures. The Tzeltal Indians of Mexico, for example, have legends about 3-ft-tall, hairy, black humanoids called ikals, who live in caves and whom the natives frequently encounter. (‘Ikal’ means ‘black’ in Tzeltal, but ‘spirit’ in the Mayan language.) They are sometimes associated with strange lights in the sky. Ikals are said to fly, attack people, and, in the modern reports, carry a kind of rocket on their backs and kidnap Indians. Occasionally people have been paralyzed when they came upon the ikals.
In June 1982, a 12-year-old Malaysian girl was going to the river to wash some clothes when she encountered a strange female being of her own size who invited her to see another land. She felt no fear and found herself in a beautiful place where time seemed to whiz by. 2 days later, she was discovered lying unconscious on the ground by relatives who had been frantically searching the area the whole time. Malaysian tradition assigns the strange female to a group of beings called Bunians, who are known for abducting children. They are not associated with UFOs.
The fairies of old were known for their mischievous pranks, and virtually every ancient culture had legends about a Trickster figure. One variety is the viscera-sucker of the Philippines. This creature flies about at night, extracting the organs, body fluids, and fetuses of its victims by means of its long, thin, razor-sharp tongue. (Fetus extraction has also been reported in some modern cases of cattle mutilation.)
In American Indian folklore, Trickster is an essentially formless entity, usually called Coyote, Raven, or Hare, which plays all sorts of tricks on other animals and on humans. He is often involved in animal and human mutilations — decapitating, skinning, and eviscerating his victims. He is even described as coring out the anus of animals — a staple feature of cattle mutilation reports.
Keith Thompson says that,
‘Given the protean thematic richness of the UFO epic, we should not be surprised to find that the continuum of alien encounters runs from uplifting contacteé accounts, at one end, to terrifying abduction chronicles, at the other’.
The contacteés are rather like modern prophets; some of them had face-to-face meetings with benign beings in a remote spot, sometimes even in the desert, while a saucer hovered nearby, whereas others received messages telepathically.
The messages tended to be high in ethical and prophetic content, with appeals for humans to change their ways before the coming apocalypse. Many contacteés emerged with heightened psychic abilities and spiritual awareness, only to face harassment, ridicule, and scorn from ‘nonbelievers’. Some of the more famous 1950s contacteés ended up feeling betrayed by the space brothers when their prophecies failed to be fulfilled.
Several contacteés founded cults after their encounters. Similarly, Joseph Smith founded the Mormon Church in the 19th century on the strength of angelic visions. He described how he saw a pillar of very bright light over his head, which descended upon him. Next he saw 2 personages, ‘whose brightness and glory defy all descriptions’, standing above him in the air; one of them then spoke to him.
In the 6th century AD, an Arabian man called Mohammed had a vision of the Angel Gabriel ‘in the likeness of a man, standing in the sky above the horizon’. He was ordered to become a prophet, and over a number of years he would periodically go into trance and dictate messages, which were later compiled to form the Koran.
As Keith Thompson notes,
‘Just as contacteé encounters are rich with prophetic undertones and images of ascent to worlds in space, abducteé encounters feature striking echoes of mythological journeys to the world below, the underworld, the realm of the dead and the dispossessed, the infernal regions of the collective soul’.
Abductees speak of being confined in quarters usually termed dank, oppressive, and dimly lit. The landed ‘saucer’ becomes a scene of traditional underworld torments, a prison of suffering inflicted by primeval demons. Both contacteés and abductees often report finding their encounter experience transformative, along the lines of a cosmic rite of passage. And while the space brothers, with their handsome human forms, are akin to angels of light, the sinister ‘men in black’ correspond to angels of darkness.
It appears that the elemental and psychic energies of the astral world can manifest in all manner of different forms, mimicking the moral traits of human beings, ranging from benign to barbaric. In the theosophic tradition, the astral world or astral light is said to comprise several spheres of increasingly ethereal, more plastic matter surrounding and interpenetrating the physical earth.
Its higher reaches merge into the akashic or spiritual realms. The astral light is sometimes called ‘nature’s picture gallery’, as it contains a record of everything that has ever happened on earth, both in the present evolutionary cycle and in past cycles. Since it records thoughts, emotions, and deeds of every conceivable quality, it comprises everything from the collective ‘unconscious’ to the collective superconscious.
The astral world is populated, among other things, by all manner of shape-shifting entities, known by the generic terms ‘elementals‘, ‘nature-forces‘, or ‘nature-sprites‘. Medieval alchemists and mystics divided them into 4 classes, according to the element they inhabited: gnomes (earth), undines (water), sylphs (air), and salamanders (fire).
In theosophy, 3 kingdoms of elementals are generally distinguished, which are placed below the mineral kingdom. This means that the consciousness-centers (or monads) manifesting as elementals are in the earliest stages of their evolutionary growth, and still have to pass through the other kingdoms of nature: i.e. the mineral, vegetable, animal, human, and 3 superhuman (or dhyani-chohanic) kingdoms. From another standpoint, there are 7 kingdoms of elementals, as there are elementals associated with each subplane (or cosmic element), in increasing grades of ethereality or spirituality.
Elementals are the semi-automatic, quasi-conscious agents and building stones of nature. They are involved in everything that happens on the physical plane, since every physical atom is ensouled by an elemental. While some elementals are atomic in size, others are gigantic, with corresponding powers. Although they do not possess self-consciousness, conscience, or free will, those associated with the higher subplanes can display a degree of intelligence. Most elementals have no permanent form of their own, and can change shape with great rapidity.
They adopt shapes (and also clothing) that mirror the pictures and thought-forms existing in their environment, including human minds. The higher elementals may take the form of beasts, either living or extinct, and those on the mental plane tend to assume a more or less human shape. Some elementals are said to be hostile towards humans, and others friendly. The elementals of the air are the most dangerous, because of their close connection with the desire part of the human constitution.
Other beings inhabiting the astral realms are humans who have attained a high degree of occult power and who are able to live or operate self-consciously in the astral world after leaving their physical body behind, either temporarily or permanently. These may be humans of mahatmic stature, or their evil counterparts, the sorcerers, black magicians, or ‘brothers of the shadow’. Superhuman entities associated with the 3 highest kingdoms of nature inhabit the higher astral or akashic realms.
Some physical manifestations of ethereal entities may be spontaneous and instinctual, while others could be orchestrated by higher intelligences possessing the necessary powers. The earth is also subject to influences from other planets and solar systems and some of these could at times be involved in UFO manifestations. Only an advanced adept could speak with certainty on such matters.
Aliens and UFOs therefore appear to be part of a broad spectrum of otherworldly phenomena that intrude into our own reality from the astral plane or ‘twilight zone’. Materializations of ‘spirits’ were commonplace at spiritualist séances in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
During such phenomena, the medium and other sitters are often ‘vampirized’ to some extent by the astral entities involved; the elements required for the materialization are drawn from their bodies, depleting their vitality. In alien encounters, too, less-developed astral entities — whether they manifest physically or not — may feed off the emanations of witnesses, including intense emotions of fear and pain, especially if the witnesses are at all mediumistic.
Certain areas seem to attract a disproportionate amount of UFO activity. Moreover, during periods of intense UFO activity, an upsurge in other strange phenomena is often reported in the same areas, and sometimes by the same witnesses: e.g. falls of odd substances from the air, sightings of monsters and apparitions, and poltergeist activity. In such areas geomagnetic and electromagnetic conditions may be more conducive to astral manifestations.
It is significant that more UFO sightings occur during periods of intense magnetic activity and in areas characterized by magnetic disturbances and anomalies. Many sightings also occur around reservoirs, lakes and rives (water being a concentrated form of etheric energy).
There may be various factors at work which cause astral visitations to become easier or more difficult at periodic intervals.
Sightings of unidentified flying objects and encounters with alien beings are not a completely new phenomenon that began in the mid-20th century. They are a part of a spectrum of unusual sightings and encounters that have been taking place since time immemorial.
The majority of UFOs are unexplained lightforms that often seem to be living, conscious entities. Most of them probably emerge into visibility from the ethereal realms interpenetrating our physical world, and are able to change their shape, size, and density.
There are also sightings of apparently structured craft that behave at times like solid physical objects, but are also capable of suddenly appearing, disappearing, and changing shape. The possibility that genuine extraterrestrials who have evolved on other physical planets or even on nonphysical planets are visiting earth cannot be ruled out.
However, the incredible diversity of entities and their often weird and eccentric behavior suggest that the majority are temporary manifestations of shape-shifting elemental entities, moulded by pictures in the earth’s thought-atmosphere. Their craft, too, may be temporary manifestations modeled on astral images rather than the product of a technology that has evolved on some other planet.
While some people report strange encounters with ‘aliens‘, others report encounters with all sorts of monsters or other religious, mythic, and legendary beings, some of which are seen in conjunction with bright lights or aerial ‘craft’. No one would claim that all these entities come from other planets. In fact most ufologists prefer to ignore such accounts and their parallels with UFO encounters so that they can continue to propagate the modern, space-age myth of extraterrestrial visitations.
While close encounters often include definite physical phenomena, other aspects are more like visionary experiences. Many abduction reports seem to be at least partly generated by, and certainly distorted by, the use of hypnosis. But there is little doubt that many people have had genuine strange experiences in which they enter an altered state of consciousness and see visions that incorporate patterns of archetypal themes and images, drawn from the collective psyche and modified by contemporary cultural obsessions and individual preconceptions.
The UFO phenomenon involves elements that are both rational and absurd, both friendly and hostile. There is no reason to think that there is a single intelligence or consciousness behind it. It is an agglomeration of many things, from spontaneous manifestations of playful elemental lifeforms, to phenomena orchestrated by unseen intelligences, not necessarily benevolent. We are witnessing projections from the multilayered mind of Gaia, of which our own minds are one facet.
The answer to UFO encounters appears to lie not so much in the stars as in ourselves.
Although ordinary humans are unable to predict when or where or to whom the next UFO or alien will manifest, there is nothing accidental about it; chance is merely a word that conceals our ignorance of the real causes. According to the ancient wisdom tradition, we reap what we sow, life after life, and encounter the experiences and challenges needed to help us to recognize and correct our shortcomings and deepen our understanding of nature.
The UFO phenomenon can be seen as a collective intelligence test — and one that is widely flunked. Like spiritualistic and other paranormal phenomena, it is challenging the modern materialistic worldview. Scientists are being confronted with impossible flying machines that break the laws of physics. The military must often look on helplessly while strange lights circle round their installations and leave their jet fighters standing. Most scientists are happy to dismiss and ridicule the whole phenomenon as it does not fit into their narrow conceptions of reality.
Many ufologists continue to adhere rigidly to the simplistic extraterrestrial hypothesis, even though it fails to do justice to the overall complexity of the phenomenon. Having grown disillusioned with the angels and gods of old, many people now prefer to look to space beings for their salvation, and some join UFO cults that behave like irrational religious sects.
Instead of being extraterrestrials from outer space, ‘aliens‘ appear to be ‘psychoterrestrials from inner space‘, as Michael Grosso calls them.
‘Alien adventures,’ he says, ‘turn into allies for transformation when they … force us to question our metaphysical assumptions and to revise our workaday maps of reality’ .
The UFO phenomenon deserves to be investigated with a critical but open mind. Or as one ‘alien’ reportedly said: ‘You should believe in us — but not too much!’