The Center for Literate Values ~ Defending the Western tradition of responsible individualism, disciplined freedom, tasteful creativity, common sense, and faith in a supreme moral being.
P R A E S I D I U M
A Common-Sense Journal of Literary and Cultural Analysis
15.4 (Fall 2015)
Faith & Cultural Meltdown
The Greatest UFO Danger of All
The Mars Voyager mission has recently beamed back some shocking photos. There is no indication through Internet chatter that these are photoshopped or otherwise hoaxed, though one always has to beware of the possibility today. If the pictures are genuine, then they lead inescapably to the conclusion that our solar system is or has been a more active place than most of us thought.
One of the photos shows a straight, thin object protruding from the surface and calibrated regularly with knob-like attachments. Some casual commentators associate this file-like projection directly with a life form (as in skeletal remains). It appears to my layman’s eye far more like the artificial product of a highly intelligent life form. It seems deliberately and expertly tooled to serve some mechanical purpose, and the angle at which it rises above the surface suggests that much of it may have been rather haphazardly buried, as if in a sandstorm; or maybe, while water was running on the Martian surface, a spacecraft managed to sink into the mud, and this protrusion is what we now see of it.
The second object is even more shocking. It has been called a crab, and it looks like nothing on earth more than a crab, in fact. We cannot possibly suppose that live crabs, or even hardy microbes, are scurrying about on the planet’s frigid and heavily radiated surface at this moment. Could the shape be a fossilized or petrified remnant of a previous life form that commonly populated Martian riverbeds? It certainly isn’t any bit of extraterrestrial gadgetry. It lacks the essential symmetry of a cog-like creation. If not a fossil, then the next-best guess would be that it represents part of an insignia or trinket that an intelligent visitor had left behind in careless or stressful circumstances.
Neither of these objects could have been formed by any kind of erosion. The first is far too neatly angled and intricately toothed with knobs (one of which may have fallen off), and the second is also very intricate and delicate even though only crudely symmetrical (in the fashion of a life form rather than a machine). Streaming fluids, howling winds, and blasting sands can leave wondrously smooth or straight surfaces, but never in so meticulous a manner as this.
What conclusion, then, are we licensed to draw? Highly intelligent beings seem to have preceded us to (or on) Mars. By definition, the state of this intelligence was superior to ours from a technical standpoint. This doesn’t mean that we ourselves are probably being visited right now by inquisitive UFO’s, though that is a possible further conclusion. It may instead be the case that a hominid life form originated on Mars and developed to a very sophisticated level, noticed that the Martian magnetosphere was disintegrating, and colonized the suddenly much more habitable earth rather than die a certain death. It could be that, in their new environment, these aliens naturally had some adjustment problems. Perhaps they bequeathed knowledge and technology that sowed the seeds of mysteriously advanced pre- and proto-historic civilizations. Yet perhaps, over the long haul, the strain of adapting to a new atmosphere, to a new air pressure and gravitational force, to new food sources, to new pathogens, to new climates, and so forth wore them down collectively to the point that few survived; and perhaps these few were the most hardy, but not necessarily the brightest or best educated.
It’s fun to speculate about scenarios that would lend themselves to an entertaining movie script but really can’t be arbitrated on the basis of our current scientific knowledge. Other than fun, what we should derive from the Martian photos is a healthy humility with regard to that same scientific learning. There is very much indeed that we do not yet understand.
And here is where the whole situation appears to me to become a little frightening. I have observed that people who are relatively well educated, and usually even extremely well educated, will often embrace this humility in a perversely hubristic fashion. Because we should be very cautious about our conclusions, it therefore seems licit to assume that some vastly more intelligent and advanced race of beings is watching over us, and perhaps has been doing so throughout our history. Because our science hasn’t yet taught us to travel from star to star, it therefore seems licit to assume that superior science has taught this master-race how to star-hop with ease. The evidence of our own shortcomings, that is, is entered as proof that an Other without those shortcomings must surround us.
That this mindset has all the markings of primitive religious awe has been noted by many (though probably not by enough). Von Daniken’s Chariots of the Gods was playing in theaters when I was a young college student, and Carl Sagan’s rhapsodies to Hinduism toward the end of his Cosmos series were not long in coming. Adoring imitators of these “sci-romance” pioneers have been legion. A smattering of the TV serials and documentaries dedicated to the subject, in no particular order, would include Ancient Aliens, UFO Files, Chasing UFOs, UFO Hunters, Alien Encounters, Oz Encounters, UFO U.K., I Know What I Saw, Out of the Blue, Craft of Unknown Origin, UFOs: Reasons to Believe, and In Search of UFOs. A lot of the same old artifacts and curiosities highlighted by Van Daniken and Sagan keep washing through these flicks, along with the same interpretations. The Inca pictographs sketched enormously over Andean deserts can only be communications from earthlings to aliens (or from earthbound aliens to their vagabond brethren). The accounts in ancient Hindu scripture of a war among the gods very clearly describe nuclear detonations and mushroom clouds. Leonardo slipped hovering spacecraft into the background of his paintings. And so it goes, on and on.
Well… the techniques used to create crop designs in England (a fully revealed hoax, we may now assume) would work equally well in the dust of the Andes; nothing at all is ever described with objective clarity in ancient Sanskrit texts (whose style is to squeeze words together in fabricating highly metaphorical descriptors); and Leonardo could imagine men fluttering about quite without a real flying saucer to serve as his model. Yet this does not deter our avid clique of perhaps over-educated people from adducing more and yet more “evidence”.
One of the most disturbing selections on Netflix involving “ufology” bears the name both of the brightest star in our sky and of an investigative organization: Sirius. The organization’s founder and the 2013 film’s guiding influence is a North Carolina physician named Steven Greer. One is at first struck by Greer’s apparently having spent more time in the gym than the library; but as his compelling story unfolds, one infers that he has bulked up either to fight the virulent cancer that suspiciously struck several of his group’s charter members at once or else to defend himself. His documentary does produce an impressive list of alternative-energy pioneers and whistle-blowers on government cover-ups who strangely dropped dead or “committed suicide”. (Former CIA director William Casey is on this list.) In a conspiracy to end all conspiracies, the film suggests that the faceless puppeteers behind the half dozen or so mega-corporations that control most of the oil, energy, news, and entertainment in the world have ties to off-budget top-secret military operations funded by billions, and even trillions, of unaccounted tax dollars. Greer’s group was just beginning to woo Congress in the direction of massive declassifications when, “conveniently”, 9/11 diverted the nation’s attention. Of course, he connects the dots.
The accordion-like collapse of the relatively squat WTC 7 several hours after the Twin Towers (and the mysterious death immediately after of one witness who had heard successive detonations during that collapse) has always troubled this writer. Squeezing another 9/11 conspiracy-documentary into an exposé of how big energy wants to keep cheap alternatives off the market, though, is a bit too much. The “information overload” alarm is sounding when the worrisome tendency of energy pioneers to die suddenly spills into the cover-up of alien visitations; and while all that is going on, we periodically look in on the dissection and DNA-testing of a six-inch alien skeleton. The conspiracy pot pourri becomes indigestible, even for those who like their leftovers stirred together. Yet Greer and his director, Amardeep Kaleka, might still have teased out a dominant savor from the brew with a little artistry. Because the government really has been far less than forthcoming about many well-documented UFO incidents, the desire to keep world-dominating technology hidden that was gleaned from those incidents would provide a great motive for all the stalling and debunking. Such should have been their thesis. (It was perhaps not even a subtext: Greer appears to conclude, rather, that “petro-fascists” want to sell their gas while smothering alternative energy, which doesn’t account for a maverick military R & D department’s involvement at all.)
With all of these inconcinnities, any further chiming must make one stop one’s ears. This final bell is sounded by the film’s recurrent preaching on behalf of some “higher consciousness” sort of communication with the aliens. Very early in the two-hour presentation, unfortunately (early enough to convince a lot of viewers that Sirius isn’t serious), Greer is shown leading a sizable group of disciples into the southwestern desert to create a kind of radio transmitter out of their combined meditative energy. The film appears to “document” UFOs buzzing low over the horizon in response to these “prayers”. The possibility isn’t examined—or even considered—that the probable proximity of military airbases where experimental craft are flown (such as the notorious Area 51) could account for the bright objects.
Nick Pope, an officer in the British Ministry of Defense who was charged for years with checking out UFO reports, has made the very astute remark that when we eliminate hoax and misidentification from the mass of claims, we are left with only about 5% of sightings that can’t be readily explained—and that the entire case for alien visitation centers in this 5%. Personally, I have believed for years that the quality of some eye-witness testimony is such that military research projects must be conducting some incredibly sophisticated tests… or else that visitors from other solar systems are keeping an eye on us. (Just possibly, too, we terrestrial humans ourselves may be slipping in and out of some “time tunnel” between now and several centuries in the future.) In other words, I remain quite open-minded to theories that place twenty-first century humankind a few rungs below the know-it-all level. The Martian photos mentioned above confirm me in the belief that we are not alone on our stellar savanna.
But the obligation of the educated intellectual of our time is to look into the 5% of cases without prejudice, just as Mr. Pope urges. It is not to start attributing the Mayan Calendar to intergalactic gurus or the Pyramids to a highly evolved biker gang from Barnard’s Star. To see so many of the intelligentsia link the bits of that 5% testimony to oil companies, the banking industry, the military-industrial complex, Wall Street, ancient shamanism, LSD experiences, prehistoric architecture, junk DNA, the Bermuda Triangle, Sasquatch, the messenger-god Hermes/Mercury, angelic visions, Hitler’s rocket program, the lost episodes of Bonanza… is deeply discouraging. I would go so far as to say that the greatest impediment to investigating the truth of classic cases like the Roswell Incident or the sightings over Phoenix in 1997 is the “piling on” phenomenon of starry-eyed intellectuals in search of counter-cultural religious experiences that also tie in with their hatred of certain political entities.
It would be wrong to disparage Steven Greer, in particular. He appears to be a man who has suffered greatly, even heroically, for the sake of truth, and to have acquired a strong and genuine spirituality, in the process. But just as the best comfort that a Christian might bring to a parent who has lost a child might not be to warble that God needed the little one up there in heaven, so the clearest warning to sound for Americans who don’t understand why their enormous central government isn’t responding to them might not include Close Encounters of the Fifth Kind. The want of judgment in asking so much of the public’s credulity all at once casts a shadow of doubt over every stage of Greer’s case. This is not the way either to shed light on new life forms or to chase an old serpent out of his dark hole.
Yet perhaps Greer’s excess was unavoidable, for it appears that human beings cannot avoid grasping after faith, especially in times of great hardship. When they flee it from one direction, they stumble into it from another. I mean only to say here that the UFO would become extremely dangerous if the neo-pagans in our academy were ever to use it to justify their progressive projects of population control and sweeping thought-purge, reasoning that our species must do this or that to “catch up” or to find favor with the Visitors. People like Greer, astronaut Ed Mitchell, Roswell rancher Mac Brazel, and scores of others seriously harassed for their testimony would hardly classify themselves as opponents of free speech married to a rigid ideology. Unlike Greer, in fact, many are very mainstream and conservative types. It is at their level that we should try to unravel these phenomena. The more grand political conspiracy and mystical hyper-consciousness we mix in, the more filters we slip between us and evidence on the ground.
Yet I will venture one more thing on the subject of ideology: if there is a “black ops” program parasitizing captured UFO technology with a view to ruling the world, I can as easily picture Bill Gates at its helm as Dick Cheney or the Koch brothers. More easily, in fact. The huge psychic gap supposed to separate the delirious utopian from the money-grubbing robber baron is a myth. The gap tends to narrow at the top until the two become the same: only look at how Soviet and Chinese Communist bosses and the Castro family enriched themselves on the misery of the oppressed. As an academic, I see daily that hysterical crusades are already laying the groundwork for an uninquisitive, anti-analytical, quasi-ritual scapegoating (and perhaps slaughter) of bad guys like climate-change deniers and “gay gene” deniers. The voodoo-science behind these witch hunts is not at all dissimilar to the crackpot-history of academics in the Humanities who cast the white male as the universal author of misery.
I don’t want to think that Dr. Greer’s project would ever make peace with our common enemy, a soulless megalomaniac materialism. But projects like his will not be able to keep their distance from that taint unless their higher consciousness is communicating first and foremost with the voice of conscience that God has set in all our hearts. Let us keep our moral receptors aimed in the right direction and our empirical endeavors, too, aimed in their proper direction. If the signals get crossed, we will never understand the scientific origin of the Martian crab, and our society will also probably dissolve into barbarism long before we can launch a manned mission.
“Pancratistes” is the nom de plume chosen by a faithful academic contributor whose career is still active and who does not wish to jeopardize its progress “through association with culturally conservative organizations” (in his own wry words).