Saturday, January 25, 2014

Ufologists, biographies and history

Ufology involves not only enigmatic phenomena and entities but has also a sociological and psychological dimension. Since the beginning of the 1950s the phenomenon has generated a remarkable human response resulting in hundreds of investigating societies and new age groups. The UFO movement has by now become an important part of cultural history. Documenting this movement and the people involved is a central function of AFU especially as many of the first generation ufologists are gone and very few academic institutions and archives collect data on controversial underground movements like ufology.

In Sweden I am continually pestering the old generation ufologists with exhortations to write autobiographies, giving the personal history and dimension to their life long involvement in the UFO movement. So far UFO-Sweden´s secretary Mats Nilsson has followed my advice and written his memoirs, which hopefully can be published in the near future. Mats has been active in Swedish ufology since 1967.

Mats Nilsson at his home and the UFO-Sweden office March 18, 2011

The secretary at work. UFO-Sweden board meeting April 22, 1995

A very fascinating and unusual type of ufologist memoir is Uppståndelsen från tefatssekten (Resurrection From the Saucer Cult) by Anders Dahl. As a young and psychologically fragile teenager he become involved with the Swedish cult group Intergalatical Federation (IGF) in 1967. But his health soon deteriorated and Anders spent some time at a mental hospital. After recovering he documented his experiences inside the IGF group. We can follow his desperate attempts to try to lead a normal life listening to Rolling Stones and Frank Zappa instead of continually having to work for the secret plans of the space brothers.

My personal contribution to the ufology history genre has so far been a monograph on the history of UFO-Sweden, En resa i tiden (A Travel in Time), published at the organization´s 40 year anniversary in 2010. My esteemed collegues in UFO-Sweden may sometimes comment on the element of nostalgia in the historical perspective. Well, I confess to being a hopeless nostalgic. Guess I´m the only member in UFO-Sweden getting a kick out of reading old newsletters, protocols and correspondence. This disposition is excellent when compiling documentations and writing articles on the development of ideas and theories within the UFO movement.

Very few of the first generation ufologists have written their memoirs. What is left is articles, books, correspondence and photographs awaiting a biographer to do the job. A very good source to the inside story of early ufology are the diaries of Jacques Vallee, Forbidden Science, so far published in two volumes. I hope we will see the third volume soon.

One of my favourite books giving an inside view of the contactee and new age movement of the 1950s is Flying Saucer Pilgrimage by Bryant & Helen Reeve. They travelled across a large part of the US meeting and interviewing most of the important contactees of the period. A companion volume could be The UFO Saga by journalist Cleve Twitchell documenting the 1950s and 60s contactee movement.

Much of the history of early ufology can be found in the memoirs of James Moseley, Shockingly Close to the Truth, written together with Karl T. Pflock. Other well known names who have also written their autobiographies are Raymond Fowler, Kevin Randle and Budd Hopkins. A book to be recommended to all young nonconformist scientists who dare to enter Forbidden Science is A Tale of Two Sciences. Memoirs of a Dissident Scientist, by the Stanford physicist and astrophysicist Peter A. Sturrock.

As I am fond of recommending books, mention must be made of a an excellent series of volumes published by Cambridge University Press. Anyone with a serious interest in the history of Spiritualism and Esotericism can find digital reprints of many of the classic out-of-print works in the Cambridge Library Collection. Spiritualism and Esoteric Knowledge series. Recently published is Ghost Land, originally edited and translated by the medium, writer and lecturer on Spiritualism Emma Hardinge Britten in 1876. She was one of the founding members of the Theosophical Society in 1875.

Speaking of Spiritualism this week AFU received a large donation of Swedish spiritualist magazines from Göran Söderqvist, board member of the Swedish Theosophical Society (Adyar). Additional issues of Spiritualisten and Utan Gräns, missing in AFU and a complete set of Polstjärnan 1984-2013, published by the Swedish White Eagle Lodge. Many thanks to Göran Söderqvist for this fine collection.

Göran Söderqvist at his home in Värmland May 16, 2013

Of interest to ufologists is that Desmond Leslie belonged to this lodge and in an article, The Rise and Fall of UFO Societies, Awareness, Spring 1988, wrote regarding their teachings: "There are spiritual groups, of course, who have maintained near perfect harmony and brotherly love since their inception. One that comes most readily to mind is the White Eagle Lodge at 9 St. Mary Abbots Place, Kesnington, W.8. Thirty years ago they first received information as to the impending coming of the Space People." 

Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Sune Hjorth archive

On December 11, 2013 Swedish ufologist Sune Hjorth died at Sundsvall hospital. He was born in 1923 and studied at Uppsala University. For most of his life he worked as a language teacher at senior high school. As readers of Clas Svahn´s blog has noticed the Sune Hjorth archive has been donated to AFU and yesterday Clas Svahn and Carl-Anton Mattsson fetched the collection in Sundsvall. Although Sune Hjorth had very different ideas on UFOs and UFO research than UFO-Sweden and AFU, his archive represents an important documentation of Swedish UFO history.

Sune Hjorth 1923-2013

Clas Svahn and Carl-Anton Mattsson with the Sune Hjorth archive

Sune Hjorth emerged as ufologist in 1988 and he lectured on the Ante Jonsson contact case at the UFO-Sweden annual conference in Stockholm March 10, 1990. Together with Ante Jonsson he also published a book in 1989, Fantastiska resor med UFO (Fantastic Trips in UFOs).

Sune Hjorth lecturing at the UFO-Sweden annual conference 1990

But it soon became apparent that Hjorth harboured rather extreme new age and conpiratorial ideas, not in accordance with the ideology of UFO-Sweden. In 1992 he founded an alternative national UFO organization, Sveriges UFO-Förbund. He also edited the magazine UFO-Kontakt between 1992-2003. Sveriges UFO-Förbund was always a very small group and it has now disbanded.

Sune Hjorth promoted the controversial Swiss contactee Eduard Meier, translating messages from the Plejadians and quoting from Meier´s alternative Bible, Talmud Immanuel. A definitely unpleasant manuscript advocating barbarian punishments for adultery and homosexuality. Individuals convicted of these "crimes" are to be castrated and executed. Not exactly love-and-light new age messages.

Eduard Meier on the front page of Sune Hjorth´s magazine

The totalitarian and antisemitic ideas presented by Sune Hjorth became an embarrasment for Swedish ufology, especially when it was disclosed by a Swedish daily in 1996 that Sune Hjorth was a member of a nazi organization in the 1940s. His appearances on radio and TV during the 1990s was by many regarded as far out entertainment. For many years he lectured to various groups and also wrote hundreds of letters to the editor of newspapers and magazines.

Article from the Swedish daily Nya Norrland December 11, 1989

Seen in the light of history many of his ideas were hilarious rather than dangerous. In his magazine he claimed that the Egyptian Gods Osiris, Horus and Seth had been reborn and were now members of his organization. Personally he was a reincarnation of the famous poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. Sune Hjorth was certainly a colorful and eccentric personality. In spite of our differences of opinion I am sure he is now, in his heaven, satisfied that his ufologist legacy is preserved at AFU.

Sune Hjorth

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Congratulations to Amanda och Irre

Today I offer my heartfelt birthday congratulations to two Swedish ufologists, Amanda Fredriksson and Irre B. Grytdal (now living in Norway). Amanda celebrates her 30th birthday and represents the new generation of Swedish ufologists. She first appeared as a daring and inquisitive newcomer at the UFO-Sweden annual weekend seminar for field investigators in November 2008. A young woman among mostly ufologist oldboys. But she was not deterred by this fact and soon proved to be an active and competent field investigator in UFO-Sweden.

Amanda and former UFO-Sweden chairman Clas Svahn at the field investigation seminar November 1, 2008

Amanda selling tickets for the UFO-Sweden annual conference May 22, 2010. Standing behind is Tage Bång

Another of the new generation Swedish ufologists is Anders Berglund, now chairman of UFO-Sweden. We were many who rejoiced when Amanda och Anders became a couple and also a star team field investigators. The family now lives at the small island Hönö in the Gothenburg archipelago with the new family member, Ossian.

Amanda and Anders at the UFO-Sweden annual conference May 7, 2011

Anders and Amanda at the UFO-Sweden board meeting October 22, 2011

Happy couple with newborn Ossian at the UFO-Sweden annual conference May 5, 2012

The family at home in Hönö April 13, 2013

Irre B. Grytdal also celebrates her birthday today. I will not disclose the age of a lady. She has for many years been a board member and hardworking enthusiast in Sweden. Irre´s UFO interest began with an observation of a triangular object in 1978. This year she also founded the local UFO group Vetlanda UFO-förening and was also for several years chairman of UFO-Köping. 

Irre B. Grytdal with a drawing of the object she observed in 1978

Irre at the UFO-Sweden board meeting April 10, 2010

Irre unloading the UFO-Sweden exhibition after the annual conference in 2011

My best wishes to these eminent ufologists. Although ufology unfortunately is very much a male occupation there are and have been many very active and competent women ufologists in Sweden. Let´s hope this is a continuing trend. I notice there is a website called Women in Ufology, but so far very few listed. In ufologist history there have been many more. 

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Swedish UFO art

Decorating the AFU premises with posters, badges, paintings and other forms of UFO and paranormal art is one of my favourite occupations in the archive. I´ve always been fascinated by the psychological impact of UFO art and how it affects our view of the phenomena. In Sweden we have been very fortunate in having many talented artists who have contributed to our magazine and books since UFO-Sweden was founded in 1970. We now have such a large collection of art in AFU that we could start an art museum. Maybe something for the future.

Art in one of the AFU premises

One of the first UFO artists was journalist and popular science writer Eugen Semitjov (1923-1987). He wrote several books on UFOs and space research and also made excellent illustrations to his articles and works. Some of the original drawings have been donated to AFU.

Drawing by Eugen Semitjov illustrating the 1946 Gösta Carlsson landing och contact case

On the walls of our main AFU premise several paintings by Ambjörn Mattsson can be studied. He was the father of UFO-Sweden board member Carl-Anton Mattsson. Many of the paintings of Ambjörn have been sold to members of UFO-Sweden but we have also succeeded in acquiring some of his works to the archive.

Niklas Svahn, son of Clas Svahn, on his way to AFU with a donation of one of Ambjörn Mattsson´s paintings

An important artist in the history of UFO-Sweden was ufologist Arnold Idebring (1921-2012). For many years chairman of the local group, Enköpings UFO-förening, and one of the most active in taking care of UFO-Sweden´s cottage outside Enköping. Here was also housed his many badges, figurines and UFO models that was Arnold´s speciality. Today they have a prominent place in one of the AFU premises.

Badges made by Arnold Idebring at the Enköping cottage

Arnold´s badges now preserved at AFU

Model of the Gösta Carlssons landing case made by Arnold Idebring

Arnold Idebring and wife Elvira at the UFO Sweden annual conference in Stockhoolm April 8, 1989. Notice the UFO lamps to the right, made by Arnold

In the 1980s one of the most frequent illustrators in UFO-Sweden´s magazine UFO-aktuellt was Dezsö Sternoczy. His paintings often exhibited the almost transcendent beauty of UFO experiences. Many of his original works are now stored in the AFU collection of art. 

Painting by Dezsö Sternoczy

Dezsö Sternoczy (left) together with Carl-Anton Mattsson in the beginning of the 1980s

Enormously fascinting is the visonary fantasy and science fiction art of professional artist Max Magnus Norman. The frontpage of one of my books is illustrated by Max and he is also famous for his very large fantasy paintings now in the homes of Swedish ufologists. 

Me admiring one of Max Magnus Norman´s paintings

There are many UFO artists not mentioned but I must of course give credit to Tobias Lindgren, head of the report central for UFO-Sweden. He is also an excellent artist and in his regular column in UFO-Aktuellt he presents suggestive illustrations to UFO reports. Tobias has also made the eye catching cover for my new book, with the perfect 1950s retro feeling. 

Illustration by Tobias Lindgren

Tobias Lindgren in 2012

Monday, January 6, 2014

The Henry T. Laurency esoteric legacy

The last decades has seen a remarkable renaissance for the scholarly interest in the esoteric tradition. What in academe has been named Western Esotericism can now be studied at universities in Paris (Sorbonne), Amsterdam and Exeter. This once taboo subject is slowly becoming mainstream. From being relegated to the dustbin of irrational nonsense it is now seriously investigated by students and scholars all over the world. There are now several learned societies and academic journals exclusively devoted to various aspects of the esoteric tradition. Excellent introductions to the study of Western Esotericism has been written by Wouter Hanegraaff and Tim Rudbøg.

I have noticed rather few comments on this cultural renaissance from organized theosophists and esotericists, which is somewhat surprising. It should of course be welcomed by all students who adhere to the motto of the Theosophical Society: there is no higher religion than truth. An academic journal which is absolutely indispensable for serious students of Theosophy and its various offshoots is Theosophical History. It was founded in 1985 by librarian and scholar Leslie Price. Present editor is Dr. James A. Santucci, professor of Comparative Religion at California State University.

In my latest book Gudarna återvänder. Ufo och den esoteriska traditionen (Return of the Gods. UFOs and the Esoteric Tradition) I devote one chapter to the, among theosophical scholars, totally unknown Swedish esotericist Henry T. Laurency, pen name for Henrik von Zeipel (1882-1971). Laurency was an exceptional intellectual who studied philosophy at Uppsala University. His teachers were the famous Swedish philosophers Axel Hägerström and Karl Hedvall. For most of his life Laurency also studied the basic tomes of the esoteric tradition, especially Helena P. Blavatsky, Charles Leadbeater and Alice Bailey. He wrote several books presenting the Ancient Wisdom with a modern and scientific terminology, most of which can be found in English translations at the official website of the Henry T. Laurency Publishing Foundation. His personal biography can be found in Knowledge of Life, Four. Of interest is his claim that the books were "dictated" by an adept in the planetary hierarchy: "The Knowledge of Reality is not my work, even though I was the instrument holding the pen that wrote it, and was made to rewrite every page until the content was approved as being correctly perceived." Laurency named his presentation of the esoteric tradition Hylozoics.

Article in the Swedish daily Morgon-Tidningen July 9, 1947

I discovered the books by Laurency in the late 1970s and contacted Lars Adelskogh who subsequently became the director of the Henry T. Laurency Foundation and heir to the legacy of the Laurency archives. Between 1981-1986 I was associated with Lars Adelskogh studying and promoting the books by Laurency. Unfortunately this partnership came to a sad end when I discovered that Adelskogh mixed his interest for esotericism with political right wing extremism and antisemitism. In 1986 this came as a chock to me and resulted a period of complete scepticism to all things esoteric and spiritual. Instead I became a member of the Swedish Secular Humanist Association and in a cultural radical and anti-cult tradition wrote several very critical articles on esotericism, Laurency and Adelskogh. I was then of the opinion that esotericism actually could be regarded as a front for right wing politics.

Lars Adelskogh at his home in Skövde, Sweden, 1984

Many years later when I resumed my study of esotericism and the books by Laurency I discovered to my amazement that the esoteric tradition was essentially politically left wing. This is especially noticeable in The Key to Theosophy by Blavatsky and the writings of Alice Bailey. There is of course also right wing esotericists, as documented by Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke in his excellent Black Sun. Aryan Cults, Esoteric Nazism and the Politics of Identity, but they must be regarded as not in line with the ideas of mainstream esotericism. Personally I find it somewhat of a tragedy that Lars Adelskogh has chosen to associate Laurency and the esoteric tradition with neonazi groups and antisemitism. Adelskogh has created a politically potentially dangerous blend of esotericism, holocaust revisionism, Traditionalism (Perennialism), antifeminism and other antimodernist ideas. This has thrown a dark shadow over esotericism in Sweden as the subject has become associated with right wing extremism. Why Adelskogh has entered this path is an enigma as his ideas are anathema to the philosophy of esotericism and even contrary to the writings of Laurency himself as this quote from The Way of Man proves: "We incarnate in all races, frequently changing our sex, belonging to all religions, etc., in succession. If we despise a certain race, etc., it may happen that we are reborn in that race. Thus for instance Nazis have to incarnate as Jews and Jews as Nazis until they have ceased to hate each other. Oppressors will be among the oppressed in a new incarnation. The law of reaping is a law of justice."

Lars Adelskogh at a lecture in Uppsala January 20, 2009

In defence of Lars Adelskogh I emphasize, in spite of his political views, that he is a very erudite esotericist and has made a valuable cultural contribution by publishing the writings of Henry T. Laurency. I assume that the international academic community of esoteric scholars will soon discover Laurency as he is a extraordinary intellectual and a fascinating iconoclast among esotericists because of his harsh, almost Blavskyan, criticism of other authors in the genre. Regarding this writing style he comments: "Readers have taken offence at “unnecessarily harsh” statements in The Philosopher´s Stone and The Knowledge of Reality. I am fully aware that “too harsh utterances irritate more than they give cause for reflection”. It has become ever more apparent, however, that formulations aimed at smoothing down do not make the necessary impression...Treating people with kid gloves you achieve very little. They will observe you, put you on the shelf, and forget you."

Swedish edition of The Philosopher´s Stone

Students who enter a study of Laurency will immediately notice a few idiosyncrasies in his philosophy. He often has very critical remarks on democracy without presenting a political alternative. This could be taken as an excuse for a fascist view but this is not a correct interpretation. Laurency is clearly a definite opponent of all forms of totalitarianism. Very peculiar is his total misunderstanding of social democracy, which he equates with communist dictatorship. His views on socialism are definitely not in line with his favourite esotericists Blavatsky and Bailey. A third pecularity is his absolute dislike of biographies, which he regards as an infringement on privacy. Given these ideosynchracies reading the books of Laurency is an intellectual challenge.He has presented one of the best and most erudite formulations of the esoteric world view aviable, even in an international perspective.

As an academic philosopher Laurency especially addressed the basic scientific, ontological and epistemological issues and problems confronting students of esotericism. He often pointed out that the only scientifically and intellectually tenable attitude to the esoteric worldview is to regard it as a working hypothesis: "To scientists without experience of other worlds than the physical, hylozoics can, of course, be only a working hypothesis" (Laurency, The Way of Man, p. 39, online version). Incidentally this is also the position recommended by the Tibetan, D.K., in the books written by Alice Bailey: "Our attitude should be that of reasonably enquiry and our interest that of the investigating philosopher, willing to accept an hypothesis on the basis of its possibility... Those open minded investigators who are willing to accept its fundamentals as a working hypothesis until these are demonstrated to be erroneous. They will be frankly agnostic..." (Alice Bailey, A Treatise on White Magic, 1971 (orig. 1934) pp 6, 32).

As information on Henry T. Laurency and Hylozoics in Sweden is so scarce I have published the chapter on Laurency from my new book on my homepage. Unfortunately it is only in Swedish but a Google translation may be of some help.