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."