Saturday, March 28, 2015

UFO-Sweden, ideology and theories

In a recent blog post by former MUFON director James Carrion he presents some very critical views regarding the work and ideology of the organization he headed between 2006-2010. In the blog post with the scathing title, What´s next MUFON? Book Burning?, he states:
"MUFON is not scientifically studying UFOs, it is collecting data and has been doing so for over 40 years with nothing concrete to show for it. No hypotheses, no conclusions, so in a nutshell - no science. Collecting data for the sake of collecting data is not science, it is a landfill."

This is an interesting remark worthy of consideration. From my vantage point here in Sweden I cannot comment on how relevant this criticism is regarding MUFON but it is certainly a problem that should be addressed by ufologists worldwide. As an example John F. Schuessler, director of MUFON 2000-2006, did an excellent compilation of cases in his UFO-Related Human Physiological Effects (1996), but in this study there is no theory or hypothesis given to account for all the varied physiological effects documented.

Formulating a theory on UFO phenomena is a complicated undertaking. Part of the problem is that UFOs are so obviously diversified relating to nature and origin that one theory can only account for a part of the unidentified cases. Then there is the problem of ideology or paradigm. How to formulate a scientific theory when the phenomenon studied behaves and appears in ways that is "scientifically impossible" from a reductionist, materialist worldview? Take for instance the cases I have have presented here: Björkvik, Gohs and Väggarö.

Observation by Rolf Gohs and Peter Ingemark in May 1970

When UFO-Sweden was founded in 1970 the theory issue was no problem. UFOs were extraterrestrial visitors and the object of the organization was to convince authorities and public of this "truth". During the first annual conference in Motala 1970 the decision was made to launch a large-scale information campaign with the stated goal to "get an official recognition that flying saucers are of extraterestrial origin." During the 1970s and 80s various steps were taken to approach the subject in a more serious and scientific manner and when Clas Svahn was elected chairman of the UFO-Sweden board in 1991 he formulated what has been named the third way ufology: neither naive belief nor debunking skepticism but an open mind to various theories and claims based on critical investigation and empirical data.

Clas Svahn during a UFO-Sweden board meeting in 2009

In 2014 Clas Svahn´s book UFO. Spökraketer, ljusglober and utomjordingar (UFO. Ghost Rockets, Luminous Globes and Extraterrestrials) was published. This is a landmark in Swedish UFO history, a presentation of the best and most intriguing UFO encounters in Sweden. Most of the cases personally investigated by Clas himself. His conclusion: "After 40 years of investigation I have no hesitation in stating that there are unknown phenomena in our world that we ought to devote much more time and resources investigating." In spite of this conclusion and the careful documentation Clas Svahn presents no theory or hypothesis for these unexplained cases. This is a sensible strategy because when you enter the controversial world of theories you are immediately in deep water. Still, we must after forty years dare to formulate theories and try to map this unknown country represented not only by UFOs but all types of Fortean and paranormal phenomena.

To handle this delicate issue ufologists, Forteans and investigators of paranormal phenomena must become a sort of alternative paradigm pathfinder force. Intellectual heretics entering, what Jacques Vallee has called, Forbidden Science. As most scientists and intellectuals have no knowledge of nor interest in these "absurd pseudosciences" no help is to be expected from the mainstream academic world. The few serious students of these phenomena will have to work like an Invisible College. Hopefully there will in the new academic generation be a few students fascinated by this work as expressed by Vallee: "For me the challenge was to find out the very limitations of science, the places where it broke down, the phenomena it didn´t explain."

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Esoteric archives

As librarian and archivist one of my favourite movie series is The Librarian, starring Noah Wyle as the librarian Flynn Carsen. After a very special interview and scrutiny he is hired by The Metropolitan Public Library. To his great surprise he is taken ta a very old and secret section of the library housing not just rare manuscripts but artifacts like The Ark of the Covenant and Excalibur. His first mission is to bring back a part of the Spear of Destiny, which has been stolen from the library. The story is a charming combination of Indiana Jones-type adventure and mystical romance.

What I find even more fascinating is that the basic theme in the series is literally taken from the Esoteric Tradition and adapted to popular culture. Secret esoteric archives and libraries is often mentioned in the classic works of Helena Blavatsky, Henry Olcott, Charles Leadbeater and Alice Bailey. It is stated that the adepts, the planetary guardians, have created large archives where the real history of mankind is preserved. An idea that has my deepest sympathy as on this cosmic Alcatraz cultural barbarians has throughout history destroyed manuscripts and libraries. The Islamic religious extremists in IS is the latest example. Earlier in history Christians were no better. Whether AFU - Archives for the Unexplained will be spared from this destiny only time will tell.

During my many years of study of the classics in esotericism I have especially noted references to secret libraries and archives. I wish to share some of these references which may be of interest to academic scholars as well as that band of cultural and intellectual heretics who are fascinated by or possibly connected to the Higher Intelligence Agency.

Helena Petrovna Blavatsky

In her introduction to The Secret Doctrine, Helena Blavatsky has several pages discussing the esoteric archives:
"The Secret Doctrine was the universally diffused religion of the ancient and prehistoric world. Proofs of its diffusion, authentic records of its history, a complete chain of documents, showing its character and presence in every land, together with the teaching of all its great adepts, exist to this day in the secret crypts of libraries belonging to the Occult Fraternity." (p. xxxiv)

"Along the ridge of Altyn-Toga, whose soil no European foot has ever trodden so far, there exists a certain hamlet, lost in a deep gorge. It is a small cluster of houses, a hamlet rather than a monastery, with a poor-looking temple in it, with one old lama, a hermit, living nearby to watch it. Pilgrims say that the subterranean galleries and halls under it contain a collection of books, the number of which, according to the accounts given, is too large to find room even in the British Museum." (p. xxiv)

In Henry Steele Olcott´s Old Diary Leaves, Second Series, is presented an intriguing experience of a visit to a secret place of the Adepts. In connection with this visit Olcott comments on the hidden archives:
"All the buried ancient libraries, and those vast hoards of treasure which must be kept hidden until its Karma requires its restoration to human use, are, she said, protected from discovery by the profane, by illusory pictures of solid rocks, unbroken solid ground, a yawning chasm, or some such obstacle, which turns aside the feet of the wrong men, but which Mâyâ dissolves away when the predestined finder comes to the spot in the fulness of time." (p. 45)

A theosophical study of great interest is The Astral Plane (1895) by Charles Leadbeater. This, in my view, is the most comprehensive and detailed taxonomy of non-human entities and phenomena from the multiverse perspective of the Esoteric Tradition. In his introduction C. Jinarajadasa mentions that this was also the opinion of one of the adepts who consequently wanted a copy of the manuscript for the "Museum of Records of the Great White Brotherhood". The Astral Plane was regarded as a "landmark in the intellectual history of humanity."
"This Museum contains a careful selection of various objects of historical importance to the Masters and Their pupils in connection with their higher studies, and it is especially a record of the progress of humanity in various fields of activity. It contains, for instance, globes modelled to show the configuration of the Earth at various epochs of time; ... It contains various old texts relating to extinct and present religions, and other material useful for an understanding of the work of the "Life Wave" on this globe, our Earth." (p. xiv-xv)

In several of the volumes by Alice Bailey, amanuensis for the Tibetan, there are references to "the archives of the adepts". The Tibetan often mention checking information found in the archive.
"I but present the facts as I know them from my access to records more ancient than any known to man". (Esoteric Psychology, volume one, p. 394).
"There is an interesting and ancient proclamation found in the archives of the adepts...". (A Treatise On White Magic, p. 616).
"If you were a disciple who had access to the archives wherein instructions for disciples are contained, you would be confronted... by six large sheets of some unknown metal. These look as if made of silver and are in reality composed of that metal which is the allotrope of silver and which is therefore to silver what the diamond is to carbon. Upon the sheets are words, symbols, and symbolic forms." (Discipleship In the New Age. Volume Two, p. 249).

Alice Bailey

Finally a reference from the outstanding and erudite Swedish esotericist Henry T. Laurency. With his usual Blavatskyan temperament he discuss the secrecy of the adepts and their work:
"The condition of culture is universal brotherhood, and it is obvious that we have a long way to go before we are there. Civilization with technology is quite compatible with barbarism, which fact the 20th century clarified to everyone having a wee bit of judgement.
Knowing that fanaticism systematically eradicates everything it does not approve of, the planetary hierarchy has since fifty thousand years been collecting the essential things from the history of mankind in its inaccessible museum. There the symbolic writings of the knowledge orders are preserved as well. That museum can be visited only by causal selves who have acquired objective causal consciousness. Good provisions have been made so that no barbarians will have any opportunity to destroy it, as they did with the Alexandrian Library." (Knowledge of Life Three, p. 4).

Archives for the Unexplained (AFU) is today the custodian of very large collections of books and magazines on paranormal phenomena as well as Esoterica. We are not very secret of course as our collections are open to anyone, whether academic scholar, skeptic or journalist. Perhaps in the distant future we could become a branch of the real esoteric archive? In that case I will in my next incarnation make an application for employment as librarian. I guess Flynn Carsen wouldn´t mind a collegue in his tough and exciting work around the world. I love his comment in the Curse of the Judas Chalice, when confronted with a group of brutal thugs: "I warn you, I am a librarian".

The Evans library at AFU

Monday, March 9, 2015

Desmond Leslie as esotericist

In the history of the UFO movement Desmond Leslie (1921-2001) has a prominent role and it was his writings and theories that to a large extent influenced much of the 1950s and 60s ufology. The book he co-authored with the controversial contactee George Adamski, Flying Saucers Have Landed (1953) became a bestseller and was translated into more than thirty languages. Global sales reached around one million. When a revised and very much enlarged edition was published by Neville Spearman in 1970, Flying Saucer Review editor Charles Bowen named it The Book That Was Dynamite.

Much has been written by and about Desmond Leslie but it was not until 2010 that a biography appeared. Desmond Leslie. The Biography of an Irish Gentleman by journalist and art historian Robert O´Byrne. It is a traditional biography presenting Leslie´s family history, marriages, career as musician and the rather complicated and stresssful life he lived beginning in 1963 when he, in spite of financial and personal problems, in the end succeeded in preserving and developing his family estate, Castle Leslie, in Glaslough, Ireland. But to me the biography is something of disappointment. It is obvious that the author has very little knowledge of, nor sympathy for, either ufology or the esoteric tradition, which are referred to as "eccentric" and "quasi-religious" subjects. It this respect the book becomes a flatland biography never reaching the "soul" of Desmond Leslie. We still have to wait for an scholarly ufologist or esotericist to write a biography that will give the final word on Desmond Leslie and his fascinating life.

In his book The Fifties Spiritual Marketplace (1997) religious scholar Robert Ellwood refers to Desmond Leslie as a "British esotericist". This is to a large extent a correct description. Flying Saucers Have Landed was the first major UFO book that connected "flying saucers" to Blavatsky´s vimanas and the esoteric tradition. There are many references and quotes from the classic works of Alice Bailey, Trevor Barker, Annie Besant, H.P. Blavatsky, Geoffrey Hodson, C.W. Leadbeater, A.E. Powell, W. Scott Elliot, A.P. Sinnett a.o.

The biography by O´Byrne gives scant information on how Desmond Leslie came to realize there was a connection between the esoteric tradition and UFOs. In 1951 Leslie visited an unnamed friend and found a copy of The Story of Atlantis (1896) by W. Scott Elliot. In this book he was fascinated by a reference to the vimanas of Atlantis who were described as made of a metal of extreme lightness and strength. These craft shone in the dark as if coated with luminous paint. "It was an intriguing book , and while reading it I sensed something familiar. Certain characteristics were described there which tallied almost identically with the United States Army´s flying saucer reports of today. I began to think - and wonder. ". What perhaps Desmond Leslie didn´t realize at the time was that The Story of Atlantis was a joint effort by W. Scott Elliot and theosophist Charles Leadbeater.

Desmond Leslie

This discovery entered a period of intense research by Leslie to find references to aircraft in ancient manuscripts. He spent many hours at the British Museum studying the hindu epics Ramayana and Mahaharata where he found many refences to aerial vehicles. He read the classics in Theosophy and Alice Bailey and eventually started corresponding with Meade Layne, founder of Borderland Sciences Research Associates (BSRA) in 1945. From Meady Layne he was informed of George Adamski´s meeting with a pilot from a flying saucer. Desmond Leslie wrote to Adamski, was offered his photos free of charge and the rest in history. Flying Saucers Have Landed was published by T. Werner Laurie, London in September 1953.

In June 1954 Desmond Leslie headed off to California to meet George Adamski. Leslie had intended to stay for a month but stayed on for nearly three month. He was 33 at the time and Adamski 63 but they got along very well together and for Leslie the visit was a joyful and a success in all ways except one. He had hoped to be allowed a trip in one of the scout ships photographed by Adamski but this never happened and he complained rather bitterly at the time. Many years later Adamski explained why Leslie was not allowed on board to his co-worker Lou Zinsstag: "You know they once planned to take aboard a young friend of mine whom I very much wanted to be favoured. But they tested this man in secrecy and found out that he was still too young... to keep a secret." In his Commentary on George Adamski, published in the revised and enlarged edition of Flying Saucers Have Landed (1970) Leslie found this a wise decision. Noticing how publicity and illusions of grandeur have ruined the lives of several alleged contactees he concludes: "Vanity lurks skin deep in most of us. The eager crowds, the silly adulators, the hungry sheep seeking some new stimulus, the temptation to be "The great I Am" - I might well have become the worst of the lot." During his stay with Adamski, Leslie did observe a small golden disk not more than fifty feet away.

Desmond Leslie with George Adamski in 1954

During the 1950s Desmond Leslie was intensively involved with the UFO movement. He lectured all over the world and was interviewed on many radio and TV programs. But he also continued his study of the esoteric tradition and paranormal phenomena like materializations visiting various spiritualist mediums who could produce what is named ectoplasm. Leslie claimed to have witnessed at least forty complete materializations in the presence of many witnesses. In an appendix to the Leslie biography Herbie Brennan relates an interesting experience. Desmond had participated in a seance with the famous materialization medium Alexander (Alec) Harris. The "spirits" walked into the room were they would talk with the sitters. Leslie was convinced this was some sort of fraud with accomplices dressed up and decided to expose the fraud: "Desmond leaped from his seat and grabbed one by the arm. "I was never so surprised in my life. The creature simply dissolved under my hand and disappeared.""

One of the reasons critical ufologists regarded George Adamski and other 1950s contactees as frauds was their assertion that the visitors come from planets in our solar system, especially Venus. But although Adamski himself and the present Adamski movement still claim that Venus is inhabited by physical beings like ourself, Desmond Leslie never really accepted this assertion and argued heavily with Adamski on this issue. He tried to explain his view in Commentary on George Adamski in the new edition of Flying Saucers Have Landed, where he presented the esoteric explanation that Venus is inhabited but not in our visible part of the multiverse.

The esoteric explanation to Adamski´s venusians was presented already in 1952 by Borderland Sciences Research Association. This information was given clairaudiently to the remakable medium Mark Probert commenting on the contact November 20th 1952: "The story is in the main true. The Disc did land and Mr. Adamski did carry on a conversation with the operator of said ship. But brother Adamski was so excited he does not remember clearly all that was said. This particular ship was from the planet Venus. We would like to remind you however, that the intense heat on that body, due to its proximity to the sun and an atmosphere heavy with carbon dioxide, make it highly unlikely or impossible that beings with the same organic structure as earth-man could abide on its surface. The Venus beings live in the ether of this planet." (Journal of Borderland Research, Jan-Feb. 1972, p. 20)

"Venusian" scout ship photographed by George Adamski, December 13, 1952

From the many references and quotes from various esoteric authors in Flying Saucers Have Landed and many subsequent articles it it obvious that Desmond Leslie was very well versed regarding the esoteric tradition. This made him realize there was a great similarity between the worldview of the "space people" and esotericism. In a letter to George Adamski co-worker Carol Honey October 14, 1962 he wrote: "The teachings of the "brothers" are acceptable because they tally (agree) with the teachings of that band of initiates and sages who through all history preserved the Divine Law and released to the world in every age as much as they considered advisable to the relatively simple "children" they tried to help."

With his deep commitment to the more intellectual or academic esotericism it comes as quite a surprise that Desmond Leslie around 1960 began studying the teachings of the spiritualist group the White Eagle Lodge, founded by Grace and Ivan Cook in 1936. A traditional spiritualist group very much engaged in healing and teachings which are more mysticism than esotericism. One of the reasons may have been that Grace Cook, according to Leslie, already in the 1930s had predicted the coming of the space people. In an article, The Rise and Fall of UFO Societies, for the magazine Awareness, published by Contact U.K., Spring 1968, Desmond Leslie writes: "Thirty years ago they first received information as to the impending coming of the Space People. the have never swserved from the light, nor from the guidance given them." If Desmond Leslie had carefully studied the works of Alice Bailey he would have found the same information presented in a somewhat different form.

So can we like religious scholar Robert Ellwood define Desmond Leslie as an esotericist, in spite of his endorsement of the White Eagle Lodge teachings? I would answer in the affirmative. White Eagle Lodge functioned like Leslie´s "church" as he left the Catholic Church, but his worldview was clearly esoteric. This becomes obvious in his position statement in The Encyclopedia of UFOs (1980), edited by Ronald D. Story: "The UFO problem is vastly more complex than I first thought it was. Many are undoubtedly interplanetary probes from other systems... some of the odder sightings are not of spacecraft but of psychic and spiritual phenomena." He then refers to the theosophist Geoffrey Hodson, postulating that some UFOs could be devas or elementals.

Desmond Leslie was a pioneer in the controversial and fascinating underground world of ufology. I admire his searching spirit and his wonderful humour. Some years before his death in 2001 a guidebook to Ireland had described his family as "mildly eccentric". Leslie wrote to the publishers explaining that the Leslies were in fact "very eccentric".