One of the failures of the scientifically oriented ufologists of the 1950s and 60s was neglecting to thoroughly investigate and document the first generation contactees and their experiences. By dismissing them all as charlatans and mystics lots of interesting empirical data was lost. But mainstream ufologists also neglected or didn´t recognize another important aspect of the contactee era. The core contactee movement as represented by a.o. George Adamski, Orfeo Angelucci, George Van Tassel, Daniel Fry and Howard Menger actually represented a unique and positive cultural impulse and a philosophy of hope for a whole generation of humanity. They advocated a philosophy in accordance with the Esoteric Tradition, the third intellectual force or pillar i cultural history alongside science and religion.
Open minded contactee research was not regarded as scientifically respectable by the early UFO-organizations like APRO and NICAP. Neither was the message of the core contactee movement regarded as anything of value by these groups. In The Gods Have Landed religious scholar J. Gordon Melton summarize this general view of the contactees: ”That such people began to populate the gatherings of flying saucer buffs became a concern of many who proceeded to condemn them as kooks or dismiss them as the lunatic fringe. There were few who saw any value in what the contactees, as they came to be known, had to say. They were an embarrassment to sober research into the unusual aerial phenomena called unidentified flying objects.” (p. 1).
This very negative assessment of the contactee movement was also reflected in the academic world. In his 1976 doctoral thesis The UFO Controversy in America, historian David Michael Jacobs wrote: ”This group was completely different from the psychologically aberrant individuals who, apparently because of mental problems, had delusions of communicating with extraterrestrial beings. These people often claimed to receive signals from outer space or to have mystical encounters with spacemen. Their experiences did not constitute deviations from their daily lives, and their stories usually were incoherent, inconsistent, or part of a pattern of psychical or occult experiences. Like the first group, these people generally did not seek publicity or fabricate hoaxes intentionally. The contactees represented an entirely different type of UFO witness. They exhibited behavior consistent with the assertion that they fabricated hoaxes… The five major contactees who rose to national stardom in the 1950s were George Adamski, Truman Bethurum, Daniel Fry, Orfeo Angelucci, and Howard Menger.” (p. 96, pocket edition).
The contactee movement of the 1950s was of course of a very mixed quality. It housed a plethora of more or less bizarre cult figures like George King, founder of the Aetherius Society and Ruth and Ernest Norman who in 1954 founded Unarius Academy of Science. And then we had the many mediums who jumped on the bandwagon and instead of channeling orientals and relatives from the spirit world changed to messages from space people. In a letter to George Adamski, written soon after Flying Saucer Have Landed was published in 1954, esotericist Desmond Leslie wrote: ”I don´t know what has happened , George, but all the mediums have suddenly disposed of their Indian guides, etc., and have replaced them with space people traveling in Vimanas.”
As very few mainsteam ufologists cared to investigate the early contactee claims they also failed to notice the positive cultural impact from the core contactee movement. Daniel Fry founder of Understanding, Inc. 1955 expressed the aim of his organization in these words in various leaflets: ”Understanding is a non-profit organization dedicated to the propagation of a better understanding among all the peoples of the earth, and of those who are not of earth.” In a later brochure the purpose was somewhat expanded: ”Understanding, Inc. is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the propagation of a better understanding among all the peoples of the earth so that they may live in harmony and be better prepared psychologically and sociologically for the space age. It is made up of many types of people who have come together to seek better understanding of each other and of the mysteries of the universe.”
One of the members of Understanding, Merlin Unit no.1, Mrs. Aleta Johnson, wrote a very insightful summary of the purpose and work of the organization. The article was published in Understanding Magazine, September 1972, and is reproduced here in extenso.
A ufologist who also understood the cultural impact of the contactee movement was journalist Cleve Twitchell, author of The UFO Saga (1966), a congenial presentation of some of the 1950s contactees. Twitchell attended a lecture by George Van Tassel in San Francisco, December 1958 and became intensively fascinated by the subject. He spent several years interviewing close encounter witnesses and contactees, attending lectures and conventions. In 1960-1961 Twitchell was director of the El Monte, California Unit No. 1 of Understanding. After these years of inside experiences in the contactee movement Twitchell concluded: ”… it should be remembered that many individuals of the past who today are regarded as pioneers of their time were in their own days considered crackpots. And so perhaps it is not illogical to assume that some of today´s flying saucer ”crackpots” are tomorrow´s great men in the making… Whatever the case, an excusion into the UFO world has benefits. There is much to be be gained in the way of broadening one´s horizons, encountering some worthwhile philosophy and simply opening one´smind. The philosophical aspect, causing men to reflect upon himself and his tiny place in an enormous universe, is perhaps the greatest contribution the saucer field has offered to those who have observed or taken part in its activities.” (p. 93)
George Adamski did not found a formal organization like Understanding but in 1958 initiated his International Get Acquainted Program (IGAP). The movement conveyed a general message of hope, peace, goodwill and inspired members to contact and friendship with people from all over the globe, regardless of race, creed or color. Lou Zinsstag, who became the Adamski´s Swiss representative in 1957 tried to convey the importance of this decision in her book George Adamski – The Untold Story, written in collaboration with Timothy Good: ”… in the early Fifties, my interest become polarized around UFO literature. This was the turning point in my life. From then on, I led a full intellectual and emotional life. My world was full of penfriends, many of whom I met in later years. Some wonderful friendships and moving human relationships were founded…” (p. 4).
In the Summer of 1954 Danish citizen Edith Nicolaisen read Flying Saucers Have Landed by Desmond Leslie and George Adamski. It became the prime heureka moment in her life and led to the founding of the publishing house Parthenon in Sweden 1957. Parthenon published several of the classic contactees of the 1950s: George Adamski, Daniel Fry, Ray and Rex Stanford, Elisabeth Klarer. These books had a strong influence on Swedish ufology in the 1950s and 60s. in fact Edith Nicolaisen can be regarded as the mother of the Swedish UFO movement. The aim of Parthenon was presented in a small leaflet: ”Parthenon was founded in 1957 as a link in the global work dedicated to peace and enlightenment, and for the purpose of awakening the Scandinavian people, especially the young generation, to a perception of our time´s epoch-making interplanetary occurences… It is our hope that the Scandinavian youth will join in this educational work. Future generations will thus be given the opportunity of a harmonic development in a new world where universal brotherly love within a fellowship spanning the whole world has swept away all the present barriers between human beings: national, social and political; different creeds and philosophies, racial prejudices etc.”
There are few books written by people who were involved in the contactee movement and also tried to grasp the big picture. An exception is Flying Saucer Pilgrimage (1957), written by Bryant and Helen Reeve. This early work gives a very good overview of the contactee movement of the 1950s. In an interview in the book Helen Reeve is asked whether their pilgrimage has finished?: ”No. We feel it has just begun. Our appetite for knowledge of the space-ships, the space-people and outer-space itself has been whetted by our trip. We want to know more. The quest for knowledge of outer-space has turned into the quest for knowledge of LIFE itself – and that never ends!”