Alien Minds and the Will to Believe

Once upon a time in my youthful naiveté, I would mock those who said they believed in out-of-space aliens and flying saucers.  In my hubris, I even wrote an extensive academic paper saying that the popularity of science fiction and the myth of planetary escape provided by the UFO cults and the media served the function of distracting us from earthly problems connected to the changing social structure of western societies and the concomitant transformation of our symbol systems from the traditionally religious to the scientific and technologically based.  I argued that there was something devious in this new narrative, like the story of astronauts playing golf on the moon.  Although I didn’t then say it, I imagined the next public relations stunt would be ping pong on Mars.  But I now know that ping pong is a Chinese dominated sport.

I must confess that I have never seen a space movie like 2001: A Space Odyssey or Star Wars or the television series Star Trek; and I have never read any science fiction like Childhood’s End.  I was always repulsed by such fantasies, since figuring out what was going on here on earth was hard enough to grasp.  They always seemed like a diversion to me.  Of course I have studied their story lines and know about them, and fiction is fiction, right?  The movies and television shows aren’t real, right?

Culture, I argued in my youthful academic days, is the higher learning we are all subjected to; and culture rests upon the crystallization of a symbolic order that was then changing.  I was writing about the late 1960s and early 1970s when the promotion of esoterica of all kinds was widespread and growing madly.  And as Philip Rieff wrote in The Triumph of the Therapeutic, “Faith is the compulsive dynamic of culture, channeling obedience to, trust in, and dependence upon authority.”

I then sensed we were undergoing a massive symbolic transformation in which the controlling symbolic (from Greek: to throw together) order was being replaced by a diabolic (from Greek: to throw apart) order (that controlled in a different way) and new stories were emerging that would not order people’s lives but would disorder them as they were offered a pastiche of choices to scramble their brains so “they would never know” for sure. This was all happening at the time of the political assassinations of the 1960s, the war against Vietnam, the drug and sexual revolution, the crisis in traditional religion, the turn to the east especially among the young, women’s liberation, etc.

As a sociologist, I was following a tradition of theorizing that tries to describe social change and how culture organizes personality through its symbol systems, in this case the crisis happening between the mainstream faith in science and the counter-cultural reactions and the ways this alleged either/or was being manipulated.

Silly as it now sounds, I argued that as a result of the failure of rational, scientific, and technological culture to replace the traditional religious symbolic plausibility structure it destroyed, resulting in a deep existential void of meaning, an alternative myth about outer space and extraterrestrial life was promulgated to divert people’s attention from the creation of our Nazi-run military space program, nuclear weapons, and the military-industrial complex’s nihilistic intention to use them.  I was so naïve then.

My thesis was that through this symbolic transformation, power over all life and death passed from God to men, and a need arose to provide a story about the gods’ continuing existence.  Thus the UFO and outer space motifs whereby alien gods – through the technique of deus ex machina – might swoop down in flotillas of extraterrestrial spacecraft and swoop up the deserving ones to a beautiful beyond while the rest of the world was incinerated in a nuclear war, a staple story line of science fiction.  Of course they might also rape you; but they were the bad aliens who were at odds with the good.  ET and The X Files were still to come.

This myth of outer space was joined to a widespread rise in the promotion of occult phenomena – astrology, the Tarot, alchemy, crystal balls, satanism, witchcraft, spiritualism, etc. – that opened up all kinds of alternative, hypnotic visions of other lives past “death,” incredible new visions of inner “realities” and the cosmos, spiritual journeys to worlds unheard of, aided or not by the fuel of psychedelic drugs that were pushed by the CIA.  Thus the gods within were added to the alien gods without and new faiths were born – or rather, created.  These were mixed in a witches mélange with mainstream science or pseudo-science to create an anti-faith faith in forces that could save or destroy us, whether they be aliens, astronauts, or Indian gurus such as the creator of Transcendental Meditation (TM), Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, whose exotic teachings were married to pseudo-science and promoted as a way to reduce crime and violence and bring peace to earth.

This, I maintained in my youthful ignorance, was not a cultural accident.  Mass cultural confusion seemed to have a malign purpose that was setting us up for a reactionary backlash that would return us back to the future.  To a time when we could “never really know” but knew what we were meant to know.

That was in my old life as a scholar.  I was so much younger then but I’m older than that now.  For a few years, I have just been a regular beer-swigging normal dude walking unpaved roads and woodland hikes looking for the wild life.  I have dispensed with the books.  I have recently had a revelation like Saul on the road to Damascus but without the light or falling down. I heard no voices.  It happened inauspiciously.

A while back I learned of a nice, peaceful place to take a walk down by the river across an old covered bridge down a dirt road where lovely birds could be seen and heard.  I was surprised to learn of this place since I have lived here a long time and have sought out every wild country walk I could find.  But serendipity happens and epiphanies occur.

Three years ago when I first walked the bridge over troubled water, the place was deserted.  On the other side of the twisting Housatonic River I was surprised to see a large stone monument with an inscription signed by the governor of Massachusetts, Charlie Baker.  I knew Baker, a Republican, like the former governor Mitt Romney, was the type of “mild” Republican that the overwhelmingly Democratic voters generally didn’t complain about.  The monument commemorated a 1969 UFO event , attesting to it being “the first off-world/UFO case in U.S. history” when a nine-year-old boy named Thomas Reed and his family were said to have encountered a UFO and were taken out of their car by the aliens to a cavernous enclosure with strange lights. Beamed up and out in other words. Then deposited back in their car.

I had mocked such reports before but this one was endorsed by the mild-mannered and thoroughly establishment Charlie Baker, a former CEO of Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates, and I was shocked.  So I read about it and discovered it had been a big event in the area on the night of September 1, 1969 when about 40 others reported seeing a UFO.  It made me laugh at people’s gullibility since remnants of my intellectual skepticism still clung to my numbskull.  The more I learned about it, the less I believed it, despite Baker’s endorsement.

When I again returned to the spot a few years later, the monument was gone, and I learned a controversy had ensued, some people had complained, and the town had hauled the monument away.  Now there is a smaller round shaped plaque on a metal pole commemorating the event.

It seems the 1969 event caused mass confusion, which would seem appropriate for that time and place, as my youthful writings about culture at large explained.  This was two weeks following Woodstock, the height of the Vietnam War, twelve days after the release of the movie, Alice’s Restaurant, based on the 1967 experience of local resident Arlo Guthrie’s famous encounter and song about getting anything you want at Alice’s restaurant, a local establishment run by Alice Brock that attracted hippies and counterculturists from all over.  Clearly something was happening here, what it was wasn’t exactly clear, since you could get anything you wanted in those tumultuous times.  And anything and everything was everywhere in the culture.

But things are so different now.  We are all older and wiser.  We follow the science.  We just do what we’re told.  We read the papers about the new government report about UFOs or what they now call UAPs (Unidentified Aerial Phenomena).  There are some things we just don’t know but others that we think we do, just like the Defense Department and the intelligence agencies.  That’s what they say, isn’t it, and they wouldn’t lie?  We follow the science today. The CDC wouldn’t lie, right?  We just do what we’re told.

The creator of the television show, The X-Files, Chris Carter has a prominent Op Ed guest essay in the New York Times to explain why he so desperately wants to believe in aliens and how he actually does so without actually admitting it.  Along the way, Carter makes sure to slyly tell us he knows the truth about COVID-19:

We are living in times of uncertainty, where truth may be unknowable.  I don’t have to tell you this has bred a universe of rampant conspiracy theories. From the Covid conspiracy documentary “Plandemic” to the idea that we’re living in a black hole created by the CERN’s Large Hadron Collider when we discovered the Higgs boson.

He follows the science.  He thinks truth may be unknowable, a saying that you may have heard before. You know: “We’ll never know.” Except for certain truths. For he knows all about the pandemic and aliens.  And he tells us:

When we were dressing the original set for Agent Mulder’s office on “The X-Files,” I came up with the poster with a U.F.O. on it that reads “I Want to Believe.” And I think that’s where most people come down on the whole extraterrestrial business. Not quite there yet, but waiting for a sign.

I’m not waiting.  I’m there.  I received the sign.  I know.  I got there just a few days ago when again, in my new found clarity devoid of my old intellectual perspective, I walked that bridge over troubled waters and saw a large piece of metal lying in a watery ditch right where Thomas Reed described his abduction.  It was new and very shiny.  Talk about signs!  If that isn’t science, I don’t know what is.  Direct observation has brought me to the truth.  The aliens came back and lost a bumper.  Although you might say that’s just circumstantial evidence, I must disagree.  It’s not a symbol, I know that.  I saw it with my “eyes wide shut.”  I follow the science.  Life is not a movie, is it?

I once thought the UFO people were crazy and there was a concerted effort to confuse people.  But I was so much younger then.  I’m older than that now.

Carter ends his essay by saying, “I want to believe.”

I say: Lords, I believe.  Help my unbelief.





28 thoughts on “Alien Minds and the Will to Believe”

  1. What can I add to the erudition above (below?), except to say if they’re smart enough to get here they’re not going to let any humans know for sure unless they want to and they won’t do us any harm unless it’s to reverse the harm humans have done to everything else. I loved “The X-Files” and “Roswell” on TV. I have never cared for sci-if in books (aside from some Ray Bradbury) or movies. But I will recommend this column and all the comments.

  2. A wonderful piece Ed, thank you. Your gentle word-play and sarcasm bring a smile even when I’m not expecting it.

    My wife Annie and I just experienced our own strange encounter with “the science” this past week. We left California where we are members of the unclean/unvaccinated who must wear a mask in most business establishments – a requirement posted clearly on their entry doors. We left California and went camping in rural Utah for several days. It would appear from our observations that the deadly “virus” is quite respectful of state boundaries. There was nary a mask to be seen in four days in Utah. No business establishment required a “mask” in homage to the symbolic virtue-signaling purity required back home. No one appeared to be living in trembling fear of the “virus,” no one was afraid of encountering a “stranger,” or of smiling and talking with another human being, as if such a thing was somehow “natural.” We have concluded that the state line appears to be some sort of reality-bending “time-warp” – or worm hole into another parallel reality. The UFO’s may know something about this or might even be the one’s behind it. I trust that DARPA is investigating the phenomena even as I write this. These are clearly strange days Ed.

  3. Whenever I look at a hornets nest from above my first thought is not ‘do I want to put my hand in there’. Id like to think Im smart enough to watch it and track the behaviour of those bugs. If there are aliens, Im pretty sure they would do the same thing. 😉

  4. “But things are so different now. We are all older and wiser. We follow the science.” Yes, we have been dulled and pacified into the wisdom that rejects faith in the invisible spirit and miracles and embraces faith in the impeccable purity of science, untouchable by the corruption we all know abides in government and business.

    Most of us don’t know about the crisis in science, where studies cannot be replicated and mostly no one tries to replicate them because the journals are not interested in publishing things which at best only confirm what they have already published and at worst disprove it or call it into question. Most people have not heard of the former editor of the NEJM who said that it is no longer possible to rely on the verity of published studies.

    Scientists are thought to dwell in a world apart from the greed of the corporate hegemon. The white coat is a symbol of purity and discipline and knowledge, an icon in the religion of modern science.

    But science is only science to those who understand the science. To everyone else it is a form of faith. When government settles on a conclusion to a scientific question, it is faith in government, cloaked in science.

    And it works the same for all the institutions in which we as good citizens believe: medicine, education, nonprofits, charities.

    Certain wealthy and powerful people discovered long ago that a little money works wonders to move such institutions in directions favorable to themselves.

    Because most people are too busy to study anything outside their personal professional interests, other than their recreational activities and getting what they are told they want.

    In the ’70’s we wanted it all, we could get anything we want (excepting Alice). Now, older and wiser, we want to know if is safe to go outside.

    And yes, we want to know if there is anyone out there. The high priests of science say it must be so. And so it is. Go ask Alice.

    1. Right on. Plate tectonics, Big bang, dark matter, expansion as the cause of redskift, etc. Green hour effect as cause of climate changs,have been discredited . Yet they are treated as fact. No one bothers to read alternate theories.

    2. Thank you Eddy, I find it difficult to believe/understand why anyone would believe any government, any agency who has tunnel vision, looking only at profits to be made. I could care less what college degrees or credentials someone boasts of. We have become a world which looks at life through a drinking straw with a dollar sign on the other end. How can we live and think the way we do, yet while being convinced we know something? Why would slaves trust the plantation owners?

      1. Quite so.
        “Why would slaves trust the plantation owners?”
        Maybe, because “slaves will be slaves” and “plantation owners will be plantation owners”?!

  5. In the early sixties, my mother and I were alone in our house in the ridge and valley part of Pennsylvania. There was a loud humm which got louder until until everything started shaking. My mother sent me out to see what was happenning. It was very dark. I could could make out a saucer shaped object with a dome moving slowly across the sky. We were near a site that is still classified.
    Years later on our honeymoon in a remote area of Big Bend National Park, we heard the exact same noise.
    Something unusual happened. There was absolutely no reason to think that it’s origin was extraterrestial.

  6. In an unused portion of my garden, next to a rather massive potato planting, I have erected a UFO landing pad. Taking an unused cucumber support frame, some golden hued fairy solar string lights, and some cool white solar stake lights, I am beckoning any curious aliens.

    Nothing yet.

    I may up the ante tonight and switch the solar strings to flashing.

    It’s a beautiful sight and a playful respite.

    Who knows. Some old time farmers here in Upstate NY swear they saw UFO”s in the early 70’s.

    1. Barbara,

      I am sure the farmers did see UFOs, as have many, many people around the world, including pilots, et al. I don’t doubt that. What they are is the question. I don’t know. For me the issue is so-called aliens from outer space. Creatures/people or whatever they are said to be. Intelligent life? That’s where I draw the line.

      1. If they drop by tonight, I’ll ask them. They’re welcome as long as they don’t mess with my potatoes!!!

      2. Ed, start digging in deeper to the whole UFO, Experiencer, Ancient Aliens, Contact Phenomena. There are so, so many reliable witnesses who have seen landings, where physical traces were left behind, that it is very difficult to deny the reality of such events. Read “the Day After Roswell,” John Mack’s “Abduction,” and anything by Richard Dolan. Many excellent researchers have collected eye -witness accounts from military and pilots. Ancient societies like the Dogon had information concerning distant star systems when there were no telescopes to have given them such knowledge. This planet has always been visited, and is still being visited, it does appear, if you just look at the evidence…..and, the fact that our government has been building our own craft, reverse engineered from downed ET craft for many decades, also appears to be true.
        If you look at this whole Planet Lockdown and Covid Coup, and if you think the choices made by our Governments has been “inhuman” sociopathic and fundamentally evil, then all those above facts and eye witnesses should be paid a bit more attention to, don’t you think? I have decided that to explain the behaviors of the past year and a half either Sociopaths, Demonic Entities, or Hostile Aliens are running the show…….just not such which of those three race horses is the best bet for the win!!

  7. Ed….thanks for this.
    This 1969 incident is well documented in an 2020 episode of Unsolved Mysteries on N-flix. It is the rebooted series that originally starred Robert Stack.
    It’s called the Berkshire UFO Incident. I was psyched to see this as I spent summers in Pittsfield back then and was probably there that weekend for the holiday with family as a 9 yr old. Compellingly, this story has many witnesses that tend to corroborate each other. This area isn’t far from the Hudson Valley in NY where there were many sightings over the years.

    Ha, I was a big sci-fi fan growing up. Too young to be jaded by war and politics , I was drawn to the stars by the likes of Asimov, Clarke, the Apollo program, Star Trek and then later by the great sci-fi films of 70’s.
    Close Encounters of the 3rd kind really struck a chord. It really touched on the “high strangeness” aspect.

    Regarding the recent reports, I have so little faith in US institutions like the military that it is hard to except these at face value. Do I believe the US military bureaucracy is hiding vital info on this subject? – you betcha.

    I stopped reading sci-fi and fantasy in my 20’s as I needed to study more terrestrial matters but the UFO narrative didn’t slow down so I did read much on the sightings and abductions – read John Mack.

    I recommend the Berkshire UFO Incident episode. What humans don’t know about reality could fill a black hole…..

  8. Well, Covid, foreign enemy, UFO etc… it’s all about Power of the State. The State needs to keep people busy at bay with fear and so to be dependent constantly !
    Faith literally robs human kind the critical thinking capability. Witch hunts, senseless wars, genocide, racial massacre etc you name it.
    That’s why Statism is truly an ultimate FAITH and the most powerful and the worst of all!

    1. Good morning the taoofanarchy…who was it who wrote about, explained the pitfalls of faith and the absence of critical thinking?
      And then we have denial. Good grief we’re in mental gridlock very easily! And the young children; those who some adults want to create a better world for…, by repeating the same mistakes and marching in place in quick sand !

  9. After reading this piece I am compelled to offer the analysis of theologian Paul Tillich in his concise book ‘Dynamics of Faith’ (1957). Tillich brings clarity to our period of dis-integration.

    1. Thank you William for your post. I was unaware of Paul Tillich as I am unaware of so many things. But, a quick question…is faith the result of despair?

      1. Thank you, Joseph. I found Tillich’s book ‘Theology of Culture’ a good, broad intro to his thought and analysis and deep knowledge of history/philosophy.

        As to your question, I can point to a couple of quotes from ‘Dynamics of Faith’ that may shed light (I am no philosopher/theologian!). For the source of faith: “Man is driven toward faith by his awareness of the infinite to which he belongs, but which he does not own like a possession.” The tension implied here may be a source of despair (a consequence of idolatrous faith), but faith is fundamental to being, so despair would not result in faith, rather the reverse. Idolatrous faith is still faith.

        Here’s a relevant quote for our time. It is part of a discussion of the mutual relationship of faith and reason: “The road leads from reason fulfilled in faith through reason without faith to reason filled with demonic-destructive faith.” Clearly, the control of reality by “reason as a technical tool” or “technical reason” plays an outsized role today against “reason as the source of meaning, of structure,…the basis of language, of freedom, of creativity.” (Reason fulfilled in faith). The distorted use fills reason with demonic faith, which destroys the true nature of reason and dehumanizes (techno-utopian, trans-humanist, 4th industrial revolution).

    2. Thanks, William. You are right. Tillich understood the demonic very well. Actually, he understood many things very well. Faith, anxiety, courage, despair, etc. I am a student of his work, having once been a professor of theology. Pax, Ed

    3. But am now just a beer guzzling regular guy tramping down dirt roads in search of the wild life. Paulus, as he was known to his good friend Rollo May, whom I once interviewed (an important writer, by the way), was a fascinating character.

  10. I’m just sitting here, watching the river flow into the sound of silence, aging like Merlin and reading into it like my own personal back pages. Or so I think, until the next AI conjured squirrel approaches my flank and off I go chasing the wild thing to its logical conclusion.

    It must mean something, though, that recent change in the Overton window in which US military and the media no longer appears to suppress the idea of alien visitation. It is certainly in keeping with the general pulling out of all the stops on the Wurlitzer of American dreams.

    While Trump was in office, cacophony ruled the kakistocracy. It is quieter now. People are looking for signs of what is coming. One sign says “Do This, Don’t Do That”. It’s not hard to read.

    I’ve seen videos where the signs on Mars and the Moon are not hard to read, but in video there must be a leap of faith, a will to believe, if you will.

    It is a strong faith that can equate Plandemic to living in a black hole created by CERN. A faith worthy of Mandela, perhaps.

  11. Like I’ve said before “I don’t know shit.” I know that my cat’s fur is silky smooth and that my new Datura is heavy with blossoms. Other than those types of “knowing”, I don’t know shit. I do appreciate an open mind. What’s nice about us hoo-mans is that we can contemplate an issue – true or not – and decide if we actually care.

    Therefore, one thing I know for sure: I really could give a rat’s ass about Alien beings. Real or not. Is there something tinier than a rat’s ass? If so, THAT’s how much I care.

  12. Good morning everyone…., Edward, you said; “And as Philip Rieff wrote in The Triumph of the Therapeutic, “Faith is the compulsive dynamic of culture, channeling obedience to, trust in, and dependence upon authority.”
    I wonder what the results would be if 300 million people could be put into a blender and stirred around for a few minutes?
    If a fish was set on a branch at the top of a 100 feet tree? If an entire society ingested over a period of time, large sums of chemicals, substances that are eaten, breathed and are incompatible with humans? If humans are subjected to numerous contradictions and falsehoods over a period of time from people who have no idea what they are thinking or saying…., The plotters, schemers, socio-paths and militants are simply as crazy as everyone else even if it appears they have some kind of plan they are carrying out. Is the only difference between them and us simply due to they communicate more frequently, have a common hobby of destroying lives? I never gave much thought to life on another planet. I was always too fatigued with attempting to understand the insanity that we have allowed on this planet Earth. Perhaps I’ll let my mind wonder as far away as some corrupt small town in Alabama and wonder how life is there or perhaps in Olongapo in the Phillippines. I have never dismissed the idea of life on other planets. There certainly isn’t much life on this planet. Listening to and following the various people we assign authority to; from the head chef to the supervisor at the local muffler shop to the dean of University of Nothingness to the president/god, the ministers and junkies…, all of this blind obedience will create insanity! What culture ceremoniously howled at the moon. How many of the blender victims know there is a moon? What is our relationship to other planets and are there really laws/interactions of bodies of the universe?

  13. The German comedian Karl Valentin of 80 years ago said,
    There many things I wanted to like, but I dared not allow them. – “Mögen hab ich schon wollen, aber Dürfen hab ich mich nicht getraut.”

    And then we all remember the famous prediction “The End Is Nigh!” – perhaps it still is. After all, the death of a civilisation, like the death of an old tree, does not happen overnight.

  14. Caitlin Johnstone has some very interesting observations regarding the latest MSM/ “Defense” Department intrigue with UAP’s. If it’s not aliens, it’s the Russians or the Chinese. You must be very afraid and ready to supply unlimited funds to the war machine to “keep us safe.” It’s all about the Benjamins baby.

    BTW, there’s some great sci-fi out there, Ed. Of course, like every other genre, there’s a lot of crap too. You’re missing out.

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