Issue 2, Fall '94

Anthropological Perspectives of the Transformative UFO Scene

by Susan Lepselter

This article summarizes some of the areas covered in a paper presented to the Society for The Anthropology of Consciousness in Santa Barbara, CA. Attendees showed a remarkable interest in and knowledge of these topics.
U.F.O.s shimmer with
an unclosable potential.
Susan Lepselter has written an extraordinarily insightful paper on the style and structure of narratives detailing encounters with the fantastic, specifically UFO and abduction accounts. Her background includes a Masters Degree in English and her participation in the University of Texas Ph.D. program through the Anthropology / Folklore department. The paper details the inherent power of the evolving indeterminacy found in the way experiencers / percipients / encontrants talk about their personal stories.

A Lifetime of Anomalous Experience

by Jean Staffen

Although the majority of experiences which are currently called "UFO Abduction" exist beneath the surface of mainstream society, I believe these phenomena will prove to be precursors of a future evolution in species consciousness.

Until the publication of Communion in 1987, the subject of UFOs was primarily the bailiwick of loosely organized, quasi-scientific citizen's groups, covert government investigatory bodies, and the occasional eccentric religious group (commonly known as the "lunatic fringe").

As Whitley Strieber's Communion maintained its position on The New York Times bestseller list week after week, the attention of highly credentialed readers was captured for the first time since the phenomena came into public awareness in 1947. The attention thus captured was from sociologists, psychiatrists, psychologists, historians and cultural anthropologists, especially those practitioners specializing in the folklore of various cultures. "Soft" science recognized in Strieber's graphic account of his personal experiences what the physical scientists had never seen, or at least had never publicly admitted-a connection to a known quantity in the human experience. This quantity was known to them, however, primarily from studying cultures in other times and countries. To be fair, the information coming out of the abduction phenomena is probably less threatening to those in the humanistic sciences in that the emerging information seems to confirm their findings. Contrarily, most of the facts the physical scientists have learned about UFOs tend to disprove their assumptions.

My personal experiences in this area began in 1942, when, as a three-year-old child, I was visited in my bedroom by a glowing orb, within which a disembodied presence communicated with me telepathically. Rather than being frightened, I felt loved and valued. I felt that I had been especially selected to become identified with a species whose infinite wisdom, strength, and love, left me with a sense of overwhelming awe and humility. Although I do not remember specific things that they told me at the time, I do remember thinking that I would not be able to live up to the course I felt was being outlined by them for my life. I also remember a sudden knowledge (which is indicative of the thought-transference style of their communication) that I "would grow into it." The sure sense that my feet are being led along a definite path has accompanied me all my life.

I had awakened during a rainstorm one night when I was nine years old, to see a face staring at me through my bedroom window. The face belonged neither to a human nor an animal. Although I cannot entirely remember that face, I do remember the huge, black eyes that bored into me, hypnotizing me and holding me immobile on the bed.

In 1988, I accidentally saw the cover of the book Communion in a bookstore in San Antonio. I experienced strong body memories in the form of panic attacks, which preceded memories of a lifetime of experiences. I remembered the light in my bedroom, the face in the window and a tall, thin Being who taught me during the 1970s. Like the language of art and symbol, his instructions circumvented my conscious mind and were planted directly into some interior part of me which does not yield its knowledge readily to the probing of the conscious mind. I believe that this is the reason many people refer to these experiences as "dreams." The experiences occur at a level that is preverbal, so it is very difficult to express their content or the feelings aroused in a language designed to describe our conscious state. Words like "mood," "sense," "half-memory," and "dream" best convey the layer between conscious and subconscious wherein they operate.

In the summer of 1992, I felt I had exhausted my ability to integrate my experiences alone, with the limited aid of the books that I could find. It seemed to me that there must be others like myself. I decided to form a support group of these like-minded people, if I could locate them. I located a meeting room and drew up a simple flyer on the location and dates of the group and sent the flyer out to several members of the local media. A young reporter at the Austin American-Statesman called me and we arranged for an interview. His well-written article appeared in the City/State section of the Sunday paper. The article was picked up by the Associated Press and carried by newspapers over a wide area. I received over 600 telephone calls, and was interviewed on radio talk shows in Dallas and Tyler. The Daily Texan and Georgetown papers did articles on the group, and 62 people attended our first meeting. I was overwhelmed by the number of people expressing interest and personal experiences with UFO abduction. I was also very impressed by the level of intelligence, creativity, realness, and academic accomplishment of the average experiencer. Who knows whether we are this way because of our experiences, or whether these Beings have the sensitivity and discernment to select some of the finest people around to draft for participation.

Of course, the jury is just coming in with the emergence of "soft" science interest in UFO experience. But I am honored to be asked to put my conjectures on the record. As a result of 50 years of personal experience (as well as a near death experience in 1967) and the experiences of others I have shared-both through their books and in my support group-this is what I believe is going on.

I believe that these experiences are occurring at a level which points to the emergence (or re-emergence) of a vital area of human existence which has traditionally been ignored by our technological culture. I believe that we live in the midst of myriad dimensions, separated only by our finite consciousness and further defined and limited by our language structure and learned limitations. I believe that space and time do not exist outside our conscious minds. I believe that various situations can precipitate our movement into these other dimensions. In a culture where religion has been reduced to segmented groups who are more concerned with form than content, where Christianity remains a personality cult around Jesus and spiritual principles have been all but lost, where science does its best to reduce all of life to understandable and controllable parts, and therapy constantly tells us that we are responsible for the entirety of our thoughts and actions the UFO experience has personal access to dimensions not yet labeled. The UFO experiencer is privy to that dimension where "reality" overlaps with dream. Not only is he able to perceive the UFO experience on a subjective level, with all the joy and terror it might inspire, but he is able to share his experiences with others who have also walked along those uncharted paths. I believe there are forces both Light and Dark-with which we are unconsciously connected. I believe we are now becoming consciously aware of some of those unconscious connections. I believe our species is evolving into the conscious awareness of those dimensions traditionally interpreted by the shaman, the seer, the visionary and the prophet. Many believe these to be the End Times. They may well be, if not actually on a physical level, perhaps in a figurative sense. Life as we have known it, wearing blinders to most of reality, may be nearly over.

I believe we will find that space and time are actually only components of something we can't yet intellectually grasp. If this is true, the question of whether these entities are from another planet or another dimension will become moot. We will no longer need psychoactive drugs to open the doors into that world. I believe we have outgrown our power structures and our dependence on authority figures, and are maturing as a species. As crude as the research is now, I believe the spearhead of this maturation is embodied in UFO abductees.

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