UFOs: Physical or Subtle?
Acclaimed author and lecturer Dr. Richard L. Thompson examines aspects of the 'UFO phenomena'.
In August, 1975, a 48-year-old man was undergoing open-heart surgery. A half hour after being taken off cardiopulmonary bypass, he suffered from cardiac arrest and had to be revived by an injection of epinephrine into the heart and two electric shock treatments. On awakening, he recalled the following experience:
I was walking across this wooden bridge over this running beautiful stream of water and on the opposite side I was looking and there was Christ and he was standing with a very white robe. He had jet-black hair and a very black short beard. His teeth were extremely white and his eyes were blue, very blue.... He looked different from any pictures I had seen before.... My real focus was on the white robe and if I could prove it to myself that this was really Christ.... And during all this time the knowledge, the universal knowledge, opened up to me and I wanted to capture all of this so that when I was able, I could let people know what was really around them. Only trouble was that I was unable to bring any of it back.This is a typical example of an out-of-body experience, or OBE. In such an experience, a person has the impression of leaving his physical body while continuing to see, hear, and think as a conscious being.
Out-of-body experiences often occur when a person is in a near-fatal physical condition, and so they are also called near-death experiences, or NDEs. With the recent development of techniques for reviving a person who is near death, there has been a great increase in reports of such experiences, and a number of books have been written about them by doctors, psychologists, and psychical researchers.Many OBEs are difficult for an external observer to distinguish from dreams, although persons experiencing them may regard them as real because of their great vividness and profound psychological impact. This is true of the OBE mentioned above, which took place entirely in some dreamlike otherworld. There are many instances, however, in which a person having an OBE sees his own unconscious body from a distance. In some of these cases, persons who were supposedly unconscious due to cardiac arrest were able to give accurate descriptions of medical procedures being used to revive them.
Here is how cardiologist Michael Sabom summed up one man's description of his own resuscitation from a heart attack, as seen during an OBE:
His description is extremely accurate in portraying the appearance of both the technique of CPR [cardiopulmonary resuscitation] and the proper sequence in which this technique is performed i.e., chest thump, external cardiac massage, airway insertion, administration of medications and defibrillation.
Sabom said that he came to know this man quite well and that the man gave no indication that he possessed more than a layman's knowledge of medicine. The man also testified that he had not watched cardiac resuscitations on TV before his experience. In his OBE, the man had seen the resuscitation procedures in vivid detail, even though his heart was not functioning at the time and his brain was deprived of oxygen. If the experience was a dream, then how did the man acquire the accurate knowledge of detailed medical procedures that this dream contained?
OBEs and UFOs
There has been a great deal of controversy over how to interpret out-of-body experiences, with some favoring theories based on dreams or hallucinations and others advocating paranormal explanations. One topic that is generally not introduced into these discussions is the subject of UFOs. However, it has recently emerged that out-of-body experiences may take place in connection with UFO encounters. Many witnesses have reported experiencing out-of-body travel during UFO abductions, and some have also reported spontaneously experiencing OBEs in the aftermath of UFO encounters. This leads to a completely new controversy over out-of-body experiences - one that inevitably brings in the body of observation and theory that has built up around the UFO phenomenon.One theory is that UFO-related out-of-body experiences are actually misperceptions of physically real abduction experiences. Another is that UFO abductions are essentially illusory. According to this theory, OBEs are also hallucinatory experiences that are generated by the mind, perhaps due to the influence of some external agency. UFO abductions and OBEs go together because both are of a similar illusory nature.A third theory is that UFO abductions are real events that can take place on a gross or subtle level of material energy, and OBEs are real events involving the temporary separation of the subtle mind from the physical body. In a UFO abduction, the physical body may be taken onto a UFO, and during this experience an OBE may or may not take place. Also, some UFO abductions may take place within OBEs. In these cases, the subtle mind is taken on board a UFO and the gross body is left behind. I will discuss these theories after giving a few examples of out-of-body experiences associated with UFOs.First of all, there are reports indicating that OBEs are sometimes induced by humanoid entities of the kind associated with UFOs. One example of this is an experience reported by Betty Andreasson. She said that in July of 1986 she was lyin g on the couc
h of her trailer-home reading a Bible when she heard a whirring sound and saw a strange being appear next to the couch.
At this point, she had the experience of seeing her own body from an external vantage point:
I see myself standing and I see myself laying on the couch! The being had put a small box or something on the couch first and then I saw myself appear there. I see myself standing up.... And I see myself moving toward the being. And then I turn toward the couch and I reach down to touch myself and Ahhhh! when I do, my hand goes right through me!
In this case, the being was of the standard "Gray" type. After entering the out-of-body state, Betty underwent a strange experience involving visions of crystal spheres, the passing shadow of a gigantic bird, and a hovering spherical craft. This is in some ways reminiscent of the otherworldly experiences that often occur in OBEs. However, the "Gray" aliens were present throughout the experience.
Whitley Strieber recounted a very similar experience, in which he awoke at about 4:30 in the morning in his country cabin and tried to achieve an OBE using methods recommended by Robert Monroe, a well-known investigator of out-of-body states. He said that he saw an image of a long, bony, four-fingered hand of a "Gray" being pointing towards a two-foot-square box on a gray floor. He then experienced an inappropriate wave of sexual feeling, followed by an OBE. He found himself floating above his body. He saw his cat, which should have been in New York City, and he saw the face of a "Gray" visitor outside one window. He found that he could move about in his out-of-body state, and he described his adventures of passing out through a closed window and back. During all this he experienced himself as a "roughly spherical field."There are also cases in which a person has an out-of-body experience with no obvious cause, enters a UFO in the out-of-body state, and has an encounter with UFO entities. For example, Betty Andreasson, after her remarriage to Bob Luca, reported a joint OBE in which they both entered a UFO occupied by typical "Gray" beings. There she encountered featureless human shapes glowing with light and found that she was also in this condition. She also saw the featureless light-forms changing into balls of light and then back into human light-forms.
In another out-of-body UFO experience, a person named Emily Cronin had the experience of standing by her car and seeing her dormant body within the car. Here she recounts this experience under hypnosis:
Emily: Not in the car. But I am in the car. It's silly.
McCall: Don't worry about it. Just tell me what's going on.
Emily: That's silly! You can't do that!
McCall: You can't do what?
Emily: You can't be in the car and out of the car, too. That's silly! But I am.
After this, she saw a large, glowing "bubble" hovering over some trees by the roadside. She communicated telepathically with unseen intelligences associated with this object, and she had a realization that all life is one and that the intelligences were not actually alien.
In the case of Judy Doraty discussed in Chapter 9 [see Alien Identities], the witness, Judy, experienced standing by her car and simultaneously entering a UFO and observing what was happening inside it. In this case, the UFO had been previously seen by Judy and other witnesses from a normal, physically embodied point of view. Within the UFO, Judy reportedly observed humanoid entities cutting up a living calf and then dropping its body to the ground using a shaft of light. This would suggest that the scene within the UFO was grossly physical and that Judy was viewing it just as persons having OBEs sometimes observe their own bodies.
People in their normal bodily condition usually cannot perceive someone who is present near them in an out-of-body state. However, Judy reported that the entities she saw in the UFO were aware of her presence, and they communicated with her telepathically.
The White-Robed Beings
Betty Andreasson recalled under hypnosis that as a teenager she was taken into an alien craft, which entered a body of water and emerged in an underground complex. Up to this point, she seemed to be traveling in her physical body, since the trip involved what appeared to be great g-forces of the kind produced by ordinary acceleration. In the underground complex, she was told by "Gray" beings that she was going to be taken home to see the One. Here is the experience that unfolded next, as relived through hypnotic regression:
Betty: We're coming up to this wall of glass and a big, big, big, big, big, door. It's made of glass.
Fred Max: Does it have hinges?
Betty: No. It is so big and there is - I can't explain it. It is door after door after door after door. He is stopping there and telling me to stop. I'm just stopping there. He says: "Now you shall enter the door to see the One."
And I'm standing there and I'm coming out of myself! There's two of me! There's two of me there!... It's like a twin.
After thus entering an out-of-body state, she went through the door:
Betty: I went in the door and it's very bright. I can't take you any further.
Fred Max: Why?
Betty: Because... I can't take you past this door.
Fred Max: Why are you so happy?
Betty: It's just, ah, I just can't tell you about it.... Words cannot explain it. It's wonderful. It's for everybody. I just can't explain this. I understand that everything is one. Everything fits together. It's beautiful!
This sounds like a typical description of the experience of Brahman realization, a state of consciousness that has been sought by yogis and mystics the world over. In the Vedic tradition, there are several schools of philosophical thought regarding the nature of Brahman realization...
After leaving the door of the One, Betty reported encountering mysterious white-robed beings: "Okay, I'm outside the door and there's a tall person there. He's got white hair and he's got a white nightgown on and he's motioning me to come there with him. His nightgown is, is glowing and his hair is white and he's got bluish eyes."
This person looked like a normal human, in contrast to the small "Gray" beings she had encountered thus far.In his discussion of this case, Raymond Fowler pointed out that possibly similar beings were reported by Italian Navy personnel during a UFO sighting on the slopes of Mount Etna on July 4, 1978. Here a red, pulsating, domed disc landed, and the witnesses encountered "two tall golden-haired, white-robed beings accompanied by three or four shorter beings wearing helmets and spacesuits."
In this case the tall white-robed beings were seen by military personnel who were presumably in their physical bodies, in a more or less normal state of consciousness.In OBEs not connected with UFOs, there are frequent references to beings in white robes. An example would be the cardiac patient's OBE. It is significant that although this witness thought the white-robed being he saw was Christ, he remarked, "He looked different from any pictures I had seen before." Evidently, he felt some doubts about this identification. It is also interesting that the man's encounter with this being was accompanied, as with Betty Andreasson, by a mystical experience involving intimations of universal knowledge.
So here we have three cases in which white-robed beings are described. In one, a person had apparently been physically abducted by ufonauts, then had an OBE involving a mystical experience, and finally met a being of this type. In another, these beings were seen along with a UFO by military personnel who were walking about in an apparently normal state. In yet another, a being of this type was encountered in an OBE that occ
urred during a medical emergency and was not connected with UFOs.
[British UFO investigator] Jenny Randles discussed a possibly related case, in which a medically instigated OBE led to a meeting with a tall white-haired being from a UFO. This experience was reported to her by Robert Harland, a professional magician and, alas, a self-confessed phony medium. Harland told Randles that he went to a dentist in 1964 for major oral surgery. An anesthetic gas was administered, and he had an OBE. From an out-of-body perspective, he saw that the dentist banged his knee, and the dentist later verified this.Thus far, this was a typical OBE of the kind associated with physical trauma. But then Harland saw a tall being with long white hair drift through the ceiling and explain telepathically that they must go together. They floated through the roof into a UFO. He was shown around. The UFO's operation was explained, and he was given a message to convey about a terrible holocaust in which the Earth's crust would split apart. He was then told he would have to fight his way back to his body. Indeed, small, ugly creatures tried to prevent his return, but he made it and awoke to see the dentist thumping him and looking very worried. He had nearly died in the chair.
One can always hypothesize that the beings seen in these four cases were simply dreams or hallucinations, although this raises the question of why people would independently have such similar dreams. If we leave the dream hypothesis in the background and consider that the beings might actually exist, then the question is: Are these beings operating in gross physical bodies or bodies made of some kind of subtle energy? The observations of the Italian naval personnel would suggest the former, while the stories of the cardiac patient and Mr. Harland would suggest the latter.
Physical Form or Subtle Form?
One interpretation of this bewildering data is to interpret all UFO abductions as strictly physical and reject OBEs as a mistaken idea. This approach has been taken by David Jacobs, an associate professor of history at Temple University in Philadelphia and an active investigator of UFO abductions. Jacobs wrote the following about abductees' perceptions:
Part of these anomalous memories and dreams might be the unaware abductees' knowledge that they have had Out of Body Experiences. It is common for abductees to feel that they in some way left their body, usually during the night in bed.... A few unaware abductees claim that they have not only had Out of Body Experiences but that they have experienced Astral Travel as well. They know that they have in some mysterious way experienced a strange displacement in location.... The only way that they can reconcile what has happened to them is through the only available explanation - astral travel, no matter how ill-defined that might be.
Jacobs's idea was that abductions by UFO entities really happen but that out-of-body experiences are a "new age" misconception adopted by "unaware" abductees. He maintained that abductees will generally abandon their false ideas about OBEs when they become aware of what really happened to them. Thus, "knowledge of the abductions finally gives them the answers they were seeking and the majority of them let go of previously held belief structures that were never fully satisfactory."
This interpretation seems unsatisfactory because it blurs the distinction between (1) abduction experiences in the physical body during which an OBE takes place, and (2) abduction experiences occurring entirely in an out-of-body state and accompanied by memories of seeing the gross body as it is left behind.The same can be said of the interpretation of all abduction experiences as being entirely psychical or mental. For example, Jenny Randles has used accounts such as Robert Harland's to argue that UFO abductions are entirely mental experiences induced in psychically susceptible and visually creative persons by alien beings that "have harnessed the power of consciousness to cross the gulfs of space and seek out new life forms."
This interpretation also blurs the distinction between points (1) and (2). If all abduction experiences occur entirely in the mind, then why do some seem to the witnesses to occur on the bodily platform of experience, while others, such as Harland's or Emily Cronin's, occur in an out-of-body state?
Physical After-effects of UFO Abductions
Of course, a further objection to the all-mental theory is that scars and infectious diseases have been reported in connection with UFO abductions. Budd Hopkins is well known for his claim that abductees sometimes bear scars, which they associate directly or indirectly with UFO encounters. One example is Virginia Horton, whose illusory deer encounter is mentioned above [see Alien Identities, pages 249-50]. She also told of a deep, profusely bleeding but painless cut that she received as a six-year-old child. In her conscious recollections, the cut was memorable because at the time she was unable to explain to her elders how she had gotten it. Under hypnosis, she related an elaborate abduction scenario in which aliens of the typical "Gray" variety took her into a circular room illuminated by diffuse, pearly gray light and made the cut with some kind of machine. They explained to her that "we need a little, bitty piece of you for understanding."
The noted UFO researcher Raymond Fowler has also described under hypnosis a nightmarish, dreamlike experience in which he seemed to be manipulated by beings that he could not see. This would seem to be a good candidate for a purely mental experience but for the fact that it occurred on the night before a mysterious, unexplained scar appeared on his leg. This scar was said by a dermatologist to resemble the mark made by a punch biopsy.
Fowler cited research into scars and other medical sequelae of UFO encounters that was carried out by Dr. Richard N. Neal, a specialist in obstetrics and gynecology at the Beach Medical Center in Lawndale, California. Neal maintained that scars tend to show up on the bodies of abductees in a consistent manner. Thus, "scars have been observed on the calf (including just over tibia or shin bone), thigh, hip, shoulder, knee, spinal column and on the right sides of the back and forehead." These scars tend to be either thin, straight hairline cuts about 2-3 inches long or circular depressions about 1/8-inch to 3/4-inch in diameter and as much as 1/4-inch deep.
Other kinds of bodily marks have also been noted, such as rashes on the upper chest or the legs that are often geometrical in shape. First or second degree burns have been noted, as well as infections and unusual growths. For example, there are two examples of women reporting severe vaginal infections after UFO abductions that involved gynecological examinations.
The very fact that abduction witnesses report invasive physical examinations suggests that their experiences are not simply mental. Dr. Neal pointed out, "Aliens have taken blood, oocytes (ova) from females and spermatozoa from males, and tissue scrapings from their subjects' ears, eyes, noses, calfs, thighs and hips." Sometimes tubes are inserted into women's navels - an operation that was described to Betty Hill as a pregnancy test by her captors. It has been pointed out that this operation is similar to a gynecological testing procedure called laparoscopy that was developed years after Betty and Barney Hill's abduction experience in September of 1961.
Finally, we shouldn't overlook the controversial topic of probes that are inserted into the nose by alien entities. As Dr. Neal put it, "Many abductees have described a thin probe with a tiny ball on its end being inserted into the nostril - usually on the right side. They are able to hear a 'crushing' type sound as the bone in this area is apparently being penetrated. Many will have nosebleeds following these examinations." Fowler and Hopkins give examples of this, and it seems to come up repeatedly in UFO accounts.
From time to time, investigators have claimed that such probes have been recovered from people's bodies for examination. However, I have yet to see any reliable publication describing a systematic study of a recovered probe.
One could postulate that people may imagine physical experiences, such as having probes inserted into their bodies. However, it is not clear what their inner motive would be for imagining such things. Many UFO abductees reporting these experiences have been tested psychologically and found to be quite normal. So their testimony cannot be attributed to abnormal mental processes.
One could also postulate that beings acting on a subtle level might be able to invoke in people's minds traumatic experiences that would result in physical symptoms. There are cases in which people have developed bleeding wounds called stigmata, apparently under the influence of intense religious emotions. There are also reports that a particular pattern of reddened skin, such as a cross, can be produced by hypnotic suggestion. Could it be that the physical symptoms of UFO abductions are similarly produced by some form of psychical influence?
One reply to this is that some abduction cases involve physical traces on objects or on the ground that suggest the presence of some physically real agent. Examples would be the ground traces reported by Budd Hopkins in the Kathie Davis case, or the strange shiny spots appearing on the car of Betty and Barney Hill after their UFO experience. Also, there are abduction cases, such as those of Travis Walton, William Herrmann, and Filiberto Cardenas, in which the abductee was dropped off by the UFO miles from his pickup point.
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