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Book Reviews Perceptions Magazine, July 2024

The UFO Paradox
by Keith Thompson
Bear & Company,
a division of Inner Traditions International
One Park Street
Rochester, Vermont 05767
July 16, 2024, 272 pages, Paperback, U.S. $20.00
ISBN: 978-1-59143-488-7

Reviewed by Brent Raynes

Keith Thompson's The UFO Paradox: The Celestial and Symbolic World of Unidentified Aerial Phenomena, hot off the presses of Bear and Company, is a fascinating and very thought-provoking review of a phenomenon that is exceedingly controversial and complex, and thus far refuses to provide the scientific establishment with the kind of concrete and absolute proof needed to once and for all end the decades long uncertainty and ambiguity that surrounds this most peculiar subject. Again and again, it defies efforts to give up its deepest, darkest, and most intimate secrets, and the general public at large has no real idea just how uniquely "high strange" and peculiar this enigma is. The mainstream UFO community tends to keep a tight lid on that. The "mixture of objective physicality and subjective elusiveness," as Thompson calls it, with all of the bewildering psychic elements of this syndrome, causes the mainstream to be "terrified of these phenomena," a friend and scholar of his exclaimed. New York journalist John Keel shook up the field a good half century ago by claiming ufology should be a branch of parapsychology and noting that aliens and ghosts, what's the difference. And ultimately, his point was that the difference was in the perception, the frame of reference. Both aliens and ghosts can appear and disappear, levitate, walk through solid walls and doors, and communicate telepathically.

The late great Swiss psychologist Dr. Carl Jung became tremendously curious and interested in the UFO subject. In his 1959 book Flying Saucer: A Modern Myth of Things Seen in the Sky, he described an unusual event he came to call "psychoid." He recalled: "...I was once at a spiritualistic seance where four of the five people present saw an object like a moon floating above the abdomen of the medium. They showed me, the fifth person present, exactly where it was, and it was absolutely incomprehensible to them that I could see nothing of the sort." Psychoid is a term for something that somehow exists on the borders of mental and yet physical reality. Certainly, parapsychology is familiar with such manifestations, and much to the chagrin of ufologists such cases all too often overlap into their domain.

Thompson isn't the new kid on the block here. He knows what darkened and overlooked corners to shed light in. For years, his previous volume, Angels and Aliens: UFOs and the Mythic Imagination (1991), has held an honored spot on a shelf in my bulging home library. I was impressed with his grasp on the complex issues and aspects of ufology back then as I am now with this latest volume, The UFO Paradox.

Like many I have come to know in the over 57 years of my own involvement in the UFO field, anomalous phenomena reached into his own life. At age 14, young Thompson was one day gazing up into the sky when he had an odd experience. "I was inexplicably surrounded by brilliance that blazed through me and seemed to lift me beyond space and time," he recalled. It was an experience that convinced him that there was "inherent direction and purpose in life." He found himself living in two different worlds. One the so-called normal, socially acceptable, acculturated one that most are familiar with, but then another one of an inner, intuitive knowing type sense.

Then fifteen years later, while bodysurfing in the ocean waters off Hawaii, he suddenly found himself underwater and he thought to himself, "Wow. Dead isn't dead." This was three years before the phenomenon known as a near-death experience became a household term, thanks to Raymond Moody's book Life After Life. "All fear of death left that day, and it has never returned," Thompson noted. It had a profound effect on him, but when he attempted to share what had happened to him with his friends, he got confused and distressed reactions from them. He decided then and there that it was best not to bring it up anymore.

However, that was way back then. Today is a different day. A lot of water under the bridge, you might well say. Thompson has researched, investigated, and processed a great deal more about all of these kinds of experiences. He has gained a much greater and significant base of knowledge and insight into such anomalous experiences. There are even a good number of other dedicated researchers, authors, and scientists seriously studying comparative psychic syndromes with a wide range of other parapsychological/paranormal aspects in addition to near-death experiences (NDEs), as did psychologist Kenneth Ring in his 1992 book, The Omega Project: Near-Death Experiences, UFO Encounters, and Mind at Large, where he interviewed 97 UFO alien experiencers and 74 NDErs. More recently, the Dr. Edgar Mitchell Foundation for Research into Extraterrestrial and Extraordinary Experiences (FREE) conducted an extensive survey and analysis of some 3,256 alleged UFO contact experiencers, that included descriptions of numerous paranormal accounts and statistical analysis, showing 37 percent of UFO contact experiencers claimed to have had NDEs, 58 percent became more psychic since their UFO contacts, 80 percent claimed out-of-body experiences, 78 percent claimed telepathic exchanges with the beings, and some 67 percent claimed to have witnessed mysterious orbs of less than a foot in diameter.

In this thought-provoking volume, Thompson delves into many intriguing opinions, theories, and case studies that embody a complex "mixture of objective physicality and subjective elusiveness." He's rubbed elbows with many of the top researchers in the field like Harvard psychiatrist John Mack and visited with Calvin Parker of the famous "alien abduction" case in Pascagoula, Mississippi, that happened back on October 11, 1973. He begins his book with the Kenneth Arnold case from 1947, the famous UFO sighting that started the modern flying saucer era. Noting that the Arnold sighting would launch a de facto “creation myth” for the "nuts and bolts" ET notion of today's UFO mainstream, Thompson finds this interpretation ironic based on subsequent revelations by his daughter Kim that Kenneth Arnold felt the nine objections flying in formation weren’t mechanical but rather luminous, pulsating beings that to him represented another dimensional reality, "the world where we go when we die.”

Today’s ufology could have been quite different from the get-go if a certain news reporter had accurately quoted Arnold’s initial description of what he had seen. I liked how Thompson quoted John Keel who decades ago noted "study the people who have experienced these things...You study the medical and psychological effects of these experiences. This cannot be done by teenagers with telescopes and housewives with tape recorders. It must be done by trained professionals...We need to know more about the human mind and how it is linked to the greater source." Thompson points out similar directions pursued by Jacques Vallee and Eric Davis too and how "we need not only new models of physical reality but new ways of thinking about the relationship between matter and mind in light of UFO behaviors and characteristics."

This is a book that challenges the mainstream perception of ufology and introduces a truly different and thought-provoking series of alternatives.

Sunday, July 14, 2024