Andrew Collins. Lightquest: Your Guide to Seeing and Interacting with UFOs, Mystery Lights and Plasma Intelligences. Eagle Wing Books, 2012.
In a way the title tells you all you really need to know about this book. Collins's proposal that UFOs are themselves intelligent entities is not a new concept, and can be traced back quite a way in the history of ufology. Trevor James Constable, in his 1975 title Cosmic Pulse of Life proposed that UFOs were intelligent creatures that lived in the atmosphere, an idea perhaps taken from Arthur Conan Doyle's story, 'The Horror of the Heights', first published in 1913. Both Constable and Doyle thought that such ariel creatures would be formed of some sort of lighter-than-air protoplasm, creating something which was a cross between an amoeba and a jellyfish. Collins sees them as being a form of 'plasma'.
Now plasmas are quite the explanation du jour in ufology, being offered as an answer for otherwise inexplicable phenomena in the Condign Report, commissioned by the British Ministry of Defence and released to the public in 2006. Collins looks back to the work of Paul Devereux who in his book Earth Lights (1982) challenged the ufological world with with theories linking tectonically created light phenomena with UFOs. This was received badly by many ufologists at the time, and Collins points out that one of the reasons for this was a hostility to accepting any part of an argument that might seem to be supporting the great UFO bogey-man Phil Klass, who had offered an explanation for UFOs based on plasma phenomena in his books UFOs - Identified (1968), and UFOs Explained (1974).
This book is billed as a guide, complete with hints on how to get to the places described, what to see and where to stay. It is formatted as a series of visits to locations in the UK and USA where light phenomena seem to be easily witnessed by the casual visitor, and these accounts are written in Collins's typical lively and vivid style. You really do want to carry on reading this book - for the first three-quarters, anyway.
In order to make plain his rejection of the ETH he first stops off at Roswell, where he is repelled by the tacky souvenir-shop circus atmosphere he finds. However a trip to Texas to see the Marfa Lights puts him back on the road to his goal - UFOs as an intelligent light phenomenon. His quest then brings him back across the Atlantic to old favourites like Alton Barnes, Avebury, Warminster and Aveley. Here he talks to people who have had remarkable experiences at those locations. Like Devereux earlier, he points out possible geophysical characteristics - faulting, the presence of quartz-bearing rocks - which might be the source of these events, and I have no problems with this as a possible source of some atmospheric light phenomena. But I am not a geologist or physicist, so what do I know?
In his influential 1977 book, Space-Time Transients and Unusual Events, Persinger suggests that such phenomena may have a direct effect on the 'wiring' of the human brain, and that this may be an explanation for the wilder range of UFO phenomena, particularly abductions. This is, of course, a more controversial suggestion, but it is one which seems to have been considered by the author of the Condign report.
But of course the key part of Collins's thesis is that these plasma are 'intelligent' and respond to the percipient, communicate with them, and to an extent even control them. The final part of his book is a 'question and answer' session with an imaginary reader who, after hearing Collins's reasons for dismissing the ETH, asks "so ultimately you're telling us that UFO close encounters are interactions with higher dimensional reality or 'bubble universes' as you call them. Entering them causes us to see and interact with assumed aliens and alien space hardware that will be considered real during the missing time episode, but really it is all just a temporary creation for our benefit? Is that about correct?
Refreshingly direct, Andy replies "Yes, that is exactly what we are saying".
Now that is close to what contributors to Magonia magazine were saying twenty-odd years ago, but with one big difference: they did not assume the necessity for any external agency or 'highr dimensions' to insinuate these experiences into our heads. As the author treks around the UFO hotspots he finds plenty of first-hand accounts of people having strange encounters with lights and light-related phenomena. Some of them, such as the tetrahedral constructions with mysterious figures inside them which appeared to a trio of friends at Silbury Hill, can only be entirely internal experiences - could it have been a folie a trois? I haven't a clue. Could it have been a result of stimulation of the witnesses brain's by some sort of earth energy? I suppose it's possible. Was this an intrusion from some other "higher dimensional reality"? I don't think so. In other accounts the light phenomena seems to react to, for example, flashing a torch at it, or even driving towards it. Anyone who has observed participants at long sky-watches in legendary locations such as Cradle Hill, Warminster will know, particularly if they are part of a closely-linked group, that the need for sort of communication with the phenomena can be very strong.
So much of the latter part of the book is speculation about 'quantum events', 'creation of thought structures', 'the aikido concept of no-mindedness' and similar vague speculation that the argument of the book disperses into pretty meaningless wordplay. I know that when you start trying to explain what is technically called 'weird shit' the temptation is to start using the 'q-word' as often as possible, but if you want people to take you seriously you need to have a deeper understanding of quantum physics than the author seems to have here - not that I am making any claims for my own understanding either.
An awful lot of the strange experiences reported by the people that Andy Collins has spoken to seem to me to be entirely subjective events, and I would suggest that a deeper consideration of the little-understood types of mental states that are routinely described as 'transient global amnesia' may be more fruitful than speculation about quantum universes. -- John Rimmer.