23 September 2015


Eric Ouellet. Illuminations: The UFO Experience as a Parapsychological Event. Anomalist Books, 2015.

In this interesting book, Eric Ouellet, a sociologist (professor of Military Sociology at the Royal Military College of Canada) and a parapsychologist, looks at UFO phenomenon as being generated by parapsychological events. He contrasts the idea of parapsychological events or explanations as opposed to paranormal ones, as the latter involves evoking the idea of non-human intelligences such as ghosts, elementals, demons, etc.
He argues that we do not know that such entities exist, but we do know that human beings do. In effect his hypothesis is that 'true UFOs' are manifestations of human psychokinesis, rather like mega-poltergeists. He draws on the theories of Walter von Lucadou, who argues that there is a sociological dimension to poltergeist cases. Von Lucadou suggests that these cases involve a series of steps:
  • Surprise: Something strange and uncanny crashes into our everyday world (in polt cases strange noises are heard, things start moving around etc.)
  • Displacement: Instead of being attributed to the pk as a means of gaining attention by the focus, the events are attributed to non-human entities or forces. This is exacerbated by the appearance on the scene of “naïve investigators” who help promote such theories.
  • Decline: More critical people arrive on the scene, and either explain away the events or realise they are the result of the conscious or unconscious actions of the focus, possibly leading to their problems being properly examined
  • Suppression: Various authorities step in and say the matter is solved (it’s all due to trickery etc.) and the “indeterminacy” which allows psi events to take place is abolished.
Ouellet tries to apply these theories to a number of UFO events, such as the Washington DC flap of 1952; the French wave of 1954; the Betty and Barney Hill case, the Belgian wave of 1989/90, along with some lesser known Canadian cases. Although there are some interesting insights, for example that the Hill’s UFO had some of the appearance of a bus, such as those used by the freedom riders in the civil rights movements, the search for foci becomes more than strained.

This book certainly evoked a feeling of nostalgia in me, because I was thinking on similar lines back in 1970! These ideas were also of course, at the centre of the writings of Jerry Clark and Loren Coleman forty years ago, and you can probably trace them back to the writings of Tom Comella i.e. Peter Kor in Palmer's Flying Saucers fifty years ago. There is nothing new in ufology.

Of course the real trouble with Ouellet’s hypothesis is that while we know human beings exist, we certainly don’t know that psychokinesis or morphic fields or other psi processes exist, they are simply speculations invoked to explain a variety of anomalous experiences.

But we do know that human beings exist, and indeed we can re-interpret Ouellet’s scenarios in psycho-social terms, and indeed the pattern that he and von Lucadou have developed closely fits those of classic social panics, such as those described in Evans and Bartholomew’s Outbreak.
The 1952 wave might go as follows:
  • Surprise: The American public, made fearful of possible Soviet nuclear bombers getting through is advised to watch the skies and begins to interpret ambiguous stimuli as something strange and threatening.
  • Displacement: The stimuli are interpreted less as Soviet bombers but the less immediately threatening “alien spaceships” (which in 1952 meant Martians). “Naïve observers” such as Donald Keyhoe add to this idea and it is used by various people to draw attention to their personal problems or promote their ideologies.
  • Decline: Nothing happens, the bombers don’t get through, the aliens don’t land, and there is no unambiguous evidence.
  • Suppression: The authorities explain the whole thing away as conventional stimuli. The same no doubt can be said about many of the other cases.
So this is a book which I would have probably given a rave review to back in the early 1970s, but it has been overtaken as time and theories move on. -- Peter Rogerson.


Lawrence said...

Glad to see the review of Ouellet's book here, even as the review from Rogerson is predictably dismissive (I saw it coming ten miles off), given Rogerson's longstanding breezy dismissal of psi phenomena and morphic fields. Of course similar ground was covered by Coleman and Clark about forty years ago (before they unwisely abandoned such 'paraufology') and for that matter plenty others; Keel, Jenny Randles (who writes an introduction to Illuminations), Hilary Evans, Méheust, even Vallee have covered ufology from a similar perspective. Yet Ouellet gives it a vital twist via von Lucadou's hypothesis, and his examination of UFO flaps is thorough, scholarly, sober and original. Rogerson's hewing to the mundane psycho-social hypothesis (yes it has a lot of truth to it, but it's not the whole story) is itself nothing new and can only be achieved by ignoring the reality and overwhelming evidence of parapsychological phenomena (which Rogerson does of course with good cheer). It's because ufology has largely ignored this path in favour of ET and mundane secular scientific materialist notions (the psycho-social school as the alpha and omega of ufology) that it has been spinning its wheels for decades, stuck in the mud. Ouellet's book features much material that can be found at his blog and open minded readers are recommended to check it out for themselves: parasociology.blogspot.com

For what it's worth, I think Ouellet is writing the best stuff in ufology. He leaves the rest of us in his wake, floundering.

Anonymous said...

I always enjoy your reviews. As you detail here your views evolved from a para-social to a psych-social approach over the decades and I'm curious as to any specific events that caused this change of view? For instance, specific cases that seemed strong initially that turned out to be hoaxes or certain promoters who were credible who turned out to be otherwise? It would be fascinating to read about more specifically about how yourself and others came to change their viewpoints on the subject.