This book is an updating of an earlier title The UFO Phenomenon, Fact, Fantasy and Disinformation, but it needs very little updating, as its premise is as valid now as then. Greer has a background in esotericism, and is a member of a number of occult orders, which has perhaps allowed him to step outside the extraterrestrial skeptic/believer argument that has bedeviled ufology.
The first section, ‘Tracking the Phenomenon’ presents the best brief outline of the history of UFOs and ufology I have come across, looking beyond Kenneth Arnold’s experience, to the science fiction pulps of the ‘thirties, to Charles Fort, and to the scientific and occult speculations of earlier centuries. He explains how these sources have been critical to the development of the UFO phenomenon, by framing it in terms of entities from elsewhere intervening in worldly affairs.
Greer sees the debate dominated by two inimical groups, the ETH believers on one side, and the ‘Null Hypothesis’ proponents on the other. But both these groups are as one in assuming that what is being debated is the existence or non-existence of extraterrestrial spacecraft. The ETH side argues that if a sighting is not a hallucination, a hoax or a misidentification, it must be an extraterrestrial spacecraft. The ‘Null Hypothesis’ proponents turn this on its head, claiming that as there are no extraterrestrial spacecraft, it must be a hallucination, hoax or misidentification.
The point both sides miss is that there is no need to either prove or disprove the existence of any alien hardware, as there are many human experiences, like shamanic journeys, spiritual visions, and entirely internal visions such as hypnogogic and hypnopompic imagery, as well as sensory phenomena triggered by experiences such as ‘highway hypnosis’. He notes from his background in occultism, that one established way of generating visionary experiences is simply to stare at the sky for long periods.
He reviews a number of other explanations for the UFO phenomena, such as ‘earth-lights’ and Persinger’s neurological hypothesis. A particularly interesting chapter on government attitudes to UFOs, suggests that reports can be exploited, or created, to distract attention from secret military projects. Although this idea can stray into conspiracy theorising, Greer maintains a balanced approach, typical of the whole book.
If you are going to read just one UFO book this year make it this one.
- John Rimmer