“Everything is the way it is because it got that way.”
– D’Arcy Thompson, biologist and mathematician, b. 1860
The paradox of studying anomalous phenomena is the more you study, the more you need to study. New information doesn’t reveal much, it only invites more questions.
The more I study it, the more it appears that disparate phenomena are just different sides to one multi-faceted die. Alternate realities encountered on psychedelics bear striking similarities to reported alien encounters. Bigfoot is reported as a flesh-and-blood crypto-animal but has been reported numerous times in a paranormal context. UFOs appear as hard metallic physical objects in the sky but disappear suddenly as if into another dimension. Do we enter this dimension when we die? Many near-death experiencers’ stories seem to point to that possibility. Is this the realm where ghosts reside?
Are there objective non-physical places or is it a subjective reality parallel to ours but of inconsistent solidity? Is this where so-called shape-shifters reside, as in the Native American tradition, or is it all part of a high-tech alien agenda which employs mind-control to shape the reality we perceive with our eyes? Where does science fit in to all of this? Is all of it a natural artifact of the Universe, just random threads in the warp and weft of the fabric of spacetime?
How can this be? Is it a subjective or objective experience? There doesn’t seem to be any objective “reality” behind the phenomenon. It can be “nuts and bolts,” leaving physical residue. Then it disappears with no trace. It’s observed by multiple witnesses, except for a few who saw nothing. It comes in a dream, shared by only one person. It’s a string of strange experiences and bizarre encounters experienced by a person who cannot document it and hesitates to share it.
Why do we search or care? I believe it’s the desire to return to a home we can’t remember but we know is there. It’s unclear if the answers we seek will be bestowed upon us in death. I like to think so. Until then, we explore. It begins with a sense that something is “off” in this world. Not all people sense this. Some people will go their entire life scarcely thinking about these mysteries even once and be just fine. And that’s OK. It’s not for everyone.
But for those who examine, we know that something is going on. The further you dig, the weirder it becomes. You almost have to be an inborn surrealist to accept what is being reported in the paranormal and ufological realms. But there it is. And the stories keep coming. It seems that all the disparate phenomena could be seen metaphorically as six sides to the same cube. On one side of the cube you have reports of UFOs and strange craft in the sky. Turn the cube over and you have a Bigfoot, Sasquatch, Yeti, Yowie. Turn it again and you have out-of-body and near-death experiences, psychic dreams and conscious trips to other worlds through psychedelics and shamanic journies. Turn it again and there is a conspiratorial world of secret cabals, breakaway civilizations, government cover-ups and clandestine worlds of a more earthly type who claim to liaise with the hidden realms – occult cults with a history of esoterica. Flip the cube over to find ghosts, paranormal occurrences, and poltergeists, etc. The more we study these different phenomena, it becomes increasingly clear that they are inter-related. They are all different sides to the same cube. But what is the cube?
In their 2016 book The Super Natural, Whitley Streiber and Jeffrey Kripal search for the intersection point of all these varying strains of high strangeness – if there is one. John Keel and Jacques Vallée come from this angle as well, with their holistic approach to sorting out the phenomenon. Linda Moulton Howe’s research covers all sides of the cube and their overlap such as bizarre witness reports of Bigfoots sighted alongside landed UFOs. The events at Skinwalker ranch cover the entire spectrum of phenomena in one small patch of land. And then you have the disappearances studied by David Paulides, most sobering of all because they are deadly and happening right now. Where does this all leave us? It’s a hot mess.
Does the phenomenon intentionally design it this way? Or is there no such conspiracy, just a chaotic stream of tulpas, awkward hybrids, flying humanoids, short and tall aliens, tubular sky portals, impossibly-sized owls flying alongside your vehicle, silent triangular hovering craft and intelligently-controlled basketball-sized spheres – as cluttered as life itself? And would the phenomena exist in the absence of humans? Or perhaps it is the semi-physical, congealed thoughtforms arising from the energy of seven billion human brains, all having conscious experiences at once. Maybe the “getting that way” in D’arcy Thompson’s quote at the beginning is simply the end product of combined human thought, as natural to the material world as evolution. They manifest temporarily, swirl away and pop up again somewhere else, as random and transitory as the daydreams that overtake you on any day.
It might be convenient to simply chalk it up to “other dimensions.” A vague but sufficient concept, we wrap it up cleanly, stash it in an untouchable box, wipe our hands and we’re done. In Daimonic Reality: A Field Guide to the Otherworld, author Patrick Harpur frames the whole of the phenomenon as the world of daemons: timeless trickster semi-gods who take the form of aliens, fairies, ephemeral animals, apparitions, archetypes, spirits – essentially all natural components of the Anima Mundi. They are the inhabitants of the intermediate region between the material and divine realms, neither here nor there, fleeting yet real. These daemons “populate the Soul of the World and provide the connection between gods and men.” On the other hand, these entities – daemons – could be wholly independent of the human predicament. After all, it’s ancient and it’s modern. But what do we do with it in our age of rational science? The hand-wringing continues.
The sightings and encounters go on and on, inconclusively; there is no evidence of rational plan, goal, outcome, closure. There is just the endless game, playing like children play, who quit when they get tired. The mistake: we’re trying to be serious about what’s just a goof. It would be as if your dog got neurotic over trying to figure out why you keep tossing a stick away from him every time he retrieves it.”
– Michael Grosso, Zen in the Art of Close Encounters, 1995
After reading essays on the phenomenon from decades past, it seems we are no further along now in unraveling the mystery than we were then. We still have the same questions, the same frustrations, the same confounding amusement of it all. The phenomenon wants us in the dark, it would seem. If you look back at the long career of researcher and reporter Linda Moulton Howe, you’ll find that none of it every really gets anywhere. There is no progress. Maybe that is the point. The point is not to crack it. It’s a surrealist joke. Just observe in astonishment. Don’t even be astonished. You will only be more confused.
After studying all sides to this cube, one thing that takes me by surprise is that the unseen world seems to be just as chaotic as ours. For some reason, I assumed it would be more mathematical and organized due to its seeming advanced intelligence. I thought that from its loftier realms, it would be distilled and refined to universal truth, a geometrical foundation of symmetry and unity. But it’s not. Spirits are restless, entities do weird random things, things seems to happen for no reason, UFOs show up unexpectedly and there is no predicting where and who it will strike next. It’s intelligent, but messy.
So the only way to really engage with the phenomenon, it seems, is to have a personal experience with it. And you can’t just go out and do that. It has to come to you. So most people will go their whole lives without ever thinking about the phenomenon. While for others, it permeates their whole existence. And nobody so far has figured out why there’s this discrepancy. Like most theories of ufology, they can never be proved. And perhaps that’s the best part about it.