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Fear, Sanity, and Crossing the Line

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  • Jeroen Kumeling
    Fear, Sanity, and Crossing the Line By Michael Swords We are intrigued by the UFO phenomenon. We are amused, excited, fixated by it. Some of us reject it,
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 1, 1999
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      Fear, Sanity, and Crossing the Line

      By Michael Swords

      We are intrigued by the UFO phenomenon. We are amused, excited, fixated by
      it. Some of us reject it, some loudly, violently. The violence betrays an
      excitement as well. Some of us sympathetically study and critique it. And
      some go "all the way" and cross the line. They arise in the mornings
      emotionally living in a world visited now and often by occupants of UFOs.
      This latter group is very different from the rest of the entire spectrum of
      violent debunkers to deeply interested and sympathetic UFOlogists (and also
      most thrill-seeking camp-followers). Oddly, the debunkers and the sympaths
      have something much more in common with one another than the sympaths care
      to admit: neither of them will really, fully, emotionally, cross the line.
      Why not? Is there something in common which produces the debunker's violence
      and the sympath's arm's length "objectivity?" Perhaps there is . . . an
      emotional something rather than an empirical one.

      I would like to contribute something to that interesting psychosocial
      mystery, but do it in an oblique manner. I would like to do it in the words
      of C. S. Lewis, the great Christian theologian, as well as science fiction
      author. The materials below are from Perelandra, written in 1944. Other than
      omitting some irrelevant (for our purposes) interspersed phrasing and
      sentences, I have changed one word: Lewis' "eldila" (an extraterrestrial
      angelic being, which might be good or bad) for "extraterrestrial." I leave
      in the part about the "angels" and spirits, as it applies to the
      matter-at-hand of current UFOlogical ideas, and crossing the line. I will
      also leave out the name of the character to be visited by the storyteller,
      and you can for "X" substitute the name of your favorite contactee/abductee
      or crossed-the-line UFOlogist. We enter Lewis' story as he walks across the
      English countryside to visit his friend "X" who has told him that he has
      seen and communicated with these extraterrestrial beings.

      "I kept on telling myself that it would be perfectly delightful to spend a
      night with X and also kept on feeling that I was not enjoying the prospect
      as much as I ought to. It was the 'extraterrestrials' that were my trouble .
      . . to have met an extraterrestrial, to have spoken with something whose
      life [may] be practically unending . . .

      "Much worse [was] my growing conviction that . . . the 'extraterrestrials'
      were not leaving him alone. Little things in his conversation, little
      mannerisms, accidental allusions which he made and then drew back with an
      awkward apology, all suggested that he was keeping strange company; that
      there were--well, Visitors--at that cottage.

      "As I plodded along the empty, unfenced road which runs across the middle of
      the common I tried to dispel my growing sense of malaise by analyzing it.
      What, after all, was I afraid of? The moment I had put this question I
      regretted it. I was shocked to find that mentally I had used the word
      "afraid." Up till then I had tried to pretend that I was feeling only
      distaste, or embarrassment, or even boredom. But the mere word afraid had
      let the cat out of the bag. I realized now that my emotion was neither more,
      nor less, nor other, than Fear. And I realized that I was afraid of two
      things--afraid that sooner or later I myself might meet an
      'extraterrestrial', and afraid that I might get 'drawn in'. I suppose
      everyone knows this fear of getting 'drawn in'--the moment at which a man
      realizes that what had seemed mere speculations are on the point of landing
      him in the Communist Party or the Christian Church--the sense that a door
      has just slammed and left him on the inside.

      "As to my intense wish never to come into contact with the
      'extraterrestrials' myself, I am not sure whether I can make you understand
      it. It was something more than a prudent desire to avoid creatures alien in
      kind, very powerful, and very intelligent. The truth was that all I heard
      about them served to connect two things which one's mind tends to keep
      separate, and that connecting gave one a sort of shock. We tend to think
      about non-human intelligence's in two distinct categories which we label
      'scientific' and 'supernatural' respectively. We think, in one mood, of Mr.
      Wells' Martians, or his Selenites. In quite a different mood we let our
      minds loose on the possibility of angels, ghosts, fairies, and the like. But
      the very moment we are compelled to recognize a creature in either class as
      real the distinction begins to be blurred: and when it is a creature like
      'these extraterrestrials' the distinction vanishes altogether. These things
      [do not come and go as do] animals--to that extent one [may have] to
      classify them with the second group; but they have some kind of material
      vehicle whose presence could (in principle) be scientifically verified. To
      that extent they belonged to the first group. The distinction between
      natural and supernatural, in fact, [is breaking] down; and when it does so,
      one realizes how great a comfort it had been--how it had eased the burden of
      intolerable strangeness which this universe imposes upon us by dividing it
      into two halves and encouraging the mind to never think of both in the same
      context. What price we may have paid for this comfort in the way of false
      security and accepted confusion of thought is another matter."

      As Lewis plods onward toward X's cottage and the threat of emotional
      acceptance and being drawn in, he lives the CSICOPian nightmare of being
      forced more and more to confront the unincluded and be pushed across the
      line.

      "My only sensible course was to turn back at once and get safe home, before
      I lost my memory or became hysterical, and to put myself in the hands of a
      doctor [a Ph.D. in a 'respectable university', no doubt]. It was sheer
      madness to go on."

      Or to risk looking through the telescope.

      "This was upon me now. I staggered on into the cold and the darkness,
      already half convinced that I must be entering what is called Madness. But
      each moment my opinion about sanity changed. Had it ever been more than a
      convention--a comfortable set of blinkers, an agreed code of wishful
      thinking, which excluded from our view the full strangeness and malevolence
      of the universe we are compelled to inhabit?"

      Lewis is almost ready to cross the line.

      Debunkers and sympaths walk Lewis' dark road with somewhat different
      attitudes and emotions, but in the end they both sense the precipice and
      back away--one screaming and back-turned for "home," one wary and hesitant
      in limbo. Those who have leapt into the dark precipice, who have been "drawn
      in," are fundamentally changed, and may not recognize their profound
      difference from their wary friends, or realize the power of the barrier
      which separates them. They may "talk UFOlogy" but do so from parallel
      universes only partly intersecting. One must continue to hold back and talk
      science; the other may not anymore see the need to.

      Where are you on Lewis' path? Is there a "correct" place to be, or merely a
      preferred one? And, can we understand one another, or at least tolerate? It
      may be "easy" to be taken up involuntarily and hurled across the line into
      the precipice, but it is (it seems) a very difficult matter to voluntarily
      allow oneself to be drawn in without such "assistance."

      The above is from a Roman Catholic who has crossed the precipice toward God,
      afterlife, soul, and angels, but who remains a wary watcher at the Edge of
      UFOs and their Inhabitants. The author and one of his brothers also saw,
      along with several human occupants of West Virginia's Kanawha Valley a
      reasonably good Close Encounter of the First Kind. CEIs are, short of
      something like Father Gill's "distant" CEIII, the ultimate UFO tease. They
      can pixy-lead you "away from home" but not all the way to Fairyland. A CEI
      is an incomplete form of knowledge, just at the right emotional distance to
      allow one to know what one saw and stay safely on this side of the precipice
      . . . but not run away.

      [abduction index]
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