Fear, Sanity, and Crossing the Line
- 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
"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.
Copyright � 1997, 1998, 1999 CUFOS. All rights reserved
This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed
without written permission.
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