Spirit, Hardware and Mystery
A week ago (as of the writing of this article) I had the unique experience of attending the first MUFON field investigator boot camp. It was one of those unforgettable experiences - the first of its kind, probably anywhere in the world. And for me, it was very different from the world I normally move in. It was a week of learning how to do forensic evidence gathering of past UFO encounters. It was a week of no-nonsense, nuts-and-bolts field work straight out of the set of CSI.
Working with close encounter experiencers, especially in the Twin Cities, which tends to be more of a new-age/metaphysical orientation, I mostly hear about the spiritual aspects of the close encounter phenomenon. I see the way it melds into the spectrum of the clients' spiritual, paranormal and metaphysical experiences. And as a result, I mostly see a spiritual/metaphysical side of the phenomenon.
In contrast, my week in the Arizona desert at MUFON FI boot camp was focused on hard-boiled, evidence-based, forensic investigation. It began with a discussion of various tools and procedures to be used in the field. Then we covered different possible scenarios of UFO physical evidence - a historical UFO crash, a UFO landing, a UFO-car interaction leaving magnetic traces on the car, and a present-day crashed UFO. In each case, we learned procedures and techniques for carefully gathering evidence, taking careful readings and measurements, documenting the scenario, etc.
Most of the people attending this workshop were seasoned field investigators. Many of them had backgrounds in law-enforcement, engineering and the military, including several who were retired Special Forces. Many had been involved in some way with the hidden side of the government-UFO scenario and probably knew a lot more about past UFO events than they were able to say. Yet at the same time, all were intent on understanding the phenomenon in depth. Many of the attendees had had their own sightings or experiences and I'm sure a few were life-long abductees. Whatever their background, this was a hard-boiled no-nonsense group of investigators, pragmatic, analytical - deeply curious and dedicated.
A few weeks before, I had attended the Paradigm symposium in Minneapolis - another group of researchers with a different bent, to seek out the hidden history of humanity. One of the featured speakers there was Graham Hancock, who spoke extensively on the influence of shamanism in human history. In his book, Supernatural, Hancock offers a very different approach to anomaly and close encounter experiences from the nuts-and-bolts understanding I sensed at FI boot camp.
In Supernatural, and in his talk at the Paradigm Conference, Hancock offered the idea that close encounters may be at least in part, a type of shamanic journey. He described events of the shamanic experience - star beings, trials and tortures, sexual encounters, and other elements that have a similar ring to those described by abductees. This suggests that the experiences have something in common, yet at the same time, it does not even begin to explain the physical aspects of the phenomenon.
A significant fraction of the UFO abduction cases in the MUFON data base, including a number of them in our own case files, have both physical evidence and shamanic or metaphysical aspects to them. The implications of this are profound. It suggests that there is an overlay of realities between this world and the world(s) beyond our everyday reality. And in many cases, these overlapping worlds can interact with each other, leaving marks on our physical world.
Does this mean the UFO/Close-encounter phenomenon is primarily metaphysical in nature? I don't believe we can conclude that. However resemblance between shamanism and UFO abduction suggests that the visitor interaction with us is far beyond our everyday experience. The UFO phenomenon is often physical, leaving traces in the dirt and marks on the experiencer. Our visitors might just be biological beings in nuts-and-bolts craft, visiting from nearby stars. Yet the UFO encounter is often also spiritual, a shamanic, metaphysical experience that often resembles dreams more than alien space ships.
This suggests that the nature of the phenomenon and who/whatever is behind it is still far beyond our understanding. It is far from being either a simple nuts-and-bolts visitation or a purely dream-like metaphysical experience. Rather, it is at once a phenomenon of many worlds, of spirit, hardware and mystery.