March 7, 2021

Nuts and bolts or ritual magic. Pick your UFO poison

For any of you who regularly hang out on #UFOTwitter or in the comments sections of various ufologists’ YouTube channels and blogs, you likely learned one thing pretty quickly. We’re an argumentative bunch and there’s any number of divisive topics that can produce heated debates. Whether it’s the Wilson-David documents, Bob Lazar or TTSA, you can generally always find someone ready to hop into the ring with you if you’re so inclined. (I’ve been guilty of this myself, though I’m trying to do better.)

One of the classic bones of contention in the modern era of ufology seems to be the great divide between the adherents of John Keel and those who are primarily interested in finding just one crashed alien craft so we can pick it apart and learn the technological secrets of whoever or whatever made it. In short, you have the folks who are often derisively referred to as the “nuts and bolts” people and those who strongly suspect that there is something far more esoteric and complex about the phenomenon, perhaps involving projections of our own collective consciousness being part of the experience. Call it CE-5, ritual magic or whatever you like.

After a number of years of chasing the various ghosts of UFOs past down any number of rabbit holes, I realize that I’ve been on a sort of a journey in this regard.

After a number of years of chasing the various ghosts of UFOs past down any number of rabbit holes, I realize that I’ve been on a sort of a journey in this regard. Originally there was no doubt in my mind. These strange craft intruding in our skies (and now, oceans) were obviously incredibly advanced, but we were still seeing technology. Machines, perhaps capable of bridging the vast blackness between the stars. I didn’t know if there were any beings inside driving them or if they were remote-controlled drones or Artificial Intelligence enabled mechanical creatures in their own right. But if we could just get our hands on one we would hold the power of the universe in our hands.

Sadly, I’ve never had one crash on my lawn where I could drag my toolbox out to take a look. And while stories of such crashes are legion in ufological lore, I’ve never been convinced to a definitive level that anyone else on our small blue marble floating in space has ever recovered one either. (See? There’s another one of those things you can all fight about for the umpteenth time.)

There was a time, particularly after reading much of Keel’s work, that I began to wonder. If these craft are seen so often and by so many people around the globe, why can’t we get our hands on one?

There was a time, particularly after reading much of Keel’s work, that I began to wonder. If these craft are seen so often and by so many people around the globe, why can’t we get our hands on one? At times like that, I began to question everything. I’m reminded of one of Keel’s more famous quotes: “The UFOs do not seem to exist as tangible manufactured objects. They do not conform to the accepted natural laws of our environment. The UFO manifestations seem to be, by and large, merely minor variations of the age-old demonological phenomenon.”

It’s tempting, particularly if you feel like you’re falling into despair over the prospect of ever learning any truth regarding this phenomenon. People love a mystery, but they love mysteries that get solved. Nobody wants to buy an Agatha Christie novel and bring it home only to find that the last two chapters are torn out. We don’t hope to finish a jigsaw puzzle only to learn that fifteen of the pieces are missing. And if we can’t find the answers in the box, we start looking outside of it, both literally and metaphorically.

But what if the two theories aren’t mutually exclusive, at least partially and in their own separate way? Perhaps we’re seeing things that are, in a sense, magical. Remember what Arthur C. Clarke taught us so long ago. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

Remember what Arthur C. Clarke taught us so long ago. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

The reality is that I don’t know what we’re looking at in strict terms of nuts and bolts versus something of a more inscrutable and/or more multidimensional nature. Nobody does. And to borrow a line from one of the greatest movies of all time, anyone who tells you otherwise is selling something. At least until somebody wheels out the physical evidence to prove me wrong, which is a day I will celebrate with abandon.

But at least in terms of research efforts, I’ll primarily lean on the nuts and bolts and I’ll tell you why. I’m not saying that it’s impossible that the phenomenon is tied into human consciousness or that it crosses through dimensions our poor monkey brains are unable to perceive. Heck, maybe Keel was onto something and it’s all demons. For all I know, one of those possibilities may be the most likely.

Heck, maybe Keel was onto something and it’s all demons.

But here’s the thing. It’s our own limitations that make pursuing such possibilities less interesting to me. We have almost no way of studying phenomena such as psychokinetic intrusions, mass ESP events, or magic of any sort in controlled, repeatable laboratory conditions. We can collect experiencer stories all the livelong day and pore over them endlessly, but I don’t see how that gets us any closer to mastering the secrets of gravity attenuation, inertial cancellation, non-ballistic maneuvering, or all the rest of it.

What can do and are very good at is collecting data and taking measurements. For that we need something real (in the sense that we define reality in physical, three dimensional world) that can be detected in some observable fashion, shows up on radar and, if we’re very, very lucky, might occasionally shed off some material we can study. And now that some of these objects are showing up on verifiable films and producing radar tracking data, we’re just a little bit closer to the goal line. Or so I choose to believe.