Date: Sat Sep 04 1993 12:55:00
From: Sheppard Gordon
Subj: Real UFOs-In Our Psyches
UFOs Are Real-in Our National Psyche
Behavior: As in the 1950s, warnings about extraterrestrial invasion
express our fear of impending cataclysm.
THE LOS ANGELES TIMES
I've heard it said that no book has an effect on us comparable
to the ones we read before the age of 16. The most powerful
influence on my adolescent imagination was Marine Maj. Donald E.
Keyhoe's "The Flying Saucers Are Real," which I read and reread in
the mid-1950s until the paperback disintegrated.
Keyhoe's advice, in the words of a sci-fi movie of the period,
was to keep watching the skies. Aliens were scouting Earth, he
said, and might land at any time to make their demands known.
Astronomers, pilots and radar operators, as well as many citizens,
had seen alien craft in our skies, Keyhoe claimed, but these UFO
reports were being suppressed by the Air Force.
Keyhoe seemed to have ample documentation for his charges of a
cover-up. He was the first conspiracy theorist I had encountered,
and he had me hooked. I kept watching the skies and the news, but
nothing happened to confirm his predictions. Skeptics began to
persuade me that what people reported as UFOs usually did turn out
to be Venus or Jupiter, a weather balloon, a meteorite or just a
hoax. As I grew older I became more interested in the question of
why the rumors of interstellar spacecraft had such persuasive power
over rational people like Maj. Keyhoe and myself.
The classic text on this subject is by the great psychologist C.
G. Jung, written in 1958. Jung asserts that UFOs are not cosmic but
psychic disturbances and that reports of their existence coincide
with periods of social and economic trouble. In the years after
World War II, a time of Cold War frictions and a nuclear weapons
race, one could expect people to believe in alien invaders. These
trans-human creatures might help us construct a new world order, or
they might dominate or annihilate us as punishment for our
iniquities. Either way, they would resolve the unbearable tensions
of modern history and deliver mankind from its fear of an uncertain
My interest in UFOs faded after the 1950s; then, in the late
1970s, I was reminded of my former fascination by "Close Encounters
of the Third Kind." The media's interest, too, had revived; in
addition to reports on "sightings," there were sensationalist
interviews with "contactees." Tabloid journals exploited
interracial fantasies with lurid reports of abductions and sexual
relations between aliens and Earthlings.
Now we are again experiencing an upsurge of interest in UFOs, at
a time when the Cold War has ended and, indeed, the "end of
history" has been proclaimed as a consolation for the survivors of
the nuclear terror. Nobody, least of all in Los Angeles, would say
that our troubles are over, but the paranoia of the 1950s and the
sundering turmoil of the 1960s are far behind us. Why, now, do we
need extraterrestrials to invade our imaginations?
One answer seems especially pertinent as we near the end of the
millennium. UFOs appeal to our desire for an "endtime," a closure
of history like those prophesied in our religious literature. For
many people, the end of the Cold War signals the beginning of some
hopeful new cycle, and UFOs are the annunciation of that
apocalyptic beginning. Because aliens are smarter than Americans,
they will be our saviors, the big fixers of our broken society.
Or perhaps UFOs are symbols of our resistance to our leaders'
soothing promises of a new beginning. UFOs are manifestations of
the certainty that some catastrophe (ecological? political?) is
coming to disrupt our lives. Here, too, we can allegorize the
aliens as any racial, religious, class or national enemy we choose.
In a real sense, Maj. Keyhoe was right: An unidentifiable threat
hovers over America, and our leaders won't admit it. UFOs are
recognizable as authentic expressions of a profound civil and
psychic disturbance. As in the pulps of our childhood, they bring
us news of a coming war of the worlds, and once again it's the
Others versus ourselves. The neuroses of the 1950s are back. Keep
watching the skies.
--- WM v3.01/92-0356
* Origin: STARGATE BBS. 1:278/714 NY 718-519-8042 (1:278/714.0)