By Cris D. Putnam
In reference to my discussion tonight with George Noory on Coast to Coast, the UFO phenomenon is nuanced, complex, multidimensional, and, above all, uncooperative to analyze. No matter what one believes, it cannot be denied that a UFO mythos permeates modern culture. It subtly animates and steers cultural consciousness. A myth is a tale believed as true. It’s usually sacred, and is set in the distant past, otherworlds, or other parts of the world featuring heroic, superhuman, or nonhuman characters. In this sense, the alien invasion has already occurred. Psychoanalyst Bruno Bettelheim explains: “Myths and fairy stories both answer the eternal questions: What is the world really like? How am I to live my life in it? How can I truly be myself?” Myths answer fundamental worldview questions. Thus, rather than trying to explain flying saucer propulsion technology, perhaps we are better served by asking what sort of worldview it promotes. Jacques Vallée has pointed out, “If UFOs are acting at the mythic and spiritual level it will be almost impossible to detect it by conventional methods.” It is important to analyze how myths function in order to assess how the UFO phenomenon shapes public opinion.
UFO accounts influence society in subtle yet important ways. The mythos has a factual basis—photographs and video, physical effects, radar data, radiation signatures, ground impressions, abductees with physical trauma—that cannot be dismissed. Yet, the mythic elements forecast a future evolution, communion with our space brothers, and the savior from above. By examining its mythological impact, perhaps we can discern something about its true intent. From a literary and psychological perspective, the UFO myth evokes psychic symbols deep in our unconscious minds, influencing our thinking and worldview. A range of experts—Carl Jung, Jacques Vallée, and Ted Peters, among others—recognizes that a UFO savior myth is molding modern man, irrespective of contact. Many people who have never seen a UFO still believe in them. In this way, the phenomenon exerts broad influence with minimal exposure. After a brief examination of myth, we will suggest a connection between Jacques Vallée’s control-system hypothesis and biblical theology in order to draw some conclusions.
Jung saw this mythos as filling the gap left by the waning Christian consensus. Speaking to secularization, he wrote: “The dominating idea of a mediator and god who became man, after having thrust the old polytheistic beliefs into the background, is now in its turn on the point of evaporating. Untold millions of so called Christians have lost their belief in a real and living mediator.” He argued that secularized man projects his deep psychological need for a savior and that the UFO mythos “has a highly suggestive effect and grows into a savior myth whose basic features have been repeated countless times.” He saw them as a replacement for Christ. No matter what the underlying reality is behind UFOs, the myth is molding culture and forming a worldview. We think this is by design.
Building on Jung’s analysis, Lutheran theologian Ted Peters writes, “I suggest that the study of UFOs has the appearance of being scientific—hence, it offers the opportunity to discuss religious feelings in seemingly scientific terms. Whether we say it in public or not, many of us believe science is good and religion is bad. Science is for modern educated people; religion is for old-fashioned superstitious people.” He suggests that some people see aliens as diplomats or scientific explorers, but his third explanatory model, the “celestial savior,” resonates best with our hypothesis. This savior model, common in channeled messages and contactee literature, was thought to be a projection of Cold War angst. Peters writes: “He or she is the messiah from a ‘heavenly’ civilization where there is peace and no more war. In this religious model, we believe that the reason for the alien mission to earth is to help us achieve the same utopian level of existence that the aliens have.” Similarly, astrobiology and SETI serves this religious need as much as, if not more than, a scientific one. Yet, there is compelling evidence UFOs are not space aliens. In 1990, Jacques Vallée published a paper, “Five Arguments against the Extraterrestrial Origin of Unidentified Flying Objects,” in the Journal of Scientific Exploration arguing against the space alien explanation. His opposition is discounted by many prominent ufologists, prompting Vallée to refer to himself as a “heretic among heretics.” He adds humorously, “I will be disappointed if UFOs turn out to be nothing more than spaceships.” But this begs the question of what he thinks UFOs really are…
It was The Invisible College (1975), that introduced the hypothesis that UFOs are a component working in a “control system” meant to influence and steer human culture. Vallée reasoned the control system is analogous to a thermostat that controls room temperature. When a room gets too hot, the air conditioning is triggered, and when it gets too cold, the heat activates. In this way, he asserts that UFOs are a component in a control system influencing human consciousness and beliefs. This not only explains why they seem evasive and deceptive, it clarifies why the phenomenon appears to deliberately promote a level of absurdity that evades rational scrutiny, because most people dismiss the subject as nonsense—something Vallée calls “metalogic.”
A helpful analog is the word “paradox,” meaning a statement, proposition, or situation that seems to be absurd or contradictory, but in fact may speak to a deeper truth inexpressible in common language. For example, if someone says to you, “I’m a compulsive liar,” do you believe them or not? Another humorous example is, “Nobody goes to that restaurant because it is too crowded.” Vallée made an analogy to Buddhism:
For example, in Zen Buddhism the seeker must deal with such concepts as “the sound of one hand clapping”—an apparently preposterous notion which is designed to break down ordinary ways of thinking. The occurrences of similar “absurd” messages in UFO cases brought me to the idea that maybe we’re dealing with a sort of control system that is subtly manipulating human consciousness.
In this way, seemingly nonsensical information has a deconstructive purpose.
If you wanted to bypass the intelligentsia and the church, remain undetectable to the military system, leave undisturbed the political and administrative levels of a society, and at the same time implant deep within that society far-reaching doubts concerning its basic philosophical tenets, this is exactly how you would have to act. At the same time of course, such a process would have to provide its own explanation to make ultimate detection impossible. In other words, it would have to project an image just beyond the belief structure of the target society. It would have to disturb and reassure at the same time, exploiting both the gullibility of the zealots and the narrow-mindedness of the debunkers. This is exactly what the UFO phenomenon does.
This has a lot of explanatory scope. The saucer enthusiasts accept almost any Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon as space aliens, and the debunkers will argue that it all has a natural explanation, be it hallucinations, insects, or swamp gas. This enforces the UFO taboo in academia and prevents much serious investigation. However, in the grey area in between, there is a remarkable result in terms of shaping worldviews. The paradoxical metalogic is visible in that despite the widespread snickers and scholarly dismissals, polls indicate that 56 percent of Americans believe it is “very likely” or “somewhat likely” that intelligent life exists on other planets, and up to 48 percent think they have already visited Earth. More intriguing is that, although he realizes this confirms a biblical worldview, he qualifies his position accordingly:
When I speak of a control system for planet earth I do not want my words to be misunderstood: I do not mean that some higher order of beings has locked us inside the constraints of a space-bound jail, closely monitored by psychic entities we might call angels or demons. I do not propose to redefine God. What I do mean is that mythology rules at a level of our social reality over which normal political and intellectual action has no real power.… Myths define the set of things scholars, politicians, and scientists can think about. They are operated upon by symbols, and the language these symbols form constitutes a complete system. This system is metalogical, but not metaphysical. It violates no laws because it is the substance of which laws are made.
We find it intriguing that he recognizes the intersection enough to feel the need to specifically distance himself from redefining God and from saying that angels and demons are the perpetrators. He suggests an underlying plan for the deception of mankind and documents myriad examples within Messengers of Deception (1979). We believe the ultimate motivation for this is the breaking down of the biblical worldview while simultaneously implementing a new one based on Darwinism and pantheistic monism. This is a form of idolatrous spirituality, which places the creature above the Creator (Romans 1:23) and is widely promoted by the powers that be. As Ted Peters wrote,
With the constant threat of thermonuclear destruction in the post-World War II era leaving our planet in a state of insecurity and anxiety, it is no wonder many have begun to hope for a messiah to save us. The holiness of the sky and the need for a salvation converge and blend when the bright clean powerful UFO zooms up onto the horizon. Could it be our celestial savior?”
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12)
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 William Bascom, “The Forms of Folklore: Prose Narrative,” Journal of American Folklore 78, (1965): 3.
 Bruno Bettelheim, The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales, (New York: Random House, 1989), p. 45.
 Jacques Vallée, Dimensions: A Casebook of Alien Contact (New York, NY: Contemporary Books, 1988), 274.
 C. G. Jung, Flying Saucers, 108.
 Ibid., 109.
 Ted Peters, UFOs—God’s Chariots? Flying Saucers in Politics, Science, and Religion (Atlanta, GA: John Knox Press, 1977), 9.
 Ibid., 25.
 Ibid., 25.
 Jacques Vallée, The Invisible College, 1.
 Jerome Clark, “Jacques Vallée Discusses UFO Control System,” UFO Evidence, original in FATE Magazine, 1978, online article last accessed February 5, 2013 http://www.ufoevidence.org/documents/doc608.htm.
Jacques Vallée, Dimensions, 178.
 A 2008 poll in America revealed that 56 percent of the respondents said it is either “very likely” or “somewhat likely” that intelligent life exists on other planets but a decisive 74 percent of the eighteen- to twenty-four-year-olds believe alien life is likely, 33–48 percent of the population believes they have already visited Earth, and around 10 percent have personally seen a UFO. Scripps Survey, Research Center, “UFO Poll,” The Grand Rapids Press, July 20, 2008, last accessed January 22, 2013, http://search.proquest.com/docview/293660669?accountid=12085.