CAUS Commentary

Who's There?: A Rundown of Theories Used to Account for the UFO Phenomenon

by Mac Tonnies (

Extraterrestrial Hypothesis (ETH)

UFOs could be spacecraft from another planet or from
various planets. Astronomical theory allows for a
great number of advanced (spacefaring) civilizations;
perhaps the ETH, the most popularly accepted
explanation for the UFO phenomenon, is also the
correct one.

Aerial Organisms?

It's been suggested that some UFOs might be living
creatures, traversing our skies much how jellyfish or
squid travel the oceans. These bio-UFOs could have
evolved on Earth (unlikely) or they could originate on
another planet, or perhaps even in particularly
abundant stellar nebulae. This theory doesn't account
for the phenomenon's myriad complexities, but it
illustrates how wide open the UFO inquiry really is.

Jungian Hypothesis

In this scenario, UFOs and their occupants are
actually elaborate fantasy constructs projected into
the material world as part of a "collective
unconscious," perhaps exploiting our species' basest
anxieties and hopes. That the modern era of sightings
started shortly after the detonation of atomic weapons
may not be coincidental.

The problem, of course, with the Jungian perspective
is the phenomenon's ability to invade the physical
world as well as that of the mind. This dichotomy
unsettled Jung himself and continues to frighten away
scientists convinced that reality is essentially
understandable under existing paradigms.

Gaian Hypothesis

Like the Jungian scenario, the Gaian hypothesis
implies the existence of a "networked" planetary
consciousness. The most striking divergence from
Jung's theory is that the Gaian collective unconscious
operates symbiotically with humanity, using
individuals as "oracles" and not the participants they
naturally sense themselves to be. It should be noted
that a recurring motif in abduction accounts is the
"warning of impending eco-catastrophe."

The abduction experience makes a degree of sense if
taken as the voice of a planetary consciousness
operating through an archetypical symbolic language.
The "gray" aliens--emotionless, drone-like and
emaciated--may represent a deep fear of what our own
species is becoming under the repressed psychological
burden of high-technological society. No wonder they
are described as both wondrous and terrifying.

Trans-Temporal Hypothesis

The "aliens'" bipedal posture and other anthropoid
characteristics invite the notion that "they" are
"us"...removed by centuries or millennia. Presumed
causal paradoxes aside, our distant descendents could
very well find reasons for visiting us--so many that I
won't begin to enumerate them in the space available.
The "grays'" seeming fixation on human genetics may
have a basis in reality; despite recent progress in
genetic science, it's safe to assume that we in fact
know profoundly little. The aliens could be involved
in a careful, deliberate rejuvination of their own
epoch, using homo sapien DNA as an ingredient. This
theory, already a cliche in the "abduction"
literature, is most often attributed to the ETH--which
would make little sense if the aliens were based on a
suitably non-terrestrial genetic alphabet.

Multiversal Hypothesis

By examining the morphology of close-encounters deep
into history, researcher Jacques Vallee has
volunteered the idea of a "multiverse" in which alien
encounters are actually behavioral conditioning
exercises staged by an unseen nonhuman intelligence.
Vallee's ideas are some of the most intellectually
invigorating of the hypotheses put forth to explain
UFOs, and are best described in his books "Passport to
Magonia" and "Dimensions." Vallee argues that the
social and technological trappings of the
close-encounter experience are infinitely subjective,
and best understood in mythological terms. Thus
encounters with succubi, fairies, sky-gods, etc. can
be equated to whatever agency responsible for today's
rash of apparant piloted extraterrestrial craft.

Vallee's hypothesis was grossly misrepresented in Carl
Sagan's "The Demon Haunted World," in which the author
inferred that the folkloric references cited by Vallee
had been presented as misinterpretations of physical,
nuts-and-bolts flying craft. Of course, Vallee's
perspective isn't nearly so pat. Its seeming
inaccessability has deprived it the audience it

I agree with at least one of Vallee's pivotal
assertions: the extraterrestrial hypothesis simply
isn't strange enough to account for the sightings made
during the last century. The saucer-pilots may well be
"aliens"...but aliens of a sort we haven't yet
conditioned ourselves to comprehend. In fact, we may
never be able to condition ourselves to "their"
presence, as "they" will simply adopt to our changing
cultural and gnostic perspectives.

The Persinger Scenario

Laurentian University professor Micheal Persinger
suspects that close-encounters have a more accessable
explanation. He posits that electromagnetic energy
produced in the Earth's crust can induce remarkably
consistent hallucinations that experiencers may equate
with contact with aliens. Persinger has even built a
computer-controlled electromagnetic chamber in hopes
of validating his theories; test subjects have
reported a "sense of presence" not unlike that
described by victims of sleep paralysis (a novel brain
state cited exhaustively by debunkers to explain
"bedroom visitations").

Perhaps even more intriguing is the observation that
UFO sightings increase before earthquakes. This is
taken to a disquieting and plausible extreme by author
Albert Budden ("UFOs: Psychic Close Encounters"), who
hypothesizes than man-made EM radiation as well as
tectonic stress have the ability to "signal link" with
the brians of self-professed "abductees." He explains
the abduction experience as the mind's attempt to
maintain a stable identity in the face of acute
organic crisis. A similar theory might help explain
the near-death experience, as well as various
"out-of-body" states.

Quantum Mirror Hypothesis

Sketched cryptically in Whitley Strieber's
best-selling "Communion," this theory casts the aliens
as a large-scale quantum manifestation, the act of
observation somehow granting them reality. Likewise,
humans would seem just as enigmatic and strange to
them. Whatever the validity of the quantum hypothesis
(which, admittedly, smacks of New Age gibberish),
there is a body of testimony suggesting that the
aliens aren't nearly as sagely and all-knowing as they
are usually made out to be in science-fiction media.
Abduction stories are replete with absurd episodes
such as aliens displaying overt mystification with
articles of clothing and other accessories. The
entities encountered by Betty and Barney Hill appeared
genuinely startled by the fact that Betty's teeth were
removable while Barney's were not. Is this really the
behavior one would expect of an inconceivably advanced
alien race on an anthropological internship on Earth?

Whitley Strieber describes at least two apparent
aliens wearing ridiculously inept facsimiles of human
attire as if in an attempt to "fit in." And then there
is the story of the alien who clumsily tried to put on
an abductee's high-heeled shoes, and yet another
account in which an alien donned a cowboy hat in what
might have been a misguided attempt to appear rural
and unthreatening.

In Perspective

Or, of course, the UFO enigma may be a combination of
any of the preceding theories (or theories undreampt).
Stanton Friedman, an advocate of the ETH, takes the
reasonable position that some UFOs are
extraterrestrial spacecraft. Maybe...although it's
difficult to imagine how this could be conclusively
determined--even if the wreckage of a UFO was
available for inspection.

The crash at Roswell is a case in point. Granted that
the recovered material was from unknown origin (and
I'm not aware of any decisive prosaic explanation),
who's to tell whether the material was a.) from
another solar system, b.) from our own future, or c.)
conjured up out of Vallee's multiverse as part of some
unthinkable cosmic indoctrination...?

Perhaps the simplest explanation for UFOs must be
assumed to be the correct one. But who's to say what's
"simple" in a field that has been roundly ignored by
establishment? For our assumptions to be valid we need
to know more about our universe and its
intricacies...even if our journey takes us to
unexplored levels of strangeness.

[Mac Tonnies' website is]


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