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Edward Crabtree

Out of our minds: are UFOs thought-forms?

January 27, 2018 | Comment icon 16 comments
Image Credit: stockxpert
The Martians had a chat with Gary Wilcox on 25th of April 54 years ago. At around 10 A.M in the morning in Newark Valley in New York State, the farmer noticed a cigar shaped craft suspended over one of his fields. Out from this exited two diminutive hooded occupants. These humanoids were carrying trays of soil specimens. They explained that they had come from Mars and were here to learn more about Earth people's agricultural techniques (Brookesmith, p78 –79).

We could dismiss this claim with ease as being an egregious fantasy, but there is an awkward postscript to the whole thing. On that very same day in a southwestern direction in New Mexico the Socorro UFO case took place. In this incident, long considered to have been one of the best documented Close Encounters of the Third Kind, a police officer along with several independent witnesses observed an egg shaped craft with a blue flame come in low over the area which left some physical traces after the event. The officer, Lonnie Zamora also saw two beings emerge from the landed craft except that these did not address him, and there was no suggestion that they hailed from the red planet.

Why should we shrug off the first story and give weight to the other? After all, all too many UFO encounters feature silly or improbable details - a star map is shown in scroll form, a piece of pancake is offered, sexual relations are offered (or enforced) –such as to invalidate the truth of the whole episode. Knowing this has lead many to conclude that such encounters start and end in the human brain. One such is the eminent science populariser Carl Sagan who in Our Demon Haunted World poses a powerful case for this paradigm: 'Is it possible [he asks] that people in all times and places occasionally experience vivid realistic hallucinations... with the details filled in by the prevailing cultural idioms sucked out of the zeitgeist? ' (Sagan, p-130).

This psychosocial approach however needs must refuse to acknowledge any suggestion of the corporeal nature of the UFO whether these be from radar returns, from multiple sightings, from scorched vegetation and irradiated ground or dehydrated soil and so on. A different option is at hand, however.

Close to home.

A humanoid with bulging eyes manhandles a frightened captive into a surgical examination room in which we can see a female human already being probed by two others of the same species. This vignette is an illustration from 'The Invaders' a science fiction story published in 'Astounding Stories' by Don. A Stuart, the pen name of the influential John W. Campbell. The time? 1935.

Little transpires in the UFO panoply of experiences that had not been already previewed by science fiction entertainments. 'Cultural tracking' is the label which researchers have given to this tendency of UFOs to us manifest themselves to us in terms of our own current concerns and level of technical development. This cultural tracking can be so pronounced as to make it sometimes difficult to tell where UFO events begin and other types of cultural spectacles start.

Many will have heard that the Virgin Mary revealed herself to up to 70,000 onlookers in the Portugese village of Fatima in 1917. People will be less aware that this spiritual event was accompanied by a display of radiant and buzzing rainbow coloured orbs of the kind that we would not now hesitate to call UFOs (Brookesmith, p-31).

Even more standard UFO encounters contain Cultural Tracking elements within them which are hard to account for. In October 1994 an American spy plane came across an unknown object at 1300 feet over Cyprus. Some fighter jets were hurried out to intercept the interloper but it sped away in the direction of the African coast. Thus far we have a credible sighting involving the military. There is however one perturbing, but by no means untypical detail to the story: the object boasted '20 flashing lights' (Daily Star, 17/7/17).

We know that our own aircraft carry lights and strobe lights: for visibility. Quite why an interstellar craft, would need such an array of such illuminations is less clear, although it does seem to be another example of Cultural Tracking.

The Extraterrestrial Hypothesis: the Weakest Link?

That these manifestations represent cosmic travellers is the most widespread supposition about UFOs, having commonsense and simplicity in its favour. There is a reason, however, why many able and otherwise open-minded scientists take after Sagan and dismiss the very idea.

If somewhere there thrives a civilisation somewhere beyond that has picked up broadcast transmissions from Earth, and if this civilisation happens to be neither too primitive nor too advanced to be able to relate to our communications, then even if their vehicles had the capacity to traverse the vast gulfs of the cosmos at the speed of light (itself a contentious premise) then it would take them, for example, approximately 4.2 years to reach us from the nearest star to our own – Proxima Centauri. How could they be assured that we would still be around when they arrived? Not only that but also these beings would have to face the difficulties of their craft colliding with dust and particles as they travelled at such speeds (Brookesmith, p-170). Then we have the often-overlooked question of biology to consider.

The science writer Edward Ashpole qualified as a biology teacher and in The UFO Phenomena he throws an arc light on the realities of extraterrestrial contact when biological facts are considered:

'Technological differences [he says] could be overcome but biological differences would be unbridgeable' (Ashpole, p116).

Should the disparity in intelligence levels not render exchange between us impossible, just the physical differences may well do so: '...the sounds of a dolphin depend on dolphin physiology' Ashpole reminds us (p-112). Were our intergalactic guest not struck down by our strange atmosphere and alien microbes then it would not be able to find sustenance.

'Go to any planet full of life and you will not find food to sustain you' warns Ashpole (p -70-71).

Of course, devotees of the Extraterrestrial hypothesis sidestep these objections by ascribing all manner of magical technologies to our alien tourists – interdimensional wormholes, cyborg adaptivity and so on but these are filched from science fantasy yarns and if our visitors were really so in advance of us then why visit our little blue monkey planet at all?

Claims with substance.

Nevertheless there exist UFO cases that impart a strong sense that what is involved are solid structures, which are way beyond our own level of technological capacity. Mass hallucination, then could be a last ditch attempt to rationalise them away – and yet mass hallucination (as opposed to mass hysteria) is a problematic concept not quite recognised by modern psychology.
How else though to explain the huge bowl like structure which appeared, complete with lights and portholes, over the Yukon Territory in Canada on December the 11th 1996 and was seen by 31 separate people in succession? The investigator Martin Jasek was able, from interviews, to track the course of this estimated mile wide structure which hovered 250 feet off the ground along the Klondike highway for 205 miles (Donderi, p-68 – 70).

The wilder fringe of abduction claims also feature details which can be corroborated between separate abductees. In one experiment 24 independent subjects were able to distinguish between the symbols seen in the interior of a UFO as drawn by alleged abductees from those drawn by from the imaginations of non-abductees (Dodenderi, p-XIV-XIX).

An Internal/External approach.

How to reconcile the obvious subjective core of the UFO experience with such pointers to its nuts and bolts trappings? Carl Jung may have been the first – in Flying Saucers: A Modern Myth of Things Seen in the Skies (1959) to suggest that the UFO is a projection from the Collective Unconscious, with the Saucers representing a Mandala urging unity in the face of the dangerous fractiousness of the Cold War.

One could get more esoteric with this line of argument. In 1901 the Theosophists Annie Besant and C.W Leadbeaeter introduced readers to Thought Forms in a book of that title. Thought forms were 'independent living beings' which could be conjured up by 'group minds'. Twenty-eight years later the influential Alexandra David-Neal the French linguist and Buddhist convert who lived in Tibet for 14 years – in The Magic and Mystery of Tibet –told of something similar that she called Tulpas. These thought forms were creatures of Buddhist folklore which came about when concentrated thought was able to erupt into our reality in the form of 'nirmata' and 'nirmana'.

It would not be until 1983 that leading British ufologist Jenny Randles advanced thinking on this matter forever. In a breakthrough article she provided examples of UFO incidents which only affected those within a 'zone of influence' and which existed on a 'quasi-conscious level' accompanied by a 'mental tingling'. Thus she had isolated the 'Oz factor'. In a crucial next step, she would go on to suggest that, in the Oz factor the witness him or herself played a pert in the creation of the scenario (Brookesmith, p-120).

The controversial maverick physicist Thomas Bearden, in Excalibur Briefing: Explaining Paranormal Phenomena (1988) proposed that UFOs, along with other paranormal occurrences, constitute 'tulpoids'. Human imaginings, he proposed, have a three dimensional reality which, given the right extremity of emotion, can break through into the material world (Brookesmith, p120).

Such a paradigm – seeing UFOs as wayward genies wished into being by human fears and hopes –would join the dots between many puzzles. We have already seen how UFOs show up in the company of religious icons like the Virgin Mary. Other modern icons have been implicated too. In 1973 in southwest Pennsylvania a series of UFO sightings occurred alongside Bigfoot encounters. (It was in response to such cases, which are by no means uncommon – that Jacques Vallee introduced the classification of 'Anomalous Event 3' that allowed for 'associated entities').

Critics might argue that it makes little sense to pile on an exotic phenomena onto an already exotic enough one, yet if UFOs are thought-forms then this would square the circle between something which seems so close to the human psyche and which seems to possess its own objective reality.

Edward Crabtree.


Ashpole, Edward The UFO Phenomena ((London: Headline Book Publishing, 1995)

Brookesmith, Peter UFO: The Complete Sightings Catalogue (Leicester, Blitz Editions, 1997)

Donderi, Don UFOs ETs and Abductions: A Scientist Looks at the Evidence (Charlottesville VA, Hampton Roads Publishing company Inc, 2013)

Lueder, Bret A UFO Hunter's Guide ((London, Watkins Publishing, 2013)

Sagan, Carl The Demon Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark (New York, Random House Publishing Group, 1996).


Randles, Jenny Essay on the Oz Factor and the Strange Sensations of Altered Reality Reported by UFO Witnesses in Alien

Tessman, Diane Tibetan Tulpas and Alien Thought Forms in 2012

www.thesott net. Comments (16)

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #7 Posted by Hawkin 6 years ago
The late John Mack didn't seem to think it was Psychological.    
Comment icon #8 Posted by dirtierdragoon4 6 years ago
Should an ant somehow evolve to form a healthy relationship with a human, and form a natural language together, the human could do things for the ant that it could never do alone. Should a human form a natural relationship with "God"/the Universe, along with this "direct" communication, then the forces would bend for the human that the human would only dream of (all within the variables of math - of course). The two must be at the same consciousness level for this symbiotic relationship to occur, and our (collectively - every human) bound together has been since its birth, the big bang, which ... [More]
Comment icon #9 Posted by Captain Risky 6 years ago
i don't think you fully understand what the article is saying. cultural tracking needs to be taken the same way the author intended it to be, that is, a psychological response to an explained or unexplained event. not independent of one. a human response for something that the human mind is not able to understand or fit into its understanding. regardless of whether its real or not. the real mystery is the initial trigger (woo or not) not what the person perceives what they saw but what confuses the person enough to wrongly describe it using something he's more familiar with. in the examp... [More]
Comment icon #10 Posted by ChaosRose 6 years ago
I don't think you fully understand what thoughtforms are.
Comment icon #11 Posted by Captain Risky 6 years ago
feel better?
Comment icon #12 Posted by Hammerclaw 6 years ago
There can genuinely be something in the sky you can't identify. You can imagine it to be pretty much anything.
Comment icon #13 Posted by Rolci 6 years ago
It's surprising to me that there isn't more attention paid to the holographic universe idea.
Comment icon #14 Posted by Rlyeh 6 years ago
It's unsurprising you'd bring up something so unrelated.
Comment icon #15 Posted by White Unicorn 6 years ago
When trying to establish the cause of any unknown siting of a UFO all theories must be taken into account, mundane and the unexplained ones as well. Usually they can be explained by military or atmospheric causes, but I think some things just might be holographic projections. Who projects them is another area to explore in itself.   
Comment icon #16 Posted by Rlyeh 6 years ago
Which has next to nothing to do with the holographic universe.

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