|H. Taylor Buckner, Ph.D.||P.O. Box 320, South Hero, Vermont 05486-0320||(802) 372-5236|
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(Published in H. Taylor Buckner Deviance, Reality, and change. Random House (New York) 1971. Pp. 381-389
By H. Taylor Buckner, E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Flying saucerians live in two realities at once. In their daily round of activities they rely upon the scientific laws of physics; they carry out normal transactions in legitimate institutions relying upon conventional reality. When they meet together the laws of gravity and inertia dissolve, the dead speak, auras glow, and Jesus Christ becomes a saucer pilot. Flying saucerians have a part-time alternate reality. Their everyday lives are enlivened by the possibility of interpreting a seemingly commonplace event as the workings of the space brothers. and in their alternate reality the space brothers affect their lives, and all of our lives.
Over a period of several years I attended a great many meetings of a flying saucer club, observing and recording what went on, and talking with the members. Their alternate reality derives its ultimate legitimacy from the space brothers, a superrace whose visible manifestation is the flying saucers that they pilot. Their conception of the universe is basically a mythology of science. Prometheus brought fire to the Greeks, the space brothers will bring peace, the beginning of the "new age," and a society in which the people who understand the message of the saucers will be the elect.
Flying saucers are a central symbol of the new-age reality, but not the only symbol. Saucers are useful; they are "unexplained" by science, and many people believe in them. Not all the groups that have formed around flying saucers are new-age groups. Some people who study flying saucers call them Unidentified Flying Objects, and think they may come from other planets. New-age people consider them "identified" flying objects, and both interplanetary and spiritual. People who fall into neither of these categories believe in flying saucers because they have seen something in the sky or have read something about them.
The name flying saucer' was coined by Kenneth Arnold in June 1947, to identify something he had seen while flying his airplane near Mount Rainier. The gleaming disks appeared to him to be twenty or twenty-five miles away, about the size of a cargo plane, and moving at 1,200 miles an hour, which was half again faster than any man had flown at that time. Arnold's observation was widely and skeptically reviewed in the press. This attention served as a catalyst for many people to start seeing and reporting things in the sky. Many physical phenomena can cause lights to appear in the sky. These were interpreted, after Arnold's report, as flying saucers.
The U.S. Army Air Force began an inquiry that it soon closed on July 3, 1947, citing possible meteorological explanations for the saucers, and denying that they were some new kind of missile. Three days later there had been so many sightings from all over the United States that a new inquiry was ordered. For nine days in July 1947, flying saucers were a sensation. The New York Times had front-page articles on saucers for four of these nine days, a good indication of their presumed importance.
Sightings of saucers continued to be reported at a rate of one to two hundred a year through 1951. In May 1950, the American Institute of Public Opinion asked on its regular poll, "What do you think these flying saucers are?" of a national sample of Americans. Ninety-four percent of the respondents claimed to have heard of saucers, a demonstration that the name was widely diffused, and people had a number of speculations about their nature. A third answered that they didn't know what they were, a fifth thought they were some military device, one out of twenty thought they might have come from another planet, the rest gave various answers. In 1950 there was a high degree of public awareness, but no predominant orientation. The Government asserted, in 1951, that the reliable sightings were 100-foot plastic balloons used in cosmic ray research.
On April 7, 1952, Life magazine printed an article that suggested that the saucers came from other planets. At the time there were "war jitters" over the Korean War. It was also the beginning of the "silly season" for the newspapers, the early summer period when there seems to be little "real" news and almost any hoax will get a wide play. Whether stimulated by Life, the war, the silly season, or more flying saucers, saucer sightings began to multiply daily. By the end of 1952 over 1,500 sightings had been reported. Scientists did not provide a plausible explanation, but a number of other people tried.
During 1953 and 1954 authors of ten different books claimed to have experienced personal contact with the pilots of flying saucers, and in some cases had been given rides in the saucers. These books were widely read, particularly by people previously interested in the occult, and flying saucers became a central and unifying symbol connected with many occult beliefs. The authors of these books may be looked upon as the innovating theoreticians, the prophets, of the new-age reality. They have a new understanding of the cosmos that they spread.
Through various published sources and personal interviews I have attempted to ascertain the background of the people who claimed to have contacted men from space. Frequently contactees, as they are called, use titles such as "Doctor," "Reverend," and "Professor." I was unable to find that any of them had graduated from college, with the exception of one from an unaccredited Bible college. I found a few had graduated from high school, and the majority had finished grade school and perhaps a year or two of high school. The titles and degrees they use are either self-granted, or granted by new-age institutions run by others within the reality.
The contactees' occupations were congruent with their education. One was an electrician, another a painter and decorator, another held a "minor technical job," another ran an emergency airport in the desert, another was a night watchman, and yet another was an evangelist.
Depending on which contactee one reads or talks with, a variable picture of the space brothers emerges. On the average the space brothers look human, though they are morally and scientifically advanced beyond earthmen, and they have some superhuman attributes. They live on Saturn, Mars, and Venus in an earthlike but utopian civilization. Both the men and the women wear long hair and flowing robes in some accounts, and short hair and snappy uniforms in other accounts. Their space ships (flying saucers) run on gravity or magnetism. Their purpose in coming to earth and contacting the people they did was to warn the men of earth about the dangers of nuclear war, and the dangers of technology outrunning social science. They also brought a "new" rule for moral conduct, roughly "do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Among the saucer pilots are various "ascended masters" from earth, men who had graduated into the heavenly hierarchy or who had come from other planets to live among men and teach them. Jesus Christ, who came from either Venus or Saturn (the point is in dispute), was one of the more famous ascended masters, and is still piloting his saucer.
Since flying saucers are not ordinary material devices they can not only travel in space but also through various levels of the spirit world, astral levels as they are called. In some accounts the spirits of the dead can talk to the still living through flying saucers moving on their astral level. The flying saucer gradually came to unite many different mysteries as the revelation progressively unfolded: mysterious happenings in the sky, the promise of a moral civilization, a life after death, and a paradise on earth, if men would only follow the message.
This revelation is broad enough to legitimate many activities. Since the space brothers often commented on earthly institutions, praising some, condemning others, an incipient legitimation for an entire institutional order was also created.
But very few new-age institutions have arisen, and those that have are mostly devoted to spreading the word rather than institutionalizing new-age realities in labor, sex, territory, or communications. As a result, no matter how strongly one believes in the new-age reality it is necessary to participate in the conventional institutional order for the necessities of life. New-age people are aware of the discrepancy between their reality and the reality of those they have to deal with in mundane affairs, and they generally adopt a policy of silence. They feel that `'unbelievers" are inclined to scoff and are very difficult to enlighten, so in most cases they remain quiet rather than pressing their point.
A fairly usual interaction between a new-age individual and a conventional individual involves the opening of a few conversational possibilities as tentative lines. The new-age person might drop some reference to saucers, to space people, or to some occult wisdom into the conversation. If the other person scoffs they generally do not pursue the matter further. If the other person makes polite but noncommital noises they may follow up by explaining more about what they first mentioned or by suggesting another occult line of conversation. This is still tentative, and until they are fairly convinced that they are speaking with an "open-minded" person they tend not to press their points. Should they encounter a sympathetic listener who encourages them to continue and nods his assent, they will begin speaking from and thinking within new-age reality. All realities must be protected from the intrusion of other realities, all realities are precarious. This must be particularly true for a reality generated within a limited social circle, a reality without a functioning institutional order, which must exist surrounded by a contradictory reality. The social problem of maintaining such a fragile "deviant" (from the conventional point of view) reality is ever present and requires immense effort and care. From their experience with disbelievers new-age people have learned caution. Time after time they go through a cycle that starts with an increasing confidence in their message, the perception of a sympathetic outside audience, an explanation of their reality to this audience, and dejection and confusion when the message is not understood, rudely or patronizingly received, or cognitively rejected. The maintenance of faith requires immersion in their own reality and isolation from conventional reality.
The reality maintaining environments are very few. Sometimes new age people meet their other new-age friends and spend a few hours in conversation in the jointly understood world of assumptions that they share. Mostly, however, reality maintenance goes on within meetings of new-age groups. There are a number of groups that could be considered to be part of the new-age reality. Each group has a somewhat distinct central focus, but there is a great deal of overlap. Thus one group might be primarily interested in astrology, another in magical healing, another in occult knowledge, another in occult religion, another in spiritualism, and another in flying saucers. Of all these groups the most central to new-age reality is the flying saucer group, because all of the other groups are welcome within it. In many ways the development of a cohesive new-age reality depended upon the emergence of flying saucer groups and their open door policy. Although many of the new-age groups have been in existence far longer than flying saucer clubs, they each tended to be isolated from one another. An individual might join one such group, remain for a time and go on to another group to learn what they had to say, thus picking up several distinct parts of the new-age reality, but as separate and distinct areas of knowledge. The flying saucer clubs welcomed speakers from all of these groups, and welcomed people to attend their meetings. As a result the common stock of knowledge grew and became more varied. Ideas that had been separate began to be linked together. There had been, for example, groups that were interested in the lost continent of Mu, that began to speak of flying saucers as the Lemurians' mode of interplanetary travel. Likewise, groups interested in the spiritual world began to see flying saucers as a partially spiritual phenomenon. Through such joinings of traditions and ideas, a complex set of beliefs began to be generated that encompassed many previously isolated traditions. While this complex set of beliefs does not logically integrate all of the different traditions, it forms a centralizing focus and legitimation for new-age reality.
The flying saucer clubs grew out of the first wave of books claiming contact with the space brothers. The particular club I joined and attended for several years was organized to discuss these books. The organizer had been a member of a number of religious and occult groups for many years, and she invited the friends she had made in these groups to come to her new club. Her club soon affiliated with a growing chain of similar clubs organized by one of the original contactees. Almost from the beginning there were discussions about space people in the Bible, and other extensions of the flying saucer story. As a matter of fact there is only a certain and limited amount of "meat" in the stories of contacts with the flying saucers. Each group was really only interested in hearing each contactee's story once, and if he wished to be invited back again he would have to have something different to say. The stories that were told of the space brothers' civilization, way of life, and beliefs often linked them up with other occult happenings and traditions, which opened a natural avenue of approach to these other traditions. For example, the fact that A-lan, the space man who contacted the founder of the chain of clubs, said that the space brothers originally came from Lemuria, the civilization of the lost continent of Mu, provided the saucer clubs with a natural reason to invite a guest from one of the groups that specialized in Lemurian "history."
A brief list of some of the ideas that have been presented in flying saucer clubs and conventions can give some idea of the areas of new age beliefs. The club I studied defined itself as open to any ideas that would help to make a better world, and in fact its boundaries were quite wide. In all the meetings I attended, the only speaker who was given a hard time was a man who claimed to have seen a flying saucer close up, but who rejected the idea that anyone had experienced actual contact with space people. This, of course, is fundamental heresy, and it was treated as such. With this exception the clubs seemed to follow their creed: ". . . to examine all things and subsequently to cling to that which is good." Here follows a collection of some of the ideas presented in one way or another to flying saucer clubs that were part of the chain.
The Lemurian Fellowship produced a newsletter in which they discussed various elements of Lemurian civilization and its applicability to the new age. This knowledge had been kept secret by a small band of survivors of the sinking of Mu in the Pacific 26,000 years ago. The Lemurian Fellowship offered a course of instruction in this knowledge that was fairly extensive, and they often had their members attending flying saucer club meetings, and copies of their literature around.
A somewhat mysterious group called White Star, in southern California, regularly produces and mails to new-age people on its mailing list instructions on self-preparation for the Second Coming of true Christ consciousness. For a time these instructions appeared as a set of commands from a bureaucratic office in the heavenly hierarchy. Apparently a work of complete dedication to the ideals is involved; I have been on their mailing list for seven years and they have never asked for a donation, though they have hinted that money for postage would be useful.
On many occasions astrologers come to flying saucer meetings; occasionally they speak on the astrological significance of world happenings. Most of the members of the club I studied seemed to be well versed in astrology; I suspect it is the major "science" of new-age reality.
The Rosicrucians, who claim long historical roots, often come to saucer club meetings to discuss their course of studies. A number of saucer club members either have been Rosicrucians or are currently following their course. They offer studies in the Development of Personal Magnetism, the Mysteries of Time and Space, and the Human Aura and its Vibratory Effect, among others. Much of Rosicrucian knowledge is a part of the taken-for-granted assumptions of new-age reality.
A number of exotic religions claim followers in the saucer clubs, and representatives often attend club meetings to seek out new members. The ones I noted included Theosophy, Science of Mind, Unity, Yoga, Christian Yoga, Baha'i, and the Doomsday Cult studied by Lofland.
A major belief in new-age reality is in "free energy." "Free energy" is the leftover energy that a perpetual motion machine produces in excess of that required for its own operation. A great many of the visions of the future that are shared in new-age reality depend upon free energy for the motive power to free man from the drudgery of work and from the enslavement of the money system. One of the points of hostile contact with conventional reality comes from the assumption that international cartels know of and are suppressing "free energy" machines to protect their profits.
New-age reality has its own systems of mental and physical healing. Psychic suffering is diagnosed by reading the "aura" or glow surrounding the human body. In certain states of depression the aura is very pale, and good health manifests itself in a shining gold or silver aura. A form of psychoanalysis is provided by readings of the individual's "akashic record," which is the imprint of the individual's mind through all of its previous incarnations on the universal mind. Knowing his history through all of his incarnations helps the individual to guide his life in his present incarnation.
Physical disease also has its own therapeutic procedures. Rejuvenation of the body may be obtained by a walk through a healing temple constructed without a single piece of metal. Reductions of age of ten to twenty years can be expected when one's magnetism has been realigned by such a walk. Diseases such as cancer are treated by a complex system of colored lights, but the therapeutic legitimation of this practice is not known to me.
The healing professions are another area of conflict with conventional reality, and a great deal of distaste is reserved for organized medicine, which calls new-age procedures "quackery," and for the psychiatric ideology of the community mental health movement, which is seen as a major weapon of conventional reality to be used against the new-age followers. The idea that they may be carted off to a hospital and kept there against their will until they accept conventional reality is quite frightening and explains much of their opposition to the community mental health programs that allow for speedy commitment.
Another aspect of new-age reality involves close attention to the foods taken into the body. Health foods, vegetarian diets, organically grown foods without poisonous pesticides, are seen as being necessary to maintain the body and mind in top condition.
No particular set of political ideas predominates in new-age reality, though there is generalized hostility toward the money system, banks, Communism, organized medicine, organized religion, and ``bad people.'' New-age people are generally in support of peace, guaranteed incomes, and lower taxes. A number of different political philosophies have been presented at one time or another by people attempting to gain followers. It has been my observation that these were generally met with polite but massive disinterest. In the new age, government will follow the plans of the ascended masters and space brothers and the mundane politics of today are more of a distraction than a way to further changes. As the brothers said, "Your politics and your money are the darkest blot upon your earth."
I have really only touched upon the complexities of new-age reality, and I have had to omit many aspects that I heard about at one time or another but was unable to follow up. New-age reality is very complex, and not very systematized. As with any reality, the individuals objective reality is made up of certain parts that he has experienced and heard of, not the totality of the elements in the reality.
Just as hip reality is centered on the young, new-age reality is centered on the old. In the course of twelve meetings, both club meetings and meetings to hear contactees and healers, I kept a record of the attendance by age and sex. By my observation 4.5 percent of the audience were men under 30, 3 percent were women under 30, 8.5 percent were men between 30 and 50, 7.8 percent were women between 30 and 50, 14.2 percent were men over fifty, and 62 percent of the average audience were women over 50 years old. At every meeting an absolute majority of the audience was composed of women over 50 years old. Their average age appears to be about 65. Clearly new-age reality has a special appeal for older women.
Most of the members seem to be widowed or single, some few couples come to meetings, and some are married to nonbelievers. The latter particularly must have a hard time maintaining their subjective reality.
The socioeconomic status of the members appears to be low. Many are living on Social Security, and from appearances most came from working-class families.
The formal education of the members is very limited. I met a number of ladies who had not finished grammar school. A high school graduate was rare. As a consequence they did not have the conceptual tools to build up "knowledge" as we think of it in conventional reality, systematizing, ordering, comparing, and analyzing what they had read. But they built up knowledge in new-age reality, because they read, studied, and attended lectures constantly. It is difficult to convey the way in which new-age knowledge is built up, but I suppose that the idea of examining all things and clinging to the good can convey part of it. From the perspective of conventional reality their knowledge seems disorganized, fragmented, and contradictory, but they don't use the same rules.
It seems to me that a person who is old, female, alone in the world, poor, and uneducated has very little to gain from believing in conventional reality. She is defined as useless, incompetent, and essentially worthless. She has few tools to cope with the complexities of twentieth century urban life. New-age reality offers her an alternative way of putting the world together, a way which gives her hope, self-esteem, and a feeling of being worthwhile. New-age reality is a precarious vision, surrounded as it is by conventional reality, unsupported by new age institutions, but a precarious vision may be better than none at all.
A part-time reality may solve the specific problems of the group that carries it but it is unlikely to become a predominant reality for a society. There simply must be a network of institutions that function within the values to provide support at all points in the daily round of activities for the reality to be complete.
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