Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Cryptoterrestrials - A Review

When you exclude the peripherals, from the table of contents and acknowledgements, to the foreword and afterward written by Nick Redfern and Greg Bishop respectively, The Cryptoterrestrials, the final work by the late Mac Tonnies, comes in at a slim 98 pages. However, in a prime example of quality over quantity, Mac has left us with an impassioned and thought-provoking clarion call for a new way of thinking, not just about the UFO phenomenon or even the paranormal in general, but about ourselves.

The UFO phenomenon is the focus of The Cryptoterrestrials, at least on the surface. Mac takes direct aim from the beginning at the purveyors of ufological orthodoxy, namely those people who are convinced that the Extraterrestrial Hypothesis is the Extraterrestrial Fact (a subject I've written about here). He pulls no punches, skewering the majority of ufology both for their blind adherence to the ETH, and for their willing self-marginalization.

"The ufological 'community' suffers from creative anemia," he writes. "While its luminaries might noisily claim otherwise, ufology collectively wants to be marginal. With the lamentable exception of a few spokesman who feel the need to 'explain' the phenomenon's intricacies to a wary public (often in the guise of would-be political discourse), the ostensible UFO community remains afraid of stepping into the rude glow of widespread public attention. And it has a right to be afraid." (p. 25)

It's not that Mac rejected the ETH - indeed, in the book he writes that it remains a viable, if shopworn, hypothesis. What he rejected, and what people like Nick, Greg and I reject, are those who say that the ETH is the only answer, or even the best answer. After all, how can one say any hypothesis is the "best" hypothesis when faced with something as weird as the UFO phenomenon? With the ETFacters, it isn't a matter of science anymore, or logic, or following the evidence to where it leads - it's become all about the perpetuation of their belief system within an ever-shrinking community of flying saucer evangelicals. People like Stan Friedman have done more to undermine the cause of the ETH within the broader public than a hundred Seth Shostaks or James McGahas, not necessarily because they are wrong, but because they are so convinced that everyone else is wrong. Mac rejected, as Greg, Nick and I do, their intellectual rigidity, as well as their lack of any true sense of wonder, or appreciation for the mystery of it all.

If Friedman et al have spent the last few decades hunkered down in the ufological equivalent of an intellectual Jericho, then Mac is the guy standing at the walls with the trumpet, and The Cryptoterrestrials is the blast that should bring the whole decrepit edifice of certainty crumbling down. In his foreword, Nick compares Mac to the Ramones and the Sex Pistols, the brash and liberating antidote to what had become a stale status quo. It's a perfect metaphor, for there will indeed be more than a few people who read The Cryptoterrestrials and think Mac is the ufological version of the Anti-Christ. But if anything could use some anarchy, it's ufology.

In the end, however, it doesn't matter whether people within ufology "get" what Mac is saying, because he was aiming his sights a lot higher. Rather than just reinforce existing views, or rehash old ground, Mac takes the foundations that have been built by writers and researchers as diverse as Jacques Vallee, John Keel, Whitley Strieber and David Jacobs, and expands upon them, even as he points out the flaws in their theories. His goal is not to find a definitive answer, or to create an alternative orthodoxy, but rather to ask as many questions as he could, and try to come up with some ideas about where we may find the answers. He was a true revolutionary, a New Light for the paranormal.

So, what are the cryptoterrestrials? In Mac's hypothesis, they are a race of indigenous humanoids who share this planet with us. Technologically superior in many ways (but not, perhaps, all ways), they are on the decline, even as we continue to ascend - they are, if not a dying race, then one whose time has passed. And we are the noisy, and in many ways dangerous "new" kids on the block. Unlike Vallee or Keel, Mac does not sidestep the physical reality of the UFO phenomenon - in his hypothesis, they exist in this world, literally.

I interviewed Mac in Kansas City in 2006 about a number of subjects while filming Best Evidence, including the cryptoterrestrials.

Does the cryptoterrestrial hypothesis make any sense? Anyone who reads The Cryptoterrestrials will be hard pressed not to admit that it makes as much sense as any of the other theories on offer, and perhaps even more. What began as a thought experiment for Mac (I know, because I was there when he first started thinking about it seriously, on a trip to Los Angeles) became in the end a thorough review of the evidence and the literature, and some pretty grounded speculation about what it all points to. But it wasn't Mac's intention to write a definitive conclusion to the discussion about the UFO phenomenon, or the paranormal; rather, it was his intention to get that discussion started again, and to get people thinking, for the first time in a long time, about what really might be going on - including the possibility that we are being visited by beings from another world.
Unable to disprove a negative, I have no choice but to concede that some UFO encounters may originate in space. And it would be the height of arrogance to proclaim that the Extraterrestrial Hypothesis and the Cryptoterrestrial Hypothesis are mutually exclusive. And of course, cryptoterrestrials don't preclude "inter-dimensional" travelers either. (p. 52)
What was important to Mac, at least at this stage, was to ask the correct questions, because only then might we be able to get back on the road to finding some answers, if not about the phenomenon itself, then about ourselves, and our almost symbiotic relationship to it. "If we're dealing with a truly alien intelligence," Mac concludes, "there's no promise that its thinking will be linear. Indeed, its inherent weirdness might serve as an appeal to an aspect of the psyche we've allowed to atrophy. It might be trying to rouse us from our stupor, in which case it's tempting to wonder if the supposed ETs are literally us in some arcane sense."

Earlier in this review, I called Mac the "New Light of the paranormal." Most readers won't understand the reference. Let me explain. In the late 18th century, in the Maritime colonies, religion was dominated by the Congregational Church, which maintained a rigid, Calvinist orthodoxy. In 1776 a young preacher, Henry Alline, began to travel amongst the communities of the colonies, talking about a better way - free will, an almost mystical view of faith, and a personal experiential relationship with the divine. Most important, he rejected all of the man-made conventions that he called "non-essentials," over which various denominations argued incessantly, as nothing but hindrances to the central message - the redeeming love of God. Like Mac, Alline died far too young (in 1784, at the age of 36). He was derided by the guardians of the old order, who called him the "ravager of churches," in much the same way as I suspect Mac will come to be viewed as the ravager of the ET orthodoxy. Finally, like Mac, he presented a simple, concise, and transformational message. He was a true "New Light" - and so was Mac, who insisted that we must not lose sight of the central message: that we are dealing with a non-human intelligence which remains a mystery. Amidst the noise, that is the signal.

In a world where hyperbole has become the lingua franca, The Cryptoterrestrials is that rare work which merits the appellation "a must read." It represents a true paradigm shift in our understanding of the mysteries of the paranormal. This is a book that deserves to be read and discussed far and wide, and which offers up an opportunity to revitalize the UFO subject, and make it relevant again - but only if we are courageous and intellectually honest enough to embrace it.

Paul Kimball


purrlgurrl said...

Wow! Great post.

Greg said...

Indeed. I just put that little review on Amazon for the masses. You and Nick have provided something more for the initiated (or soon-to-be-initiated) as appetizers for Mac's book.

I'm proud to call you my friend and sad that Mac isn't here to enjoy (?) the fame and infamy that will will result from the release of his book.

Paul Kimball said...

I shall suspend my agnosticism just long enough to think that somewhere, out there, Mac is watching and listening and enjoying himself. :-)

And I am just as proud to call you my friend, amigo! Here's hoping 2010 is great for both of us (and Nick too!!).


Mike Clelland! said...

Mac was perfectly skilled at posing questions, and then speculating. It was a skill (or gift) that I envy. He had zero emotional attachment to any of his ideas. If there was any personal investment, it came in the form of a boyish sort of: "Wow, this is cool!"

He wasn't interested in "owning" his ideas. But, from my interactions, he was very excited to simply put them on the table for open discussion - and creative conjecture.

No answers in his book. But there are loads of new little threads that lead off into the darkness - waiting to be followed.

I miss him terribly.

Mike Clelland! said...

Also - Huge thanks for the series of clips of Mac.

michael garrett said...

Thanks for being his friend.


Anonymous said...

"Unlike Vallee or Keel, Mac does not sidestep the physical reality of the UFO phenomenon..." re: this comment, i can only assume you've yet to read Vallee's Confrontations, which is chock-full of documentation and consideration of the physical reality of the UFO phenomenon. in fact, the medical aspect of Brazilian contacts was obtained for presentation in this book by Mr. Vallee at great personal exertion.

can't wait to read The Cryptoterrestrials! lunarose

dmduncan said...

I'm still stunned. I didn't know Mac was gone until a month later, and it still gets me now when I think of it.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately I think people are only being nice because Tonnies is deceased.

If you visit the reviews at Amazon then read J.E. Barnes review titled "Start Measuring The Circle Elsewhere". I think Barnes is pretty much the only non-biased reviewer.

Paul Kimball said...

Barnes is far from non-biased, having read his other "reviews."

BoyintheMachine said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Brownie said...

From the blog: " Unlike Vallee or Keel, Mac does not sidestep the physical reality of the UFO phenomenon - in his hypothesis, they exist in this world, literally." - - -

Incorrect. Keel and Vallee knew the ultraterrestrials/metaterrestrials to be physical (at times) and having qualities for transmographication.

Keel warned off people about ufos/'aliens'/mibs especially in 'UFOs:Operation Trojan Horse' even comparing it to demonology and Vallee spent a whole book on the negative and deadly physical effects, including trace evidence cases, of ufos in 'Confrontations'.

Mac was an interesting blogger, but did not do any field investigations like Keel and Vallee did, which probably would have changed Mac's hypothesis on cryptoterrestrials, imo.

Tyler Kokjohn said...

Mac Tonnies never had the opportunity to tell us his complete story. Thanks to the efforts of Nick Redfern, Greg Bishop and others an unfinished manuscript was put into publishable form, but there is no way to be certain the book represents his definitive thoughts on the Cryptoterestrials. The evidence available regarding Mr. Tonnies and his approach to analysis suggests it may not.

His writings reveal Mr. Tonnies was not intimidated by authority and quite willing to challenge it. Various tributes and personal anecdotes suggest his habit was to weigh evidence and ponder ideas over long periods while seeking a diversity of perspectives. To me that suggests he did something that can be difficult; he subjected his own hypotheses to the same brutal evaluations he applied to the ideas of others.

His apparent receptiveness to new ideas and willingness to discard them as the facts dictated, imply that his views evolved as new information and criticisms reached him. Unfortunately, we cannot be sure whether the published book represents what he would have ultimately produced with more time and we can only speculate where he might have taken his ideas in response to reviews.

As published, The Cryptoterrestrials presents hypotheses and conjectures that will be summarily rejected by mainstream scientists. However, many scientific speculations have short half-lives and the true importance of this particular book revolves not around the specifics and merits of the contested hypotheses as much as the methods Mr. Tonnies used to create them. Ruthless questioning of authority, seeking the best evidence and subjecting ideas to brutal interrogation against the known facts are examples the next generation of seekers will be well advised to emulate. Clearly, Paul Kimball recognized Mac Tonnies was a kindred soul.

Perhaps Anomalist books will collect and publish the remembrances of those who knew and worked with Mac Tonnies to reveal the ideas that interested him and the ways he approached them.

Anonymous said...

There is a lot of information available now that would prove that he is entirely correct.

The Bible speaks of the Watchers who descended from the Heavens (per David Flynn it was the planet Mars); theyinterbred with humans and created the Nephilim; not all of them were wiped out during the flood and probably still live underground.

It appears that the "original race" of advanced beings may have been the Neanderthals who have RH negative blood; the genetic disorder would be blood related -- lycopathny comes to mind.

I have plenty of links available to indicate that he is correct