Thursday, May 12, 2011

The Road to Contactus

Of all the people who claim to have had direct contact with a non-human intelligence, regardless of the human perception paradigm through which they interpreted that experience, the most famous was undoubtedly Saul of Tarsus, better known as the apostle Paul, who went on to become perhaps the most important figure in the creation of one of the world's great religions.

In the New Testament, Acts 9 tells the story of Paul's experience as a third-person narrative:
And as he journeyed, it came to pass that he drew nigh unto Damascus: and suddenly there shone round about him a light out of heaven: and he fell upon the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: but rise, and enter into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do. And the men that journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing the voice, but beholding no man. And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw nothing; and they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus. And he was three days without sight, and did neither eat nor drink.

If someone was to describe such as experience today, he or she would probably be sent along to a psychiatrist and placed on some sort of medication, particularly if they were to choose a different way of explaining the experience... as an encounter with an extraterrestrial intelligence, for example.

And yet try to get elected President of the United States without affirming your belief in the non-human intelligence that Saul supposedly encountered on the road to Damascus two thousand years ago.

It won't happen.

The question that needs to be asked is: why does Saul / Paul remain a foundational figure of faith for over a billion people, treated with respect even by people who don't believe the supernatural explanation for his experience, while modern UFO contactees receive almost nothing but scorn, even from within the ranks of "serious" UFO researchers?

When one considers the nature of "contact" throughout human history, what one really sees are distinctions that may have been drawn without a real difference. Perhaps the central narrative is the same, whether "contact" happens on the road to Damascus, or the road to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and whether the non-human intelligence presents itself as the son of God, or the pilot of a spaceship from Zeta Reticuli.

Paul Kimball


Anonymous said...

Hmmm, very interesting, Thanks for pointing this out, Paul. Definitely correlations with latter day contactees' reports.

This story has intrigued me since I was a 4yo at Sunday school. I got the not building your house upon the sand stuff, but I never got how a very powerful, broad beamed light could shine down from the sky on one, whilst travelling a lonely, dark road, until I had my own experience of such.

Thankfully, it didn't render me blind nor did it have any religious connotations for me. It just was. There were no voices, no noise and the experience was witnessed by, coincidentally, a military air traffic controller, likewise an atheist, who had absolutely no explanation for the phenomenon (which could be why he was more scared than I was).

Still scratching my head 30yrs later, I can only echo Arthur C Clarke: 'Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic'.

Pavel said...

St. Paul's experience does have religious connotations for me, as it does for hundreds of millions of other people - I'm Catholic - and not just because it's a passage in a book.

There is also a complex of significant events surrounding the one in question on the road to Damascus, and it forms a theological and spiritual coherence.

However, I do not automatically discount the witness of those who say they've had contact experiences. Few if these seem to have theological connotations, although Betty Andreasson may be an exception.

Red Pill Junkie said...

My compadre Micah Hanks addressed this same question not long ago:

Religion and the Unexplained: A Measure of Gullibility?

"A recent article appearing in the Salt Lake City area Desert Times that those who identify with religious beliefs are less likely to have interest or belief in the paranormal. Referencing a book by author Rodney Stark called What Americans Really Believe, data from a 2005 Baylor Survey on Religion was used to determine degrees of gullibility among various Christian groups. “Credulity: Who Believes in Bigfoot” was one chapter featured, which dealt with groups ranging from more liberal Episcopalians to Mormons and conservative evangelicals and their potential views toward haunted houses, UFOs, and mysterious creatures.

The results found that a minority of 13 percent of “theologically conservative people” were apt to believe in paranormal claims while, while “41 percent of Episcopalians, 14 percent of members of the Assemblies of God, 32 percent of Catholics and 15 percent of Mormons scored high.” In his conclusion, Stark summarizes, “It seems that the choice is either to believe in the Bible or in Bigfoot.”

In truth, both areas present extraordinary claims, and perhaps whether or not one chooses to “believe” is really missing the bigger picture. I have found, in my experience, that the greatest merit is to have an open mind, in the absence of complying unconditionally to any faith or doctrine. Hence, my views toward religion (namely Christianity) are very similar to my views toward the unexplained: I have a strong interest in each, and have discovered merit to many claims associated with both, as well as many fallacies."

Personally, I think the problem stems from the fact that people tend to have a very literal interpretation of their religious views. They can believe in angels and God because they appear in the Bible, whereas dinosaurs and UFOs are not mentioned as such. Often times the churches discourage personal interpretation of the allegorical images found in the sacred texts —if you let them, the people might start questioning your authority.

Dia Sobin (Araqinta) said...

It is odd, isn't it, that anomalous experiences aren't generally accepted unless couched in conventional, official religious terms. Which, perhaps, proves that Ufology is not a religion as it possesses no "theological connotations"... (or perhaps. possess a few that many would fear to acknowledge).

Of course, you do realize that this issue is a large part of the Ancient Astronaut theory, which many Ufologists avoid like the plague (Mac was rabid on the subject - specifically Van Daniken), but I, personally, think is pretty cool.

In the end, what all of this may boil down to is that, in the times in which we live, the boundaries between science, religion, art, corporeal (and incorporeal) reality are beginning to blur... on a more obvious level... and somewhere therein may lie the key...(?)

Arvin Hill said...

Well, I appreciate this for very personal and semi-public reasons.

Dia's comment, particularly the last paragraph, resonates quite strongly with me.

I believe humanity will benefit greatly when (a.) more experiencers aka contactees develop a greater appreciation of science, and (b.) scientists seek direct experiences with non-human intelligence rather than simply issuing binary ontological edicts while insulating themselves in universities, labs and libraries.

The chasm does seem to be narrowing somewhat, but the pace is awfully slow.

Reductionism and mutual exclusivity are all the rage in ufology circles right now - and they're great for bludgeoning ideological adversaries - but all this either/or business ain't gonna get the wheels out of the mud.