Monday, August 26, 2013

Kevin Randle on The Other Side of Truth

Veteran researcher / author Kevin Randle joins me for a wide-ranging discussion about the Roswell UFO incident, and Randle’s work over the past two years with the ”Dream Team” (Tom Carey, Donald Schmitt, Anthony Bragalia, Chris Rutkowski, David Rudiak, and Kevin), who have been re-examining the evidence for and against the crash of an extraterrestrial spacecraft near Roswell in July, 1947. I challenged Kevin to make the his best case for the crashed spacecraft scenario, and then we dug deeper to see how well the evidence has held up over the past thirty years. The answers may surprise people familiar with Kevin’s long-held view that the Roswell incident was indeed a crashed extraterrestrial spacecraft - particularly his admission that despite his own personal belief that an extraterrestrial spacecraft crashed in New Mexico in 1947, when we examine the evidence as it exists today, "We really can't get to the extraterrestrial. We can eliminate practically everything else that you care to mention, but that still doesn't get us to the extraterrestrial."
Towards the end of the episode, we briefly discuss the other famous / infamous crashed spacecraft story from the late 1940s, the Aztec incident, and why both of us agree that it was a hoax / con.
This episode was recorded on 23 August, 2013.
Download this episode directly here, or listen to it at The Other Side of Truth podcast here.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Mysticism & Me

I got a friendly note earlier this afternoon from a longtime reader who expressed her surprise that I was posting so much about religion and spirituality, particularly mysticism. She noted that it seemed odd for a self-described agnostic to be eschewing rationalism for New Age-ism.

A primer about my background is perhaps in order, in case others are curious, and in case I choose to post more on the topic. The subject of my still not-quite-finished graduate thesis in history was 19th century religion in New Brunswick, in particular the Free Christian Baptist Church as it struggled to reconcile the mystical and experiential roots of its New Light beginnings under Henry Alline in the late 18th century with the 19th century impulse to become more oriented towards the increasingly rationalist mainstream norms of the more established Protestant Churches. This led to a schism within the denomination in the mid 1880s between the majority who had integrated the Church more fully into the broader society, with an emphasis on things like denominational newspapers and bigger and more elaborate churches and paid clergy and missionary societies, and those who wanted to re-focus on the core spiritual experience that they felt was being obscured by non-essentials. They gravitated towards the holiness movement that had been started in the 1840s by the great Christian mystic Phoebe Palmer, who stressed a personal and experiential union with God, and they were eventually expelled from the Free Christian Baptists. They formed their own smaller denomination, called the Reformed Baptists - the Church that my late paternal grandfather, Rev. Hollis Mullen, was ordained in a few decades later.

Portrait of my grandfather Rev. Hollis Kimball,
by my cousin Judy Bouma.

I remember many conversations I had with my grandfather when I was young, and if perhaps I didn't quite grasp everything that he was trying to tell me at the time (I was still just a teenager when he passed away), they were embedded in my memory, and have served as the inspiration ever since for my own truth-seeking. 

So mysticism, particularly of the Christian type, is nothing new to me, both from an academic and from a personal perspective. I remain an agnostic, because unlike my grandfather I have not been able to embrace a certainty about any of it - I've never had that profound encounter with "the divine" that he once described to me, and which changed the course of his life. But I keep looking for it, and trying to understand what it might mean by studying the works and ideas and lives of those who have had it... whatever it is.

Paul Kimball

Jacob Böhme and the Nonduality of the Paranormal

Those seeking to understand the true nature of the paranormal would do well to immerse themselves in the writings of the world's great mystics, as opposed to more reports of eyewitness UFO sightings, ghost hunter television programs, or your average once-a-week sermon. A good place to start would be the work of German theologian Jakob Böhme, who lived from 1575 until 1624. He wrote about the non-duality between humanity and God (or, as I would call it, an advanced non-human, or possibly para-human, intelligence). As has been the case for many mystics, in 1600 Böhme had a "vision" that he believed revealed the spiritual structure of the world to him, as well as the relationship between God and man, and good and evil. This was followed in 1610 by another, even more profound experience which convinced Böhme that he had a calling to speak and write about his experiences, and his interpretation of what they meant. He was viewed as a heretic by the Lutheran religious authorities of his time.

Böhme's mystical ideas were complex, and like many of us he struggled within the confines that language imposes on the communication of ideas. But the central thrust of his work,  often presented told in allegorical terms, is clear and accessible, and still resonates today - like the Gnostics, he eschewed the external rule-making god of organized religion, and focused on the search for the Inner Light, "the true light, that lighteth every man that cometh into the world." [John 1:9]

Böhme posited that there was no difference (the "non-duality") between human beings and God - we are part of each other. He wrote:
Don't think that God is only in some far away heaven, and that the soul, when it departs the human body, must soar aloft many hundred thousands of miles off in order to reach Heaven. No, it need not do that to reach Heaven, because when the soul in Christ departs the body, it is already present in Heaven and there the soul is with God and in God, and also with all the holy angels, and the soul can suddenly be above and suddenly beneath; it is not hindered by anything. For in the unity of God there is no separation of seeming distance. Indeed, in what place should the departed soul of man rather be than with its King and Redeemer Jesus Christ? The fact is that near and far off in God are one thing, one comprehensibility; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, everywhere. 
Moreover, this unity is found throughout the universe, for all that there is both here and throughout the universe is, in essence, one Person manifesting Himself. This seemingly outward universe is nothing more than the Godhead playing the joyous melody of His life through His creative instruments which are all of the varied physical forms found throughout the universe, especially the form known as man which He always intended to be His highest song of praise to His eternal and uncreated glory! So you see that wherever you are in this world, you are in Heaven. 
The universe is the outcome and development of "One Grand Thought." All things are governed by one central law, and all planes of existence are related. "This world," wrote Böhme  "with all of its physical properties is in union with the vast vistas of the heavenly spaces above the earth. There is only one Heart, one Being, one Will, one God, All in all."

Böhme's work is deep and rich, and rewards those who undertake an examination of it with a broader insight of the possibilities inherent in what we call the paranormal, or the supernatural. If we are all one with each other, and the "divine", then the "paranormal" is more than even a reflection of ourselves - it is us, even as it appears separate and often confusing and mysterious, to the point of apparent inscrutability. But that could be the result of our own dislocation from our connection to our true self, which is still there, waiting to be discovered... and perhaps, on a subconscious level, reminding us through lights in the skies and other hints that there is something beyond the rationalist and materialist world in which we have imprisoned our true nature.

A good starting point for internet resources available for Böhme can be found here and here.

Paul Kimball

Into The Mystic

Are we just meat-based computers, or is there much more in there... and out there as well (as George Harrison wrote, within and without you)? That is the fundamental question underlying all aspects of the so-called paranormal, I believe - including UFOs.

The great mystics - which include the Christian mystics - have been wrestling with this topic from the beginning of recorded history. Jesus, for example (the greatest of all Christian mystics, although I suppose that it would be more accurate to view him as a Jewish mystic) - in John 17: 21 - 23 [KJV]:
That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.
As I noted in my recent podcast with Dean Radin, this mystical core has been buried by the established churches for most of the last 2,000 years (with the odd exception), but it's still there, open to a much more interesting interpretation and discussion than you'll find coming from most pulpits. And it's in that mysticism that I believe the truth resides, should there be a truth to the paranormal beyond the structures of our rationalist / materialist worldview, because it offers us the opportunity to explore the most fascinating of all possibilities - that at a basic level (call it a quantum level), we are all God, and God is us - in which case, the things we are seeing are things we have created ourselves.

As Hildegarde of Bingen put it: "You are encircled by the arms of the mystery of God."

Or, as Luke wrote [17:21, KJV] - “The kingdom of God is within you”.

Paul Kimball

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Transfiguration of the Paranormal

Max Beckmann, Birds' Hell (1938)

Apropos of the general theme discussed in my book The Other Side of Truth: The Paranormal, The Art of the Imagination, and The Human Condition (namely, that the "paranormal" is an artistic presentation to us by an advanced non-human intelligence), as well as some ongoing discussions in the comments section on various posts at Rich Reynolds' UFO Iconoclasts blog about the nature of our possible interaction with this advanced non-human intelligence, I think this quote by one of my favourite painters, Max Beckmann, is apropos:
Art is creative for the sake of realization, not for amusement: for transfiguration, not for the sake of play. It is the quest of our self that drives us along the eternal and never-ending journey we must all make. 
As I wrote at Rich's blog, I don't really care who is caressing the canvas with the brush, or when, or what it looks like - I'm more interested in what it all means, or is meant to mean. And therein lies the philosophical conversation that ufology (and all of the crazy paranormal stuff) has been missing, as does most modern formalized religion. But it's the only part of the puzzle that really matters, at least to me. 

In the quest for meaning we find ourselves, and are transfigured in the process.

But why would an advanced non-human intelligence engage in all of this, often in what seems to the modern rationalist / materialist to be the most obtuse and in many cases ridiculous ways? I quote again from Beckmann, who stated:
Imagination is perhaps the most decisive characteristic of mankind. My dream is the imagination of space – to change the optical impression of the world of objects by a transcendental arithmetic progression of the inner being. That is the precept. In principal any alteration of the object is allowed which has a sufficiently strong creative power behind it. Whether such alteration causes excitement or boredom in the spectator is for you to decide.
In order to understand "the other" (whatever that "other" may be), we must first think like an artist, whether a painter, a musician, a poet, an actor, a magician, a dancer... whatever. We must use our imagination, and try to feel what it is like to be a creator and a performer.

In short, we must think like them... and only then can we begin to understand them, and appreciate the works that they are creating.

Paul Kimball

Sunday, August 18, 2013

UFOs and Wish Fulfillment

Rich Reynolds at the UFO Iconoclasts has a new post titled UFOs: Alone in the woods with your thoughts and a wish-fulfillment wherein he speculates about UFOs as a result of wish fulfillment on the part of the observer. An excerpt: You can read the entire post hereI find this an interesting line of thought worthy of discussion, but perhaps from a slightly different angle than Rich takes. I left the following comment:
Drab lives, with sexual frustration, could easily spark a wish to see or experience something unique or unusual. Today, the public (the masses) with their need to have fifteen minutes of fame – that damn Andy Warhol perquisite for life – could evoke, and often does, a wish-fulfillment, and in some, at the edge of geekiness, would use UFOs to bring that about. We often find, don’t we, that those who’ve seen a UFO or had an experience are people with a prior-to-their incidents interest in science fiction and its accoutrements (movies, TV shows, books, magazines)... That would be the basis for their wish-fulfillment, the underlying material(s) for their claim to unique human experience. 
I find this idea to be an interesting area of thought experimentation, although perhaps not quite in the same way as Rich does. I left the following comment at his blog:
This leads me back to the idea I posited in my book, that some advanced non-human intelligence is interacting with us as a way to inspire us to imagine a much broader world (for lack of a better term - interesting and fulfilling also work) than the one to which we have confined ourselves (or been confined, depending upon how you look at it). That's what art, in all it's forms, does, and I see the paranormal as an artistic presentation (and sometimes co-creation). Thus, in a sense, "they" are encouraging us not just to "wish" (upon a star?)... but ultimately to make those wishes come true.
Paul Kimball 


That's a photo of my Mom in May, 1966. I was born on 2 January, 1967, and I'm told I was a few days late, so I'm in this photo as well. I just didn't know it at the time.

Which makes me wonder - what will I be doing a second after I die? 

I think it will be the same thing I was doing a second before I was born.

I just have no idea what that was / will be... which is what makes it all so interesting.

Paul Kimball

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Aaron John Gulyas on The Other Side of Truth

Historian and author Aaron John Gulyas joined me back in July to discuss his new book Extraterrestrials and the American Zeitgeist, as well as his forthcoming book The Chaos Conundrum. The conversation began with an examination of the Contactee movement, focusing on its place as a significant part of 20th century American social and cultural history. Aaron and I then engaged in a discussion about the underlying political message of the Contactees, and the differences between their more experiential and individualist approach to the UFO phenomenon as compared to the more institutional approach of so-called “scientific” ufologists such as Donald Keyhoe, and how those two divergent outlooks were often structured along class lines. The conversation then turned to a look at atemporality and how it might inform much of what we call the “paranormal”. Along the way, Aaron recounted a personal experience he had whilst investigating a haunted cemetery, and he and I worked in some observations about religion and politics.

You can listen to the episode here.

Paul Kimball

Reflections on Best Evidence: Top 10 UFO Sightings

An old friend, with only a passing interest in UFOs (he's much more intrigued by ghosts), asked me the other day what I thought about the 10 cases featured in my 2007 film Best Evidence: Top 10 UFO Sightings -  my own personal opinions of each case, as opposed to the narrative of the film, which was dictated by the choices made by the panel of ufologists I enlisted to determined the top cases (with one exception, noted below), including Kevin Randle, the late Karl Pflock, the late Richard Hall, the late Mac Tonnies, Stanton Friedman, Brad Sparks, Bruce Maccabee, and Nick Pope, among others.

I thought about it, and then broke it down for him as follows:

10. Nuremberg, 1561 - A sighting that I added (bumping out the case the panel had voted in as #10) to demonstrate the point that UFO sightings predated the modern era. It happened so long ago that it would be impossible now to determine the accuracy of the report, or whether it was something anomalous, but it's worth noting that reports like it were far from unique. I think it can be chalked up to superstition, literary licence, and a misreading of a natural event.

9. Skylab III, 1973 - I have no doubt that it was a combination of space debris and camera artifacts.

8. Yukon, 1996 - This case relies solely on eyewitness testimony, and while there are multiple independent witnesses at different locations, there also seems to be a reasonable explanation that I accept.

7. Malmstrom AFB, 1967 - This case has generated more publicity than any of the others within ufology, if not the general public (Rendlesham is much better known there), largely because of the feud between "UFOs at Missile Bases" proponent Robert Hastings and James Carlson, the son of one of the officers allegedly involved in it all. I think they deserve each other, because they are both bonkers in my book. Focusing on the case instead of the feud, I don't buy it. I like Bob Salas (the primary witness) as a person, and think he is an honest man, but I also think that while he's made a genuine effort to remember things as they happened, he's got it wrong. When I interviewed him in 2006, he told me that he underwent hypnosis to recover his memories of the incident, which always rings alarm bells with me. There are no other witnesses or documents which corroborate his story - and there should be. Where are any of the soldiers who were topside who reportedly saw the UFO? I admire Bob for his advocacy of a nuclear free world, but I can't buy Malmstrom as anything other than a missile failure due to prosaic reasons, and some tall tales that he has absorbed as a truthful narrative.

6. Shag Harbour, 1967 - This case has multiple independent witnesses, all of them of impeccable character, as well as an official government investigation that called it a UFO. There are other stories that go much further, of underwater objects monitored for days by the US and Canadian navies until they flew off, but those rest on anonymous sources, and there is no documentation (although the stories were told to my friends Don Ledger and Chris Styles, whom I trust to have related them accurately - still, the stories and the witnesses can't be verified by others). What that leaves us with, I think, is a genuine mystery, but one that may or may not be as otherworldly as ET proponents would claim. It remains unsolved in my books, and very interesting.

5. Santa Barbara Channel, 1953 - The famous sighting by Kelly Johnson and his wife at their home in Agoura, CA, at the same time as a crew of top Lockheed pilots and flight engineers saw the "object" whilst flying over Santa Barbara Channel. They all wrote reports that still exist, so we can read in their own words about what they saw. There are some inconsistencies, but a general common narrative is possible to glean from it all. My friend Lance Moody has suggested that they mistook lenticular clouds for a structured craft, which I just don't buy (and neither did Johnson et al, who considered that possibility at the time of the sighting and ruled it out), but that doesn't mean I think that it was space aliens. The quality of the witnesses mark this one out as a good case, and I think it's still unexplained.

4. McMinnville, 1950 - I have always been convinced that it was a hoax. Not much more that I can say.

3. Rendlesham, 1980 - Another controversial case. There's no question that multiple witnesses saw something on two nights in late December, 1980. That's something everyone can agree on... and it's about the only thing! Skeptics like Ian Ridpath say that the US military men under Charles Halt misidentified a local lighthouse, and others suggest that the military police officers on the first night misidentified local police cars. But I'm not sure either of those jibe with the reports of the witnesses, particularly Halt, who was the deputy base commander and recorded the second incident on a tape recorder. The far out claims that have lately surfaced from Jim Penniston and John Burroughs, two key witnesses from the first incident, have further muddied the waters. Skeptics think that it just shows they're liars trying to cash in on the New Age element within ufology; believers look at their claims of telepathic communication and say that it absolutely fits with coming into contact with some advanced intelligence from another planet. This case is often called Britain's Roswell, and I think that's accurate, but not for the reason most people use the term. Like Roswell, I think it's a Rorschach test on what people think about the ETH. Either way, you'll see what you want to see. Sitting in the middle as an agnostic, I see a case that has already become so encrusted by mythologizing from both sides that it will never be solved. My gut tells me that the witnesses might have seen something weird, but they might also have been mistaken - and that's as far as I would ever go.

2. Tehran, 1976 - Still stands the test of time as an unsolved case. Genuinely mysterious.

1. RB47, 1957 - Since my film came out this long-overlooked case has enjoyed a renaissance of sorts, with skeptics trying on a number of occasions to offer a plausible explanation (which was one of these point of the film - to encourage people to examine these cases and try to come up with answers). Tim Printy tried the hardest in his SunLite publication, but it didn't ring true to me any more than the original USAF answer that it was all a misidentified commercial flight, hundreds of miles away. I showed Printy's explanation, and others, to surviving RB47 crew members I know, including Bruce Bailey who appears in the film and had his own encounter with a UFO a couple of years later, and they all thought it just didn't wash. I still consider this a truly mysterious case that remains unsolved, despite the best efforts of honest skeptics. 

So there it is. The only cases in the film that I find genuinely interesting and still unsolved are #6, #5, #2, and #1. Rendlesham is just too Roswellized for me to either credit or dismiss. The others I consider either solved, or too tenuous to merit any further consideration.

Paul Kimball

Friday, August 16, 2013

The Illogic of the Crashed ET Spacecraft Meme

The subject of Roswell and Project Mogul came up in correspondence today, and in my reply I wrote the following, which is pretty much my statement when it comes to the so-called "Roswell Incident":

It doesn't really matter to me whether Mogul was the cause or not. I'm sure that something like it, i.e. something prosaic, was what happened, for reasons I'll set out below. I've always thought that the mistake the USAF made was trying to explain away the Roswell "Incident" with a positive alternative, when any debater will tell you that if you're on the negative side of an argument all you have to do is take apart the side being put forward by the affirmative, in this case by the ET crash supporters. Once you offer an alternative, in this case Mogul, it puts a burden of proof on you that was not otherwise there, and takes some of that burden from where it belongs, i.e. on the shoulders of the crash proponents, who have singularly failed to prove their case, despite having over 30 years at it now.

Here are the reasons why I am completely convinced that there was no ET crash.

1. If aliens had sufficiently advanced technology of the kind that would permit travel between the stars (and I've talked to enough scientists to know just how mind-blowingly advanced this would have to be, Stan Friedman and his nuclear rockets balderdash notwithstanding), then it beggars belief that they would crash in spaceships that looked like something out of a 1950s sci-fi B-movie once they got here (much less crash multiple times, as some posit, including Stan).

2. However, allowing for the infinitesimal possibility that Murphy's Law applies to super-advanced aliens, it beggars belief that they would just leave the remains of the ship and their dead comrades to be found by beings who, as Stan puts it, were here to observe us because we might be dangerous someday soon. After all, they were supposedly in New Mexico to monitor nuclear testing and so forth... so how can we be asked to believe that they would let we warlike creatures have their technology? The logical answer is that we can't believe that, because the very reason the crash proponents suggest for the aliens being in New Mexico in 1947 (as opposed to some place like Iceland, or India) is the very reason why the aliens would clean up their mess before we could snag it... and if they had the ability to get here from another star system, then they would certainly have had the ability to collect or vaporize the wreckage.

3. However, allowing for the equally infinitesimal possibility that the aliens are fools, and let us have the technology in the idea that we would never understand it, then it beggars belief yet again that the United States government could have maintained what must be such a vast conspiracy to this day to keep it all quiet. I'm sorry, but that doesn't wash any more than the notion that BushCo. pulled off 9 / 11 as an inside job. Yes, there are conspiracies and cover-ups, and yes, they can be kept for a very long time, but history tells us that the reason they are kept for a very long time successfully is that they are always confined to only a few people. As soon as you start expanding the circle of knowledge, then the wheels fall off. Of course, conspiracists fall back on the old "the information compartmentalized, and only a super small cadre know the complete truth," but that's ludicrous. Even if you knew a portion of the truth, most people would be able to figure out the big picture eventually. And sooner or later if more than a couple people were involved, even at lower levels, some peon would leak something, as Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning and Daniel Ellsberg and the Rosenbergs all showed, that would have verifiable documentation to back it up.

But as I can't get past either point 1 or 2, I never really have to worry about point 3. I merely include it as an exercise in logic. And don't ask me to consider the absurd notion that the aliens staged the entire thing as a "test" or some kind of "counter intelligence" operation. That's like saying you have a dragon, but when people come around to see your dragon you explain to them that he's invisible to everyone but you. It's the ultimate in wish fulfillment excuses for something that does not withstand logical scrutiny.

What confounds me is that a lot of smart people have gotten lost in the weeds around the crashed flying saucer meme, when what they really needed to do was just apply some basic common sense and think the proposition itself through logically.

Paul Kimball