I’m sure most readers are getting a bit bored with the revelation that various lights in the sky reported in Wonders in the Sky (2009) were really comets and meteors. So let’s try humanoid alien invaders today! Here’s a bit of deception from Wonders authors Jacques Vallée and Chris Aubeck that I believe is a pretty open and shut case of the two authors committing intellectual dishonesty to fabricate an alien encounter where there wasn’t one. Here is an entry they attribute to the Mirabilis Annus, a 1661 book of which I will have more to say later. The authors ascribe to the events below an encounter with a “humanoid” dressed a bishop. The whole of their presentation follows:
10 November 1660, Oxford, England: Humanoid
Let’s begin by dispensing with the story, which reads very much like your standard waking dream, particularly since it allegedly occurred to man while in bed. Here’s the complete account, which clears up some of the details and makes plain that the author of the piece was making a theological point (note the reference to papist practice!) and assumed that the figure in question was the Devil, not an alien. Note especially that the author asserts a conspiracy that has prevented anyone but him from presenting the “truth”:
The Devil in the likeness of a Bishop appeared to a Scholar in Magdalen College, November 10, 1660.
Interesting thing: Vallée and Aubeck leave out who wrote the Mirabilis Annus (or most of it), and for good reason—and not just to hide the fact that the original text claims itself to be only a secondhand summary of a letter written to its author. The work in question is believed to have been written all or in large part by Henry Jessie (or Jessey or Jacie) (1601-1663), a Puritan divine infamous for producing propaganda designed to impugn the Church of England in favor of Puritanism and to suggest that God was upset with the Restoration of Charles II and the end of Puritan rule in England. His book was part of an entire library of books of prodigies that alleged to foretell the destruction of the Church of England and the return of Puritan rule to Britannic shores.
A contemporary, the antiquary (and rumored Catholic sympathizer) Anthony Wood, described Jessie’s book as “an imposture of most damnable design.” Where the facts could be checked, they did not stand up to review. According to the Rev. James Granger, who assayed Jessie’s work a century after his death for the Biographical History of England (1779), Jessie was a bigot and wildly prejudiced. In the Mirabilis Annus, or “Year of Prodigies,” he “ransacked all the books he met with for memorable and portentous accidents […] and did his utmost to terrify the people with a groundless but dreadful anticipation of the same events.” So bold was Jessie’s deceit that John Spencer of Cambridge wrote a rebuttal, the Discourse Concerning Prodigies (1663), still famous today.
The long and short of it is that Vallée and Aubeck have purposely hidden the truth about the passage, beginning with its prima facie dubiousness as a secondhand account (at best), and excise it from its social and political context by denying readers the opportunity to discover its true author and evaluate his religious bias and clear motivation for presenting the tale. One cannot fairly judge the truth of an account like this without understanding its cultural and political context, or the motivations of its author.
Update: To be fair to the authors, in the second half of their book, where they analyze the texts they present, they do quote other analysts who note that the Mirabilis Annus was designed as a piece of propaganda, though they deny that this should disqualify us from accepting the claims of the book as true:
We are left with the fact that the interpretation of the reported events is generally biased by the writer who recounts the cases, but that may be the price we have to pay for obtaining any knowledge of the underlying phenomena in the first place. As to the actual explanation for the sightings, it is left for us to discover.
The authors never do disclose that the particular prodigy quoted above is a secondhand account whose veracity rests on an allegation of conspiracy.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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