I’m feeling a bit less than inspired today, and part of the reason is likely because of all of the depressing stories I’ve been reading this week. Take this one for example: A recent post rapidly going viral over on Ancient Code, the ad-choked click-bait ancient astronaut website of Ivan Petricevic, claims that the skeleton of a giant, seven-foot-tall “hellhound” had been excavated at Leiston Abbey in Suffolk, and the massive animal may have inspired the legend of the monstrous dog Black Shuck. That’s all well and good except that Petricevic gives no source, and when we trace the claim back to its first publication in the Daily Mail in May 2014, we discover that the dog was seven feet long, not seven feet tall. Granted, seven feet is exceptionally long for a dog, but it’s certainly nowhere close to the dog being seven feet tall!
I also read a depressing excerpt from a new book on owls and UFOs. Yes, owls and UFOs. Author Mike Clelland has a new book called The Messengers: Owls, Synchronicity and the UFO Abductee that the Daily Grail assures me is receiving rave reviews from UFO believers. In the books, Clelland claims that people who witness UFOs are at an increased likelihood to rescue wounded owls, and he says that this anecdotal observations suggests that owls serve as messengers for space aliens. Clelland cites Exoconsciousness author and alien contactee Rebecca Hardcastle Wright to the effect that these owls are psychic projections from the aliens who communicate messages about the non-reality of reality, as she learned when discussing the nature of reality with one such owl. “This is one of many examples of how hard it can be to truly know what might be a real owl, and what might be a screen image,” Clelland said.
He went on to describe other instances of people who had spiritual encounters with owls, including a woman named Louise who had frequently seen UFOs, and around the time she was diagnosed with cancer she saw an owl and later dreamed of meeting an angel. The author means for us to interpret the collection of events as evidence that spiritual beings or space aliens intervened to ensure Louise would survive cancer, but the author provides nothing to support the implication. But Clelland feels that this is OK because he believes that the UFO-owl enigma exists outside of “the tidy box of logic.”
Someone approaching this material from a logical and rational perspective would start by questioning whether there is truly any connection between owls and UFOs beyond the suggestion that fantasy-prone individuals are more likely to ascribe supernatural motives to ambiguous events. But Clelland feels that this is too limiting an approach because it denies the idea that there is a meaningful force managing all of the world’s coincidences—synchronicity. This is itself a fallacy, one that misunderstands the fact that unusual coincidences are inevitable given the sheer volume of events that occur each and every day. There is a force that imposes meaning on them, but all measureable evidence indicates that it is the observer’s mind that creates that meaning.
What, however, was most enlightening is Clelland’s confession that UFOs are not for him a scientific question but a spiritual one, an inward-focused fetish object for meditating on one’s own place in the universe and connection to the supernatural. Note the implicit equivalence of spirituality with UFO investigation in this passage:
I have a friend who meditates, goes to spiritual retreats, has a guru and all that stuff. When we talk we both really get into it. We’ll push each other, struggling to articulate elusive metaphysical concepts, and the conversation ends up getting deeper and deeper. We fall into a kind of spiritual one-upmanship, and at some point he’ll get all frustrated and tell me, “I can’t believe you don’t meditate!” And I’ll snap back, “I can’t believe you don’t read UFO books!”
I can almost understand the impulse to turn aliens into angels and focus one’s spirituality on a semi-tangible manifestation of the supernatural, but at the same time, it seems rather a threadbare faith to look for a literal deus ex machina, not to mention a concession that ufology has long ago left science behind and entered the land of mysticism and the unknowable. Indeed, Clelland’s excerpt closes with his belief that reality’s nature is unknowable and therefore only self-exploration of one’s inner being can bring true knowledge. That, too, seems like a rather limiting philosophy, one that elevates the self above all and subordinates reality to the ego.
But to conclude today, I thought I’d mention news on a somewhat different subject. Many of you will remember TV producer Kevin Burns as the force behind such wretched stink bombs as Ancient Aliens, In Search of Aliens, America’s Book of Secrets, and The Curse of Oak Island. Burns is now overseeing a new comic book series that is adapting two unproduced scripts for the 1960s Lost in Space TV series. (He wrote the 1998 TV movie about the series, Lost in Space Forever.) I certainly don’t begrudge Burns his fun in branching out to adapting TV for comics, but it’s worth pointing out that Burns’s TV production and writing career shows the same kind of close interweaving of interests in fantasy, science fiction, horror, and pseudoscience that tends to predispose people to accepting the ancient astronaut theory. Burns has written, directed, or produced documentaries about Star Wars, superheroes, Universal horror monsters, (fictional) aliens, science fiction and horror movies, and (in another vein) trashy reality shows. Ancient Aliens and his other History conspiracy shows rather stand out on his list unless one thinks of them as an extension of the science fiction and fantasy world, or a reality show disguised as a documentary. I have no idea whether Burns actually believes the crap he foists onto viewers—anyone who would pass off Kendra on Top as “reality” or “television” certainly has a loose definition of both—but it’s always interesting to see how the ancient astronaut theory seems inseparable from science fiction and horror.
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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