I feel like it says something about Graham Hancock that he has devoted a growing percentage of the guest articles on his website to UFO and ancient astronaut claims, even though he himself purports not to believe in the ancient astronaut theory. How much of that is the case is debatable, since his rejection of ancient astronautics in Magicians of the Gods contrasts rather heavily with his frequent appearances on Ancient Aliens and the ancient astronaut book he coauthored, The Mars Mystery. At any rate, it was rather surprising to see Hancock follow up publishing a guest article about Hopi ancient astronaut encounters with one from infamous UFO abductee Whitley Strieber excerpting his new book about ancient “visitors” and their “human allies.”
The older I get, the harder it is for me to pretend to take these ideas seriously. How can one entertain the notion of an all-powerful conspiracy, for example, when we see every day the incompetence of the people in charge of conspiring? Our federal government has made “shop till you drop” our official doomed pandemic response, and we are to imagine them allied with space aliens in a centuries-long project of social engineering? Any reasonably effective government could accomplish the aliens’ ends in months with a concerted effort. Who needs so much pointless conspiring? Where, in another example, are we to imagine all of the ancient secrets have forever been hidden that no one ever learned of them except for cable TV talking heads?
Anyway, Strieber operates at the edges of the ancient astronaut and UFO cultures, playing at alien speculation while maintaining that he remains unaware of the true origins of the “visitors.” In his new book, he decides that being coy isn’t making bank the way it used to, so now he has revelations about the visitor’s true origins. He has moved wholly away from twentieth-century-style space aliens and has gone all in on spirituality and godlike “consciousness.”
To explore that, he seeks out an exotic other whose imagined deep connections to the natural world can help white guys like him escape the corruption of sophisticated urban culture. Naturally, he headed to a Native American reservation, Pine Ridge specifically, and just as naturally, he frames it in ways that suggest he views his audience as ignorant bigots:
During the winter of 2015–2016, one 12-year-old girl killed herself because her family could not afford heat, and she could no longer bear the cold. Alcoholism affects 85% of the population. Drug abuse and crime are rampant, and living conditions are dreadful beyond anything I have ever seen in my life.
But of course he imagines that his readers equate Native Americans with laziness.
While on the Lakota Sioux reservation he claims to have had a vision of a second parallel landscape, and he attributes this hallucination to changes he created in his brain through meditation, which he claims can increase the white matter in the dorsal striatum and thus one’s psychic powers. As a result, he claims that he also astral projected during the 2019 Contact in the Desert conference when he was apparently so bored during Jacques Vallée’s lecture that he claims to have nodded off and psychically explored the conference by passing through the same parallel universe he found in Pine Ridge. Walking in this shadowy and empty realm was, for him, the “most fun” he has ever had in his life, comparable he says to a virtual reality game. That strikes me as very sad. I’m sorry he is so lonely and deprived of joy. He apparently liked it so much he prays daily to “the energy” to let him back in. He hopes it will, he says, because he believes that a higher power regularly grants him “impossible” wishes.
Strieber says that the experience of visiting parallel universes has helped him to determine that the Greys and other “visitors” are probably embodiments of interdimensional consciousness, or maybe dead people, or both:
I am purposely being a little vague here about who I mean—is it the strangely formed visitors I’m talking about, our own dead, or a sort of field of disembodied consciousness?
You really have to read the whole thing to see the depths of Strieber’s quasi-spiritual musings, which involve declaring Roswell “witnesses” to be literal saints, roping in Greek mythology to claim Homer mistook a parallel universe for the afterlife, and speculating that UFOs are vehicles for commuting between this world and the other through an offramp at Skinwalker Ranch that passes through a parallel Pleistocene!
It should go without saying that Strieber’s conclusions don’t follow from the evidence, and he is describing what sounds very much like a fantasy-prone personality that mistakes waking dreams (and, by his own admission, actual nighttime dreams) for interdimensional experiences. More interesting, though, is the sadness of spiritual longing that whispers under the surface. It is painfully evident that he is longing to connect to the supernatural and the divine, but he wants science to justify his beliefs by cloaking his faith in the language of physics and math. To my mind, it is a poor substitute for God or the gods to imagine no better afterlife than a gravel road in a gray field, or to call an endless emptiness the epitome of “fun.” Sartre said hell is other people, but I don’t think that makes heaven a vacant void.
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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