Monday, April 28, 2014

Riley Crabb, UFOs and Theosophy

Between 1979-1985 I corresponded with Riley Crabb, director of Borderland Sciences Research Foundation (BSRF) and editor of The Journal of Borderland Research 1959-1985. Riley became sort of a mentor in my research and study of UFOs, paranormal phenomena, Theosophy and the many offshoots of the esoteric tradition. We didn´t always agree but I valued his extensive knowledge and experience in many borderland areas and he sometimes printed my articles in his always interesting and controversial journal. I was very surprised when I learned that in 1986 there were only 450 subscribers worldwide to the BSRF journal. At that time we hade around 3000 subscribers to UFO-Aktuellt, published by UFO-Sweden.

Riley Crabb 1913-1994

There was one domain where Riley and I definitely clashed  in opinions, the writings and theories of  John Keel and Jacques Vallee. As a young ufologist in the 1970s I was deeply inspired by Keel and Vallee and could never really understand why Riley Crabb didn´t appreciate the merits of these authors and constantly criticized their writings in the BSRF journal. In a letter to me March 23, 1980 he writes: "John Keel has been discussed at length in the Journal in the past. He is a wilderness crying for a voice, and I´ve told him so. His writings, like those of Jacques Vallee, leave one hopeless. Their general conclusion is that the Flying Saucer phenomenon is beyond understanding; it´s the creation of malevolent forces here on the earth; there´s nothing we can do about it... There is no inspirational lift from Keel and Vallee, and there can´t be because the two men aren´t even metaphysical kindergartners, they are metaphysical illiterates."

This in my view was a very onesided view of the groundbreaking research and writings of Keel and Vallee. How come that an esotericist like Riley Crabb couldn´t see that these authors expanded our horizon and looked beyond the materialist/reductionist interpretation of the UFO phenomenon? True, non of them were esotericists in the Theosophical tradition but at least Vallee was well versed in Hermeticism and other esoteric traditions. Neither was Keel the metaphysical illiterate portrayed by Crabb, something I mentioned in a recent blog. We never resolved this issue and after much discussion Riley Crabb gave up and wrote in a undated letter 1981: "But if you find comfort and inspiration in the writings and conclusions of these two men, by all means stay with them."

Riley Crabb became interested in borderland sciences when in 1934 he discovered the large library in the Theosophical Society in Minneapolis. Together with his wife Judy he lived thirteen years in Hawaii and was for three years president of the Honolulu Lodge of the Theosophical Society. During his stay in Hawaii he also studied pagan magic at first hand from native kahunas. Mr. and Mrs. Crabb moved to California in 1957 where Riley worked as a visual information specialist for the U.S. Navy´s Pacific Missile Range, Pt. Mugu, California. Having been a member of Meade Layne´s BSRA since 1951 he decided in 1959 to give up his job and took over as director of BSRA, later Borderland Sciences Research Foundation (BSRF). A position he held until 1985.

I´ve always admired his ambition and motto presented in the first editorial July-August 1959 under the headline, About the New Editor: "Since coming to the mainland my lectures have been concerned with the problem of relating Flying Saucer data, and phenomena, to the teachings of the Mystery Schools. I believe you´ll agree this is no easy task. If I have one goal in life it is un uncompromising search for Truth, whatever that might be, and wherever it may lead."

The Journal of Borderland Research is a treasure trove of unusual data and theories. Riley Crabb always presented interesting and challenging views on many subjects. Maybe he was a little too naive or open minded when accepting channeled information from various sources but he still printed (may-June 1981) my very critical review of Briefing For the Landing on Planet Earth, by Stuart Holroyd. More and more I have come to appreciate his political leftwing comments in the journal. Comments he often received harsh criticism for. But he was very well aware of the dangers from the ever growing Corporatocracy and would have loved Confessions of an Economic Hit Man by John Perkins. A book that should be studied by all people interested in world politics and economic history.

For many years Riley Crabb tried to awaken leading theosophists to the importance of the UFO phenomenon, without much success. Looking back on these efforts in a letter to Flying Saucer Review editor Gordon Creighton on August 5, 1990 he wrote: "It is now obvious to me that one of my major reasons for being here in New Zealand is to try to awaken the leaders of the Theosophical Lodges to the realities of other inhabited planets and of advanced beings from them, quoting their own earliest literature... when I quoted the early literature on space travel to Joy Mills, one of the leading American Theosophists at Krotona, Ojai, California, she replied that the references were "allegorical", hah!! She also quoted Jung on UFOs in his book, that the space craft were images in the race mind".

Riley´s wife Judy died on July 12, 1985. It is heartbreaking to read his last letter to me April 6, 1985 where he gives a very realistic picture of all the daily practical problem he is confronted with while nursing his dying wife. But life soon changed to the better. Riley Crabb moved to New Zealand after his wife´s death where he found a new love and married Phyllis Hall. They continued theosophical and borderland work together and he also published some booklets from NZ, like Theosophy on the Space Age. He died in 1994.

Monday, April 21, 2014

One hundred sponsors

There is a steady stream of visitors to AFU, representatives from various groups and organizations, librarians and achivists, university students, ufologists from Sweden and other countries and people interested in different aspects of the paranormal. Yesterday I booked an AFU presentation for the very active local spiritualist and new age group Norrljus. They visited AFU in 2010 but many new members have joined interested in UFO and paranormal so a renewed visit was decided.

Member of the Norrljus society visiting AFU June 1, 2010

The present treasurer, Eva Dahlquist, also had some sad and alarming news to share. Norrljus are forced to leave their premises in Norrköping because the rent has suddenly been more than dubbled. As a small and nonprofit society their economic resources are of course very limited. But that is of no interest to the robber barons who are the property owners. Isn´t neoliberalist capitalism wonderful! Norrljus will now be shut down in its present form and they will try a restart with new name and different premises this autumn.

Former chairman of Norrljus Rose-Marie Lundbäck

The fate of Norrljus made me very mindful of the shaky situation we at AFU are living with on a daily basis. A more than doubled rent for our ten premises would be a disaster. There is really only one solution to this dilemma: we need more sponsors making small but regular economic contributions, by month or year. We now have around thirtyfive sponsors donating 50 SEK or more each month. If we could find one hundred more sponsors around the world contributing 100+ SEK each month AFU would be on the safe side. It´s not the really large donations that matter (although of course wellcome) but the small and regular contributions. If you wish to support AFU and keep the worlds largest UFO and Fortean archive/library going and developing visit our Your Sponsorship site.

Another way to support AFU is buying surplus books and magazines from the AFU Shop. There you will find hundreds of rare items for sale.

Our ambition is to continue make AFU a world heritage for material of UFO, Fortean and paranormal phenomena. Although more and more books, magazines and other data are being digitized and is aviable on the internet we believe it is important that somewhere in the world there is a repository where the original physical documents can be found. I hope that many of our friends out there around the globe can help us make this dream come true.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Paranormal phenomena and the esoteric paradigm

Recently I discovered a very interesting article, Visions of the Impossible, published in the Chronicle of Higher Education. It was written by Jeffrey J. Kripal, professor of religious studies at Rice University, Houston, Texas. He is, in my view, one of the most fascinating religious scholars and intellectuals of today. Take a look at the very extensive collection of articles and other data on his homepage at Rice University. I first discovered the writings of Jeffrey J. Kripal when reading Authors of the Impossible. The Paranormal and the Sacred (2010). One of the few books written by an academic scholar giving a accurate and open minded presentation of the research and ideas of Charles Fort and Jacques Vallee. A sequel was Mutants & Mystics. Science Fiction, Superhero Comics and the Paranormal (2011).

Visions of the Impossible challenges the materialist and reductionist worldview so prevalent among mainstream intellectuals and academia and the taboo of taking paranormal experiences seriously or relating personal observations of an unexplained nature. Many scholars are simply afraid that serious interest in or mentioning personal paranormal experiences may damage their academic image and career. Kripal presents scathing criticism and funny remarks about the present “flatland models of human nature”: “We are constantly reminded… that we are basically walking corpses with computers on top – in effect, technological zombies, moist robots, meat puppets… We have conscious intellectuals telling us that consciousness does not really exist as such.”

The many and varied paranormal experiences, and I would add some UFO observations to the list, simply has no place in a materialist worldview. So official and mainstream science simply ignores all the reports or regard them as mere anecdotes and misidentifications. Kripal has a different view: “I suggest a way out of our present impasse: We should put these extreme narratives, these impossible stories, in the middle of our academic table. I would also like to make a wager, here and now, that once we put these currently rejected forms of knowledge on our academic table, things that were once impossible to imagine will soon become possible not only to imagine but also to think, theorize, and even test.”

Such a bold and heretic suggestion was of course met with severe criticism and many examples of invectives from the hardline sceptics and materialists. In his sequel article Embracing the Unexplained, Kripal answers some of his critics: “Somehow, in roughly the same period, I managed to be an “offense” to both materialist ideologues and fundamentalist censors. The materialists painted me as a science-bashing religionist, while the fundamentalists portrayed me as a religion-bashing pervert and reductive materialist." Further discussion of how to intellectually handle paranormal phenomena is presented in Seriously Strange. Thinking Anew About Psychical Experiences, a collection of essays edited by Sudhir Kakar and Jeffrey J. Kripal (2012). Paranormal phenomena cannot be fit into the reigning models of science or orthodox religion but instead of being brushed aside as insignificant or delusional they should be seriously studied. Kripal: "It thus cries out to be interpreted, to be theorized, to be incorporated into new forms of knowledge and human possibility."

When you like Kripal have discovered, by personal experience and extensive research, that paranormal phenomena are real and that there is a "ghost in the machine", that consciousness is more than simple brain activity you face the real challenge of trying to find a paradigm or working hypothesis that incorporates this new form of knowledge. Like myself, many researchers and scholars have found the esoteric tradition or ancient wisdom, to be the intellectually most interesting and challenging alternative worldview. In the academic world there has also been a remarkable renaissance and renewed interest in "Western Esotericism", which can now be studied at the universities in Paris, Amsterdam and Exeter. This indicates a slow but culturally significant paradigm shift from materialist reductionism to a new science of the multiverse.

The fascinating iconoclast journalist and fortean John Keel came to the same conclusion after a lifetime of investigating unexplained phenomena. In his last book The Eighth Tower (1975) he concluded: "Today many scientific disciplines are moving in the same direction, not realizing they are mapping a very old country. In a few years, perhaps even in our own lifetime, all sciences will suddenly converge at a single point, and the mysteries of the superspectrum will unravel in our hands. We will finally understand - truly understand - the forces that have directed our destinies throughout history." (p. 216)

Basically the esoteric tradition says that we live in a multiverse, inhabited by many, by present day science, unknown forms of life. And if there is a multiverse there must of necessity be a "science of the multiverse", as exact as any academic discipline. The challenging corollary to this idea is that then there must somewhere exist "scientists of the multiverse". It is this idea that has been made into something of a travesty by many cults and sects. But suppose that behind all the nonsensical popular occultism there really are a group of adept scientists of the multiverse. This is indicated in the more academic presentations of the esoteric tradition by authors like Alice Bailey and Henry T. Laurency. Bailey gives this illustration: "They will stand forth as living examples of goodwill, of true love, of intelligent applied wisdom, of high good nature and humour, and of normalcy. They may indeed be so normal that recognition of what they are may escape notice." (Bailey, The Externalisation of the Hierarchy, p. 699).

Serious interest in the esoteric tradition is growing, both among academic scholars and the public. I notice this at my daily work as librarian at Norrköping Public Library. So last week I wrote a short article on esotericism for the library homepage and built a small exhibition of books relating to this theme. The cultural elite will probably regard the ideas as heretic. And so they are and have always been - a challenge to both materialist science and orthodox religion.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Congratulations Clas

Today I wish to extend my heartfelt congratulations to my old friend and UFO collegue, Clas Svahn, on his 56th birthday. To a Swedish audience Clas needs no further introduction as he is wellknown as journalist on the daily Dagens Nyheter, amateur astronomer, lecturer and author of several books on UFO and Fortean phenomena and was the UFO-Sweden chairman between 1991-2013. He has for many years been the frontman and driving force in the Swedish UFO movement and his extensive knowledge of the subject coupled with professionalism and enthusiasm has changed the public image of UFO phenomena as a subject for serious inquiry.

Clas Svahn

Clas started his ufological career as a 16 year old in 1974 when he founded the local UFO-group UFO-Mariestad. He has done extensive field investigation and documentation on hundreds of UFO cases resulting in books like Mötet i gläntan (1995) - a thorough documentation of the controversial Gösta Carlsson close encounter and contact case. But he has also written books on Fortean phenomena, crop circles, conspiracy theories, strange coincidences, cults and sects.

Clas has also been a board member of AFU since 1984. His contributions to the archive has been tremendous by the many donations to AFU that he has secured from all over the world. 

Clas visiting AFU in 1990

In my view one of the most important contributions Clas has made to UFO research has been the formulation of the ideological basis for serious ufology, named The Third Way Ufology: Neither sceptical denial nor uncritical belief but information and discussion based on thorough investigation and documentation. This is the only a tenable position from a scientific and logical viewpoint and also the official ideology of the national organization UFO-Sweden. In 1990 Clas was awarded Klokpriset (the Wisdom Price), by the magazine Sökaren, for his important contribution to UFO research, 

Clas with the Wisdom Price

Clas as chairman of UFO-Sweden in 2009

Clas, I hope you will have a really nice birthday, celebrated by family and friends. 
May the force be with you for many years to come.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Reluctant contactees

The classic image of the UFO contactee is a rather naive individual claiming physical or telepathic contact with extraterrestrials and absorbed in spreading a spiritual message of peace and love, combined with dire warnings of coming cathastrophies. But there are a few rare exceptions to this rule in contactee history. One of these exceptions is the extremely complicated physical contact case of the Swedish rock blaster Richard Höglund (1913-1977) which I spent many years investigating and documented in Främlingar på vår jord. Ufokontakter i Sverige (Aliens On Earth. UFO Contacts in Sweden).A summary of this case was presented by Timothy Good in his latest book Earth - An Alien Enterprise (chapter eleven: The Overlords).

Richard Höglund was a reluctant contactee. During his first contact experience he claimed his kidneys had been healed by a group of aliens and because of that he, from the beginning, felt compelled to work for them in various international schemes. Richard travelled to their bases in Bahamas and Mexico during his active involvement with the alien group betweeen 1965-1977. But he differed from the ordinary contactee in that he was very doubtful regarding their true motives and noted that their morals were not very  high. Richard was actually afraid of these aliens and didn´t always believe what they told him. "I don´t know if they are Gods or devils", he once told his friend Gösta Johansson. He didn´t dare stop working for them and towards the end of his life he told my ufologist collegue Åke Franzén to beware of this group as they were dangerous. Whatever happened to Richard Höglund circumstantial evidence clearly indicates that he was involved with some secret group, whether a spy organization, international mafia or alien earth based group.

Richard Höglund in Nassau, Bahamas

Gösta Johansson with a drawing of the first type of aliens encountered by Richard Höglund

Symbols on a metal plate given to Richard Höglund by the aliens

Another reluctant contactee is Enrique Castillo Rincón from Costa Rica. His experiences are documented in UFOs. A Great New Dawn for Humanity (1997). In the preface he states: "I am not a mystic nor a religious fanatic... Neither have I considered myself a "chosen one" to save humanity, and I detest those "contactees" who pretend to have been appointed by some divinity to carry some message to the suffering and almost disgraced human race...Over twenty years have passed and I still don´t know why I was contacted. Was it plain chance?... Why was an individual belonging to the "sandwich-class" (middle-class), such as myself, assigned such an "ungrateful" task as this one, which has meant jeers, calumnies, epithets, and nick-names against my person and my dignity?" (p.xiii-xiv)

The experiences of Enrique Castillo Rincón differs from those of Richard Höglund in that they are basically of a positive nature but Rincón is still very puzzled of what it all meant and who the aliens actually were. One of the chapters of his book is named "The Venusians - are they Venusian?". As with Höglund the contacts are very physical and involves the classic aliens among us theme. Enriques meet a businessman, Cyril Weiss,  of Swiss nationality and they become friends. Later he encounters this man aboard a UFO as he actually belongs to an advanced group of extraterrestrials trying to help Earth. Enrique is given this information: "From antiquity, we have contacted other men, belonging to various cultures. We have influenced their thinking through what you call "Masters". But not only on this planet, also on others; we have contributed to their scientific, cultural and spiritual development. Besides, some of us have been "born" here, or incarnated, if you prefer, since ancient times... We do not explore your planet, because we have had bases here for thousands of years... We belong to an organization that gives assistance to the Planet, and we have always been present." (p. 59, 61, 63) Anyone acquainted the esoteric tradition as represented by H.P. Blavatsky or Alice Bailey will immediately recognize  the ideas and philosophy given by the aliens. Enrique is also taken to a secret spiritual retreat in the Andes.

The organization mentioned by the aliens is working like a secret intelligence group on Earth. Enrique is given secret code keyes to be used to identify agents of the organization but also as a protection against "the opposition". Whether it is the "opposition" or a real intelligence group, in 1974 Enrique is contacted by three foreign-looking individuals offering to take him to Washington D.C., all expenses paid, for a test in "regressive hypnosis". He accepts the invitation: "Outside, two men were waiting with a luxurious, dark-coloured Cadillac. I started feeling like a star in a suspense movie." (p. 113) After this visit to Washington D.C. and interrogation Enrique has several doubts: "What were the true identities of those obscure agents who could take me and return me to Bogota, with arrangements made with a complete network of people, all so well coordinated? What were their true motivations?" (p. 119) Compare this visit with the Olden Moore case of 1957, documented by NICAP in The UFO Evidence or the rather fantastic claim of psychic Ingo Swann in his book Penetration.

Based on my experiences on contactee research in Sweden I regard it as a definite possibility that there are some form of "aliens" operating behind the scenes on this planet. To seriously consider such a "wild conspiracy theory" is perhaps not in line with mainstream scientific ufology but I am more concerned about the truth than keeping a facade of respectability. Whether this theory is valid or not can only be answered by more openminded investigation. Finally Enrique Castillo Rincón had this to say regarding his contact experiences: "It is my belief that I am the only contactee in the world who does not have a mission to accomplish.They never, I repeat, never made me responsible for such an assignment. It was I who decided at the right moment to tell the world about what had happened... I became the investigator of my own experiences and compared mine to those of other very famous and well-known contactees." (p. 133)