To pick up where I left off in my previous entry, then:
The notion that there might very well be a close, if superficially hidden, connection between Ufology and Thanatology would not have been foreign to Rhea White’s way of thinking.
And, as I mentioned previously, this idea is currently making the rounds by receiving some well-deserved attention from serious researchers. It’s important to understand that such a focus constitutes a determined violation of old social and epistemological taboos. Rhea would have been delighted. Breaking down these artificial walls of ideological separation would be essential, in her mind, to writing a true story of one’s own life, and of Life Itself—or what she called an “Exceptional Human Experience Autobiography.” To consciously undertake the writing of such a narrative is, in and of itself, an Exceptional Experience (EE), and can serve as the trigger for further EEs.
In the past, most serious Ufologists who were concerned to established the reality of the phenomenon on a “nuts and bolts” level would have eschewed the paranormal and “high strangeness” aspects that often accompany reported UFO sightings and experiences. And the same goes for Parapsychologists who, anxious to establish the credibility of psi phenomena like psychokinesis, clairvoyance, and precognition, on a piecemeal and statistical basis, would not welcome larger questions about survival of death, or (heaven forbid!) elements of “other fields of inquiry” even less reputable than parapsychology–like, say, Ufology–get thrown into the mix.
Procrustes’ bed has indeed been a popular resting place for generations of researchers.
No more, however.
It came to my attention (https://pastlivesproject.org/the-past-lives-project-blog/jeffrey-mishlove-amp-survival-of-consciousness-after-death) that no less a parapsychologist than the venerable Dr. Jeffrey Mishlove, the host of the New Thinking Allowed podcast, has mentioned the possibility of a connection between UFOs and death. In a recent interview in which he was a guest on another interviewer’s podcast, Dr. Mishlove suggested that:
“ . . . maybe the frontier, the most far out area [of research], is to look at the relationship between [the] survival of consciousness and UFO related phenomenology. There seems to be a connection between the Afterlife and hyperspace.”
Dr. Mishlove’s comments cross the wires not only of Ufology, Parapsychology, and Thanatology, but of Physics, too (or maybe at least Science Fiction).
I also recently listened to an interview with Joshua Cutchin, on Ufologist Greg Bishop’s Radio Mysterioso podcast (http://radiomisterioso.com/2022/07/17/joshua-cutchin-the-ecology-of-souls/). Cutchin is the author of a well-received and enthusiastically reviewed new book, The Ecology of Souls: A New Mythology of Death and the Paranormal (2022). Cutchin acknowledged his indebtedness to Whitley Strieber, from whom he borrowed the phrase “ecology of souls,” and who first brought to the attention of researchers this mysterious connection between the UFO phenomenon—or what he calls “the Visitors”—and death.
Strieber has discussed this issue in recent works, such as A New World (2019). But, to my knowledge, he first addressed this connection in an extended, public fashion in his 2011 book, Solving the Communion Enigma: What is to Come, in which he devoted an entire chapter, “The Life of the Dead,” to the exploration of this topic and its ramifications. Strieber himself credited his late wife, Anne, with the original insight that, in his recollection of her exact words at the time, “this [the Visitor/UFO phenomenon] has something to do with what we call death.” Anne made this remark after she and Whitley began receiving and reading the thousands of letters that poured into their mail center address following the groundbreaking, if not earth-shattering, publication of Communion (1987).
Indeed, in 2008–three years prior to the publication of Whitley’s Solving the Communion Enigma–Anne herself authored a blog entry on their Unknown Country website (https://www.unknowncountry.com/insight/who-i-think-the-visitors-are-by-anne-strieber/), in which she developed her own thoughts on the matter. “My theory about ‘the visitors’,” she wrote, “is different from that of most UFO investigators: I think they are either time travelers, visitors from a parallel universe, the dead, or all 3.”
Of course, since 2008, things have indeed changed! Contemporary researchers are indeed treading where, as Anne Strieber rightly noted, few were then ready to follow. For example, anthropologist Dr. Michael P. Masters has authored two intriguing and well-received volumes, Identified Flying Objects (2019) and The Extratempestrial Hypothesis (2022), in which he deftly develops and argues convincingly for the hypothesis that at least some of the Visitors are future versions of ourselves reaching backward in time machines that we perceive as “UFOs.” So what was once treated as taboo and outré has now entered mainstream conversation—and rightly so.
However, let us return to our main focus, which is specifically the UFO/death connection. What had prompted Anne (and Whitley) to make this connection to begin with? Simply the number of experiencers who reported encountering (interacting with or merely sighting) a UFO in conjunction with—or else preceded or followed by—an encounter with someone (their soul or spirit?) known or presumed by the experiencer to be dead.
This happened to several individuals who stayed at the Striebers’ famous cabin in the Adirondacks of upper New York State, where many of Whitley’s. initial encounters with the Visitors took place. But it was also a leitmotif that kept showing up repeatedly in the letters that Anne was reading, and in the questions being asked of Whitley by puzzled and anguished UFO experiencers. Anne gives numerous examples in her blog entry, and Whitley also in his books; so rather than repeat them here, I will instead refer interested readers to the sources for their own judgment.
* * *
All of which is prologue to a very personal inquiry.
The most recent discussions of the UFO/death connection not only reminded me of Rhea White’s earlier attempts to break down the isolating walls of disciplines and fields of study, both within parapsychology and without, but also led me back to one of the most disturbing and powerful dream experiences I ever had, way back in 1998. It was a dream in which I encountered the dead, and also a stunningly awesome UFO. This occurred years before I would read anything about UFOs and the dead. And even then, when I read the Striebers’ accounts, for some reason I did not connect the dots. Until now.
It was such a powerful and upsetting dream that I felt compelled to memorialize it in more than a journal entry. Following Carl Jung’s sage advice, I resolved to make my dream experience into something tangible—a visible image. Using watercolors, I painted a picture of a key scene from the dream. I am not an artist by any means, and the painting was crudely executed and primitive. I have no sense of perspective, and no talent to speak of. But that wasn’t the point. It was an instrument by which I was attempting to express and contain something that frightened me and that I couldn’t fully express at the time. Maybe not until now—24 years later.
Okay, now—to the dream!