Blood, Vision and Brimstone

Peter Rogerson
Magonia 53, August 1995
This article was long just a title, originally intended for a review of Kenneth Ring’s Omega Project, but as time has gone on it has become the generic title for a wide range of the latest lore. We shall see how ufology has transformed itself yet again, perhaps the most dramatic transformation yet: the end of secular ufology itself, the triumph of 'religious saucerdom' sweeping aside the hopes of 'scientific ufologists' to distinguish abductees from contactees. The title, then, refers to the three central theories of post-secular ufology:

BLOOD – that UFO and other anomalous experiences are more likely to be experienced by those whose childhoods and formative years have been traumatic.
VISION – That as a result of such experiences the percipients become open to ESP and "non-ordinary realities"; they may see themselves as being wholly or partly "other" in origin.
BRIMSTONE – At the heart of much post-secularist ufology is an apocalyptic vision: the abductions and other experiences are signs of the End Times, the contactees are heralds of the New Age when all will be transformed.


Let us start then with Blood, with childhood trauma. Kenneth Ring claims that a higher proportion of both close-encounter and near-death experiencers have a higher than average level of childhood abuse (significant figures for neglect, "negative home atmosphere", sexual abuse, and less so for psychological and physical abuse) (Ring, p. 276):
…a history of child abuse and trauma plays a central etiological role in promoting sensitivity to UFO encounters and NDEs… that growing up under such conditions tends to stimulate the development of a dissociative response style as a means of psychological defense… a child who is exposed to either the threat or actuality of physical violence, sexual abuse or other severe traumas, will be strongly motivated to selectively "tune out" those aspects of his physical and social world that are likely to harm him… by dissociating. By doing so he is more likely to "tune into" other realities where, by virtue of his dissociated state, he can temporarily feel safe regardless of what is happening to his body.

This kind of attunement, however, is not a gift of dissociation itself, which only makes it possible, but of a correlated capacity… psychological absorption. This is the ability to concentrate and focus one’s attention on the figures and features of one’s inner reality to the exclusion of events taking place in the external environment.

"From my own personal point of view (they) are actually the unwitting beneficiaries of a kind of compensatory gift in return for the wounds they have incurred in growing up… their difficult and in some cases even tormented childhoods. (Ring, pp 144-5)
Readers will note that there is a crucial ambiguity already in Ring’s position, as absorption into an inner world turns into perception of an extended external world, and the world of the imagination becomes a quasi-geographical location.

This theme is taken up by several other writers. Richard Boylan claims "based on my research and anecdotal reports of other researchers’ findings, there seems to be among experiencers an over-representation of native Americans, psychics, persons who were severely sexually or physically abused as children, adult children of high-ranking or sensitively posted military officers, offspring of intelligence agents and children whose parents were themselves experiencers." (Boylan, p. 19)

Boylan argues that "psychics" and the abused share a "highly permeable psychological boundary layer (which) results in their attention to subtle external signals – what we call intuition or sensitivity to "vibes". They can read emotion as a carrier of information and have a heightened attunement to the thinking of others." (Boylan, p. 10)

Boylan interprets the other categories in terms of his own paranoid mind-set about military officers and intelligence agents collaborating with the aliens. But presuming they are not just an artifact of that paranoia they may be further examples of troubled childhoods, the authoritarian personalities of military types and the severe stress suffered by intelligence agents unable to speak of their work to their families may well lead to unsettled, stressful family relationships.

Mack reports: "I was struck by how many abductees come from broken homes or who had one or more alcoholic parents. There also seems to be a 'poor fit' between some experiencers and their parents, and a number… complain about coldness and emotional deprivation within the family." (Mack, p. 17)

In their interpretation of these events "It appears to be the very plight of severe childhood abuse that draws sympathetic ETs to first start visiting a particular child when it is abused". (Boylan, p. 20)
"Sexual abuse seems to be one of the forms of human woundedness that… has led the aliens to intervene in a protective or healing manner." (Mack, p. 18)

Boylan and Mack take us far beyond the boundaries of secular ufology, back to the fairy faith of old, where the fairy godmother assures Cinderella, that classic victim of child abuse, that she shall go to the ball! We can run through the literature and find many cases which illustrate these points:
  • Ed comes from a "flag-waving family" who wanted him to have a technical career so he could develop a weapon to defeat the communists. (Mack, pp 53-4)
  • Sheila is grieving over the death of her mother who was abused as a child, and estranged from her husband when he does not give her enough emotional support. (Mack, p. 69)
  • Jenny’s first husband was a paedophile who she claims had oral sex with their children; her parents’ marriage collapsed when she was eight; the family moved perpetually; with her second husband she was frigid, drowning her sorrows in alcohol. (Mack, pp 111-113)
  • Catherine had a disturbed, alcoholic father who would disappear frequently when drunk, was given to impulsive bursts of anger, on one occasion burning all Catherine’s belongings. At the age of four she was sexually abused by a family friend. (Mack, pp 144-5)
  • Bryan, aged 15, was abused and nearly drowned by his stepmother, who was a drug addict. At the time he was interviewed he had been dumped on an aunt by his natural mother who was going to Switzerland for career reasons. (Spencer, pp 251-2)
  • Lucy, aged eight, had witnessed her father’s death in a gun accident (or suicide?), she had a difficult relationship with her mother. It seems probable she was sexually abused by a teenage relative at about this time. Her hallucinatory figures constantly intrude on her life. (Schnabel, pp 249-50) Such motifs crop up again and again, not just in ufological contexts. Consider two recent "psychic" narratives:
  • Jenny Cockrell’s father was a depressive, with bouts of aggression. (Cockrell, pp 14-15) Jenny had premonitions (p. 13), had two imaginary male friends (p. 15) and gradually immersed herself in memories of a "past life" in Ireland as a woman married to a violent and unpredictable man. She hated school and at college had a series of disastrous affairs (pp 19-20). She appears to have inherited her father’s manic depression with periods of hyperactivity and ebullience, alternating with periods of black depression. (1)
  • Heather Wood’s mother was a psychotic with drug and alcohol problems who eventually committed suicide. her father was unable to cope, and the children were sent to various institutions, where Heather was the victim of abuse. She was a "wild" teenager who constantly ran away. Her husband had also been abused as a child. Her history also contains evidence of manic depressive behaviour (e.g. her involvement in an organisation called Scope, about which she writes to the Queen and the Prime Minister). During one episode she is forced to put her daughter into a foster home, from which she does not want to come home. (Spencer and Spencer, passim.) Her repertoire includes ESP, premonitions, channelling and stigmata.
  • Eileen Garrett’s parents both committed suicide when she was a small child and she was raised by an aunt and uncle. The aunt was emotionally cold and a harsh disciplinarian. She felt more secure outside than indoors and had imaginary companions called "The Children" as well as an ability to dissociate, claimed ESP and premonitions. Her late adolescence and early adult life was marked by unsuitable marriages and nervous breakdowns. her later career was as a channel and medium. (2)
  • "Doris Fischer"’s parents were bourgeois who had fallen down the social scale owing to her father’s alcoholism and bouts of violence. After she was injured during such a bout of violence as a toddler, she began to show dissociative behaviour, escalating into multiple-personality disorder, pathological lying and self-mutilation. She had premonitions, claimed precognition, clairvoyance and visitations from phantom presences. Adopted by Dr Walter Franklin Prince, she and her adoptive family heard the usual repertoire of raps, bangs and other "haunting" sounds. After Prince’s death, she suffered a series of depressive breakdowns and nightmares in which she was presented with images of suicide, murder and "revolting sexual visions". (3)
These images recall the violent sadistic imagery of the adult survivors of satanic abuse stories. Survivors have been linked to Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD), sufferers from which have been described as "…pathological liars in their own defence… they are very good at what they do. These patients are amazingly seductive and often ruthlessly manipulative". (4) They can be ruthless and imaginative manipulators of their therapists, seeking to manipulate the therapist throughout the session, wreaking havoc on researchers and hospitals. (5)

This sounds almost identical with descriptions of Munchausen Syndrome (MHS) patients. "These people are very disruptive and demanding. They become angry and offer new physical complaints when told their tests are negative. They also have a …knack of being able to divide the staff and create tension and hostility among caregivers". (6) Even more interestingly the MHS patients’ past is "overshadowed by an abusive, alcoholic parent". (7)

MHS appears to be one of a range of bizarre behaviours such as pathological lying, self-mutilation, induced anorexia and so-called borderline personality disorder, characterised by unstable and intense relationships, feelings of abandonment and loss, mood swings and self-destructive and manipulative behaviour. (8)

An extreme example of MHS is demonstrated by Beverley Allett, whose sadistic, masochistic behaviour, manipulation, attention-seeking, "sob-story" lying culminated in homicidal MHS by Proxy. More centrally from our perspective is the role of poltergeists in her repertoire (Davies, passim.)
Allett used poltergeist effects to manipulate colleagues at her nurses’ home, and her friends the Johnson family. The most significant point about Allett is that she was not someone "just pretending" poltergeist forces, but is an extreme example of the personality type at the centre of poltergeist episodes. The impulse to trick, to manipulate, to gain attention, as well as other more pragmatic needs are encountered throughout the poltergeist phenomenon. One cannot help comparing Beverley Allett with Marianne Foyster, the 'Widow of Borley' (9), or Betsy Bell, whose repertoire included fainting fits, vomiting pins and needles, pinching and bruising herself, and the persecution and possible murder of her father. (10) Compare also Ms Forbes, with a history of multiple childhood and adult illnesses and (claimed?) trauma, suicidal violent obsessions, poltergeist trickery and "vampire visitations" (11) and Eleanor Zurgun and her bite marks. (12)

The pattern of multiple medical dictionary emptying occurring in the cases of Heather Woods (Spencer and Spencer), 'Kathie Davies' (15) and others, also pints to the possibility of MHS. Even more interestingly, Heather Wood had a mixture of real and imaginary illnesses, along with physically or psychologically induced stigmata.

Jim Schnabel describes 'Lucy', who claimed rape and psychological harassment from two 'phantom' men, abduction and gynaecological invasion by aliens and a variety of psychic and poltergeist effects. At a conference she predicted to Budd Hopkins that "something was going to happen", and sure enough she was abducted into Boston, becoming the centre of attention. Later she moved into the Hopkins home, and her demands for attention were so extreme as to put perhaps fatal strains on Hopkins’s marriage (Schnabel, pp 249-258). This should be compared with the case of "Marie"’s manipulation of her tutor 'Laurel' as documented by Marc Feldman, with her tales of rape, cancer, pregnancy, hardship, etc. (16) Note also the similarity with claims of satanic abuse survivors, or with Linda Napolitano’s story of her kidnap and harassment by Dan and Richard, or with Claire’s narrative, documented by Ring: "In my many encounters… I have always been kidnapped from home… from 1969 to January 6, 1989… with wounds and injuries examined by four different doctors." (Ring, p. 79)

Jim Schnabel has argued that MHS should really be considered as part of a broad spectrum of dissociative disorders (Schnabel, pp 294-300) (17), and with the activities of religious ascetics and shamans. However, the labelling of MHS as a medical problem was disputed by Robert Bartholemew (18) who argues that it is really "nothing but" deception. However it is hard to disagree, when faced with the appalling things that someone like Allett has done to herself and others "that she was suffering from some illness that was so profound that it beggared the imagination". (Davies, p. 328)

When thinking of MHS, of abductions, of satanic abuse survivors or of stigmatics, some comments of Davies’s stand out with stark clarity:
"… desperate for sympathy, but remorselessly cruel to anyone who gives it… dangling pain and vulnerability, but constantly pretending to be stricken; defiant and indifferent, but addicted to approval. She sees herself a victim of family, friends, of her whole existence, and somehow it relieves her to make victims of those around her. Perhaps her love of illness is in fact a cry for help from the healthy remnant of her personality, an attempt to translate all her madness into something that can be seen and treated and cured." (Davies, pp 347-8)
We can sympathise and care for those whose wounds are external and visible, or are victims of clear-cut, identifieable physica; abuse. Perhaps the wounds of abductees, like the marks seen on the ground, are marks whereby an inner experience can be perceived and publicly validated. Forbes description of her vampire visitation recorded by Fodor [19] has all the hallmarks of sleep paralysis: 
It may have been around midnight that I awoke with the sensation that there was something ghastly on my left-hand side… on top of the cover. It felt like a human body. Pressing against my neck was something cold and hard about the size of a man’s head. I could not move, I could not shout, I was frozen with fear."
The "thing" then seemed to fly away as soon as she could move. To validate this experience and dramatise it as a vampire attack, she pierced her neck. In this description we have an almost perfect fit with the many sleep paralysis episodes which are central to the abduction experience.

Jim Schnabel may be on tricky ground when he argues that potential shamans may have been victims of MHS by proxy – the hypoxia associated with their mothers smothering them leading to seizures which led to a shamanic vocation, but he seems to be on the right track when he discusses the role of pain and suffering in the promotion of attenuated states of consciousness, and in the drama of initiation.


As I mentioned in my article Taken to the Limits, (20) initiation takes the form of separation from the ordinary, a ritual stripping of the previous identity, a ritual grinding down of individual differences in a return to the collective world. This is a theme which occurs in several of the works reviewed here.

For Mack “the abductee makes a pilgrimage to receive a new dimension of experience or knowledge. This involves a rebirth which is sometimes very distressing, a retracing of one’s steps to a preternatural primordial area (of) precosmogenic chaos that the individual has been exposed to. The abductee is a modern Dante, whose ontological underpinnings are unravelled” (Mack, p. 8). Patrick Harpur suggests that people can be”unwittingly initiated by the exigencies of their lives, such as family catastrophes, bereavement or even the ordeal of schooling. Initiation depends less on the experience itself than on what we make of it, how we use it for self transformation. But without traditional rites that channel suffering it is difficult for us to use it correctly, we are encouraged instead to seek a cure for it” (Harpur, pp 237-8)

One source of spontaneous initiation may be trauma shock. The victims of massive disaster feel traumatised less by the actual occurrence than by the sense of total helplessness. For the first time in their lives they were not in control or could not help their families. (21) Exactly the same sensations are expressed by abductees: Mack’s subject Sheila is “especially troubled by the lack of control and knowing she can’t protect her daughter Beverley (p. 84). Scott feels helpless and traumatised (ch. 5, passim.), Jerry regards sex in the same manner as abductions, “a feeling of powerlessness and the inability to have any say in the matter”.

If, as seems likely, a substantial portion of the”real” abduction experience lies in sleep paralysis with its psychological tone of overwhelming terror, paralysis and helplessness (22) we can see how these images develop and indeed see the formation of a series of linked motifs of helplessness. These include sleep paralysis itself, surgery with its overtones of helplessness before authority, sexual abuse, traumatic shock, and initiation, as well as the helplessness of a small child in an adult world. (23)

If we reconsider initiation, we must ask by who and into what are abductees being initiated? For the secular ufologists abductions were scientific examinations by aliens from other planets, for the post-secular ufologists the answer is very different. For them UFO encounters are religious experiences, encounters with the primordial depths of being, for which various metaphors are employed. Ring calls it 'mind at large', Harpur the 'imaginal realm' or anima mundi. Mack has the 'cosmic source'. For Ring, following Michael Grosso, 'mind at large' is a “benign transpersonal aspect of mind that is conscious, purposive, intelligent … capable of interacting with matter in critical times in the Earth’s evolution, for example the origin of life, the development of higher species …” (Ring, p. 225)

For Harpur the anima mundi is the collective unconscious or the daemonic realm, which is seen as a transpersonal realm of images, a realm connecting mind and matter. Form this realm the witness returns with wild talents and new vision and a sense of mission. The abduction is therefore a spiritual revelation and transformation – a theme common to Mack, Randles, Ring and Spencer.

It is in this context that the theme of witness centred ufology has arisen. From the post-secularist perspective the term witness has a clear religious connotation; the percipient gives witness to the awesome power of the wholly other.

There are problems with this vision, however. Randles and Mack provide many examples of the childhood experiences of these visionaries. But these talents are not the result of the encounter. The witnesses’ statements, given in extensio by Spencer, or as detailed summaries in Schnabel and Mack, scarcely give an impression of spiritual assurance; rather they give an impression of a formless, chaotic experience, both exciting and terrifying, and hinting at numinous possibilities. Dare one suggest that the defining transformative moment for these people is the encounter with the investigator who provides an ideological framework by which the chaos of experience can be interpreted. The investigator may well be playing the role that Wandering Bishops played for Heather Wood (Spencer and Spencer), or that the various theological advisers play in the lives of Marian witnesses. As far as we know no contactee or abductee has ever come up with anything but recycled occultism, ufological cliches or pop science.

Can we relate the wild talents to previous hints of childhood neglect and abuse? Some idea of the psychic childhood of these percipients can be gleaned from the perceptive Eileen Garrett:
The Children (her imaginary-imaginal-virtual companions) also taught me to watch changing expressions of anger, fear and uncertainty in people’s faces – to listen to their voices and catch the meanings of varying tones and cadences. Together we watched my aunt and listened, and though she was still the power that controlled my immediate destiny, I gradually lost my awe of her. (24)
From this we can get a hint of the sixth sense, whether interpreted as hypersensitivity to borderline perceptual stimuli, or as ESP, as a defence against emotionally unstable carers. Similarly we can see Jenny Cockrell’s premonitions as originally an early warning system of her manic-depressive father’s moods. Eileen Garrett gives us a further clue to the development of a virtual experience-prone personality. She describes:
Lying on my bed, I became aware of the vitality inherent in all light, colour and space. In a beam of sunshine falling against a shadowed background I perceived globules of light that moved and weaved in patterns and burst at intervals… I discovered they floated in light and without light, swirled about one another, carrying colour within themselves, expanding and bursting like bubbles and creating rainbows of beauty as they burst. (25)
These globules sound very much like what Jenny Randles calls psychic toys. She remembers that as a child of seven “I used to really look forward to going to bed as I had some playmates… beautiful lights which had vivid colours, with speckles inside sometimes with a haze around them” (Randles, p. 42). Like Eileen Garrett she also saw them rising into the air and merging.

I suggest that what is going on here is a mixture of hyperaesthesia and synaesthesia. The former is the condition when the mechanism by which the brain damps down sensory input is not working properly. Mild cases produce Garrett’s feeling of vibrant aliveness and sensory awareness, severe cases produce extremely unpleasant sensory overload. In synaesthesia the senses become mingled so that people see sounds, hear colours, taste shapes and so forth. (26) In synaesthesia it appears that the nervous pathways from the various sense-organs are linked. In addition it seems possible that in some cases there may be extended sensory abilities.
Garrett and many others claim to see auras, indicating the possibility that they may be able to detect infra-red radiation and synaesthetically convert it into visible colours. Perhaps in virtual experience-proneness something similar happens in which parts of the brain which deal with internal images and use them to create dreams and fantasy become interconnected with the parts of the brain dealing with sensory input. The brain would then have great difficulty distinguishing material from its own imagery store from sensory perception. (Because nothing in ufology or life is simple this does not mean all cases of psychic toys are synaesthesia. In cases such as 'Caroline' (Randles, p. 44), they seem to be classic sleep paralysis hallucinations, in other cases they may relate to poorly understood physical phenomena.)

Perhaps we each have to learn to separate all these channels out and for some reason – maybe genetic, maybe in other instances the effect of childhood environment – there are cases where it does not happen.

There may be a connection between this and the high artistic abilities claimed in abductees and percipients, from Antonio Villas Boas onwards (cf. Randles, Spencer). Is there a common cause linking perceptual anomalies with (particularly visual) creativity? It is interesting that two of the artist subjects featured by Spencer produce work that includes strong “swirls”, mandala forms reminiscent of the tunnel effect described in near-death experiences, and which is one of the primary patterns of visual hallucinations.

Some abductees demonstrate a deep alienation from their families and homes. They feel that their “real” home is elsewhere. As Mack puts it “the abductees… experience themselves as returnees to their cosmic source or “Home”, an inexpressibly beautiful realm beyond” (Mack, p. 48) for which they feel a sort of nostalgia – the nostalgia for paradise. (27) There is within much of Mack’s writing a strong strain of gnosticism, with its theme of sparks of divine light trapped in the world of gross matter. The nostalgia may, in secular terms, be the nostalgia for the protected, cosy world of childhood.

For some of the abductees, however, it is the nostalgia for a childhood they did not have, and coming into the ufological mainstream is the myth of the unknown parents. Some abductees, at some level, cannot believe that their dull, or distant or even abusive, or just plain ordinary parents could be the real parents of someone as special as themselves. In past times many children must have believed that their real parents were simply foster-parents, that their real parents were kings and queens, or the people who live in the big house down the road. In modern times similar fantasies have centred around film stars and pop singers.

Linda Napolitano became convinced that her real father was Perez de Cuellar, who tried to present a diving suit helmet to her son as a present (Schnabel, p. 242). But for a growing number of abductees their real parents are aliens – this is a major theme with Mack’s abductees:
  • “Joe” is “intimately involved… in cahoots – a double agent somehow betraying his humanness, and experienced making love to a female abductee while in the form of a seven to eight foot tall alien… (He) half believes his son is a hybrid and they might take him away.” In therapy sessions he has imagery of being an alien soul, taking incarnation in a human foetus as an act of exploration, contrition and ordeal in a world he sees as a lunatic asylum (Mack, ch. 8).
  • “Scott”, who as a child wanted to run away, feels “different, not from here”, that he is “one of them” (Mack, ch. 5).
  • Peter has “an alien wife and kids”. His hybrid children will repopulate the ruined world – a clear echo of the shaman’s spirit wives (Mack, pp 320-1).
  • Paul feels that “home” is on another planet where all is peaceful. He is an alien spy, one of many here. He also claims, in a past life, to have been present at Roswell (Mack, ch. 10)
  • Edward Calos has times when (he) “feels that he is himself alien in the sense of feeling isolated”, and has “experiences” of looking though an alien helmet, and has blocks of missing time (Mack, p. 361).
Jenny Randles discusses similar stories. There is Audrey who lived on Alpha Centauri in a past lifetime (Randles, pp.78-9) and who has always felt “strange” and different. There is Gary who claims he is an alien inhabiting an earthly body, from which he feels alienated. Gary’s claims centre around Nostradamus and are said to have impressed Eric Laithwaite (Randles, pp 17-18, 72-73; Nigel Watson, personal communication).

When we encounter “a woman from Walsall… [who] had a daughter whom she claimed had been exchanged for an alien” whilst in a pram in the garden at the age of nine months we are truly in the realm of fairies who exchange unattended babies for their own (Randles, p. 129).

Thus post-secular ufology brushes close to the star-child folklore. As the blurb to Randles’s Star Children puts it:
There are people living amongst us whose origins are other then human. Some believe they were born on another planet and put here during a period of imminent crisis to help mankind. Others feel that they have been used in a global plan to develop superhumans… eggs and sperm have been taken from them during enforced space abductions in order to create hybrid human/alien babies. These entities, unaware of their origin, may be growing up in our midst, seeded here as representatives of a brighter future and awaiting a trigger signal deep in their subconscious preparing to set the world aright.
Anyone reading Star Children can have little doubt that however much her daylight reason and common sense may protest, some 3 a.m. portion of Jenny’s mind more than half believes that she may be one of the star children. These themes are not new. They have appeared in Randles’s NUFON News magazine for over a decade, and form the basis for her unpublished novel Children of the Apocalypse. Magonia readers may recall that I commented on these myths in issue 20 back in 1985. (29) In the present form the star-child belief was first published in 1976 by Brad Steiger in Gods of Aquarius (30) where he referred to “star maidens”:
“A unique group of individuals who claim to have memories of having come to this planet from somewhere else, or to have experienced interaction with paranormal entities – UFO intelligences – since their earliest childhood… (and) have knowledge of the fact that (they are) essentially “star seed” and strangers in a strange land.”
One of these star maidens was Francie, who later became Steiger’s second wife. Significantly, several of these star maidens were victims of childhood abuse, including whippings and being parcels passed through up to fourteen foster families. No wonder they felt strangers in a strange land with overwhelming feelings of alienation. Steiger’s ideas were introduced into Britain by Graham Phillips in about 1978. Although they never became part of the ufological mainstream, they gained widespread circulation in the tabloid press, including articles on how to tell if your next-door neighbour is an alien.

The star-seed legend can be traced much further back. The idea of incarnating entities to assist humanity in times of crisis can be found in the early works of Brinsley le Poer Trench (31) and George Hunt Williamson. The latter’s 1953 publication Other Tongues, Other Flesh told of the Wanderers, who voluntarily chose to be incarnated on Earth: “They occupy physical vehicles born to parents of their own choice who they feel will best give them advantages and training they need to fulfil their missions on Earth.” (32)

Howard Menger claimed to be a reincarnated Saturnian and his second wife a Venusian. Menger claimed he was really Sol do Nova, a spiritual teacher who occupied the body of the dying Howard. (33) Much further back there was the Swiss medium Helene Smith (i.e. Catherine Elsie Muller, 1861-1927) (34) with her fantasies of visits to a previous incarnation on Mars. Like the modern star-children:
“…she felt like a stranger in her family and as one away from home. She had a feeling of isolation and abandonment in exile… so strong were these feelings that she actually one day seriously asked her parents if it were absolutely certain that she was their daughter, or (might not the nurse) some day, by mistake, have brought home another child from the daily walk?”
She also had a mysterious sense of destiny and it comes as no surprise to note that her youth was filled with dreams, hypnagogic hallucinations and indefinite terrors, and artistic ability.

Allied with this are themes of mission. Randles quotes “Donna” who claims that a spaceman materialised in front of her mother and told her that her second child (Donna) was to be used by the aliens to spread their message. A clear echo of the Annunciation (Randles, p. 126). Other abductees and contactees have similar messages: Rohan has a sense of destiny, of going to do something (Spencer, p. 242); Sara has a mission to do with ecology and “polar and geomagnetic reversals” (Mack, p. 201); Paul is to be a healer and bridge between worlds (Mack, p.232). The main concern of these missions is the classic drama of excitement and anxiety; being missionaries preaching the word in advance of the apocalypse.


Kenneth Ring and Jenny Randles have noted the similarities between abductions and the near-death experience, so let us start this section with a very abduction-like NDE.

Dannian Brinkley, an ex-soldier and intelligence agent is on the phone when he is struck by lightning. He then has a typical NDE, experiencing images such as the tunnel, the Being of Light, and the life review. Then he is taken up by the Being to a crystal city where he is led into a cathedral of learning. The Being disappears, leaving him alone, or with invisible spirits. Then, on a podium, thirteen great Beings of Light present him with visions of the End Time.

These conform to a classic right-wing agenda: domestic collapse, and the alliance of Arabs and orientals against the west, Syrians developing chemical weapons, nuclear catastrophe and starvation in Russia, a Sino-Russian war, a war in the desert between two vast armies, a computer genius who controls the world by inserting computer chips under people’s skin, and many similar prophecies. To prevent this, Brinkley is given a mission to build meditation rooms. Returned to life, and a surprisingly good recovery, he possesses powers of telepathy and other wild talents (Brinkley and Parry, passim.).

The perceptive reader will have seen the cultural symbolism: the desert war, now being touted as a premonition of the Gulf War but originally no doubt supposed to be the Battle of Armageddon, and the computer expert who is in fact the Antichrist, the Beast of Revelations who will mark everyone with 666.

For the Buryats of Siberia, Brinkley would have been a lightning shaman, empowered by the lightning bolt. In some cultures the lightning shaman is dismembered and reassembled with another strike. After being struck by lightning the Blackfoot medicine man Wolf Head developed wild talents and high creative abilities. (36) An example of the second motif is Wovoka, the leader of the 1890 Native-American ghost dance movement. He became ill during an eclipse of the sun in January 1887, and claimed to have had a NDE vision of a land of ancestors, and being instructed by God to establish a new movement which would reunite the dead and the living. The mythology took on an increasingly apocalyptic tone as it developed with visions of earthquake, fire and flood, which would sweep the white soldiers away. (37)

Other modern near-death experiencers have apocalyptic visions. Ring presents a number which have similar features; many will perish in earthquakes, fire and flood; there will be nuclear catastrophe or economic collapse, but a saved remnant will be able to rebuild a new world of peace and hope. These people are “educated” and prepared for this new world. (38) Folk images such as the sinking of California and the pole shift occur frequently. As with Brinkley, many of these images reflect the visionary’s own political views, and we should note the symbolism of the polar shift, a crude literalisation and secularisation of “the world turned upside down”, when the rich and powerful will be thrown down and the poor and oppressed exalted.

Similar apocalyptic visions are produced by the techniques of post-life progression as pioneered by Helen Wambach and Chet Snow, (39) who again produce vistas of catastrophe, including a Soviet attack on western Europe while the USA is preoccupied with the little matter of the sinking of California (all this in 1998). As we are creasing ourselves with laughter at this little gem, the laughter freezes on our lips, for what Snow next calmly says: in the future there will be only two types of humanity, the garbage and the garbage men. Suddenly the toothy grin of the New Age guru widens to a vast chasm leading straight to the gas chambers of Auschwitz.

Snow drags in UFO abductions, and abductees now bring their own apocalypticism. Mack’s subjects turn up images of ecological catastrophe, earthquake and flood. Amongst the billions who will die, a few will escape in a UFO-arranged Rapture (Mack, pp 40-41). This apocalypticism mingles readily with a sense of mission. Thus Ed has a “great agenda connected with ecological catastrophe and the weeping of the spirits”. Scott has visions of being an alien messenger from a wasteland world, saying “they” will only feel safe to land when AIDS has wiped out most of humanity. Joe believes a hybridisation programme is creating a new humanity to repopulate a post-catastrophe world. “Peter” has “vivid, disturbing apocalyptic images” of earth changes and the sinking of the US West Coast, followed by the millennial golden age. Elsewhere, Donna says she is a mouthpiece for the aliens in the End Times (Randles).

The images of the abductees are more than echoed by the imagery of the post-secular ufologists. Randles, Ring and Mack all include dramatic apocalyptic imagery. Randles takes a classic post-millennialist stance that the millennium is coming into being in history, through a process of amelioration and reform:
We are gradually being turned into star children… cosmic citizens, Omega people… This experience exists despite us and because of us… bathing every thinking person in the heady scent of true reality. For the world is a stranger place than we can possibly imagine and the universe is infinitely stranger. That is what we are being taught by all of this. We are climbing a stairway to the stars with a dazzling light far ahead of us at the top. We do not know where we are going or why we have to go there, but we know it is as inevitable a journey as life itself… we will all get there in the end. And when we do arrive, I suspect we might well find that our joy is short-lived. For we are only on the first floor of a very tall building. (Randles, pp 205-6)
Ring has a basically post-millennial, but much more dramatically apocalyptic vision:
What we see with imaginal vision is a representation of our future environment (by which I) am not talking about some purported after-death world. I mean that it will become our environmental setting before death. Indeed the world of the dead and the world of the living are ones between which there may eventually be no longer a sharp distinction. Veils will be lifted from the face of the non-physical, and we ourselves will become diaphanous beings, with bodies of light … the shamanizing of humankind … a major shift in levels of consciousness that will eventually lead to humanity being able to live in two worlds at once – the physical and the imaginal.

We shall have a new consensus world, but it won’t have anything to do with “the senses” (rather) an expanded ability on the part of human beings for imaginal vision. And what that would mean is no less than this: Humanity would be led back to its true home in the realm of the imagination where it would be liberated to live in mythic time and no longer be incarcerated in the doomed prison of historical time… (less) a new heaven as an imaginal earth. (Ring, pp 239-240)
Mack bemoaning “mindless corporate acquisitiveness that perpetuates vast differences between rich and poor and contributes to hunger and disease, ethnic-national violence resulting in mass killings, and ecological destruction” sees abductions leading us back to “our spiritual cosmic roots” and returning us to the divine light or 'Home', a place where secrets, jealousy, greed and destruction have no purpose (Mack, pp3-4, 415-16)

The apocalypticism is quite explicit in Ring’s title The Omega Project. Omega is Teilhard de Chardin’s name for the End Time – when the perfected human collective will merge with Cosmic Christ. The Omega Point was the ultimate expression of the “noosphere” within which human culture would totally dominate the earth. For Teilhard de Chardin the mass movements of the inter-war years, Fascism and Stalinism, were, for all their “imperfections” (sic!) superior to liberal, individualist society. He shared little of the concerns of the modern New Agers, having no interest in space travel, and no great love for the concerns of modern ecologists. His future was that of H.G. Wells. It is not surprising therefore that despite surrounding his work with an effective moat of incomprehensible and barbarous neologisms he ran foul of the Catholic Church authorities. (40)

Though for most people knowledge of Teilhard’s ideas probably derives from the popularisation in Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End (41) his ideas have clearly caught on as a paradigm of the heady amalgamation of escalator evolution and traditional apocalypticism. The most extreme use of the Omega hypothesis is in Barrow and Tipler’s The Anthropic Cosmological Principle, where, at the end of a massive tome filled with formidable physics and even more formidable mathematics, we find:
At the instant the Omega point is reached life will have gained control of all matter and forces, not only in a single universe, but in all universes where existence is logically possible; life will have spread into all spatial regions in all universes which could possibly exist and will have stored an infinite amount of information, including all bits of knowledge which it is logically possible to know. And this is the end. (42)
Ring, with his constant reference to evolution, and Randles, with her vision of a “stairway to the stars” are expressing what the philosopher Mary Midgeley has described as the Panglossian escalator. (43) This is an idea which originated with Lamarck, that evolution is a sort of cosmic elevator with a purpose. That purpose being the production of human beings, usually white, Anglo-Saxon Protestant males, and then to continue onwards to exalt them to supernatural heights. Indeed it is difficult to resist the notion that Randles’s vision might have been inspired by the cover of the paperback version of Midgeley’s book.

The point Midgeley is actually making is that these ideas, which have no basis in Darwinian biology. have become central in Western culture, probably – though she does not herself draw this inference – because they represent the “biologisation” of early post-millennial doctrines, which became enshrined in 18th-century notions of enlightenment. What separates Ring and Randles from the mainstream is their radically foreshortened timescale for this pseudo-evolutionary process and incorporation of more overtly supernatural elements. Their consummation of history is not in some vast, cosmic future, but in the next decade or next year.
"The collective unconscious, too long repressed, will break free, overwhelm the world and usher in a world of madness, superstition and terror…
war, anarchy and fascism"
It is this foreshortened timescale which leads to the idea that some particular Omega people are the vanguard of evolution, transforming human consciousness through their own altered states. This is quite simply nonsense; there is no reason to believe that twentieth-century Californians, say, are any more evolved than the artists of Lascaux, to say nothing of the builders of Stonehenge, or Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. The visionary experiences discussed by Ring, though the cultural content changes, occur in all times and places. They may have played a role in the emergence of full human consciousness 50 or 60,000 years ago, but human consciousness in a biological sense has not changed since.

I arranged the quotations from Randles, Ring and Mack in order to demonstrate the progression from Randles’s post-millennialism to Mack’s much more dramatic pre-millennialsim. Ring stands between them; his Omega contains not only elements of “evolutionary” millennialism, but images of a more profound apocalypse: the “imaginal” or spiritual Earth with its vocabulary of the parting of the veil between the living and the dead which is redolent of Victorian Spiritualism. The bodily assumption of the living into the “imaginal” realm is a barely secularised version of the Rapture of the saints.

The appearance of these apocalyptic themes in the fantasies of a wide range of people should not surprise us because this occurs in a culture permeated by apocalyptic imagery. Few works can have had such an impact on Western culture as the Revelations of John. Norman Cohn, who had previously chronicled the power of apocalyptic movements in medieval and early modern Europe (45) has now sought to track down its origins in Zoroastrian dualism, taking the archetypal combat myth by which the tribal chief subdues the monster of chaos and carves habitat out of the wilderness in the time before time, and transforms it into a once and for all defeat of evil and disorder in a time to come. It is the apocalypse which transforms Time’s Cycle into Time’s Arrow – to quote Stephen J. Gould.

Not only does apocalyptic imagery pervade our culture, there has been an astonishing rise in literal apocalypticism in the last twenty-five years. A generation ago belief in “the end of the world” was looked upon as an historical curiosity, (46) today End Times beliefs are stronger than ever.

The rise of apocalyptic belief in contemporary America is chronicled by Paul Boyer who demonstrates the links between Christian fundamentalism, radical right politics and conspiracy theories. All the themes in Brinkley’s End Times vision referred to at the beginning of this section are derived from contemporary fundamentalist writings. Boyer demonstrates how the image of the apocalypse permits the articulation of a powerful critique of capitalism which allows the expression of discontent by the disadvantaged, whilst by proposing fundamental change in a supernatural realm preaches a gospel of helplessness and opposition to all reform.

It seems probable that there are several direct inputs of the Christian fundamentalist apocalypticism described by Boyer into the New Age. Remember those NDEs who claimed the world was going to end in 1988? It seems likely that their inspiration was a best-selling book by fundamentalist Edger Whisenart called 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1988. (Boyer, p. 130) At the same time it seems highly likely that ideas of abductees being beamed out of houses through solid matter derives from pop iconography of the Rapture.

What the material reviewed here has demonstrated is that apocalyptic imagination extends far beyond the mainstream of Christian fundamentalism discussed by Boyer. Barry Brummelt has extended the range of his study of apocalyptic religion beyond the confines of fundamentalism, for example citing Fukuyama’s End of History as an example of post-millennialism, but even he ignores the development of such ideas in the New Age movement. Indeed, it seems that the whole New Age field has been excluded from academic debate.

The apocalypse offers simple solutions. It is the catastrophe which will sweep away the oppressors, iron out the complexities, turn the world upside down. The seventies, the decade which saw religious fundamentalism come in from the outermost fringes, was also the decade of the catastrophe film, each disaster being a small apocalypse. Beyond the apocalypse lies communitas, the world of sacred sharing and total community, (examples which come to mind are the Woodstock Festival, the moment the Berlin Wall came down, or the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia) which is close to Teilhard de Chardin’s vision of Omega. But any attempt to impose communitas will end in tragedy. (47)

Post-secular ufology appears to part of a widening revolt against the dream of the secular city, predicted by Jerome Clark: “The collective unconscious, too long repressed, will break free, overwhelm the world and usher in a world of madness, superstition and terror… war, anarchy and fascism.” (48)

It is impossible to read those lines today without thinking of Iran and Bosnia, Somalia, the wreckage of the Soviet Union, the rise of the religious right in the US and of nationalism and xenophobia across Europe. And beyond those gross examples we can see many more: the rise in witchcraft accusations, the communitas of the football hooligan, the rise of the passionate violence of the righteous elect (anti-abortionists in the US, animal rights movements in Britain).

One does not have to subscribe to any sort of Jungianism to appreciate Clark’s vision. We could rephrase it to something like “the one-sided economism which only values human beings as consumers and producers will lead to a reaction in which the needs of humans to belong and find meaning in their lives will take extreme forms”. The abduction myth, with its themes of manipulation, the intermingling of rape and Rapture, the evocation of the naked helplessness of the operating table and loss of autonomy, seems to articulate many of these fears. But whether any of the post-secularist UFO myths can in any way seriously replace the old myths of flag and altar seems doubtful. There are interesting times ahead: we shall be on the watch.


[In editing for on-line publication some of the references have been re-numbered, accounting for the gaps in the sequence]
  1. Interview with Jenny Cockrell in Fortean Times, 72, pp 36-39
  2. Garrett, Eileen. Advances in the Supernatural, Paperback Library, 1968
  3. Rogo, D. Scott. The Infinite Boundary, Aquarian, 1988, pp 117-155, 211-215. See also Prince, Walet F. The Psychic in the House, Boston SPR, 1926 4.
  4. Sherrill Mulhern, quoted in Hicks, Robert D. In Pursuit of Satan, Prometheus, 1991
  5. Hicks, op. cit. quoting in part paper by Braun and Bennett (eds) “Treatment of MPD”, American Psychiatric Press, 1981
  6. Feldman, Marc D. and Ford, Charles V. Patient or Pretender, Wiley, 1994, p. 212
  7. Ibid., p. 210
  8. Ibid., p. 16
  9. Wood Robert. The Widow of Borley, Duckworth, 1992
  10. Fodor, Nandor. ‘The Bell Witch', in The Story of the Poltergeist Down the Centuries (with Hereward Carrington), Rider, 1953, pp 137-165
  11. Fodor, Nandor. On the Trail of the Poltergeist, Citadel, 1958
  12. Price, Harry. Leaves from a Psychic’s Casebook, Gollancz, 1933, chapters 13 and 14. See also Tabori, Paul. Companions of the Unseen, Humphrey, 1968, chapter 7
  13. ....
  14. ....
  15. Hopkins, Budd. Intruders, Random House, 1987
  16. Feldman and Fort, op. cit., p. 172
  17. Schnabel, Jim. “The Munch Bunch”, Fortean Times, 70, pp 23-29
  18. Bartholemew, Robert E. “Munch Bunch Revisited”, Fortean Times, 73
  19. Fodor, Nandor. Tradition…, op. cit., p. 194
  20. Rogerson, Peter. Taken to the Limits, Magonia, 23, pp 3-12
  21. Sheridan, Geraldine and Kenning, Thomas. Survivors, Pan, 1993
  22. ...
  23. Hufford, David. The Terror that comes in the Night, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1982
  24. Garrett, op. cit., p. 18
  25. Garrett, op. cit., pp 25-26
  26. For synaesthesia see Richard, E. The Man Who Tasted Shapes, Abacus, 1994.
  27. Eliade, Mircea. Images and Shamans, Harvill, 1961, pp 16-18.
  28. ...
  29. Rogerson, Peter. Children of Another God, Magonia, 20, pp 11-14
  30. Steiger, Brad. Gods of Aquarius, W.H. Allen, 1977, chapter 7
  31. Le Poer Trench, Brinsley. Men Among Mankind, Spearman, 1962
  32. Williamson, George Hunt. Other Tongues, Other Flesh, Amherst Press, 1953, chapter 2
  33. Menger, Howard. From Outer Space to You, Saucerian Books, 1959, quoted in Flammonde, Paris. The Age of the Flying Saucer, Hawthorne Books, 1971, pp 99-100
  34. Berger, Arthur and Joyce. Encyclopaedia of Parapsychology and Psychical Research, Paragon House, 1991.
  35. ...
  36. Kalweit, Edgar. “Shamans, Healers and Medicine Men”, Shambhalla, 1992, chapter 4
  37. Wilson, Bryan. Magic and the Millennium, Paladin, 1975, pp 292-298
  38. Ring, Kenneth. Heading Toward Omega, Morrow, 1985, chapter 8
  39. Snow, Chet B. Mass Dreams of the Future, McGraw-Hill, 1989, as quoted in Baker, Robert. Hidden Memories, Prometheus, 1992, pp. 164-167.
  40. Teilhard de Chardin. The Phenomenon of Man, Collins, 1959. cf. the entry for him in Gurley, Rosemary. Harper Encyclopaedia of Mystical and Paranormal Experience, Harper, 1991, pp 604-606
  41. Clarke, Arthur C. Childhood’s End
  42. Barrow, John D. and Tipler, Frank J. The Anthropic Cosmological Principle, Oxford University Press, 1988, pp 676-7
  43. Midgeley, Mary. Evolution as a Religion, Methuen, 1985.
  44. ...
  45. Cohn, Norman. The Pursuit of the Millennium, Pimlico, 1993 (Secker and Warburg, 1957)
  46. See, for example, Hunter, Anthony. The Last Days, Blond, 1958
  47. For a discussion of liminality, communitas, etc., see Rogerson, Peter. Taken to the Limits, Magonia, 23
  48. Clark, Jerome and Coleman, Loren. The Unidentified, Warner, 1975, p. 241

Books reviewed and referred to in the text:

BOYER, Paul. When Time Shall Be No More: Prophecy belief in modern American culture, Belknap Press/Harvard University Press, 1992
BOYLAN, Richard J. Close Extraterrestrial Encounters: Positive experiences with mysterious visitors, Wild Flower Press, 1994
BRINKLEY, Dannian and PERRY, Paul. Saved by the Light, Piatkus, 1994
BRUMMETT, Barry. Contemporary Apocalyptic Rhetoric, Praeger, 1991
BUDDEN, Albert. Allergies and Aliens, the visitation experience: an environmental health issue, Discovery Times Press, 1994
COCKRELL, Jenny. Yesterday’s Children: The extraordinary search for my past life family, Piatkus, 1993
COHN, Norman. Cosmos, Chaos and the World to Come: The ancient roots of apocalyptic faith, Yale University Press, 1993
DAVIES, Nick. Murder on Ward Four: The story of Bev Allitt, Chatto and Windus, 1993
HARPUR, Patrick. Daimonic Reality: A field guide to the other world, Viking Arkana, 1994
MACK, John E. Abduction: Human encounters with aliens, Simon & Schuster, 1994
RANDLES, Jenny. Star Children, Robert Hale, 1994
RING, Kenneth. The Omega Project: Near death experiences, UFO encounters and mind at large, William Morrow, 1992
SCHNABEL, Jim. Dark White: Alien abductions and the UFO obsession, Hamish Hamilton, 1994
SPENCER, John. Gifts of the Gods: Are UFOs alien visitors or psychic phenomena?, Virgin, 1994
SPENCER, John and SPENCER, Ann. Spirit Within Her: The story of Heather Woods and the stigmata, Boxtree, 1994