Alien abduction: real even if imagined


There are some people in the world who believe without the need for provable facts, and hold to the idea that aliens kidnap people from time to time, maybe though not necessarily counting themselves among those who have gone into space when they thought they were going to bed or for a walk in the woods.

The belief in, and experience of, alien abduction is not too far removed at all from spiritual ideas and experiences of all kinds. It is essentially benign. When you consider that there are some truly dangerous people walking the streets who we should be really concerned about, people who should be locked away, psychos and paedophiles and murderers, it’s not unreasonable to suggest that it’s very wrong to try to force often gentle and sincere people into silence, or push them to the margins of society simply because their ideas are seen as ridiculous and kooky.

There is a reason for everything. And not everything is what it appears to be upon first examination. Alien abduction is real to those who experience it, whether it happens or not. Fairies, too, are real in the same sense, as is the Loch Ness Monster or Bigfoot or Spring-Heeled Jack. Despite the advance of science down the centuries, the powerful need for myth and mystery is undiminished since we first started daubing paint on cave walls.

It is widely believed that the origins of myth can sometimes, not always, be rooted in the things we narrowly define as reality. Dragons are said to have entered the human mind as a result of dinosaurs surviving long enough for early man to come across them or their bones being discovered by our ancestors, who assumed such large beasts were still around. Maybe we just made them up because that’s one of the fantastic things we’re hard-wired to do. Maybe we’ve made up these possible explanations for dragons, and are therefore continuing the process of littering our collective history with stories. First, the belief in dragons. Then comes the belief in ideas as to why we imagined dragons - if indeed we did imagine them.

We are all storytellers, whether writing an epic novel or indulging in some gossip with a neighbour over the garden fence. Alien abduction stories may well fulfil creative, spiritual needs for those who tell or experience them. It’s rather glib to call these people liars and fools, when one considers the fact that all of us, at some stage in our lives, have held onto one or more beliefs that required no proof for us at the time we believed them.

We might have believed in the little people and ghosts when we were little. Some of us go on to keep those beliefs, or develop them in later life - which is why, perhaps, such notions are shunned by some because they seem to hark back to childhoods we are supposed to leave behind.

The question is, who said we have to and do we leave our childhoods behind? I for one don’t think I have - not entirely - and I wouldn’t want to, as it is my connection to the child within that sparks my creativity and imagination. I wonder if the renouncement of the child within is a harmful and contrived thing, or entirely natural for some people? And if natural, perhaps in the case of the majority, are we to infer that those experiencing strange phenomena are in some sense puerile, backward, undeveloped?

This doesn’t ring true at all. Many people with tales of strangeness to relate are intelligent, not always particularly sensitive, and usually quite sound in terms of their mental health and ability to function in society. Some, of course, are complete loons - but then, you can be so when you hold to no belief in the unexplained, unconventional or paranormal whatsoever.

Belief in UFOs and alien abduction requires faith and, for those who think they’ve been abducted, involves a kind of conversion not at all dissimilar to the dramatic experiences of evangelical Christians when born-again, or pagans who believe particular gods have spoken to them directly, or those belonging to any other religion you can think of, orthodox and so-called alternative.

Alien abduction experiences involve life-changing epiphanies. As such, rather than being dismissed out of hand, they should be approached by investigators with open minds and without pre-conceived ideas and prejudices getting in the way. Whatever alien abduction experiences are, they are something - and that is what I’m interested in, finding out what they are. I have a hunch that alien abduction stories could teach us something about the whys and hows of mythology, spirituality and psychology.

When someone asks me, ‘do you believe in UFOs?’ I always answer, ‘I don’t know’. I don’t understand the question, which is why I give that response. What am I being asked? Much of what we believe doesn’t stem from personal experience. People believed Saddam Hussein had nuclear weapons technology because they were told this was so. We believe in global warming without personal proof, looking instead to the vagaries of the weather and catastrophic earthquakes for confirmation of a belief imbibed and assumed, rather than resulting from real experience. We take others on faith when they have qualifications, training, personal experience themselves. And there’s nothing wrong with that, most of the time - although, as with Saddam, we should at least operate some kind of internal process by which we choose what to believe and what not to believe on the basis of the reliability and integrity of the source.

So I don’t understand why alien abductees are mocked and maligned. The popularity or rejection of an opinion or belief within society is no indicator of truth.


The cartoon comes from Howard’s Comic of the Day ( mailing list, which sends a giggle in your inbox every day for nought pence. Thanks Howard for prompting this essay today!