“Religion will continue to influence the course of progress, and creation of a galactic civilization may depend upon the emergence of a galactic religion capable of motivating society for the centuries required to accomplish that great project.” —William Sims Bainbridge
For a religious scholar who also professes to be a Catholic, D.W. Pasulka is strangely indifferent to demonology. Perhaps this is why, in a book that is at least superficially about generating myths about UFOS and an alien presence, she omits all mention of the most recent attempt at “academic” disclosure, prior to hers, Peter Levenda and Tom De Longe’s Sekret Machines. Though it’s hard to blame Pasulka for wanting to avoid any associations with that tawdry packet, it’s still a glaring omission. And a work—like a person’s life story—is often best measured by what it omits.
There are two reasons that immediately come to my mind for this omission, though they are not mutually exclusive: 1) the Levenda/De Longe project foreshadows Pasulka’s and runs parallel to it, potentially revealing the same shadowy hand (and/or commercial interests) behind both; 2) American Cosmic is the light, upbeat side of the myth, compared to Levenda and DeLonge’s Lovecraftian swamp. The main way in which they converge—besides referring to high-level anonymous government and scientific sources—is that, light or dark side of “the phenomenon,” both omit aspects that might seriously undermine a supernatural, extraterrestrial, inter-dimensional, or transcendental explanation for the UFO. Both opt for wonder over objectivity, or woo.
I will get to what those aspects are shortly. For now, let’s just say that, as a literary attempt to demonstrate that we, as a society and a culture, even as a species, are on the verge of full disclosure of an ongoing “contact” experience with some unknown and intelligent form of life, and that this encounter includes a form of technology presently indistinguishable to most of us from magic, American Cosmic is powerfully persuasive in a way that Sekret Machines isn’t.
In an odd sort of positive reinforcement loop, this makes it seem that much more likely the narrative of “alien contact and disclosure” really is on the verge of official validation, since Pasulka’s book legitimizes the subject significantly, thereby making it both more credible and more reputable.
“In particular we focus on the limitations of current economics and science, and on the potential that an integrative and evolutionary image of man might have to reunite . . . ‘the two cultures’ (the sciences and the humanities) in order to forge a more appropriate policy paradigm for our society.” —Changing Images of Man
Pasulka has certainly done her homework for American Cosmic, so it seems unlikely any omissions are due to sloppiness. In the first chapter (p. 22), for example, she warns about groups manipulating information to generate belief in UFOs:
If we were there as pawns of a disinformation campaign, I thought, this revealed that powerful interest groups were still heavily involved in the creation of UFO/extraterrestrial belief—a fact that has already been well established. I was open to that possibility and would not have been at all surprised if it were true now.
And yet, when she interacts with people like Jacques Vallee, Whitley Strieber, experiencer Ray Hernandez, Edgar Mitchell, and Tyler D., Pasulka shows no sign of being open to the possibility of being deceived. Perhaps it would be bad manners to suggest such a thing—but is social protocol more important than academic rigor? I suspect that, nowadays, it is. In consequence, when push comes to shove, Pasulka seems like the perfect pushover.
Nor does it amount to much when Pasulka quotes Vallee telling her “Trust no one. Do not even trust what you see” (p. 83; for good measure she quotes Vallee again on the next page, as a chapter header: “Believe no one. Believe nothing.”) Of course, she trusts Vallee and believes him—and all of his SRI cohorts—thereby not acting on his advice (since it’s psychologically impossible to do so). This may be one of the oldest tricks in the book, from ancient gurus to modern-day spooks, to create cognitive dissonance by suggesting the impossible (believe nothing) with such enigmatic authority that all that’s established is the superior wisdom of the speaker. Those who tell us not to believe, we believe; those who tell us not to trust, we trust.
I want to linger on this question of belief a moment longer. How often do we hear people saying that they accepted a version of events or a piece of information because they could “tell” the person was sincere? What is their assumption based on? Even leaving aside the possibility that their source might be deceived or deluded (i.e., sincere but still wrong), I think it is based on next to nothing, really, except perhaps their experience of knowing it when someone is lying badly.
On the other hand, we know that deception—whether about sexual abuse, corporate crimes, espionage, or phony UFO narratives—proliferates, is even an inextricable part of human society (and arguably of human biology). Isn’t it more logical then to assume the opposite: that, as a general rule, we can’t tell when someone is lying to us? Not when it comes to professionals, at least, and intelligence operatives are professional liars—being that there is nothing more essential for the spreading of disinformation than the ability to persuade others of their sincerity. This makes it necessary to seek out an alternate set of criteria for judgment, which is where academic analysis and the scientific method come in. Only, with American Cosmic, they don’t, not really, not when it comes to the crunch.
As far as I can tell, the deception messengers and perceptions managers Pasulka acknowledges are related more to mainstream media and yellow journalism than to venture capitalists, NASA scientists, or SRI intelligence-augmenters, who are the good guys in her story. She acknowledges that a tawdry, fake UFO narrative has been generated to obscure the truth, and offers this as the main reason why these scientists must remain anonymous (to avoid association with the tacky stuff). But she never attempts to identify who is behind the deception or to explain why these scientists, her sources, with their apparent high-level clearance, can be assumed not to be part of it. Actually, all she would have to do is skim through Prisoner of Infinity—or even The Stargate Conspiracy—to find out that they are. So is this a case of a blind spot, doublethink, or deliberate obfuscation on her part?
Despite my misgivings, I was initially prepared to give Pasulka the benefit of the doubt because of the many insights in her book. As I proceeded, however, it became increasingly clear to me that, whatever sort of analytical rigor Pasulka might be applying, there was a line she was (consciously or unconsciously) being careful not to cross. It is the line that, like an amnesia barrier in a fractured psyche, keeps at bay the malevolent side of the human unconscious. Those demons again.
I don’t mean to imply by any of this that there is conscious deception on the part of Pasulka—that would not only be presumptuous but impolite. And if I were forced to decide whether her account of Tyler’s conversion is out-and-out fabrication or God’s honest truth, I might feel compelled to choose the latter. Accusing someone of outright lying (even in our own minds) doesn’t feel right to some of us; and Pasulka’s account doesn’t seem like a cynical yarn, far from it.
The problem is, this is not a fair choice to be forced to make, even on Pasulka’s own terms (if only she didn’t fudge them). One of the many tricks of perception management is to force us to make illegitimate choices between two options that are equally invalid. There may be many layers of truth interspersed with an equal number of layers of deception in her account. Tyler might have faked his conversion for Pasulka’s benefit, for example, knowing she would report it as truth. Alternatively, he himself might have been tricked, by whatever means (by the sort of behavior modification techniques that Pasulka barely touches on in her book, for example), to undergo a phony conversion. This would make both of them dupes, and us for believing their story. American Cosmic’s grand religious finale could be a “true” report of an elaborate deception, a possibility Pasulka never acknowledges because she is fully persuaded otherwise.
If, while she talks quite a bit about “angelic beings,” Pasulka doesn’t mention demons once (check the index), it seems to be a deliberate choice on her part to “emphasize” the positive and deemphasize the negative. In an interview with author Erik Davis, Pasulka was asked (at the end of one of Davis’ long, erudite spiels) how she managed to avoid getting pulled into the darker, more conspiratorial aspects of Ufology. Pasulka’s response was telling (she had to start it three times because their connection failed): she said she had five young children and a position at the university, and she couldn’t afford to “spin off into the negative.” She had to “stay grounded.”
This answer indicates two important things: firstly, that taking a negative turn in UFO research constitutes for Pasulka a kind of “spinning off” track, i.e., something to be inherently distrusted. Secondly, that her position and her stake in the world, as a mother and an academic, meant she couldn’t afford to go into these darker areas because it would be destabilizing for her, both personally and professionally.
It is not hard to sympathize with her about this. By writing American Cosmic, she voluntarily entered into one of the darkest and most deranging information labyrinths in human history, possibly the darkest. In many ways, she does a commendable job, so it might seem unkind not to cut her some slack for not wanting to go all the way in. On the other hand, it is hard to square an attitude of conscious avoidance with academic rigor or the quest for truth.
“Thus the coming to presence of technology harbors in itself what we least suspect, the possible arising of the saving power.” —Martin Heidegger, “The Question Concerning Technology”
In another interview (for Veritas Radio), Pasulka speaks about the need to focus on anomalous elements when doing scientific research. This method was central to my analysis of Whitley Strieber’s abduction accounts in Prisoner of Infinity. Yet truly disruptive UFO anomalies—such as the many overlaps with SRI and Changing Images of Man, the CIA and remote viewing via Edgar Mitchell’s Institute of Noetic Sciences, and from here to MK-ULTRA, military black-ops, and the systematic traumatization of children as evident throughout Strieber’s accounts—are precisely what American Cosmic avoids. Surely a book that acknowledges deception in the UFO information field, and that presents a bunch of supposed information about the UFO field, should at least attempt to identify some of the elements of deception within that field, and discuss the methods—or at least give some concrete examples? Instead, she simply goes to them as her primary source.
In his famous series of sorcery books, Carlos Castaneda uses the literary method of creating a first-person voice that is highly skeptical and almost annoyingly rational. He exaggerates his disbelief in the face of the sorcerers’ world he is entering, as a means to neutralize the reader’s own doubts, to get us to suspend our disbelief. Because of this, we feel like we are in good hands, that our narrator is reliable, and this makes us that much more susceptible to woo, to opting for wonder over objectivity.
Like Jeffrey Kripal with The Super Natural, Pasulka (if we give both of them the benefit of the doubt) is a scholar who has been converted to full-blown belief. Strictly speaking, this ought to disqualify both of them from further investigations as scholars, since anthropologists who have gone native do tend to lack objectivity. (After he got his PhD for Journey to Ixtlan, Castaneda became a sorcerer; these guys do like to have it both ways).
It’s for this reason, I think, that both Kripal and Pasulka make a big show of the need to stay liminal, on the threshold of belief, and that they do so by using postmodernist jargon that is both acceptable within academia and familiar to New Age and UFO audiences. Since existence is all in the eye of the observer and there is no clear line between subjective and objective reality (or even no such thing as objective reality), objectivity and even impartiality, are out the window.
On page 116, Pasulka states it outright: “I had given up the dualism of real and virtual.”
She has passed through the looking glass. The invisible college has her.
“All that is relevant is how interesting is the story that someone invents to explain the origin of the universe. . . There is a struggle between two or three or even ten different poets. Who can invent a funny, amusing, or interesting story so that everyone immediately thinks, ‘That’s what must have happened!’” —Heinz von Foerster, Guggenheim fellow, fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science
I can’t say if the grand religious finale of American Cosmic is especially poorly written or not, but I do know my eyes glazed over while reading it and I found it hard to take seriously. Possibly the fault is in me. Pasulka’s account of an elite NASA scientist’s miraculous conversion to Catholicism is superficially believable, and I don’t think she made it up (though we can’t rule that out either). She seems sincere, and the account is not overly fantastic; if it were reported in a vacuum of previous UFO-New Age-conspiratainment confabulation, if it were the first time I had ever heard a story of this kind, I would certainly give it, and her, the benefit of the doubt.
If it were possible to separate it from a massive, century-long program of perception management and narrative manufacture, designed to create a new religion around the UFO experience, that is. But it isn’t.
Let’s look at the old UFO narrative that Pasulka is advising us was created as a means of perception management and manipulation of collective beliefs, to obscure the actual truth: Beings with advanced knowledge, power, and technology have been interacting with humans for an unknown period, possibly millennia. A turning point involving some sort of fallen craft and found technology occurred in the late 1940s, in New Mexico. Government secrecy and disinformation shrouded the event(s) in ignorance, fear, ridicule, and denial. Accounts of the beings—whether ET or “interdimensional”—suggest they are both physical and nonphysical (possibly etheric) at the same time, making them correlate loosely with mythical beings such as fairies, angels, and demons. They appear to interface with our own subjectivity (perceptions, beliefs, expectations, cultural conditioning), and contact with them is powerfully transformative. They are acclimatizing us to their existence as preparation for a full disclosure-contact event in the near future.
So what about the new narrative? The picture American Cosmic paints is almost identical to this in every feature besides the one, that it claims that the old narrative is a false version of the truth, a counterfeit, to hide the new narrative, hers. Like Vallee’s admonition not to believe, this is something we can’t even think about, never mind make sense of. The only real difference I could see is that Pasulka’s version is significantly more sophisticated in its argumentation, and possessed of a lot more depth, insight, and nuance.
It is a better telling of the same old story, a remake with improved CGI and a bigger budget, but the core myth remains unchanged. From warning us about the many cunningly crafted, quasi-religious narratives that have been generated by shadowy groups to implant us with faulty perception-memory-beliefs, Pasulka has become an unabashed deliverer of a narrative that is indistinguishable from all these others. American Cosmic is a Trojan Horse, designed to look like an anti-Greek weapon.
At one point, Pasulka notes how “Jung famously called the UFO a technological angel.” This would certainly be pertinent to her thesis, but it turns out that Jung didn’t call the UFO a technological angel, though you will find a lot of people claiming just that. The actual quote is this: “These space-guests are sometimes idealized figures along the lines of technological angels who are concerned for our welfare, sometimes dwarfs with enormous heads bursting with intelligence, sometimes lemur-like creatures covered with hair and equipped with claws, or dwarfish monsters clad in armor and looking like insects.” (Jung, Collected Works Vol 10, Civilization in Transition, p. 322, Princeton University Press, 1964.)
This might seem like a minor discrepancy, except that it shifts the projection-assumption of divine or angelic intervention away from “dwarfish monsters,” onto the technology being used by them. And American Cosmic is all about presenting technology as an authentic expression of the divine, a saving intervention, as promised by Heidegger. The tweaked Jung quote perfectly encapsulates this idea. The actual one seems rather to mock it.
“I believe because it is absurd.” —Tertullian, misattributed
Later in her interview with Erik Davis, Pasulka asks this question of herself: “How can I write a book [about UFO myth creation] without being folded into the mythology itself?” Her answer is simple and direct: “I can’t.” It may also be disingenuous.
For the first four chapters of American Cosmic, I was pleasantly surprised by the depth and insight of the exploration, and by Pasulka’s apparently healthy skepticism. To be honest, I didn’t fully believe it, even at the very start, and for a number of reasons. The most obvious one was that I was pretty sure nothing in the book would mention military or intelligence psychological operations, mind control, organized child sexual abuse, the use of staged “alien” abductions to create screen memories for victims, or the mechanics of trauma and dissociation. I was right, it didn’t.
Of course, I have a personal stake in this, having written a book about this aspect of the UFO/abduction experience, and either Pasulka had not read Prisoner of Infinity at the time of writing her book, or she strategically ignored it. A third alternative is that, since her book certainly makes it seem as though it is going to address the problem of perception management, reality distortion, and crucial fictions around the UFO, any hidden acknowledgment of my own work is in the form of a subtle kind of damage control, something I also thought I detected in Kripal’s and Strieber’s similar work, The Super Natural. (Though The Super Natural came out in early 2016 and Prisoner of Infinity was not published until spring of 2018, I had serialized most of the book online, starting in 2013, and shared much of it with Kripal, as well as making sure Strieber was aware of it.)
Clearly, one way for Pasulka to avoid being folded into the UFO myth would be to include areas of research and data that are antithetical to the myth being generated. It was by just such means that I tried, via Prisoner of Infinity, to offer an inoculation to the myth that Pasulka’s book is, apparently advertently, helping to legitimize and update. Once included, these darker and more mundane elements seriously raise the bar of evidence required to establish that something truly transcendental, supernatural, or nonhuman is occurring.
As I argued with Prisoner of Infinity, the effects of directed trauma on the human psyche—even without including mind-altering drugs, advanced technology, and sophisticated forms of theater or “psyop”—are so profound, in terms of fragmentation, dissociation, and the unleashing of coping phantasies, that they at least potentially account for all of the more numinous (and demonic) aspects of the contact experience. I don’t personally believe they can fully explain it, but until they are included, we will never find out. By the same token, once they are on the table, no amount of Hollywood money is going to persuade us to suspend our disbelief in the face of the old “space brother” narrative.
Pasulka claims to have read extensively on the subject of UFOs. She is currently doing the podcast rounds and has appeared on many “alternate media” podcasts, including obscure ones such as Rune Soup and Aeon Byte (a show I have also done). Before starting work on this piece, I invited her onto my own podcast via her website. I have not heard back.
If Pasulka is serious and sincere, there is no reason for her to avoid addressing the issues raised in this present analysis (and in Prisoner of Infinity), and there is every reason for her to do so. It’s possible, however, that while she is sincere, she is not altogether serious; as suggested by her interview with Erik Davis, she may be choosing to avoid areas that might invalidate her thesis, or destabilize her personally or professionally. It’s also possible she is quite serious, but not at all sincere. Then her reason for avoiding these questions would be necessary and strategic, but neither scholarly nor ethical.
It may be part of the same necessary strategy when Pasulka (in her interview with Veritas Radio) dismisses Christians who reject UFO phenomena as “demonic” as being overly “fear-based.” She does add a partial concession to her dismissal, that there is a spectrum of UFO experiences, ranging from positive to negative, thereby indicating—without actually stating—that there could be both demons and angels involved. If so, why does she only write about the positive experiences and about the possibility of angelic beings? Why no space for demonic dwarves? More crucially, why does she presume that a seemingly angelic experience could not be generated by demons—or by highly unethical humans? Do her religious studies no longer afford her time to refer to scripture?
“For such men are pseudo-apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into Apostles of the Anointed.” —2 Corinthians 11:14 (David Bentley Hart translation)
It’s fair to ask who or what is being rendered unto here. The Catholic church came about when the Roman Empire coopted the original teachings of Christ and the apostles, and turned it into a vehicle of attention-management by which to establish a new form of institutional control. Now, with the UFO, the same thing appears to be happening.
As William Sims Bainbridge acknowledges in the quote that opens this piece, it is standard operating procedure for the State, when co-opting people’s faith as a means to consolidate its own power and influence, to give rise to new religions. Central to this form of religious engineering is the recycling of key elements of the old “pagan” belief into the new, state-established orthodoxy. And just as Catholicism cannibalized both early Christianity and pre-Christian “pagan” (Roman, Egyptian) forms of worship, so the new techno-utopian church of the UFO appears to be doing the same with Christianity.
With the UFO, we have a mediator-medium being installed between humanity and the divine, that potentially needs no reference to the divine (besides in words). This means the mediators can offer their own simulation via a combination of performance (like the pomp and circumstance of Catholic ritual) with the mass-belief of the “flock.” The word Catholic is derived from the Greek adjective καθολικός (katholikos), meaning “universal.”
Here’s what may turn out to be the key to the UFO riddle: The UFO myth entails the construction of an interpretation of an unknown phenomenon that makes it possible to counterfeit it.
In Pasulka’s unholy trinity, the third variable, technology, is a legitimate representative of the divine presence, of the human soul. It therefore becomes a necessary extension of—and even a replacement for—the human body. (As she has written elsewhere, we are all already cyborgs: post-humans.) This is an inversion of Christian doctrine, in which the body is an image of the divine. The new doctrine of scientism—via the technological angel of the UFO (AI?)—provides a persuasive template for us to experience something that appears divine, but is really just a sociocultural and political construction. “And no wonder! For the Accuser himself transforms himself into an angel of light.”
Central to the ascension of this postmodernist pseudo priesthood is the dethroning of not just religion but the whole idea of objective reality. The curious fact is that, today, religion has been replaced by science, while science has become more and more religiose, or scientistic. It has now reached the point where, what we continue to associate (almost religiously) with our conduit to empirical truth (science) has become increasingly insistent that there is no such thing, because now reality is—quantum indeterminately—in the wonder-struck eye of the observer.
This is a bit like the Cretan saying all Cretans are liars, or Jacques Vallee telling us to trust no one and believe nothing. For social creatures, trusting no one and believing nothing is not really possible, and nor is belief usually a choice, in any case. There may be some beliefs we choose, but our deepest ones are the things we feel sure about, and are incepted in us at levels well below the threshold of consciousness. To be asked to believe that belief is both a trap and the means by which reality comes into existence leaves us in a sort of Catholic limbo, from which we may feel increasingly in need of salvation. We may end up compelled to believe in a power—or a technology—that will save us from ourselves, and from the limits of our reason and rationality.
Enter the technological angel. A new form of authority that is both mundane and apparently transcendental, a god we can believe in because (we are told) we have co-created it—like technology—through the power of our own belief. And the moment our belief (and our technology) becomes autonomous—the moment seeing supplants believing—is the moment we have lost all option not to believe.
Wonder has occluded objectivity.
 See for example Denial: Self-Deception, False Beliefs, and the Origins of the Human Mind, by Ajit Varki and Danny Brower.
 2 Corinthians 11:14, David Bentley Hart translation. I used to read, and apply, that quote as the future redemption of Satan, rather than the promise of a dazzling CGI light show to fool the elect (if it were possible). Perhaps Heidegger was hoping that, too, in the saving power at the very essence of technology. If so, it may have been naïve, as currently we seem far too beholden to the ever-changing, increasingly narcissistic images of ourselves to do much besides keep digging our technological Sheol ever deeper.