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Among the most influential and widely known alien abductions is the story of what happened to Betty and Barney Hill, an American couple from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, who were reportedly abducted by extraterrestrials while driving back from a vacation in Montreal.
The couple described being taken into an alien spacecraft where strange surgical operations were performed on them. The couple could not initially remember the incident, only waking up to discover that they had travelled 35 miles without any memory of the last two hours.
It was only through hypnotic regression that they recalled encountering extraterrestrial beings, characterised by disproportionately large foreheads and black opaque eyes. Although the couple returned to their normal lives, after undergoing extensive hypnotherapy they continued to discuss the incident with friends, family and UFO researchers.
Since Betty and Barney Hill’s encounter in 1961, alien abductions have become a widespread phenomenon. A study conducted by the sociologist Dr Ron Westrum suggests that nearly four million Americans have been abducted by aliens at some point during their lifetime.
There are many explanations for these ‘alien’ encounters: some believe they are the result of sleep paralysis, or they are part of an undisclosed military project. Nevertheless, the phenomenon remains an intriguing mystery that has yet to be fully understood.
Many people are unaware there is a close relationship between alien abductions and the paranormal. Dr Richard Boylan, a clinical psychologist at California State University, has studied alien abductions for several decades. In his book, Close Extraterrestrial Encounters: Positive Experience with Mysterious Visitors (1994), Boylan lists twenty characteristics associated with alien abduction, several of which include the reception of telepathic messages and the development of psychic abilities.
Kenneth Ring, professor of psychology at the University of Connecticut, has also found that many abductees report an increased sensitivity to electromagnetic fields, enhanced information-processing capacity, and the development of psychic abilities.
It is also common for abductees to experience a greater connection with friends, family and the environment. The renowned alien contactee and author Whitley Strieber claims that many abductees experience paranormal phenomena as part of a wider spiritual transformation. He writes:
“What basically happens is that the witness’s whole sense of reality explodes. People become psychic, they begin to believe that they can see into the future… they acquire wisdom and new compassion… they become deeply concerned with the welfare of the environment.”5
The connection between alien abductions and the paranormal has been extensively studied by Denise Stoner and Kathleen Marden. In 2012, the independent researchers conducted a study in which 75 alien abductees were given a multiple-choice questionnaire and asked their personal background, religious/spiritual beliefs and other relevant information.
They also completed a survey which contained 16 fill-in questions relating to their abduction experience. According to the data, 51% experienced paranormal activity for the first-time following contact, 89% reported receiving telepathic messages from their extraterrestrial visitors, and 72% claimed they were more sensitive to their surrounding environment.
One paranormal phenomenon commonly associated with alien abductions is poltergeist activity. In a study conducted by Simon Brian Harvey-Wilson, 11 abductees were randomly selected from an abduction support group in Australia and interviewed about their alien encounter.
Wilson found that many subjects had experienced unusual activity in their homes following contact. A subject, named Angela, described “most electrical appliances not working, having a lot of static. And the television… often just goes to static.”
Another subject, named Karen, explained how her stereo system would turn on“in the middle of the night and then it would actually flip through to my favourite song on the CD… and it would just play the song. And then it would stop and turn off.” One subject even recalled how objects would fly off the shelves without any sign of disturbance and the electrical system in her house would suddenly blow:
“I had occasions when things would move off the shelf, and they wouldn’t smash on the floor… they would be able to move from one place very carefully to another… Other times, I would have enormous electrical activity in the house, so much so that it would blow. It would actually trigger the alarm system or trigger things to come on.”
These experiences correspond with the research conducted by Stoner and Marden, which found that 88% of abductees experienced poltergeist activity in their homes following contact. 68% of them reported malfunctions in electronic equipment such as computers, radios and televisions.8 Some of them also reported light bulbs turning on and off, street lights blinking when they walked underneath them, and the hands on their watches spinning.
The connection between alien abductions and poltergeist activity became so apparent during Marden and Stoner’s research that they decided to measure the electromagnetic fields of their subjects.9 They used a TriField Natural EMF Meter to measure the surrounding environment and the bodies of abductees within four days of an abduction, as well as the bodies of a control group.
The data suggested that the electromagnetic field of the abductees was significantly higher than the ambient environment and control group following an alien encounter. Although the sample size was too small to make definitive conclusions, the findings correspond with research undertaken by Professor Ring at the University of Connecticut who found that many abductees report a heightened sensitivity to electromagnetic fields.10
Even more interesting is that many UFO researchers believe there is a fundamental connection between extraterrestrials and electromagnetism. UFO researcher Chris Line believes that extraterrestrial beings are vibrational in nature and therefore possess the ability to conceal themselves within the infrared part of the electromagnetic spectrum.
The author Ann Druffel also believes that since reality is ultimately electromagnetic, “very close-up sightings, and particularly those which involve paralysis, abduction and other unpleasant experiences, might be from an interdimensional source, co-existing with our earth.”
If these extraterrestrial beings exist as a purely energetic form of consciousness, it may be possible for them to interfere with the electromagnetic fields produced by physical objects as well as the human mind and body. Poltergeist activity could be representative of the same extraterrestrial intelligence encountered during alien abductions, but merely manifested in a different form. This would make sense considering that many abductees claim extraterrestrials have the ability to shapeshift and assume a variety of physical and non-physical forms.
Poltergeist activity is not the only paranormal phenomenon associated with alien abductions. During his research, Simon Brian Harvey-Wilson found that many of his subjects developed healing abilities either prior or subsequent to contact.13 One subject, named Patricia, explained how her encounter with extraterrestrials resulted in her becoming a holistic healer.
She claims to now have the ability to “pick up information about where trauma has occurred or where energy blocks are in the body that may have manifested… what information, what emotion is held in that… or what trauma is held in the body in those areas.”
Another subject, named Angela, claimed that she developed healing abilities after she was abducted by aliens as a teenager, and could now “pick up on people’s feeling’s feelings and emotions and thoughts” and see “where they had problems, like diseases in their bodies.”
These accounts correspond with the research undertaken by the renowned psychiatrist and writer John E. Mack (1929–2004) who interviewed hundreds of abductees as part of a government-sponsored research project into the extraterrestrial phenomena. He found that a significant percentage of abductees developed healing abilities after contact as well as a greater connection with people, animals and nature.
This corresponds with research undertaken by Stoner and Marden who found that 50% of abductees were able to heal others for a short period of time following an alien abduction, and 2% possessed healing abilities from a young age. Marden states that many subjects reported having their vibrational frequency raised during an abduction, which was apparently connected to the development of healing abilities.
The question as to why abductees develop psychic abilities remains a mystery. However, one explanation is that these extraterrestrials are benevolent and want to enhance humanity’s psychospiritual development. The idea of otherworldly beings assisting humanity is integral to the culture of shamanic societies in which the shaman communicates with spirit-helpers to acquire knowledge or wisdom that can benefit the community.
The religious historian Mircea Eliade talks about how “the shaman frequently sees and consults with his guardian spirit… has it help him, and uses it to help others to recover from illness and injury.”16 Comparing shamanism and the strangeness of alien encounters, shamans and abductees could be essentially communicating with the same benevolent ‘alien’ intelligence that, in certain cases, aims to physically, emotionally and spiritually heal humans.
Much research has been undertaken into the psychological makeup of abductees to assess whether certain personality traits increase the probability of individuals experiencing paranormal occurrences.
While these studies are valuable from a scientific perspective, they do not say anything meaningful about the experience itself. If paranormal occurrences are real but can only be experienced by a certain personality-type, it would make sense that abductees share a common psychological profile. This does not make their experiences invalid or delusional in any way, however.
From a philosophical perspective, all sensory experience is mediated through the psychology of the mind. If you placed a highly attentive individual in the middle of a city, they would notice certain faces, objects and buildings that other people might not; this does not mean that what they are witnessing is purely imaginary.
Rather, their psychological predisposition enables them to experience a wider range of sensory input than the ‘ordinary’ person. In this sense, it could be argued that abductees are more likely to experience paranormal phenomena because they are more perceptive, insightful and open to such experiences.
Empirical science may never be able to explain the relationship between alien abductions and the paranormal if these experiences are representative of a reality that exists outside the ordinary boundaries of sensory perception. As many UFO researchers have noted, the idea that abductees are communicating with entities from other worlds cannot be entirely dismissed.
The UFO researcher Nick Pope suggests that the “idea of abductions being explained in terms of our reality interacting with other realities must be considered. If abductions are taking place, then it is possible that those responsible might come from another dimension or parallel universe.”
Writer C.D.B. Bryan also believes that “there might exist simultaneous other realities; further, that it is during, or within some sort of overlapping of these realities that alien abductions occur.”19In this sense, the relationship between alien abductions and the paranormal might be explained through the existence of other dimensional realities, which abductees are able to access through altered states of consciousness.
This explanation makes sense from the perspective that the brain operates like a television set and can ‘tune into’ different frequencies of reality. The writer and journalist Graham Hancock is a well-known proponent of this theory and says that “the relationship of consciousness to the brain may be less like the relationship to the generator to the electricity it produces and more like the relationship of the TV signal to the TV set.”
In this sense, the brain does not create consciousness but acts as a bioelectrical conduit for its reception; the world that we regularly perceive is one of many dimensions that theoretically exist but remain inaccessible during ordinary states of awareness. Abductees, however, possess the ability to ‘tune’ into other frequencies of reality and communicate with entities of an interdimensional nature.
While scientific materialism claims that consciousness is generated by the brain, this argument presents a profound philosophical problem: how do electrical circuits in the brain, which are non-conscious, produce consciousness?
This question becomes much less problematic if we assume that the brain ‘receives’ consciousness and other realities can be accessed when the biochemical composition of the brain is altered. From this perspective, alien abductions and certain paranormal experiences are pointing to other dimensional realities that materialise during altered states of awareness.
Although this theory of consciousness contradicts the materialistic view that alien abductions result from biochemical activity in the brain, these perspectives are not incompatible. There is no reason to assume that because alien abductions occur within the brain that they have no dimensional reality. From a philosophical perspective, all sensory experience has a neurological explanation.
Our entire perception – colour, shape, taste, smell, touch – is the product of biochemical processes that occur within the mind. If we assume that the brain acts as a receptor for different frequencies of reality, then it is possible that abductees are accessing alternate worlds and communicating with entities of an interdimensional nature.
The idea there are multiple dimensions is increasingly supported by modern science, particularly in the field of quantum physics. In 1957, Princeton graduate Hugh Everett III proposed the ‘many worlds’ interpretation of quantum mechanics as a means by which to resolve the ‘wave-function collapse’ problem. The wave function is a mathematical expression of all potential states of a subatomic system, such as every possible location of a quantum particle.
One cannot attribute a greater degree of reality to one state over any other; they all exist as mathematical potentialities until they are measured by a conscious observer, at which point the wave function ‘collapses’ and a single state becomes observable. This poses a problem in regard to what defines ‘measurement’ and why the act of observation affects reality at a subatomic level.
In order to resolve this problem, Everett theorised that when a measurement is made one outcome occurs in the universe that we are currently occupying and another occurs in an alternate universe. In this sense, there are many different universes, not that different from our own, in which all possible outcomes occur.
The ‘multiple-worlds’ theory has since been developed by other scientists. In 2014, physicists Michael Hal, Dirk-Andre Deckert and Howard M. Wiseman published an academic paper entitled ‘Quantum Phenomena Modelled by Interactions between Many Classical Worlds’, in which they propose there are an infinite number of universes that overlap one another and occupy the same region of space-time simultaneously. Furthermore, multidimensionality is a key component of string theory, which proposes that subatomic particles are comprised of multidimensional ‘strings’ or ‘string-loops’.
As modern science finds more evidence for the existence of multiple universes, the interdimensional explanation for alien abductions and their connection to the paranormal starts to make a lot more sense. As the American ethnobotanist, mystic, and psychonaut Terence McKenna (1946–2000) observed, “if you take the broad world of the so-called mysteries – parapsychological, shamanic, extraterrestrial, and so forth – and hypothesize another spatial dimension, then all these mysteries become trivial… This sort of thing becomes quite the ordinary run of things if were hypothesize dimensions hidden from ordinary experience.”23
As one can see, there is a close relationship between alien abductions and the paranormal. The research undertaken by Simon Brian Harvey-Wilson, Denise Stoner, Kathleen Marden and John E. Mack suggests that many abductees experience poltergeist activity and develop healing abilities. They also experience a greater connection with friends, family and the environment as part of a wider spiritual transformation.
While scientific materialists might claim that abductees are more prone to paranormal experiences because of their neurology, this argument is redundant when one considers that all sensory experience originates in the brain. Just because a phenomenon has a neurological explanation does not make it invalid or implausible.
An intriguing explanation for alien abductions and the paranormal is that they reflect alternate dimensions existing outside the ordinary boundaries of sensory perception. From this perspective, the brain operates much like a television set and can ‘tune’ into different frequencies of reality. While this theory may seem absurd, modern science is finding increasing evidence for the existence of multiple dimensions. The ‘many worlds’ interpretation of quantum mechanics, as well as the theoretical framework of string theory, suggests there are multiple universes overlapping each other within the same region of space-time.
If abductees are able to somehow access these parallel worlds and communicate with beings of an interdimensional nature – or indeed ‘extraterrestrials’ are breaking through into our world – then paranormal phenomena could be the result of interacting with these alternate dimensions.
Jack Fox-Williams graduated with a BA Hons degree in Philosophy and History from Goldsmiths University, London, in 2014. Since then he has worked as a freelance writer in Cornwall, England, focusing on philosophy, hermeticism and alternative science. He can be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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