Monday, January 30, 2012
A 17th-century UFO report?
In the proceedings of an international conference on extraterrestrial intelligence (Carl Sagan (ed.), Communication with Extraterrestrial Intelligence (CETI), Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1973), one of the participants, G.M. Idlis, discussed the possibility of past visits to Earth by extraterrestrials. He dismissed most stories of such visits but said that "we have found a certain number of cases that do merit certain study . . . " He gave the following one as an example:
This is a case from a document published in 1842—that is 130 years ago when there was no discussion about CETI [communication with extraterrestrial intelligence]. That, of course, makes it all the more reliable. This is a report of a monastery clerk in Northern Russia addressed to a high dignitary of the Russian Church who reports that on August 15, 1663, there was a visitation of the earth between 10 and 12 hours from the clear skies. A sphere appeared, about 40 meters in diameter; from the lower part two rays extended earthward and smoke poured from the sides of the vehicle. The body disappeared and reappeared again, again disappeared and reappeared, changing in brightness in the course of these peregrinations. The phenomenon occurred over a lake and lasted for an hour and a half. At the place where the sphere touched the water, a brown film appeared, resembling rust. The phenomenon was observed by two groups of people. Some watched it from the church; others from a boat which happened to be in the middle of the lake.
There are of course problems when considering such old cases. For example, some of these stories were probably never meant to be interpreted literally and their real meanings can no longer be interpreted, as we do not know enough about the contexts in which they were written. This one, though, does give the impression of describing an actual event, although it is possible that the clerk who wrote the report was not a witness but was basing it on a distorted account of the incident.
"4. UFO Books
Led by the genius poet-investigator, Charles Fort (1874-1932), who for about 40 years assiduously gathered reports of "strange phenomena" from scientific journals and news media, the ufologists have ferreted out and compiled many hundreds of reports of "UFOs" that were seen before the age of aviation and rocketry.
The use of selected UFO books -- with frequent spot checks of their sources and veracity -- serves a double purpose. It enables us to read the "ancient reports" in them and -- this is nearly as important -- it permits us to see what the modern ufologist selects from the past and how he utilizes and interprets the evidence he has compiled.
"Such compilations pose some serious problems for the reader not already convinced of the existence of UFOs. They inflict mental fatigue and anxiety after the reading of each "report" because one is inevitably led into the same brain-numbing round of unanswered questions: Does the alleged book or manuscript in which the report was found really exist? Where is it? Did the writer actually see the original document or is he quoting a secondary source? Is the version presented here a faithful copy of the original or an accurate translation? Is the "report" in question a factual honest report of something actually seen, or is it a poetic, metaphorical, religious, symbolical, mythical,political, fabrication made legitimately within its own social context, but one that is no longer viable or meaningful to us now? If the "strange phenomenon" was actually seen, then, we ask: "Was this "light," or fiery sphere," "wheel of fire," or "flaming cross," or "cigar-shaped object" or "saucer" or "disk" seen by reliable witnesses? How reliable is the judge of their reliability? What did they actually see? Where did it come from? What was it made of? Who, if anyone or anything, was in it? And so forth, far, far, into the night. Inconclusiveness, the mental plague of ufology, invariably cancels out or suspends in mid-air the great majority of the fascinating reports and leaves the reader (this reader for sure) quite frustrated and disappointed.
"It soon becomes clear that it would take years of full time research to track down and verify the thousands of "ancient' reports included in the nearly 1600 books and articles about UFOs. This means, then, that the general reader, who rarely ever bothers to verify what he reads, is merely given the option to trust or distrust the scholarly accuracy and motivations of the writers who offer him the impressive-looking lists of UFOs sightings. This becomes a very narrow choice indeed: one that is negotiable only in the arena of speculation provided by the writers who believe in UFOs. And, since to my knowledge, no one has written an impartial or objective book about ancient "UFO reports," the nature of the dialogue between an UFO author and his reader becomes that of a man convinced of the existence of UFOs and a reader whom he hopes to convert to his belief."