“There is nothing truer than myth: history, in its attempt to ''realize'' myth, distorts it, stops halfway; when history claims to have ''succeeded,'' this is nothing but humbug and mystification. Everything we dream is ''realizable.'' Reality does not have to be: it is simply what it is.” Eugene Ionesco
Ufology, like any other attempt to regiment thought (hence the word “discipline” to distinguish the various sciences), is essentially a social process of inclusion and exclusion of what is relevant; it will both cast light and darkness at the same time. The fundamental question is always the same one: on what basis exclusion and inclusion are determined. The naive thinker would say “just observe and this will become clearer”, yet the less naive would ask “observe what?”. As soon as an answer is given to this last question, what is relevant has already been pre-determined. This is a classical epistemological issue.
Concretely, why UFO should be approached in any different ways than ghost ships stories, Bigfoot sightings, haunted coaches or lake monsters (just to name a few possibilities)? There are no good answers to this question. The airship waves of the late 19th and early 20th centuries were associated to a maverick inventor; UFOs, from the mid-20th century, were associated with spaceships from another world. As we look at a phenomenon, we will see what is being included and ignore what is excluded. Yet, any “discipline” ought to be reflexive; it needs to challenge its own assumptions, otherwise it is no more a “discipline” but rather an “enforcement”. What is excluded becomes “banished” and ultimately treated as a heresy. People “must” believe, and there must be something wrong for those who do not. The greater the intensity of the enforcement, the greater the cast of the shadow is.
In Jungian terms, shadows are archetypes, oftentimes guarding the entrance to the unconscious. They play a role in becoming a good excuse for not discovering what does not work; what does not work is a dysfunctional crutch for other unmet needs. Overcoming such neurosis, it is not about destroying the shadow, but about changing the lighting conditions to reduce the intensity of the shadow (and therefore moving away from enforcement). Yet, the pre-condition to all this is acknowledging the crutch and the unmet needs, a much more difficult task.
The UFO phenomenon, once more in Jungian terms, could be seen as the outcome of archetypes activation through the collective unconscious. The disenchantment of the world, arguable reaching its peak in the post-WWII with its naive belief in scientism, left many facing an existential void. The need to believe is a powerful human drive, and when it is unmet, anything goes. Durkheim’s first substantive observation about modern societies was just that: anomy. The UFO phenomenon serves the purpose of creating shadows, by blocking the way to the unconscious so that the real challenges are not addressed. Ufology, by casting shadows, cannot be distinguished from the phenomenon as they are in a symbiotic relationship.
“Describe a circle, stroke its back and it turns vicious.” Eugene Ionesco