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Physical or Subtle?

Part Two


By Richard L. Thompson

There is certainly a great deal of evidence indicating that UFOs can become manifest as physically real vehicles, and there is also much evidence suggesting that people are sometimes physically taken on board these vehicles. However, since some UFO abductions do seem to involve out-of-body experiences, the idea that trauma on a subtle, mental level can bring about gross physical effects should be carefully considered. To illustrate what might happen, consider the following account of a near-death experience occurring in India:

In the late 1940s, an Indian man named Durga Jatav suffered for several weeks from a disease diagnosed as typhoid. At a certain point his body became cold for a couple of hours, and his family thought he had died. But he revived and told his family that he had been taken to another place by ten people. After attempting to escape from them, they cut off his legs at the knees to prevent further attempts. Then they took him to a place where about forty or fifty people were sitting. They looked up his “papers,” declared that the wrong man had been fetched, and ordered his captors to take him back. When he pointed out that his legs had been cut off, he was shown several pairs of legs and recognized his own. These were somehow reattached, and he was warned not to “stretch” his knees until they had a chance to heal.

After his revival, his sister and a neighbor both noticed that he had deep folds or fissures in the skin on the fronts of his knees, even though such marks had not been there previously. The marks were still visible in 1979, but X-rays taken in 1981 showed no abnormality beneath the surface of the skin. Could it be that the experience of having his legs cut off in a subtle realm caused these marks on his physical legs?

Ian Stevenson has assembled a large amount of evidence indicating that young children who spontaneously remember previous lives sometimes bear birthmarks on their bodies corresponding to injuries received during those lives. He has about 200 cases of this type, and he says that in fifteen he has been able to match up birthmarks with postmortem reports describing the previous body. Regarding these birthmarks, he made the following observation: “Some marks are simply areas of increased pigmentation; in other cases, the birthmark is three-dimensional, the area being partly or wholly elevated, depressed, or puckered. I have examined at least two hundred of this kind, and many of them cannot be distinguished, at least by me, from the scars of healed wounds.” The point about scars is especially significant in connection with UFO abductions.

In the case of Durga Jatav, one can imagine that some psychical influence injected into his brain the idea that his legs had been cut off, and this in turn resulted in the fissures in his knees. However, if a wound in one life can affect a body in another, then more must be involved than just the brain.

An explanation can be devised if we introduce the idea that the soul, encased in a body made of subtle energy, is able to transmigrate from one gross physical body to another. In that case, one can suppose that the fatal injury in one life traumatized the subtle body, and this resulted in birthmarks in the developing embryo in the next life. One could likewise suppose that Durga Jatav’s subtle body was traumatized in a subtle domain, and this resulted in the knee fissures when his subtle body was returned to his gross body.

A wide variety of physical effects can apparently be produced by subtle action. Here is an example involving a man named Mangal Singh who experienced a [Near-Death Experience] NDE in about 1977 while in his early 70s. He described his experience as follows:

I was lying down on a cot when two people came, lifted me up, and took me along. I heard a hissing sound, but I couldn’t see anything. Then I came to a gate. There was grass, and the ground seemed to be sloping. A man was there, and he reprimanded the men who had brought me: “Why have you brought the wrong person? Why have you not brought the man you had been sent for?” The two men ran away, and the senior man said, “You go back.” Suddenly I saw two big pots of boiling water, although there was no fire, no firewood, and no fireplace. Then the man pushed me with his hand and said, “You had better hurry up and go back.” When he touched me, I suddenly became aware of how hot his hand was. Then I realized why the pots were boiling. The heat was coming from his hands.

On returning to consciousness, Mangal felt a severe burning sensation in his left arm. This area developed the appearance of a boil and left a residual mark after healing. He was apparently unable to describe the appearance of the “men” he had met.

The stories of Durga Jatav and Mangal Singh are part of a group of sixteen Indian near-death accounts collected by Satwant Pasricha and Ian Stevenson. They observed that in these cases messengers typically come to take the witness, in contrast to Western NDEs, in which the witness generally meets other beings only after being translated to “another world.” Pasricha and Stevenson noted that their Indian subjects naturally identify these messengers with the Yamadutas, the agents of Yamaraja, the lord of the dead in traditional Hinduism.

They also pointed out that the evident cultural differences between Indian and Western NDEs do not necessarily demonstrate that these experiences are simply unreal mental concoctions. It is possible that persons near death are treated differently in different cultures by personalities on the subtle level. There could be different policies for groups of people with different karmic situations.

According to Vedic literature, the transmigration of souls is regulated by the Yamadutas, or servants of Yamaraja. The Yamadutas serve as functionaries in the celestial hierarchy, and they are equipped with mystic powers, or siddhis, that enable them to carry out their duties. They are described as having a very negative, fearful disposition. Nonetheless, they are employed by higher authorities for the positive purpose of reforming the consciousness of souls entangled in material illusion.

Generally, when the Yamadutas take a person, he doesn’t return to tell the tale. But Vedic accounts do mention some cases where someone returns. There is the story from the Bhagavata Purana of Ajamila, a sinful man who uttered “Narayana,” a name of God, when seeing the Yamadutas at the time of death. As a result of this action, several effulgent servants of Narayana intervened and told the Yamadutas not to touch Ajamila. There followed a debate between the Yamadutas and the servants of Narayana on the laws regarding the treatment of departed souls. Finally, the Yamadutas accepted defeat in this debate and departed from the scene, and Ajamila was revived from apparent death.

There are UFO encounter cases involving the capture-by-mistake theme of the Indian NDEs. In Chapter 9 [see Alien Identities], I presented the story of a woman and her son who were abducted by strange beings and taken on board a UFO while driving near Cimarron, New Mexico. In this case, the woman and boy were physically dragged away by strange “men.” The woman was subjected to a harrowing physical examination, after which a tall, authoritative “man” appeared on the scene and angrily declared that the woman should not have been taken and should be sent back. Not only that, but the tall man placed his hand on the woman’s forehead, and she was burned by it. This is reminiscent of the Indian NDE cases, and of the case of Mangal Singh, in particular.

However, the woman came down with a severe vaginal infection after the experience, apparently as a result of the examination she received on the UFO. Was this due to a subtle examination, or was it caused by a botched physical examination?

Another example illustrating the theme of capture by mistake is an encounter story related by Emily Cronin. (This is a different encounter than the one mentioned previously.) On this occasion, Emily, her young son, and her friend Jan were resting by the side of a road called Ridge Route near Los Angeles. She consciously remembered seeing a bright yellow light, hearing a high-pitched whine that seemed to have a paralyzing effect, and feeling the car shaking. Under hypnosis, she said that a strange, tall figure in black was looking in the back window of the car and was shaking it. Two other similar beings were standing to one side, telepathically telling the first being that this was a mistake and they shouldn’t be there. When Emily managed to move one finger by strongly focusing her will, the noise stopped, the light and figures vanished, and everything was back to normal. Here, the way the experience ended suggests that it occurred on a subtle level.

UFOs and the Recycling of Souls

Western [Out-of-Body Experiences] OBEs occurring during medical emergencies are naturally related with death, and the persons experiencing them often connect them with the fate of the soul in the next life. In India, of course, these experiences are associated with the process of transmigration, whereby the soul, riding in the subtle body, is transferred to a new situation at the time of death. Given all the parallels that exist between OBEs and UFO abductions, could it be that some UFO entities are involved with the transmigration of the soul? It turns out that ideas along these lines have been discussed in the UFO literature.

For example, Whitley Strieber has said that his visitors told him, “We recycle souls.” Strieber’s visitor experiences inspired him with the following general idea: “Could it be that the soul is not only real, but the flux of souls between life and death is a process directed by consciousness and supported by artistry and technology?” This idea is completely Vedic, and so is the corollary that our actions are watched and appraised by beings who control our destination after death. Appraising modern attitudes, Strieber noted, “Because we have deluded ourselves into ignoring the reality of the soul, we imagine everything we do to be some kind of secret,” and he asked, “Who watches us?”

The following story gives some indication of how Strieber arrived at these ideas. He related that his visitors invisibly spoke to him, repeatedly warning him not to eat sweets. After several weeks of these warnings, he asked why he shouldn’t eat sweets, and they said, “We will show you.”

Six days later, he learned through an acquaintance about a woman in Australia who was dying from diabetes. During the previous evening, the woman had seen seven little men “like Chinese mushrooms” who appeared and descended from the ceiling. They lifted the sick lady to the ceiling, and as she protested they put her on the floor. Then she had a vision of sitting in a park, putting on a flowing blue robe, and watching the sun set as a desolate wind blew all symbols of death. After this experience, the woman declined quickly. Strieber was told that the woman was very conservative and probably had given no thought at all to such topics as UFOs and humanoid visitors.

Strieber took this unexpected story from Australia as a graphic answer to his question as to why he shouldn’t eat sweets. The story involved beings similar to his visitors; it involved diabetes, a disorder of the body’s sugar metabolism; and it came from a bare acquaintance on the other side of the world shortly after he asked his question. Since the woman’s encounter with the beings involved symbolic intimations of her death, it struck him that his visitors might have some connection with what happens to people after death.

The relationship between Strieber’s visitors and the Vedic Yamadutas is difficult to ascertain. There are differences between these two groups indicating that they play different roles, and there are also similarities suggesting that they may be closely related. For example, one difference is that the Yamadutas normally act only on the subtle level, whereas Strieber maintained that when he was abducted on one occasion, he was able to physically take his cat with him - an indication that his trip took place on the physical platform. Nonetheless, there are also similarities. For example, the Yamadutas look strange and frightening, they emanate a strongly negative mood, they can travel invisibly and pass through walls, and they can induce OBEs in human subjects.

Similar remarks can be made about the beings who repeatedly abducted Betty Andreasson, but in her case there are additional complications. For example, during one UFO abduction she had a classical mystical experience, and then she saw white-robed beings similar to those connected with mystical insights in Western NDEs. To understand fully what is going on here, we will need much more information. I suspect that we are seeing a few traces of a complex universal control system involving many different types of intelligent beings.

Soul Recycling and the Government

It may come as no surprise that references to the soul, OBEs, and reincarnation come up in the lore on UFOs and the U.S. Government. In addition, some of this material shows connections with Whitley Strieber’s testimony. Here is the story:

Strieber described dreams or visions in which his visitors were found to live in a strange desert setting where ancient buildings were built into cliffs under a tan sky. Now according to Linda Howe, an Air Force intelligence officer named Richard Doty informed her in 1983 about EBEs - Extraterrestrial Biological Entities - that were allegedly in contact with the U.S. Government. Supposedly, these EBEs come from a desert planet where they live in buildings like those of the Pueblo Indians. One of them is said to have informed an Air Force Colonel that “our souls recycle, that reincarnation is real. It’s the machinery of the universe.”

This provides a link between the Strieber visitors, the highly physical aliens spoken of in connection with the U.S. Government, and reincarnation. The similarities are so close that we seem to be faced with two alternatives. Either Strieber wrote material from Government/EBE stories into his book, or he was independently reporting experiences that tend to corroborate some of those stories.

There is another story connecting UFOs, OBEs, and the U.S. Government. This involves the thoroughly physical case occurring in October of 1973 in which a UFO was said to approach an Army Reserve helicopter flying from Columbus, Ohio, to Cleveland. At about 11:02 p.m. the crew members saw a red light on the eastern horizon that seemed to be on a collision course with the helicopter. The pilot, Capt. Lawrence J. Coyne, tried to radio a nearby airport, but after an initial response he couldn’t get through. To avoid collision, he sent the helicopter into a dive. A cigar-shaped, metallic object took up a position directly over the helicopter and flooded the cockpit with green light. After a short interval, the object continued to the west, but Coyne found that the helicopter was at 3,500 feet and climbing at 1,000 feet per minute, even though they had initiated a dive from 2,500 feet to 1,700 feet. Once the object had departed the radio worked.

There were ground witnesses. A family consisting of a mother and four adolescent children were driving on a rural road below. They saw the encounter between the object and the helicopter and noted the green light. Also, Jeanne Elias, who was in bed at home watching the TV news, heard the diving helicopter and hid her head under her pillow. Her 14-year-old son woke up and saw the green light, which lit up his whole bedroom. The object was explained as a meteor by the famous UFO debunker Philip Klass.

In the aftermath of this case, Capt. Coyne reported receiving a call from the “Department of the Army, Surgeon General’s office,” asking whether he had had any unusual dreams after the UFO incident. As it happened, he reported a vivid dream of an OBE.

Sgt. John Healey, one of the helicopter crewmen, reported, “As time would go by, the Pentagon would call us up and ask us, well, has this incident happened to you since the occurrence? And in two of the instances that I recall, what they questioned me, was, number one, have I ever dreamed of body separation, and I have - I dreamed that I was dead in bed and that my spirit or whatever was floating, looking down at me lying dead in bed,... and the other thing was if I had ever dreamed of anything in spherical shape. Which definitely had not occurred to me.” He went on to say that the Pentagon would often call Coyne with such questions, asking about all the crew members, and the Pentagon people seemed to believe what they were told. One wonders who in the Pentagon might be interested in the UFO/OBE connection.

The Physical, the Subtle, and Beyond

In summary, the available evidence suggests that UFO abductions and close encounters may occur both in an ordinary bodily state and in an out-of-body state. In the former, the subtle senses of the witness operate through the medium of the gross sense organs (such as eyes and ears), and in the latter, perception occurs directly through the senses of the subtle body. Experiences involving a combination of in-body and out-of-body phases may also occur, and the Doraty case suggests that it is possible to perceive through gross bodily senses and through subtle senses at the same time. This has been called bilocation.

The evidence also suggests that the UFO occupants themselves can operate both on a physical and on a subtle level. They can perceive the subtle form of a human being, and they can arrange things so that a human being can see them in the out-of-body state. They can make themselves physically manifest and visible to ordinary eyes, or they can become unmanifest and invisible. They can also make their vehicles and other paraphernalia visible on either a gross or subtle level.

There is also evidence indicating that UFO entities can enter into a person’s mind and control it in a manner reminiscent of traditional spirit possession. In her survey of UFO abductees, Karla Turner noted that “in some cases there seems to be a merging and the abductee then begins to feel or think what the ET is feeling or thinking.” She also observed that “We have ET takeover of a human’s body.... The person is still there but they’re not in control. Sometimes they’re not even aware until somebody tells them afterwards... that they were doing or saying things that are not characteristic of the person.”

In the Bhagavata Purana a mystic siddhi is described which enables a grossly embodied being to leave his gross body behind and enter in subtle form into another person’s body. This is illustrated by the following story in the Mahabharata:

A king named Kalmashapada once arrogantly insulted and struck the sage Shakti because the latter would not give way to the king on a narrow forest path. Shakti, a son of the famous sage Vasishtha, then cursed the king to become a man-eater.

While the king and Shakti were quarreling, Vishvamitra, an enemy of Vasishtha and a powerful yogi, approached invisibly with the aim of gaining something for himself. After seeing what happened and evaluating the condition of the king’s mind, Vishvamitra waited until the king returned to his capital city and then ordered a Rakshasa to approach him. By the sage’s curse and the order of Vishvamitra, the Rakshasa was able to enter the king and possess him.

The king was severely harassed by the Rakshasa within him, but he was able to protect himself with his own willpower. Later the king was asked by a brahmana for a meal with meat. The request slipped the king’s mind, but late that night he remembered it and asked a cook to prepare the meal for the brahmana, who was waiting at a certain place. Unable to find any meat, the cook asked the king what to do. The Rakshasa then exerted his influence, and the king ordered the cook repeatedly to get human meat. The cook did this, using flesh from an executed prisoner. The brahmana, on seeing the resulting meal, realized that it was unfit to eat, and he also cursed the king to become a man-eater. As a result of this second curse, the Rakshasa was able to completely take over the king, and driven by madness and a desire for vengeance, the king began to kill and devour first Shakti and then the other sons of Vasishtha.

The Rakshasas were mentioned in Chapter 6 [see Alien Identities] in connection with the illusory deer that Ravana used to abduct Sita, and in Chapter 8 in connection with Bhima and his Rakshasi wife, Hidimba. They were beings with powerfully structured gross bodies, and they were also known for their mastery of mystic powers.

Before meeting Hidimba, Bhima engaged in an intense hand-to-hand struggle with her brother Hidimba and killed him by strangulation after exhausting him in the fight. This battle was thoroughly physical. But in the story of king Kalmashapada, the Rakshasa ordered by Vishvamitra was able to act on a subtle level and possess the king in the manner of a traditional evil spirit.

This story illustrates the idea that beings of essentially inimical motivation may have the power to act both on the subtle and gross platforms of existence. The Vedic literature also describes a completely transcendental level of existence, and it is similarly possible for suitably qualified beings to function on both the transcendental and the physical planes. I will present three accounts illustrating this that date back roughly 500 years. As with the UFO stories that we have been considering, these stories display a bewildering combination of what appear to be physical phenomena and phenomena occurring on another plane of existence.

All three accounts are religious in nature, which means that they have to do with spiritual worship and meditation. Although some would categorically reject such material as admissible evidence, I disagree. If so many strange phenomena mentioned could be true, it doesn’t make sense to think that phenomena reported in religious contexts must all necessarily be false. In fact, I think that an imbalanced picture will be created if events of a positive spiritual nature are excluded, while those of a negative or at best neutral character are extensively presented.

The first example involves the Vaishnava saint Narottama Dasa Thakura, who lived in India in the 16th century. Narottama would regularly meditate on living in the spiritual world in his siddha-deha, or perfected spiritual form. There he would perform the service of boiling milk for Krishna, and he would actually experience this as real in all respects. In Vaishnava philosophy, Krishna is the Supreme Lord, and He lives in the transcendental realm in an eternal personal form. In that realm, many simple acts of service serve as media for the exchange of intense love between Krishna and His devotees.

On occasion, the milk would boil over, and in his meditation Narottama would burn his hands while trying to stop it. It turned out, however, that upon awakening from his reverie, he would find that his hands were actually burned.

This story can be compared with the two near-death experiences mentioned above, in which physical effects resulted from subtle experiences. One might argue that in all these cases, the physical effects were somehow impressed on the body by the power of the mind, as a consequence of intense mental experiences. From the Vedic point of view, this idea is acceptable as long as we understand that the mind of the individual involved had actually been functioning in another realm of existence. But more is involved than some kind of psychosomatic influence of the mind on the body. To illustrate this point, consider the next story.

The Vaishnava saint Shrinivasa Acarya was a contemporary of Narottama Dasa Thakura’s. On one occasion, he was meditating on the pastimes of Lord Caitanya, who is an incarnation of Krishna. Shrinivasa was meditating on Krishna’s form as Lord Caitanya by placing a garland of aromatic flowers around His neck and fanning Him with a camara whisk:

As Shrinivasa served the Lord in this way, he could not keep his composure and, looking at the Lord’s magnificent form, he began to exhibit ecstatic symptoms. This pleased Lord Caitanya, who then took the same garland of flowers that Shrinivasa had given Him and placed it around Shrinivasa’s neck. After the Lord made this loving gesture, Shrinivasa’s meditation broke; but the garland was still adorning his own chest. Its fragrance was unlike anything he had ever experienced.

In this case, an object that was observed in trance in another world appeared in physical form in this world. This is certainly not a psychosomatic effect, but one might imagine that the mind of Shrinivasa, charged with intense spiritual emotion, might have paranormally manifested the garland as a physical object. Now, however, I turn to an example in which a human being in this world first meets someone from a higher realm and later visits that realm through meditative trance and again meets the same person.

In this account, a Vaishnava saint named Duhkhi Krishnadasa was performing the daily service of sweeping a certain sacred area in the town of Vrindavana, a famous pilgrimage place in India. While doing this one day, he found a golden anklet that seemed to emanate a remarkable aura. Impressed by the influence that it had on his consciousness, he considered it to be very important, and he buried it in a secret place.

Shortly thereafter an old lady came to him, asking for the anklet and saying that it belonged to her daughter-in-law. Because of its spiritual influence, Duhkhi Krishnadasa was convinced that the anklet must really belong to Radharani, the eternal consort of Krishna. After a long discussion, the old lady finally admitted that this was so, and revealed that her true identity was Lalita-sundari, one of Radharani’s servants.

At this point, Duhkhi Krishnadas wanted to see his visitor in her true form, but she said he would be unable to bear such a revelation. After being convinced of his sincere desire, however, she finally acquiesced to his request and revealed her true, incomparable beauty. After giving him several benedictions and receiving the anklet from him, she disappeared, and he was unable to find where she had gone.

One of the benedictions given to Duhkhi Krishnadasa was a special tilaka mark on his forehead, and a new name, Shyamananda. Since Lalita had sworn him to secrecy about their meeting, it was difficult for Shyamananda to explain the tilaka and new name to his guru, who thought that he had simply concocted them. In the course of dealing with this difficult situation, Shyamananda again met Lalita-sundari. This time, however, he met her by entering into her transcendental realm in a state of meditation.

In this case, Duhkhi Krishnadasa met Lalita-sundari in this world, in his physical body, and he also met her in another world that he entered in his spiritual form by meditation. Thus both Duhkhi Krishnadasa and Lalita-sundari were able to operate on different planes of existence. It is significant also that Lalita-sundari was able to assume a disguised form.

Thus in both ancient and recent Vedic traditions there are accounts of beings who can operate on different planes of existence. These beings may be materialistic in orientation, like Vishvamitra Muni and the Rakshasa, or they may be spiritually advanced. The UFO literature likewise seems to contain examples of activity on both subtle and gross physical planes.

The above is from Chapter 10 (‘Gross & Subtle Energies’) of Alien Identities: Ancient Insights into Modern UFO Phenomena (includes extensive footnotes) Reprinted with permission of Govardhan Hill Publishing, P.O. Box 1920, Alachua, FL 32615-1920, USA.

The above article appeared in New Dawn No. 38, (September-October 1996)


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