What Are UFOs? Terrestrial, Extraterrestrial & Metaterrestrial Theories…

If there’s one thing we learn from studying UFOs, there is no simple answer to what it’s all about. Most of the public – and even many Ufologists – tend to lump together all UFO incidents into a single phenomenon. But the evidence indicates there is no single explanation for all the material categorised under “UFO experience.” 

According to author and researcher John White, we are actually looking at a multilevelled phenomenon – terrestrial, extraterrestrial and metaterrestrial – and each is qualitatively different from the others. Each has its own unique forms of UFOs, and each form has to be distinguished from the others of that level. 

John White has extensive experience in the fields of consciousness research and paranormal phenomena. He has personally investigated the UFO phenomenon. 

John holds degrees from Dartmouth and Yale, and is the author of 15 books. He has lectured at educational institutions and spiritual centres throughout the United States and Canada, and before public and professional organisations.

He is a contributor to a newly compiled collection of the knowledge and insight of the world’s leading experts on modern Ufology. Exposed, Uncovered, and Declassified: UFOs & Aliens reveals startling evidence of famous sightings and contact with aliens, and uncovers classified files from archives. 

In the following interview with New Dawn magazine, John White defines ‘UFO’ and outlines three different levels of understanding this mysterious phenomenon that has both a physical and metaphysical dimension.

NEW DAWN (ND): What is the definition of UFO?

JOHN WHITE (JW): I use the one developed by the Mutual UFO Network, or MUFON, which is an international group of lay people and scientists who’ve been investigating the subject for decades. MUFON says UFOs are objects observed in the skies or on the surface of the Earth which defy conventional explanation after a thorough study and investigation by competent people.

Now, lots of sightings have been shown to be due to misperception of more familiar things such as balloons, planets, meteors, satellites, stars, advertising aircraft, falling aerospace debris, and so forth. These are IFOs or identified flying objects. The sightings which are yet to be explained are what MUFON calls daylight discs – objects with unusual lights which are simultaneously tracked visually and on radar at fantastic speeds. Also, some sightings involve objects which leave physical evidence after landing. Still other sightings involve authenticated photographs. And of course there are cases involving visitations or close encounters by humanoids or entities.

The UFO phenomenon is multilevelled and can’t be explained in a unified fashion. Little green men in spaceships with Martian license plates may be part of the puzzle, but that is only one piece of it. There is much more.

ND: Such as?

JW: In my judgment, the evidence of Ufology falls into three major categories, and so I say there are three “answers” to the UFO problem – three qualitatively different answers. Those answers – all genuine, all real – relate to what can be called different levels of reality or different aspects of our existence.

To put it simply, the levels or aspects are: terrestrial, extraterrestrial and metaterrestrial. Metaterrestrial is a term coined by Dr. J. Allen Hynek, the US astronomer-ufologist. He meant it to denote an unseen world beyond the familiar three-dimensional world we know. (He also coined the term “close encounters of the first, second and third kind.”) This three-part explanation for the UFO problem is the overview I hold. We don’t have time to go into the evidence in detail, so I’ll just sketch it in very broad strokes in order to give an outline of the overview I’ve come to hold of the UFO phenomenon.

EXTRATERRESTRIAL 

I’ll start with the most common idea of what UFOs are, namely, extraterrestrial. It’s most common simply because it’s been around longest and has gradually gained widespread acceptance.

ND: The question is whether there’s any truth to it.

JW: I think there is. In fact, judging from the Humanoid Catalog data base of more than 3,000 modern UFO sightings in which a wide variety of humanoids were present, I regard Earth as one of the major crossroads of local space. Some UFO experiences seem best understood exactly as the public does – namely, as constructed physical vehicles occupied by ETs. The case for the existence of ETs somewhere in the universe has been solidly established over the last five decades by astrobiology, quite apart from the data of Ufology. Astrobiologists are pushing SETI, or the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, by using radio telescopes to listen for signals from space. And although the scientific community, by and large, does not accept Ufology as a colleague discipline, that rejection really is illogical and unscientific. But even that is changing as astronomy discovers planets revolving around other stars than the Sun – and the list of planets is now more than 1,200.

ND: What is the evidence astrobiologists should consider?

JW: There’s the world-famous case of Barney and Betty Hill, which was reported in a 1965 book entitled The Interrupted Journey. For me, the most persuasive aspect of the case is the Hill Star Map.

ND: Tell our readers about it.

JW: While driving on a deserted road near Exeter, New Hampshire in 1961, the Hills were reportedly abducted by small, thin, gray beings with large heads who took the couple aboard a UFO. Betty was shown a hologram-like map of space with the route indicated which the beings followed from their home star to Earth. She saw the route which the aliens followed and she saw it in full 3-D, as if she were looking out a porthole into space.

In 1964, Betty and Barney underwent hypnotic therapy for symptoms which, they discovered, arose from their abduction experience. At the suggestion of their therapist, Boston psychiatrist Benjamin Simon, Betty drew a picture of the three-dimensional map she’d seen on board the craft in 1961. Her map was a flat reconstruction on paper which showed our Sun and other stars from the perspective of the aliens’ home star. When it was published in The Interrupted Journey, an Ohio school teacher named Marjorie Fish saw the picture and got the idea to use an astronomical catalogue of stars to help her build a model of space by stringing beads on a wooden framework. The beads represented stars up to 40 light-years away, accurately placed around the centre, representing Earth, in accordance with the astronomical catalogue data. It took Fish three years, working off and on, to finish her model. When she was done, she looked at it from every angle in an attempt to find the pattern of stars which matched Betty Hill’s map. But she couldn’t find a matching pattern. All her attempts at the time failed.

Then, in 1969, a new catalogue with revised astronomical data made it possible for Fish to construct a more accurate model of nearby space. It took another three years, but when she was done, she found a pattern of beads which matched the pattern in the Hill Star Map almost perfectly. The home base of the aliens appeared to be the star Zeta Reticuli, in the constellation Reticulum, about 37 light-years from Earth. Astronomers and Ufologists debated the matter and it is now settled in favour of Fish rather than being just a random matching of stars.

Now, here’s the reason this is persuasive. The Hill Star Map was drawn in 1964 yet it contained information unknown to anyone on Earth at the time. Fish had to wait until the revised astronomical catalogue was published in 1969, before human knowledge was sufficient for her to construct an accurate representation of local space. So how did Betty Hill get her knowledge of stars in space eight years before the catalogue? Logic tells us that the holographic map she claimed to see aboard a UFO was real and thus the information on which Betty Hill based her map strongly suggests that it was of extraterrestrial origin.

TERRESTRIAL 

ND: What about the second category of UFOs you mention – the terrestrial?

JW: It would be nice if all UFO cases proved to be extraterrestrial in nature, but some are best understood as originating from Earth itself. In other words, these are terrestrial.

Some UFO sightings have taken place at sea and on large bodies of water, and involve craft which observers say burst through the surface of the water and take off into the sky. The late American biologist Ivan Sanderson wrote about this in his book Invisible Residents, which gives the best description of this aspect of the UFO phenomenon. Sanderson felt these sightings might be due to the presence of an undersea civilisation native to Earth. He reasoned that since life began in the sea, when some organisms came ashore it slowed their development while sea-living organisms continued to evolve. Look at cetaceans, Sanderson said. Although porpoises, dolphins and whales are not technological, they are highly intelligent. We humans are able to weld metal under water and we can mix concrete which sets under water. So today there may be advanced forms of sea life more intelligent than humans and capable of UFO technology, living invisibly on Earth under the oceans and other large aquatic bodies. Of course, it may also be that ETs have established undersea bases.

ND: What else is in the terrestrial category?

JW: Some UFO experiences seem best understood as human contact with a lower form of animal life native to Earth’s atmosphere. The discovery of these strange aerial creatures is told in Trevor James Constable’s 1976 book The Cosmic Pulse of Life. He simply calls them “critters.” His text and photographs reveal a class of elemental fauna unknown to official science. These amoeba-like aeroforms are neither solid, liquid nor gas. The exist in the fourth state of matter – plasma – and are normally invisible for several reasons. First, their native habitat is high in the atmosphere far beyond human gaze but nevertheless well below the astronomers’ usual telescopic focus. Second, they are bioenergetically propelled and move at a very high speed – thousands of miles per hour. Last, their usual condition is in the infrared portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. However, they have the capacity to change their density and thereby pass from one level of tangibility to another. Thus, they sometimes do appear in the visible portion of the spectrum where, if seen by humans, they are quickly labelled UFOs – which, of course, they are. But they are not mechanical spacecraft; they are living creatures. They grow anywhere from the size of a coin to at least half a mile in diameter. They give a solid radar return, even though invisible to the naked eye. When they’re visible, they pulsate with a reddish-orange glow. They can change their form, but generally are seen as discs or spheroids. Their diaphanous structure allows a limited view of the interior. When Ivan Sanderson saw Constable’s photos, he said they made him feel like he was looking through a fishbowl. Some critters have been seen close up on the ground in full physical density, according to Constable’s research.

ND: Do you have other evidence for terrestrial UFOs?

JW: Still another plausible terrestrial explanation for some UFO sightings is given in the term “earth lights.” It was coined by the English researcher Paul Devereux in his 1982 book Earth Lights and amplified in his 1989 book Earth Lights Revelations. The books present evidence to show that geophysical activity in crystalline rock structures, especially along fault lines, produces a piezoelectric effect. That subsurface pressure generates electromagnetic fields above the fault lines, and in those fields, hot electrified balls of gas are formed – ionized plasmas. Those ionized plasmas are luminous atmospheric phenomena, and that is what Devereux calls earth lights.

Now, aerial luminosities have been noted throughout history around the world, but their origin has been attributed to supernatural causes and labelled as “will-o’-the-wisp,” ignis fatuus, ghost lights, and so forth. Dr. Michael Persinger, a psychologist at Laurentian University in Canada, and Gyslaine Lafrenière, a research scientist there, demonstrated in their 1977 book entitled Space-Time Transients and Unusual Events that such phenomena may have a terrestrial origin and be capable of inducing many effects in the minds of human observers, depending on their distance from the site, such as have been noted in UFO sightings and even abductions. Devereux and his colleagues’ research, independent of Persinger and Lafrenière’s, has enlarged upon the possibility that tectonically generated earth lights may account for some UFO sightings and mysterious ghostly figures.

This line of research is collectively known as the tectonic strain theory. Geophysicists have investigated this phenomenon for a long time because of reports during earthquake activity that the shaking earth was accompanied by aerial lights. The lights weren’t called UFOs, of course – just strange luminosities which sometimes appeared in association with earthquakes. In the mid-1980s, the US Geological Survey, in its journal Earthquakes and Volcanoes, published the first photo of one ever. It was snapped by someone with enough presence of mind to shoot it during an earthquake here in the US. A vaguely defined ball of light about six feet wide is clearly visible in the air.

So there you have several terrestrial-based phenomena which seem to me to explain some UFO sightings and, except for the possibility of undersea ET bases, they have absolutely nothing to do with craft from outer space. But the list of terrestrial-based explanations needs to be enlarged by one – and a very strange one, indeed. It takes us right up to the border of physical nature and passes over into the metaphysical, or more precisely, into the parapsychological. I’ll call it the psychokinetic explanation.

ND: Psychokinetic? As in mind over matter?

JW: Yes. The Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung is known for his contribution to psychology of the concept he termed “the collective unconscious.” He hypothesised that we human beings have not only a personal unconscious, which Freud demonstrated, we also have a deeper layer of mind which is somehow shared by everyone, and this aspect of our minds includes memories of human experiences from the beginnings of our race. Ancient symbols reside in our minds, such as the Wise Old Man, the Hero and the Evil One, representing the collective experience of humanity in certain basic categories. In his book Flying Saucers: A Modern Myth of Things Seen in the Sky, Jung proposed that UFOs are symbolic projections of deep human yearnings for wholeness and transformation in the collective psyche of humanity. Without denying their physical nature – because, of course, UFOs have been photographed and tracked on radar – Jung speculated that UFOs are either our own psychic projections perceived objectively in the sky or they are the appearance of real objects which afford humans an opportunity to project mythological symbols from deep in the collective psyche. The oldest symbol of wholeness or totality is the circle. So flying saucers, Jung said – those round shining objects in the sky – require a psychological interpretation as a symbol of the human yearning for certainty and completeness in an age of rapid change and uncertainty.

Some UFOs may be the creation of our own minds. Sounds wild, doesn’t it? But there is some research supporting that. In the 1970s, Dr. Gertrude Schmeidler, a parapsychologist at City College of New York, conducted research with the well-known psychic Ingo Swann. In a completely darkened laboratory, she photographed Swann as he used mental intention and his psychokinetic power of mind over matter to envision light streaming from his outstretched arms. Guess what? The photos showed a visible glow around Swann’s hands. So if one person’s mental intention can produce a physical effect such as that, what might the collective intention and unconscious psychic ability which everyone seems to have in some degree produce?

I don’t think that’s far-fetched. In fact, one psychic I know, Stella Lansing of Massachusetts, used to get photos of UFOs which no one else ever saw in the sky. They were beautiful 35 mm colour slides of well-formed, clearly visible, apparently metallic craft. The only problem with her photos was this: in at least one instance which I examined, the image of a UFO extended from one frame across the intervening section of film onto the succeeding frame! Now, as you know, that intervening section of film is not exposed to light from outside the camera. It’s mechanically impossible to do that. There’s absolutely no way those two frames could represent an actual object in space outside the camera. So the image had to have been generated directly inside the camera by Stella’s own psychokinetic power. This psychic phenomenon is called thoughtography, and psychiatrist Jules Eisenbud, who investigated the phenomenon in a man named Ted Serios, has established the case for such mind over matter photography.

This interaction between mind and matter, between the physical brain and the metaphysical mind, and taking place at a distance, points toward the last major category of UFO phenomena which I see as yet another piece of the puzzle.

METATERRESTRIAL 

Metaterrestrial means something which originates outside the ordinary three-dimensional space-time framework in which we normally function. The word is synonymous with metaphysical, meaning “beyond the physical,” but it has a more scientific connotation to it, like hyperspace and quantum space do. Some people call that realm extradimensional, interdimensional, ultraterrestrial and supraphysical. Whatever word we use for it, this category of answer provides evidence that some UFO experiences are due to nonphysical but real entities which come not from other locations in our physical universe but from other sets of dimensions or other realms which interpenetrate our more familiar space-time.

In short, and as Dr. Jacques Vallée first pointed out in his 1968 book Passport to Magonia, many UFO incidents appear to be contemporary versions of what was recorded long ago in mythology, religious scripture and spiritual traditions as encounters with angels, demons and the various inhabitants of other planes of existence. Through a process we don’t understand, these metaterrestrial beings materialise into our space-time from other levels or other realms of reality. Those levels or realms have a wide range of beings which are native to them, just as our own level of reality has creatures ranging from viruses to whales and from algae to redwoods.

I think the best case to illustrate this is the famous miracle at Fatima, Portugal, which occurred in 1917. It’s popularly known in Roman Catholic tradition as “the day the Sun danced” and as “the day the Sun fell” because a brilliant Sun-like object came near the ground. Thousands of people witnessed it.

Some Ufologists regard the Fatima events as a display of advanced technology in which ETs are manipulating human belief systems via holographic projections. I acknowledge that possibility. But there is another tradition – namely, Eastern religion – which offers detailed information about a class of celestial beings whose characteristics are remarkably similar to what was seen at Fatima.

Moreover, some UFO contactees describe meetings with nonphysical entities who materialise into our space-time continuum from other sets of dimensions or higher planes of existence. Those nonphysical entities have been called names such as Space Brothers, extradimensionals and ultraterrestrials, and their existence is said to be on a scale enormously beyond the human, just as ours is beyond that of insects, which in turn are similarly beyond microbes. From the metaterrestrial level of reality, it is said, these higher forms of life influence and even guide human affairs.

The most common name for them is deva, a Sanskrit word which means “shining one” or “radiant being.” It is the conceptual equivalent of what we moderns call an angel. More generally, it means a being of light. Devas are said to belong to another kingdom of life. They are a separately created, very high order of existence which has the role of supervising lower orders. Devas exist in a nonphysical but ontologically real form magnitudes of cosmological order beyond the human level. Considered abstractly in scientifically oriented terms, devas can be described as conscious, formative principles which guide and regulate life forms below them in the ladder of creation or the great chain of being, irrespective of space-time coordinates.

Hinduism and Tibetan Buddhism are especially rich in information about devas. Some signs which announce the presence of these normally unseen entities are the sudden appearance of rainbows and perfume, multicoloured flower blossoms falling from the air, sudden high winds, various celestial phenomena such as shooting stars and lights in the sky, and multicoloured clouds forming themselves into unusual shapes. That sounds a lot like the Fatima UFO to me.

ND: Please sum up what you’ve told our readers.

JW: The UFO phenomenon appears to be multifaceted and there is no neat, simple answer to what it’s all about. In my judgment, the public and even many Ufologists are indiscriminately lumping together UFO sightings and incidents into a single phenomenon. But the evidence indicates that no single explanation can cover all the experiences and events brought together under the label “UFO experience.” It is a multilevelled phenomenon. And each level – terrestrial, extraterrestrial and metaterrestrial – is qualitatively different from the others. Each has its own unique forms of UFOs, and each form has to be distinguished from the others of that level.

Our understanding of the UFO phenomenon can be compared to our evolving understanding of the atom. In ancient Greece, the atom was regarded as the ultimate unit of matter. However, the rise of science demonstrated that the atom was not “rock-bottom reality.” Rather it was composed of protons, electrons and neutrons. Thus, a new level of reality emerged – the subatomic. Continuing scientific research discovered a host of new particles, such as neutrinos, quarks, mesons, bosons, and other exotic forms of matter below that of the atom. Most recently, science has discovered a still more basic or fundamental aspect of reality, the quantum level. Our present understanding regards it as the level from which all the particles and the four fundamental forces – gravity, electromagnetism and the weak and strong nuclear forces – arise.

The UFO experience can be regarded in a somewhat similar manner. There is no single “unit” of the UFO experience. There are different phenomena, outwardly appearing to be the same thing, but actually qualitatively distinct from one another. And they can be classified not only in the horizontal dimension as discrete phenomena, they also can classified vertically as belonging to one or another level of reality.

Only when we understand the UFO phenomenon as multilevelled and multifaceted will we move to a deeper understanding of this intriguing and mysterious topic, and begin to solve the puzzle called the UFO experience.

Exposed, Uncovered, and Declassified: UFOs & Aliens (New Page Books, 2001) features contributions from experts such as Larry Flaxman, Erich von Daniken, Micah Hanks, Marie D. Jones, Kathleen Marden, Stanton T. Friedman, Nick Pope, Nick Redfern and John White. Available from all good bookstores or www.amazon.com.

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The above interview appeared in New Dawn Special Issue 17.

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