Jim Schnabel

Aliens, Abductions, and the UFO Obsession

Penguin, London, 1995.

This is a deeply human story. The wealth of historical background information Schnabel provides to put UFO accounts in perspective goes to show how grandiose visions bound up with petty dealings and mundane naiveté all add up to an ultimately terrestrial, all-too-human picture.

One oddity of Schnabel's is his name for those who look for naturalistic explanations for UFOs. Those who would explain UFO experiences in terms of "thousands of years of cultural and neurophysiological evolution" are dubbed "psychosocialists" (p.136), a perverse label that puts one in mind of Erich Fromm, R. D. Laing, or the early Wilhelm Reich, rather than those who simply doubt the paranormal.

The epilogue is the most interesting part of the book, wherein Schnabel outlines the theories of Michael Persinger, according to whom,

"people with greater than average temporal lobe lability tended to be more intuitive than sensing, and more perceiving than judging; the fact that the temporal lobe affected cognitive style explained why poets, artists, actors and women... tended to have more frequent anomalous experiences... Temporal lobe types tended to believe in ESP and telekinesis and other psi phenomena, and tended to report these and other types of paranormal experience." (p.275)

It is important not to under-estimate how influential unconsciously-absorbed information can be: the author reports that,

"some female therapists who treat Vietnam veterans with post-traumatic stress syndrome have themselves begun to suffer 'flashbacks' about their own 'combat experiences'." (p. 285)

The epilogue also contains the most alarming footnote I have seen in a long time:

"in the past few years, psychiatrists have begun to encounter people who believe that they endured child abuse in a past life ".

This is yet another book whose publisher dismally fails to provide an index.



Paul Taylor 2001