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Re: Clark, psychosocial or paraphysical approach?

From: clark@mn.frontiercomm.net [Jerome Clark]
Date: Wed, 12 Nov 1997 11:32:40 PST
Fwd Date: Wed, 12 Nov 1997 18:10:01 -0500
Subject: Re: Clark, psychosocial or paraphysical approach?

> Date: Tue, 11 Nov 1997 15:17:18 +0100
> From: Edoardo Russo <edoardo.russo@torino.ALPcom.it>
> Subject: Clark, psychosocial or paraphysical approach?
> To: UFO UpDates - Toronto <updates@globalserve.net>

> >From: clark@mn.frontiercomm.net [Jerome Clark]
> >Date: Mon, 10 Nov 1997 10:27:32 PST
> >To: updates@globalserve.net
> >Subject: RE: UFO UpDate: Re: ETH &c

> >Remember, there was a
> >time when I adhered to psychosocial speculations which I now
> >consider nonsense (I have never been forgiven for that heresy in
> >some quarters.)  In fact, my and Loren Coleman's 1975 book was
> >the first book-length treatment of this particular approach.

> Hello Jerry!

> I remember your 1975 book (which I did like at that time, when -
> me too - I was fascinated by the paraphysical mumbo-jumbo =E0 la
> John Keel) but I cannot understand why you are putting that kind
> of approach together with the psycho-sociological reasoning.


Thank you for a most interesting and illuminating posting.
I'll append my responses to the appropriate paragraphs

> Since the late '60s and well into the mid-70's the so-called "new
> ufology" flourished in the USA  as opposed to the more classical
> ETH. John Keel (Operations Trojan Horse) and Jacques Vallee
> (Passport to Magonia) were its main champions, though along
> slightly different approaches: Keel seemed to favor a sort of
> intrusions from parallel universes or the like, intentionally
> camouflaged according to the cultural "frame of reference" of the
> moment (aliens in the present-day space age); Vallee looked like
> more oriented toward a cultural adaptation by ourselves of a sort
> of numinous (thence instrinsically ineffable) experience with the
> Otherworld.

Well summarized.

> Then-younger Jerome Clark teamed with cryptozoologist
> Loren Coleman and wrote a book (The Unidentified) taking it all
> ot its farthest limits, trying to incorporate all sort of Fortean
> phenomena under a common umbrella of parapsychologically-oriented
> Jungian concepts akin to the "collective unconscious"
> materializing somehow in our physical world. "Paraphysical
> hypotheses" was the common description of all those (and other)
> authors, since they all postulated UFO and strange phenomena were
> originating from some "other" reality parallel to our physical
> world and sometime interferring with it.

I apologize for continually referring readers of this list to
things I've written, but I've published so much over the years
that I've covered just about everything better than I could do
with a few words here.  So please don't hold it against me when I
refer readers seeking a full account to pages 429-44 and to
492-504 of The UFO Book, where I treat, respectively, paranormal
theories and psychosocial theories about the UFO phenomenon.  In
the English-speaking countries, as I demonstrate in these essays,
the two overlapped.  The latter grew out of the former.  Even
today such theorists as Stillings, Ring, Grosso, and Rojcewicz
can be accurately character as holding both paranormal and
psychosocial views.  More on this anon.

> In the meantime, here in old Europe, two similar yet very
> different approaches were developing:

> - the "humanistic ufology" of the UK MUFOB/Magonia editorial team
> (mainly John Rimmer and Peter Rogerson), giving more attention to
> human (cultural) reactions to UFOs than to the physical aspect
> (from 1970 onwards);

The significance of the Clark-Coleman The Unidentified (written
in 1974, published the following year) is that it was the first
book by ufologists to argue that UFO phenomena are not the
products of external intelligences but of internally generated
mental states influenced by individual and cultural psyche.  In
those days I was quite close to the MUFOB crowd.  Peter Rogerson
and I had a warm correspondence going for several years during
this period. The Unidentified is still spoken of fondly there and
by other psychosociologically inclined ufologists.

Though Edoardo's summary is accurate enough as it goes,
the parapsychological stuff in The Unidentified strikes me as
a secondary consideration, merely an attempt -- albeit a
terribly naive one, I think -- to deal with the question of
physical evidence and multiple participation in UFO
experiences.  Today even a Jim Schnabel draws on
generally comparable parapsychological mechanisms,
and his writings are seen, rightly in my opinion, as
mostly psychosociologically oriented.
> - the "parapsychological approach" by a growing number of French
> ufologists (mainly the "Ouranos" team, plus authors like Pierre
> Vieroudy, Jean Giraud a.k.a. GABRIEL group, and Jean-Jacques
> Jaillat), taking their initial inspiration from the "second"
> Vallee (Passport to Magonia) but also from the evolution toward a
> "second-degree ETH" by the late Aime Michel (say 1975-1979).

> The "socio-psychological" hypothesis was a very different affair.
> It was born in France, in 1977, with the first book by Michel
> Monnerie (What if UFOs did not exist?), which was a REACTION
> against the parapsychological attitude as well as against the
> classical ETH. On the  "ideological" side, It correctly
> recognized that the parapsychological deformations of ufology
> were but "superstructures" superimposed upon the UFO phenomenon,
> but it also (wrongly) concluded that under them there was no
> "structure" (no real UFO phenomenon) left; on the concrete side,
> it posed real and valid questions as of investigation
> methodology, perception and memory studies, and contamination of
> the real phenomena by the will-to-believe of most ET-proponents.
> It gained a growing attention in France and French-speaking
> countries (converts included well-known investigators like
> Dominique Caudron, Jacques Brucker and Gerard Barthel), and
> flourished in the 1978-1981 years (I can remember dozens of
> articles and learned debates, plus whole special issues devoted
> to the "nouveaux ufologues" by such French journals as LDLN,
> Ovni-presence and Inforespace, not to mention a score of local
> groups' bulletins), then died because  the ufology environment
> divided itself into two opposing camps in a sort of "religion
> war":  such radicalization took the "sociopsychologists" more and
> more toward the French equivalent to CSICOP, thus sterilizing
> them as "anti-UFOlogists" and the debate was closed. There
> followed indeed a  vital "post-monnerist" legacy (John Rimmer
> called it "post-modern ufology") mostly around the Paris group of
> Thierry Pinvidic, Jacques Scornaux, Claude Mauge', Pierre
> Lagrange, which tried to save the positive aspects of that
> approach without spousing its radical reductionism, but in the
> long run they did not succeed.
> Now I'm asking you the question: what the heck has such (strictly
> reductionist) psychosocial or sociopyschological approach (mostly
> limited to French-speaking countries in the '80s) to do with the
> (wildly speculative, mostly USA-oriented) paraphysical hypotheses
> of the '70s?

I appreciate this very interesting account.  In the
English-speaking countries the sorts of distinctions you recount
in French ufology were not made. In the 1970s just about every
anti-ETH theorist in ufology took for granted that
parapsychological mechanisms were linked to subjective mental
states in which experients dreamed or envisioned dramatic
encounters with ETs, monsters, or whatever.

The progression was something like this: Keel brings
the paranormal into the discussion. Vallee carries both
the paranormal and social processes into the
discussion. Both men argue that external (but not
ET) intelligences are responsible for UFOs.  In the
early 1970s MUFOB (now Magonia) accepts the
paranormal, or at least the parapsychological part
(ESP, psychokinesis), but rejects external intelligences.
In 1975 The Unidentified rejects external intell
phenomenon, and keeps ESP and PK.  By the
1980s Magonia has dropped parapsychology and
now holds that exotic UFO experiences are more or
less explainable by conventional psychology and
social processes. By 1980 I have dropped both views,
convincedthat such speculation is strained, naive,
just plain wrong, and not up to the job of explaining
the most puzzling UFO cases, physical evidence,
and so on. I now hold a largely agnostic, process-
oriented approach to ufology.

In other words, by the time the English-speaking
psychosocial hypothesis has assumed its present
form, I am no longer part of it.  But I did play a role
in its creation, not only in The Unidentified but in
FSR articles in the mid- to late 1960s.

> Let me ask it otherwise: when you write "there was a time when I
> adhered to psychosocial speculations which I now consider
> nonsense", are you meaning that you were ever OK with a
> CSICOP-like reductionism?

No. And the psychosocial school was, and to a degree still is,
unsympathetic to CSICOP-style reductionism, on the grounds
that it's too simplistic and dismissive. In France, from what
I gather from what you and others have told me, psychosocial
theorists were essentially debunkers.

> I guess you never meant that. Thus I wonder why mix the two,
> unless you just choose consider all anti-ETH approach in the same
> and one bag (and it would be highly unfair for me to hint that).

See above.  Let me reiterate: the history in English-speaking
ufology was different from the one you're describing in French

> A second possibility may also be guessed: that while you did (and
> do)  know well the paraphysical issues as well as the "humanist
> ufology" of those cunning British bad guys, you may have been
> less documented about those non-English-speaking heretics. I dare
> to suggest that because the bibliography you quoted on that
> specific subject in your masterful Encyclopedia first volume
> (UFOs in the '80s) was sadly lacking as of French sources, and my
> rusty memory keeps on telling me you once admitted (to Pierre
> Lagrange at the 1987 MUFON Symposium?) that you couldn't (can't?)
> read French.

What "cunning British bad guys?"  Peter Rogerson, John
Rimmer, et al., are neither cunning nor bad (they are British,
though).  I had a great time with them in England last year.
I've subscribed to Magonia for years and always enjoy
reading it.  Though we agree on not much, John wrote an
admirably fair-minded review of my High Strangeness last year.

It's not a question of "admitting" I don't read or speak
French.  I've never pretended that I did.  Here as elsewhere
the language barrier inhibits our understanding of what the
other guy is doing, and that's why guys like you -- who are
well conversant in more than one language -- need to keep
informing us of what we wouldn't know otherwise.

> Thanks for your attention.

And thanks again for a most welcome and informative

Best regards,

Jerry Clark

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