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More on Phenomenology as a Method for UAP Studies

I have argued that phenomenology offers an important lens for UAP studies, given the nature of the objects of experience. To introduce some basic language of phenomenology, we must understand intention. In phenomenology, intentionality is the direction of my consciousness, in other words, what my conscious experience is about. If I am looking at my friend across the room from me, she is the object of my intention. Moreover this is what phenomenology calls a fulfilled intention, as she is physically present in front of me and I am receiving the object through perception. However my friend can also be the object of my intention in her absence—if I am remembering the fun outing we had yesterday, or if I am anticipating her arrival in the morning. My friend Anne is still the object of my conscious experience, or my intention, but what phenomenology would call an empty intention, as she is not immediately given in perception.

Presences and Absences. One of phenomenology’s insights is that what an object gives in its absence is as much a part of the identity of the object as what it gives in its presence. Objects of consciousness give themselves through both their physical presence to conscious subject, as well as through their absence. This seems particularly true for UAP, in which the elusive nature of the objects means times in which they are physically present to a conscious subject are quite rare, and unpredictable. Jacques Vallee stated in UFOs: The Psychic Solution that the best way to study UAP were to study their effects—that is to say, what they give in their absence.

One of Dorothy Izatt's UAP photos

A UAP sighting may last only a few seconds, but the effects of the encounter may be lifelong. Even individuals who have multiple, ongoing encounters involving UAP or apparent alien beings may only have brief, fleeting flashes of the craft being present in front of them. Further, subjects are unable to contemplate what they see in the natural attitude, or the every day attitude of conscious experience, because of the “ontological shock” that accompanies seeing a phenomenon that violates the laws of science and reality as we understand them. UAP only present themselves as direct objects of consciousness, as fulfilled intentions, in fleeting, unpredictable ways that are on the terms of the intelligence behind them.

Even when the UAP is present, much of their appearance is still absent. When I view a cube, even though I can only see two sides at once, my consciousness can fill in the gaps of what is on the other side, a process phenomenologists call “protention”. Past conscious experience allows me to use protention to know that the other sides of the cube are there and consistent with what I can see. With UAP (and other anomalous phenomena), we lack a frame of reference for filling in these absences. We may see one angle of a UAP and have no reference for filling out the sides we cannot see. We may lack a scale of reference for its size. We cannot anticipate or predict its movements, because we lack a pattern of reference.

But UAP give far more in their absence than traditional objects of consciousness. UAP experiencers remember these events vividly, and speculate often in their absence about what they may have experienced. UAP experiencers who are abductees also may anticipate seeing one again for many years, or experience apprehension and fear at the thought of another encounter. UAP experiencers also report an array of atypical conscious experiences following their UAP encounter: for example, many report downloads, being flooded with information, telepathic experiences, strange electrical occurrences, precognition, synchronicities, and changes in values and worldview that they link to the UAP experience.

In a traditional scientific framework, it becomes difficult if not impossible to prove that the atypical conscious experiences are linked to the physical UAP. In a phenomenological framework, that the experiencers draw the conscious connections between the UAP experience and the atypical happenings that follow means that understanding these happenings are integral to understanding the identity of UAP as an object of conscious experience. These effects on consciousness are part of the way the phenomenon gives itself in its absence, in other words, part of the manifold of the object.

Vagueness, verification and sedimentation: Categorial intentions refer to how we form judgments about the objects of our perception. In a UAP encounter, it can be difficult or impossible to form solid categorial judgments about what is being perceived, as the objects do not fit into categories that we currently understand or can refer back to. Phenomenology explains that many objects emerge first from a field of vagueness. Through intentionalities such as scientific reasoning, objects come into focus and become subject to categorization and scientific understanding. UAP emerge from a field of vagueness, however establishing them as verifiable objects is difficult if not impossible through traditional scientific means. This means they remain in the field of vagueness in the way other natural objects do not.

Phenomenology also talks about how many aspects of our conscious experience become sedimented. In other words, ideas or concepts become deeply engrained into the collective consciousness to the extent that they are no longer questioned and are taken for granted. Sartre called this sedimentation the “practico-inert” which referred to the traces of collective human conscious activity that become hardened and resistant to change. Many aspects of the scientific worldview have become sedimented, that is to say, taken for granted and no longer questioned. When UAP appear and violate some of these “taken for granted” propositions, there is a natural resistance to taking them seriously and an urge to explain them away through conventional (but unsatisfactory) explanations that do not challenge the sedimented view.

Still phenomenology holds that we never know everything about any object, there is always a blend of hiddenness and new ways that it can give itself. This is especially the case with UAP that give themselves in unpredictable, ever changing, always novel ways. For UAP studies it becomes vitally important that we are willing to take seriously all the ways the phenomena give themselves, even if this means challenging sedimented paradigms.

Intersubjectivity: UAP experiences that include the presence of some kind of being (we will suspend judgment on the ontological status of the beings) open up new processes of intersubjectivity. In phenomenology we realize that the life world is a shared world, it is given for others as well as ourselves. I realize that you can see the back of the table that I can only see the front of, we recognize that other consciousnesses have access to parts of the life world that we do not have. We further realize that we can be objects for each other, you can perceive me and my body in the same way you can perceive a physical object, much like I can perceive you and your body. With the presence of a potential non-human intelligence, we are dealing with an unknown other with perceptive capabilities that we do not understand. The fact that their technology and their understanding of the universe supersedes ours considerably makes us objects for them in a way that they are not objects for us. Indeed, the abduction literature suggests that they know much more about us than we know about them. The fact that they can appear and be seen only when they want to, and that they are in charge of to whom they show themselves and on what terms, introduces a new intersubjective relation into our experience. Indeed, Michael E. Zimmerman explored the intensity of the “alien gaze” in his piece “Encountering an Alien Otherness.” The alien gaze, he writes, deprives an individual abductee of their subjectivity, so that no reciprocal social relation is possible between the two. The alien gaze is said to be devastatingly powerful, and goes far beyond the look of another human subject. The alien gaze also includes a process of “mindscanning” in which the abductee cannot look away and feels like information is being extracted from their mind. This process has no corresponding experience in human intersubjectivity (See Zimmerman, “Encountering an Alien Otherness,” 164-166).

We may also begin to think about UAP sightings that do not involve beings as intersubjective experiences. If UAP have an intelligence behind them, then we are not dealing simply with natural objects, but with intelligent technology. Thus, sightings in the sky of lights, orbs, or crafts may be better understood through the lens of intersubjectivity than through the scientific attitude. Dorothy Izatt, for example, witnessed and filmed many anomalous lights in the sky that appeared to be communicating, both in terms of the way their movements responded to her intentions, but also in terms of information that would flood into her mind when the lights appeared (See Contact With Beings Of Light: The Amazing true Story of Dorothy Wilkinson-Izatt by Peter Gutilla). There is further research that needs to be done on alleged close encounters of the 5th kind, or CE-5s. These encounters involve the individual subject initiating the encounter by “calling it in” through conscious meditation. If it can be shown that the UAP are responding to human intentions, this lends support to understanding UAP encounters through the lens of intersubjectivity—as part of an ongoing conversation with another intelligence.

There is much to be explored in the phenomenological experience of UAP. This serves merely as an introduction to the array of issues that emerge from using this lens as a starting point for UAP studies.

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Thanks, Kimberly for applying phenomenology to the UFO phenomenon. It fits. The scientific approach of data gathering may provide some helpful information, that's true. Yet, the scientific investigation is itself part of the phenomenon. It has been from July 1947 to the present time.

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