Mind-Body Problem

UFO research teeters between science and insanity

And within the field of UFO research, I've found a sad polarization. On one side, we have people blinking lights at aliens, and on the other, scientific skeptics who think they can explain even serious UFO reports but don't have a clue what they're talking about. The most astonishing example came from Donald Menzel, a Harvard astronomer who wrote three books debunking UFOs.

Menzel laughed at a report from an Anglican priest in New Guinea, who said he watched beings walking around, apparently working, in a hovering UFO for more than 20 minutes. Now, I'm not going to say this really happened; I don't have a clue. But Menzel suggested— with no evidence at all— that the priest suffered from astigmatism, and either didn't know it, or had forgotten to put on his glasses. What he saw, said Menzel, was Venus, distorted by astigmatism into an oval shape— and as for beings, those were the priest's own eyelashes!

I myself spent four hours arguing with Philip Klass, the most widely published current UFO skeptic, who raged that abductees make their claims only to get on TV. That's absurd. I've met dozens of them, and they fervently protect their privacy. Only one has ever let me print his name. So I had to ask: Which abductees had Klass met? "The ones who appear with me on television," he replied without a trace of irony.

I also talked about two airline pilots who made headlines back in 1948, reporting that they'd seen an unknown craft with windows swooping past their plane one night. This, Klass writes in his 1974 book, UFOs Explained, was "clearly" a meteor, so "clearly," in fact, that the case must be "removed for all time from the category of 'unidentifieds.' "

But how, I asked him, could he be so sure? That the pilots couldhave seen a meteor is obvious enough, since (as Klass points out) in other cases people did imagine windows, when all they saw were random lights. But even skeptics can't cite any meteor known to fall that night in 1948, so how can Klass be certain?

"Suppose something went wrong with your PC," he rumbled, chuckling, but not quite answering my question. "Would you suspect evil spirits, or would you call a technician?" Evidently UFOs were as improbable as ghosts to him, and as easily dismissable. But I kept probing, and finally he took a stand. "Since there is no proof that unknown craft are in the sky," he said, "I prefer a prosaic explanation." Or, in other words, since there are no UFOs, nobody could ever see one. File that under faith, not science.

After four years of UFO research, I'm left with only one firm conclusion. Despite years of Star Trek, the possibility of aliens— right here, now, on Earth among us— is so unsettling that many people, both skeptics and believers, can't talk sense about it.

The Next Step
Judith Hendin, who graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Chicago in cultural anthropology, went on to dance with Pilobolus, Danny Grossman, and other troupes from 1974 until 1982. Like any dancer she had her share of injuries, and she became fascinated with the healing process, studying many techniques. "I got very connected to my body and the inner issues that need to be addressed. That led me to bodywork which led me into counseling. I became a professional in private practice, combining counseling and bodywork; out of that evolved a way to help people listen to their bodies. You can trust your body. It always knows why it's sick or in pain. It's as if there's someone inside knocking on the door, trying to get your attention, saying 'please listen to me.' If you haven't heard it, it will grab your attention through a physical symptom."

Next week Hendin offers an all-day workshop in which participants will learn how cells create stress, how they heal us through emotions, and how they tell us what we must do to get well. "We'll talk to the symptom as if it were a person trying to get a message through. When we first start we go through a symbolic process, as if we're in a dream; we might discover an anvil, a hammer, or a balloon. We'll talk to the symbol, and out of that a self appears, coming into shape like a ship out of the mist. Once we find it, we have a diagnostic gold mine; it tells us what's going on. The final step is to let this self express its emotions; sometimes, then, a healing actually happens."

Author Shakti Gawain says "Judith Hendin has developed a profound and effective method for hearing the messages our bodies are trying to give us." Bring your symptom and $99 and Hendin will show you some routes to body consciousness. — Elizabeth Zimmer

To register for "The Self Behind the Symptom," February 7, 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the Center for Experiential Psychology, 57 West 58th Street, Suite 10G, call 980-1355. For private sessions with Judith Hendin (in New York City February 8), call 610-330-9778.

Mental Block

Suffering from a creative block? Your problem may be nothing more than the fact that you think there's something wrong with you.

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