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Reply To: UFO: A Living Myth of Transformation,” with mythologist Norland Têllez”

Dennis Slattery

    Just a wonderful series of musings, quotes and deep insights on this topic that is sure to register close to 100 on the imagination meter. I love the exchanges thus far. I want to add just a few notes, perhaps even footnotes to what has been written. My own work this past year has been on what I am calling “The Mythology of Belief.” I have offered a few lectures and writing retreats on zoom to Jung groups in the US. I am tempted to call UFOs “Ultimate Fact Oppositions” in our current climate and wonder if the following might find a place under the umbrella of UFOs. My explorations took me to a book by a Melville scholar and historian. H. Bruce Franklin: MIA or Mythmaking in America: How and why belief in live POWs has possessed a nation. 

    Published in 1992, Franklin decided to study the phenomenon of MIA/POWs and their “being and nonbeing” in Southeast Asia. I am borrowing that phrase from an early post by Norland. In spite of deep and thorough studies on the existence of MIAs/POWs which showed that there were none in captivity, the BELIEF insisted on being relegated to the level of fact. These, if I can bend things a bit, become UFOs, those whose beingness, however proven not to exist, clung to a belief that that they in fact did. But here is where he caught my attention early on: “A good working definition of myth is a story that is the core of someone’s else’s religion. . . Indeed, any truly functional myth, or religion, must seem essentially implausible and nonrational to nonbelievers, for its powers derive from its defiance and transcendence of perceived reality and ordinary thinking. That is, all myths require faith” (8).

    Soon thereafter, Franklin cites a conservative Representative, Gillespie “Sonny” Montgomery of Mississippi, who was recognized at the time as more convinced and outspoken about this belief than any other member of Congress. His fervor convinced the House in 1975 to create the Select Committee on Missing Personal in Southeast Asia and to name him as its chair.” After many months of investigation the Committee concluded that there were no such individuals in camps in Southeast Asia. Here is the kicker: “Confronted with such overwhelming evidence, Montgomery ruefully confessed that his now shattered BELIEF (my emphasis) in live prisoners had been “based more on hope that fact and more on rumors than hard evidence, for like so many others I wanted to believe they were alive, so I did” (15).

    Hope and fervor are the two watchwords that I wanted to highlight here. Now, how much or little this story is a convincing or possible analogy to the UFO sightings and the belief in them is open to comment. But I find that fervor and a conviction of a belief based on nothing more than DESIRE is where swaths of our current cultural psyche have taken hold and gripped hard.

    Thanks for allowing me to play the UFO into another form of MIAs. And for all of your remarks above that took me back to Franklin’s insightful study on Belief and Myth. I sense that our beliefs often provide an infrastructure for our Myths.