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(Book Review) The Secret UFO Order and the Modern Reformation War: Diana Walsh Pasulka’s Encounters

Encounters: Experiences with Non Human Intelligences is professor of religious studies Diana Walsh Pasulka’s second foray into the UFO topic, after she made her debut with American Cosmic in 2019.

American Cosmic garnered much success not only because it rode on the wave (or rather, the tsunami) of the massive sea change in the perception of UFOs (now rebranded as ‘UAP’ for more palatable consumption) caused by the New York Time articles written by Kean/Blumenthal in 2017-2018; but also because it represented the iceberg-tip of renewed interest in a subject which had long suffered stigmatization from the community who had more to lose if they ever engaged in it —scientists and academics like her.

Diana Walsh Pasulka

For the seasoned ‘UFO buff’ American Cosmic became of special interest, not because of its scholarly comparisons between UFO social groups and religious movements, or examinations on how technology molds our expectations on the phenomenon, but because the author became a sort of emissary for reasons not entirely clear —not even after the release of Encounters, one might add— of a covert circle of individuals initially called “the Fight Club,” as a reference to the 1999 film (hence why she refers to one of them with the alias “Tyler D.”).

Nowadays Diana skips the potential copyright infringement risks by simply calling this group the “Invisibles,” which is not to be confused with “the Invisible College” organized by J. Allen Hynek and Jacques Vallée back in the 1970s (although she also has a close relationship with Vallée and the survivors/descendants of the I.C. as well).  While the I.C. used secrecy as a shield to safeguard their reputation while quietly studying the career-floundering enigma of ‘flying saucers’, the Invisibles on the other hand use secrecy to safeguard their interests with the intelligence community, the military, and the aerospace industry.

The Invisibles presented themselves to Diana, when she began her professional interest in the UFO topic, as the true gatekeepers of the mystery; or at the very least, they are purportedly more aware of whatever information the United States government has managed to learn about the phenomenon, during the many decades it has actively tried to convince the American people UFOs are nothing to worry about.

In Encounters, Diana introduces the reader to several new ‘characters’ (some hiding behind aliases and others using their real names) with whom she has been working ever since the publication of American Cosmic; it should be noted, though, that only two of them (the recurrent “Tyler D” who has been unofficially identified by some independent researchers as space engineer/biomedic entrepreneur Tim Taylor; and “Gray Man,” an aerospace researcher from Australia) would fit in the category of Invisible i.e. an insider in the secret UFO management program.

Although these remarkable individuals have different backgrounds —comic fans would call them “origin stories”— they all seem to have one common ‘superpower’: a connection to a ‘living network’ of information which goes by different names in different esoteric traditions: Plato (one of Diana’s favorite philosophers) called it the “world of forms;” Theosophists borrowed (like always) Hindu lexicon and called it “the Akashic records;” but Diana settles for the “Noösphere,” a term coined by Jesuit philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.

(I would have just called it the Force because that’s how nerdy I am)

In Encounters, the Noösphere is regarded as a ‘natural internet’ operating outside Space and Time which can be reached either spontaneously (mystical experiences, special dreams), through an “external agent” like a UFO event —as it was the case with Matthew Roberts, who is featured in the book and was onboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt when the ‘Gimbal’ event took place— or through different methodologies: there’s the psychedelic route, of course, (which barely gets a mention in the book, even though it’s been used for thousands of years by indigenous cultures to commune with the ‘spirit world’); then there are the ‘protocols’ practiced by “Tyler D.” which seem to involve an almost monastic lifestyle of renunciation to worldly affairs and simple pleasures like coffee.

The benefits of accessing the Noösphere are multiple: from allowing soldiers like Jose (one of Diana’s confidants) to avoid dangers and survive incursions in the Middle East; creating (perhaps ‘rediscovering’) a ‘global language’ —which looks a bit too much like mandalas and crop circle designs— as space psychologist Iya Whiteley is trying to do; finding clues (“downloading”) to profitable patents in the aerospace and biomedical industries like “Tyler D”; all the way to Simone (a.k.a. “Moon Girl”) who is actively involved in the creation (she herself might call it ‘emergence’) of what is currently called artificial general intelligence (AGI) which could either signal the end of Homo Sapiens, or its upgrade to a next step in the evolution of intelligence in the Cosmos.

“Wait, but what does all this have to do with UFOs?” Well, plenty, if you are willing to entertain the notion that the entirety of the UFO phenomenon is too complex and weird to be just the result of incursions of ET craft in our airspace. If this ‘living network’ is a place the minds of those linked to it can travel to, then that place could be inhabited. As a good protégé of Vallée, Diana ditches the extraterrestrial hypothesis (ETH) in favor of more ontologically shocking ideas: Aliens (now called ‘non-human intelligences’ (NHI) for more palatable consumption) could be us from the future, à la Interstellar, maybe after we dumb apes follow the wisdom of Diana’s friend Simone, Ray Kurzweil, and Elon Musk, and accept our post-biological evolutionary destiny to merge with the AI many companies are currently in such a hurry to develop; thus fulfilling Chardin’s vision of the Omega point, which is ‘basically’ the notion of a distant future in which the entire Universe is so filled with information it reaches a point of total unification —God... or a super quantum computer.

Diana does succeed in making a compelling case by presenting the experiences of these individuals as evidence that ‘the phenomenon’ (what we keep inadequately referring to as UFOs or UAPs) represents a sort of ‘Initiation’ process, meant to completely transform the reality of some of the individuals who have come in touch with it on the short term, and the whole of human society on the long term (what Vallée coined as “the Control System”). Anthropologists studying indigenous cultures would call it a ‘call to be a shaman’.

However, as an informed reader I was more intrigued by the things left out of the book —either by accident or deliberately— which would counter the clean narrative she is trying to present. For example:

  • She brings out the “order of the Dolphin” (an interdisciplinary group interested in interspecies communications) and mentions Carl Sagan as a member; yet omits the name of John Lilly, the man front-and-center in the effort to teach dolphins how to ‘speak’ (English). She wonders about why all the scientists involved in this group hardly ever discussed it publicly, but never entertains the idea that perhaps it is because of the embarrassment caused when word came out that Lilly’s assistant (a woman) was regularly masturbating their cetacean test subject (no mentions of Lilly’s experimentation with ketamine either, of course).
  • Nobel laureate Kary Mullis (who Diana personally met) is brought up as another example of a brilliant and successful scientist who had non-ordinary experiences closely resemblant to a close encounter event —a meeting with a “talking ‘electric’ raccoon” one night near his forest cabin. What is conveniently left out is that Mullis, aside from being a fond user of LSD, was a climate change denialist and an HIV denialist as well.
  • Diana mentions the religious experiences of “Gray Man” (visions of the archangel St. Michael and fighting ‘demons’ with a sword) along with poltergeist activity plaguing him in his household, but she never makes the effort to interview a single parapsychologist with experience in psychokinetic phenomena (PK) who might have suggested how PK activity tends to manifest around individuals going through stressful circumstances —as it would be the case with a young scientist working on highly classified projects who also happens to be a single parent to two children with special needs.
  • Diana is in awe of Simone’s work in the creation of AGI and her belief that it is a ‘natural’ and necessary step in the evolution of consciousness on our world; but what is not mentioned is the obscene consumption of natural resources AI development is inflicting on the planet today (not to mention the flagrant theft of innumerable copyrighted materials used to train LLM models). The concept of TESCREALism (which is at the core of Simone’s personal philosophy) is also omitted and how it dictates the moral decisions of the most influential businessmen in Silicon Valley —if the long term goal of humanity (or rather, our post biological descendants) is to fill up the entire Universe with intelligence, then the potential welfare of those quadrillions of future sentient beings is, according to these technocrats, more important than the welfare of the billions living in our world in the present, whose lives will be crushed once companies rush to replace as much of their workforce as they can with AI bots.
  • Ramanujan, the legendary Indian mathematician, is mentioned as an example of another savant capable of extracting information from “the living network” (He claimed that all his mathematical insights were revealed to him in dreams by the goddess Lakshmi). But Diana could just as well mention another mathematical luminary: John Nash —popularized by the movie A Beautiful Mind— who among his long periods of institutionalization and electroshock therapies claimed he was in communication with aliens —just like “Tyler D.” How then do we draw the line between a possible connection to ‘the Other’ and pathology?
  • Speaking of alleged contact with aliens, another person who used to be highly influential in Silicon Valley was Joe Firmage, founder of USWeb and other companies in the early dotcom era, who left it all behind to pursue the ambitious goal of finding the secret of antigravity after having a visionary experience not unlike what Joseph Smith (the founder of Mormonism) claimed. Why is he not featured in Encounters, one wonders? Is it because of his recent troubles with the law —which even involved scamming the elderly— or because said legal troubles would also compromise some of Diana’s associates in new ventures like the Sol Foundation?

In the polarized era we currently live in, we either love things or we hate them. We retweet or block, rave or rant about content according to our beliefs and ideologies. The reader of this review may have reached the conclusion by now that I would not recommend them to grab a copy of Encounters should they find it in their local library; but they would be wrong. It is precisely because I am deeply in agreement with her conclusions about this ‘living network’ (how some people can learn to ‘download’ information from it, its connection to the UFO phenomenon in particular, and consciousness in general) that I feel obliged to point out the things I disagree with the book; like its unabashed techno evangelism —despite its occasional nod to the lore of aboriginal people in Australia, and its mention of how Jose ‘the Soldier’ is trying to teach kids how to survive the alienation caused by the ubiquitousness of digital gadgets, which he regards as weapons in a spiritual war.

Half of the time, the book had me thinking Diana was reporting her findings about the beliefs of the people she interviewed with scholarly detachment, like an anthropologist studying head-hunting tribes in the Amazon; but the other half it felt like she was staning these Invisible scientists and technopreneurs, the former (like “Tyler D”) apparently placing themselves above regular humans in a taxonomy of intelligent beings, while the latter (like Simone) poo-poohing any concerns these ‘walking water sacks’ might have with the accelerated development and deployment of a technology as powerful as AI, with barely any legal oversight in check. Where does Diana stand in this spiritual battlefield of Jose’s, when she compares the popularity of ChatGPT with “the return of Plato’s Dialectic”?

The only time she shows any moral judgment with regards to the machinations of the Invisibles is with Patricia Turrisi, her friend, who is presented as the daughter of a scientist involved with the “secret space program” (sorry, nothing to do with bases on Mars or the Moon) which caused draconian restrictions upon this man’s family; it might have also caused the enrollment of his daughter on some sort of undisclosed training initiative for highly intelligent kids which possibly resulted in the early deaths of many of those students (MK-Ultra anyone?). Early in the book “Tyler D.” offered Diana the opportunity to enroll her children in the “Mars colonizing program” which —if we are to believe him— is already underway choosing early candidates(!). Again, one wonders if Diana re-evaluated the implications of such an offer after she learned the story of Patricia’s childhood.

Diana considers the UFO phenomenon to be a new religious expression, which at the moment when the book was published (2023) was —in her opinion— in danger of becoming a ‘state-sponsored religion’ which could only accept one interpretation of the UFO as ‘dogma’ —what she calls ‘the military UFO’ i.e. a potentially threat to society inasmuch as it shows capabilities far beyond the institutions we have built to safeguard us. She therefore worries about the future of people like those portrayed in the book, whose ideas and methods might be deemed as ‘heretical’ and dangerous as those of Coptic Christians and Early Gnostics, who sought to preserve their knowledge through hidden libraries like Nag Hammadi and Qumran.

With all due respect, I hardly view people like “Tyler D.” and “Gray Man” (or even “Moon Girl”) as gnostic monks wearing sheepskins and eating scorpions in some desert cave. The way Diana describes them —and as previously stated, it was hard to escape her latent admiration for their intellectual prowess and professional success they have acquired— they conduct themselves more like a Templar order, passing down their secrets orally from one initiate to another, seeking to exploit their connection to the Noösphere to keep themselves at the top of the status quo, while letting the rest of humanity to rot and fight for whatever crumbs they can gather in the New World they are eagerly building.

Perhaps the reason Diana failed to recognize the latent elitism inherent in this group, is because she has spent all of her professional life surrounded by people who belong to another powerful and ancient organization which, despite its exclusivity, chooses candidates from all walks of life, all across the world, to join their ranks and preserve their privilege —the Catholic church.

And if we keep viewing the modern reshaping of the UFO narrative through a religious lens, then it is hard to envision which side Diana is choosing to stand on. Perhaps she, Garry Nolan (a.k.a. “James” in American Cosmic) and their new associates at the Sol Foundation see themselves as reformists, nailing down their proposals for less dogma —and a change of the old guard— at the door of public opinion. Their goals suffered a setback when the Schumer amendment was not approved for the US National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) as it was originally included in the law, but I am sure they will keep on trying to make themselves guests at the table of UFO policy discussions.

There are many other fascinating things this review failed to mention about the book for the sake of brevity. All in all (despite its techno-proselytism) I would consider it a valuable addition to any UFOlogical collection since it offers important insights about the way many individuals —some in influential positions, some regular folks living their lives— actively try to interact with non-human intelligences, which may or may not originate from a domain outside our space and time.

And yet we (unlike Diana) must consider the possibility that some of those influential individuals might also be quite delusional, despite their professional achievements. Kary Mullis, Jack Parsons, John Nash, Ted Kaczynski, Howard Hughes; there are plenty of examples showing the line dividing genius from madness is often blurry and fragile.

If anything, I am deeply thankful that I got to read Encounters because it indirectly helped me realize —after more than four decades of Star Wars fandom— that the Jedi, despite their heroic spirit and cool use of the Force, were not really the good guys in a galaxy far, far away (I warned you I was a nerd).

Encounters: Experiences with Non Human Intelligences is published by St. Martin’s Essentials.

  1. Thank you.

    Your review, the viewpoint that you came at the book, echoes what I’m trying to understand about past events. The things that are left out is critical.

    – I’ve read the review three times now, and it is only getting clearer.

    Reading the review shook me.

    I’m writing a novel series, and what you said captures what I see in the Story.

    Well done.

  2. Dear Mr Junkie,
    I liked this review. Dr Pasulka shows the admirable enthusiasm of someone relatively new to uufology but her reverence for tech gurus is slightly embarrassing. I can’t help seeing her gushing over sophisticated technology as a bit naive. Worse is way she embraces the techies’ proclivity to literalise ancient and widespread beliefs in, ahem, ‘non-human intelligences’. A little reading in the neoplatonists, the Renaissance magi, the Romantic poets, C.G Jung etc (to say nothing of anthropology) might help her to see that we have been conversing with gods, daimons, spirits and so on forever. These are real but not literally so. The inability to distinguish between the real and the literal is one of the follies to which our age is especially prone.
    Cheers, Patrick

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