Amer­i­can Cos­mic: UFOS, Re­li­gion, Tech­nol­ogy

D.W. Pa­sulka

Foreword Reviews - - Reviews Adult Nonfiction - ERIC PAT­TER­SON

Ox­ford Univer­sity Press (FE­BRU­ARY) Hard­cover $24.95 (288pp), 978-0-19-069288-9

In Amer­i­can Cos­mic, pro­fes­sor of re­li­gious stud­ies D. W. Pa­sulka ex­am­ines the ris­ing cul­ture around UFOS as if it were a vi­able new re­li­gion. Like other new re­li­gions, she says, Ufol­ogy in­cludes scribes and prophets; a con­tact event and sub­se­quent in­ter­pre­ta­tions; a canon of scrip­tures; and holy ob­jects.

The book starts with Pa­sulka’s mys­te­ri­ous trip into the New Mex­i­can desert near Roswell, where an alien craft was said to have crashed some seventy years ago, in search of ex­trater­res­trial ar­ti­facts. Her com­pan­ions are a well-re­spected sci­en­tist and a suc­cess­ful en­tre­pre­neur, and to them, the spot is sa­cred. For Pa­sulka, it’s the be­gin­ning point of a new re­li­gion. An enig­matic ob­ject be­comes a re­li­gious ar­ti­fact; be­liefs are built around it.

With­out as­sess­ing any of the truth claims of Ufol­ogy’s prac­ti­tion­ers, Pa­sulka ar­gues that tech­nol­ogy and me­dia have had such an in­flu­ence over the masses when it comes to the ex­pe­ri­ence and in­ter­pre­ta­tion of phe­nom­ena that they are slowly re­plac­ing tra­di­tional re­li­gious prac­tice. Dis­tinc­tions be­tween what is real and what is not are blurred—es­pe­cially in re­gard to UFOS and the ex­is­tence of aliens. Co­her­ent di­a­logues form around the pieces of the know­able and the un­known, of what it is pre­sented and be­lieved.

Last chap­ters as­sert that Ufol­o­gists may not even need to un­der­stand UFO ex­pe­ri­ences within the con­texts of “real” or “un­real”; their ideas may not be prov­able through the sci­en­tific method, and so their ar­ti­facts and ex­pe­ri­ences, and their com­mu­nity, are enough. These are the foun­da­tions of a new be­lief sys­tem—what Carl Jung called “univer­sal mass ru­mor,” or liv­ing mythol­ogy.

Amer­i­can Cos­mic is a su­perb in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the birth and rise of a new re­li­gion.

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