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More than half of American adults and more than seventy-five percent of young Americans believe in intelligent extraterrestrial life. This level of belief rivals that of belief in God. American Cosmic examines the mechanisms at work behind the thriving belief system in extraterrestrial life, a system that is changing and even supplanting traditional religions. Over the cour More than half of American adults and more than seventy-five percent of young Americans believe in intelligent extraterrestrial life. This level of belief rivals that of belief in God. American Cosmic examines the mechanisms at work behind the thriving belief system in extraterrestrial life, a system that is changing and even supplanting traditional religions. Over the course of a six-year ethnographic study, D.W. Pasulka interviewed successful and influential scientists, professionals, and Silicon Valley entrepreneurs who believe in extraterrestrial intelligence, thereby disproving the common misconception that only fringe members of society believe in UFOs. She argues that widespread belief in aliens is due to a number of factors including their ubiquity in modern media like The X-Files, which can influence memory, and the believability lent to that media by the search for planets that might support life. American Cosmic explores the intriguing question of how people interpret unexplainable experiences, and argues that the media is replacing religion as a cultural authority that offers believers answers about non-human intelligent life.


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More than half of American adults and more than seventy-five percent of young Americans believe in intelligent extraterrestrial life. This level of belief rivals that of belief in God. American Cosmic examines the mechanisms at work behind the thriving belief system in extraterrestrial life, a system that is changing and even supplanting traditional religions. Over the cour More than half of American adults and more than seventy-five percent of young Americans believe in intelligent extraterrestrial life. This level of belief rivals that of belief in God. American Cosmic examines the mechanisms at work behind the thriving belief system in extraterrestrial life, a system that is changing and even supplanting traditional religions. Over the course of a six-year ethnographic study, D.W. Pasulka interviewed successful and influential scientists, professionals, and Silicon Valley entrepreneurs who believe in extraterrestrial intelligence, thereby disproving the common misconception that only fringe members of society believe in UFOs. She argues that widespread belief in aliens is due to a number of factors including their ubiquity in modern media like The X-Files, which can influence memory, and the believability lent to that media by the search for planets that might support life. American Cosmic explores the intriguing question of how people interpret unexplainable experiences, and argues that the media is replacing religion as a cultural authority that offers believers answers about non-human intelligent life.

30 review for American Cosmic: UFOs, Religion, Technology

  1. 5 out of 5

    Irene

    Could have been so much better though... It was like there were avenues the author began to go down that seemed both interesting and promising but then decided not to go all the way down leaving me frustrated....

  2. 4 out of 5

    Gary Beauregard Bottomley

    The author is a religious expert who studies the religious and has branched into studying UFOlogists since there is a real crossover between both sets of people. Both sets of people want to believe in unseen (or at least unverified) things hoped for and want to believe that the truth is out there in some form thus placing meaning not within the person but outside of them. The author frames our meaning by how we interpret our world through our experience, physical evidence and the social milieu w The author is a religious expert who studies the religious and has branched into studying UFOlogists since there is a real crossover between both sets of people. Both sets of people want to believe in unseen (or at least unverified) things hoped for and want to believe that the truth is out there in some form thus placing meaning not within the person but outside of them. The author frames our meaning by how we interpret our world through our experience, physical evidence and the social milieu we find ourselves currently dwelling in, thereby laying the ontological (it’s a word she uses multiple times) foundation for our being. The author mentions St. Teresa of Avila in the text. She tells a story from St. Teresa’s diary to illustrate her point, but I’ll tell another story to make a similar point the author was making. St. Teresa saw a mystical entity and knew it was blue, but wasn’t sure if it was of the Devil or Holy, but ultimately decided it must be from Jesus. She had a false dichotomous framing ‘either of God or the devil’, never quite realizing that there were other just as real and probable alternatives available (it could have been Ahura Mazda, Buddha, an alien from a another galaxy, a psychotic break from reality, a time traveler, or maybe just something she ate the night before such as an ‘undigested piece of meat’). The point is she simplistically interpreted the meaning of the experience within the social milieu of her world’s ontological paradigm. UFOlogist do the exact same thing. They’ll connect the dots in such a way that they will quarantine off any data (physical, or experiential) in such a way that they won’t admit to a cognitive dissonance when conflicting data might come in. The author points out something I didn’t know, to many UFOlogist the UFO itself is not what is important itself, but they (the UFO) could just be a phenomenon that is a portal to or for something else as would be angels to believers in angels. How we understand the world goes into how we give meaning to the perceptions we have from the world and that gets filtered through our culture (our social milieu). The author made one slight error that I want to point out. She said ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ the movie was based on a book. The screenplay and the book were written concurrently and the movie and the book were based on an elaboration of a short story by Clark on AI (check Wiki for more elaboration). I know that is a picayune error, but it relates to how the author describes the world of UFOs since she is saying that UFOs are a phenomenon that exist not in and of themselves but are a thing beyond themselves (at least some of the people she quotes in the book would tend to agree with that). It would be analogous to St. Thomas Aquinas viz a viz Duns Scotus and the belief in Angels and whether or not if they are sui generis (unique) and if they act independently of a higher power. The author does quote Aquinas multiple times, and just for those who are interested he would say they are of a ‘species’ and do have intellect of their own but would always act in concordance with God’s will at least after the ‘fall of man’, contrasted with Duns Scotus who would make each Angel an individual species (therefore sui generis) and would give them free will through their own agency but also would act in concordance to God’s plan. (The scholastics never argued trivialities such as ‘the number of angels on a head of a pin’, but they did get at meaningful distinctions such as ‘thatness’ v. ‘whatness’, or substance v. accident, and ultimately this author is getting at those kind of distinctions with her perception v. reality framing). The UFOlogist of today can replace the word ‘flying saucer’ or ‘non human intelligence from another planet’ with how the scholastics from the middles ages or religious believers would use the word ‘angel’ from the past or believed in the Saints or divine intervention through Mary or in the prophets and a very similar ontology would result. Chapter Nine had a good story on Ray and his sick dog and how it was miraculously healed. The order of the perception of reality for Ray goes that he first believes a Catholic Angel healed his dog, then aliens in UFOs did, then beings independent of flying saucers from another galaxy or dimension did, then to a near death experience explains it due to quantum consciousness connections through entanglement, and all the way up to an awful History Channel documentary show that had a special on Ray being attacked by angels thus creating a new perception of reality leading to the ‘medium as the massage (message)’ (McLuhan was quoted multiple times elsewhere in this book, but unfortunately that quote wasn’t used). This book is written well and was easy to digest. In general, UFOlogist would not be offended by it, and Christians would not be offended by it. Though, I’m neither, I wasn’t offended either since I suspected that the connection between the two existed and I wanted to have it explained to me by a religious studies expert. I think the author makes a very good case that UFOlogist can be thought of as a modern day religion and she connects the dots showing that the modern day sub-genre of UFOlogists appear as rational in their beliefs as were the Christians of 1650 or the religious people of today. For either a classical religious person or a UFOlogist person, the special pleading that would be required for defending their own beliefs could just as easily apply towards the other’s belief. Both of them have similar ontological foundations albeit with radically different worldviews resulting, but each providing them a made up meaning to life lying outside of them resulting from falsely wanting to believe in a truth that must be out there.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Allison Thurman

    At long last! A book about what UFOs *mean* rather than what they *are*. Because who would care about their physical reality (or lack thereof) if people weren't so interested in them? Pasulka is a professor of religion - studying what beliefs mean to people. If that wasn't enough to intrigue me, the fact that the preface is an account of driving around Silicon Valley with Jacques Vallee (one of the least silly UFOlogists around) hooked me. The two main discussions in Pasulka's book involve 1) an " At long last! A book about what UFOs *mean* rather than what they *are*. Because who would care about their physical reality (or lack thereof) if people weren't so interested in them? Pasulka is a professor of religion - studying what beliefs mean to people. If that wasn't enough to intrigue me, the fact that the preface is an account of driving around Silicon Valley with Jacques Vallee (one of the least silly UFOlogists around) hooked me. The two main discussions in Pasulka's book involve 1) an "invisible college" of reputable scientists do investigate various facets of the UFO mystery, though most do so on the down low because of professional reputation, and 2) belief in UFOs is starting to take the shape of a religion (albeit informally organized), and to those who believe the question of physical reality is secondary to what their sightings and experiences mean to them. This isn't just another account of famous sightings or speculation on whether or which extraterrestrials are visiting us. This comes at the topic from a far more personally relevant angle. Highly recommended - I'll likely reread once I have a chance to "digest" it a bit more.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Stuart

    While there's an occasional good idea in American Cosmic, D.W. Pasulka can't seem to string together a single paragraph without resorting to hagiography, pointless academic authoritarian posturing or contextless dogma. In short, this book is a mess and is so trite as to require a belief in the reader that every anecdote is self-serving fiction. Not a good look. There are far better books about UFOlogy and far better books about modern belief systems and the emergence of mysticism in response to While there's an occasional good idea in American Cosmic, D.W. Pasulka can't seem to string together a single paragraph without resorting to hagiography, pointless academic authoritarian posturing or contextless dogma. In short, this book is a mess and is so trite as to require a belief in the reader that every anecdote is self-serving fiction. Not a good look. There are far better books about UFOlogy and far better books about modern belief systems and the emergence of mysticism in response to rapid technological change/existential anxiety. Read those instead and save yourself some time.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS I was very disappointed in this book. I wanted it to be an in-depth exploration of unexplained phenomenon, perhaps in the footsteps of Jacques Vallee's excellent work. (Vallee's name appears often in this book, but it contains none of Vallee's subtle, in-depth examination of this enigmatic subject.) Unfortunately, Pasula's book is in many ways indistinguishable from reactionary Catholic hagiography, such as that of Jacobus da Varagine's reification of the saints in h THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS I was very disappointed in this book. I wanted it to be an in-depth exploration of unexplained phenomenon, perhaps in the footsteps of Jacques Vallee's excellent work. (Vallee's name appears often in this book, but it contains none of Vallee's subtle, in-depth examination of this enigmatic subject.) Unfortunately, Pasula's book is in many ways indistinguishable from reactionary Catholic hagiography, such as that of Jacobus da Varagine's reification of the saints in his writing in the late middle ages. Pasula's "saint" here is a twenty-first century rich entrepreneur and inventor named "Tyler," an homage to Fight Club. (I wish I were kidding)... Much of the book's conclusion concerns itself with the conversion of said "Tyler" from his Baptist faith to Pasula's own faith, Catholicism. In fact by the end of the book I began to wonder if Pasula, who investigates claims of sainthood for the Vatican, would be nominating "Tyler" for sainthood. The book has a lot of references to "Tyler" preforming miracles, complete with his unearthing an artifact at the beginning of the book, which Pasula dutifully compares to the holy relics of Catholicism. (Again, I'm not kidding. Wish I were.) At the end of the book Pasula includes a quote from Martin Heidegger "Only a God Can Save Us" (German: Nur noch ein Gott kann uns retten) from interview he gave to Rudolf Augstein and Georg Wolff for Der Spiegel which was published after his death in 1976. That quote sums up the subtext of her whole biased diatribe. The truth is this seems to be a pro-Catholic screed masquerading as a book on unexplained phenomenon. If you want something to discuss casually before your next cataclysm class, read it. But if you want to know about the book's purported subject I'd advise you to skip it and read Jacques Vallee's classics Masters of Deception or Invisible College, Patrick Harpur's Dainomonic Reality, or Jeffrey Kripal's latest book Flip instead.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jocelyn

    This was a fascinating read! Pasulka applies her methodology as a religion researcher to the UFO community and examines how modern technology and media play into what, in her mind, are the equivalent to religious experiences for some. This was very interesting to me on multiple levels. First, I love the X-Files and am interested in UFOlogy/ "alien stuff" lol so I found her comparisons of experiences and sighting to documented "miracles" within the church fascinating. TO be clear, she's not exact This was a fascinating read! Pasulka applies her methodology as a religion researcher to the UFO community and examines how modern technology and media play into what, in her mind, are the equivalent to religious experiences for some. This was very interesting to me on multiple levels. First, I love the X-Files and am interested in UFOlogy/ "alien stuff" lol so I found her comparisons of experiences and sighting to documented "miracles" within the church fascinating. TO be clear, she's not exactly saying all this stuff is true, but instead saying that the parts of our brains that light up and process these two things are the same. We have the same kinds of reactions to them and process them in similar ways. She extends this concept to digital media literacy, which, as a librarian is HUGE for me. This was disheartening though because she basically said that we've created our own Matrix situation and most of us are willingly buying into it, even defending it. She talked a lot about the concept of reality and how often we as humans reject it in favor of something else...something more like emotion. This is why when the FAKE video of Nancy Pelosi looking drunk made the rounds and then was very widely rebuked and outed as fake, my cousin who hates Pelosi and loves owning libs decided it was more important to him to continue to share the false video and perpetuate the lie than delete his previous tweets and stop the spread of misinformation *eye roll hard*. This is a really interesting read for folks interested in extraterrestrial experiences, religious events, and how technology is creating a new kind of god we best back away from.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Steve Wiggins

    Few topics receive immediate ridicule like UFOs. Although this is a programmed response—well documented by those who study it—it nevertheless keeps many professionals from following their curiosity. D. W. Pasulka’s American Cosmic is a brave book that bucks this trend. Pasulka, a professor of religious studies, explains how she came to be interested in UFOs. The book is partially an account of a secretive man she met through official channels, and partially an exploration of how religion and the Few topics receive immediate ridicule like UFOs. Although this is a programmed response—well documented by those who study it—it nevertheless keeps many professionals from following their curiosity. D. W. Pasulka’s American Cosmic is a brave book that bucks this trend. Pasulka, a professor of religious studies, explains how she came to be interested in UFOs. The book is partially an account of a secretive man she met through official channels, and partially an exploration of how religion and the paranormal, particularly UFOs, are related. And also how technology plays into it. The account is skillfully woven and it will leave you scratching your head in a place or two. I read Pasulka’s book on Purgatory a few years ago, and found it fascinating. In fact, it informed both my last book, Holy Horror, and the book I’m currently writing. There’s a fearlessness to her approach to topics from which many scholars shy away. I can’t help but think that there’s much more to the story in American Cosmic than she is able to tell. Skeptics will immediately dismiss much of this, of course. That’s their job. Still, for those willing to approach the subject with an open mind this book will take you to some headspace that’s a little less than comfortable. This is a book I knew about, pre-publication. I awaited its appearance and have been awaiting an opportunity to read it ever since. As I note elsewhere (Sects and Violence in the Ancient World), the author was a consultant on The Conjuring. The real story, however, may well be stranger than the fictionalized account. This book is far ranging, encompassing levitating saints, movies, clandestine locations, and the Vatican’s secret library. It’s better than Dan Brown, though, because the author knows she’s not fabricating the story.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    This alternated between a really dense read integrating discussion of quantum theory and consciousness studies with case studies of credible, yet many times "invisible," scientists, biotechnologists, and computer engineers who are absolutely convinced that extraterrestrial life (what Pasulka terms "the phenomenon") exists. Pasulka, a religious studies scholar, claims that she seeks to explore more the effects of belief in UFOs as a new form of religion on individuals and society than stake a cla This alternated between a really dense read integrating discussion of quantum theory and consciousness studies with case studies of credible, yet many times "invisible," scientists, biotechnologists, and computer engineers who are absolutely convinced that extraterrestrial life (what Pasulka terms "the phenomenon") exists. Pasulka, a religious studies scholar, claims that she seeks to explore more the effects of belief in UFOs as a new form of religion on individuals and society than stake a claim to belief in the phenomenon's "ontological reality," but it certainly seems as if she skews in the direction of its veracity. She so matter of factly states as plausible specific readings of miraculous encounters with angels and other beings in Scripture through the lens of extraterrestrial "contact events" (i.e. Ezekiel's vision as one of an alien craft) that one can't help but interpret her position as one that sees such links as being possible, if not likely. The weight of the witnesses she includes (astronauts such as Edgar Mitchell, a renowned ufologist) also seeks to push the reader to consider their claims as eminently truthful. A bigger issue I had with the book is that it was difficult to follow the main thread of the argument at times. Is it about ways that nonhuman intelligence use sensitive individuals as "receivers," whose DNA "downloads" information from aliens? And that this is the next logical step in human evolution? Is it the ways in which media and culture define our understanding of UFOs and dictate reality for us? (There's a lot on Kubrick's "2001: Space Odyssey" and the monolith as a kind of movie screen). And why does a major player who claims regular contact with nonhuman intelligence through rigorous protocols of meditation, water intake, and exposure to sunshine convert to Catholicism towards the end? Some really intriguing sections, but it just felt like there was a bit too much going on!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Thomm Quackenbush

    The book lacks a cohesive focus and Tyler comes off as a "Oh, I totally have a girlfriend who is a model, but she lives in Canada and is really busy." Oh, of course, you converted your UFO buddy to Catholicism because he was cool enough to have special access to the Vatican. Sure you did, buddy. If you want to write fiction, just write fiction. It doesn't pad out the thesis well. On the other hand, this does suggest a number of books that you might prefer to read. The book lacks a cohesive focus and Tyler comes off as a "Oh, I totally have a girlfriend who is a model, but she lives in Canada and is really busy." Oh, of course, you converted your UFO buddy to Catholicism because he was cool enough to have special access to the Vatican. Sure you did, buddy. If you want to write fiction, just write fiction. It doesn't pad out the thesis well. On the other hand, this does suggest a number of books that you might prefer to read.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Mae Stover

    In progress, but I thought it would be irresponsible for me to shelve this book (and hence raise its profile) without a few notes as a reminder to key up your skepticism and talk back to texts. I'll update this review (sponsored by my Patreons) when I finish reading. - The nonfiction premise of this book is intriguing and compelling, and I think a broad spectrum of readers interested in the humanities and/or science fiction will be interested in the research topic. - Around page thirty I began to In progress, but I thought it would be irresponsible for me to shelve this book (and hence raise its profile) without a few notes as a reminder to key up your skepticism and talk back to texts. I'll update this review (sponsored by my Patreons) when I finish reading. - The nonfiction premise of this book is intriguing and compelling, and I think a broad spectrum of readers interested in the humanities and/or science fiction will be interested in the research topic. - Around page thirty I began to have a few questions about a couple author inferences which were not in evidence, the use of solely anonymous sources that are the subject of whole chapters, and the masking of key locations. I'm going research ethnography standards and nuances in order to better understand what's typical and expected of this type of scholarship. Update: The more I read this text, the more questions I have about the approach, format and ethics involved, particularly in the area of media studies and expertise. I suggest not accepting upfront, without evidence, that this text has any kind of authority. It's also fair and necessary to consider: Is this book a text about religion (as advertised), or a religious text? Where is Cosmic on that spectrum? The author's promotional interviews should also be taken into account, especially as this is a book that attempts to engage with media influence and the author's appearances on pseudoscientific paranormal podcasts have influenced how this book is received by believers. And so a final question: What's the author's responsibility here? And was that responsibility observed? (My answer is, "no." This is a religious text that adds to the mythology, conspiracy theory and normalization of the magical thinking behind ufology. Related: The Demon Haunted World by Carl Sagan.)

  11. 4 out of 5

    Sam Sills

    I can tell a lot of thought went into this book. I liked the analysis of UFO events coming from a Religious Study point of view. It does seem to make sense that the belief in anything paranormal is basically a religious experience. For some reason I had a bit of a hard time reading this and I think it is because this book is much more philosophical in nature than most books about the paranormal. I’m more interested in the “facts” (yes, I believe in paranormal experiences, but I’m also skeptical) I can tell a lot of thought went into this book. I liked the analysis of UFO events coming from a Religious Study point of view. It does seem to make sense that the belief in anything paranormal is basically a religious experience. For some reason I had a bit of a hard time reading this and I think it is because this book is much more philosophical in nature than most books about the paranormal. I’m more interested in the “facts” (yes, I believe in paranormal experiences, but I’m also skeptical). Nonetheless, I think anyone interested in UFOs or anything paranormal should give this book a go. It helped me to look at this whole field from a different perspective and in this day and age seeing things from a different perspective is definitely a good thing that we should all try.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Bryan

    I finished this book faster than anything I’ve read in the last 10 years. I found out about it after Ezra Klein interviewed her last week on his podcast. (https://open.spotify.com/episode/0Zhc...) Honestly though, this book is divisive. If you’re looking for proof of aliens or government coverups... this isn’t going to really scratch your itch. It does however raise all sorts of wild as hell questions about how billionaires, astronauts, scholars, and everyday people explore the subject of the un I finished this book faster than anything I’ve read in the last 10 years. I found out about it after Ezra Klein interviewed her last week on his podcast. (https://open.spotify.com/episode/0Zhc...) Honestly though, this book is divisive. If you’re looking for proof of aliens or government coverups... this isn’t going to really scratch your itch. It does however raise all sorts of wild as hell questions about how billionaires, astronauts, scholars, and everyday people explore the subject of the unknown. Pasulka is a professor of religious studies and her style really lends itself to a fun and easy to follow discussion. I am not saying I believe or agree with some of the people highlighted in this book, I do find this topic absolutely fascinating though! 5/5 stars. Personal note: the internet seems to think Tyler is Timothy Taylor.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Edmund King

    I'm not a believer in UFOs, per se, but I am interested in belief. And, I guess, I'm especially interested in how our contemporary belief systems are shaped by media, technology, and various forms of secular religion. So I came to this book with high hopes, especially as Pasulka implies in the acknowledgements that it might be a kind of follow-on project from Brenda Denzler's Lure of the Edge (2001), which I loved. By the time I finished it, however, I'd decided that whatever enduring value the I'm not a believer in UFOs, per se, but I am interested in belief. And, I guess, I'm especially interested in how our contemporary belief systems are shaped by media, technology, and various forms of secular religion. So I came to this book with high hopes, especially as Pasulka implies in the acknowledgements that it might be a kind of follow-on project from Brenda Denzler's Lure of the Edge (2001), which I loved. By the time I finished it, however, I'd decided that whatever enduring value the book might have will lie in what it inadvertently reveals about the information landscape, c. 2016-19, and the general creep of what Colbert called "truthiness" across all parts of the political spectrum and into academia and academic publishing. The most engaging sections of American Cosmic are made up of a kind of Jon Ronson-style romp with UFO-believing scientists and technologists in the American southwest. Pasulka lacks Ronson's humour and lightness of touch, but these sections work alright in narrative terms, aside from their overall clunkiness. What's more unsettling, however, is Pasulka's tendency to "big-up" her anonymous sources; to insist on their superior levels of knowledge, insight, and intelligence, as well as their insider connections. It reminded me above all of press reporting at the height of #RussiaGate in 2017-18, when everything was a "bombshell" and the "walls were closing in on Trump" daily, anonymous, "high-level" informants were assuring everyone that successful impeachment was a certainty ... and then, of course, nothing happened. There's a certain resemblance here, as Pasulka's anonymous contacts are described in the most gushing terms, supposed "alien technology" is recovered from the New Mexico desert, and then ... the only payoff we get in the book is a description of a malfunctioning TSA scanning machine when one of them tries to take a lump of "alien" metal through airport security. The Truth is Out There! Watch the Skies! (Of course, as Jason Colavito points out on his blog, it's much more likely that the pieces of "alien technology" Pasulka and her colleague "James" were directed to find in New Mexico were the same bits of misidentified 20th-century industrial slag (residue from a lead refining process) that have been doing the UFO circuits now for over two decades.) The most glaring limitation in American Cosmic (and given Pasulka's religious studies background, and her possession of the Denzler archives, it can't be accidental), is the complete lack of discussion of New Age philosophy as an intellectual context for much of what she discusses in the book. Pages are spent rhapsodizing over various technologists' belief in the "download," with no acknowledgement that this is just channelling with its metaphors updated from 1960s-style radio technology to reflect the age of the internet. "Tyler" believes that off-world alien intelligences are guiding his understanding of technology and inspiring his various patents. How is this different from the role of "entities, angels, and intermediate beings" in the New Age universe? The idea of UFOs as "materialised information" sounds very 2010s to anyone not versed in the literature, but it's essentially just rehashed theosophy. The complete elision of this glaringly obvious New Age context when Pasulka describes the belief systems of her various Silicon Valley informants is baffling. Was she trying to make her study look more original by skating over a substantial body of literature that might call her rigid equivocations between UFOs and Catholic mysticism into question? Perhaps it's not for me to say. What it does mean is that Pasulka ultimately makes less sense of her material than Denzler did almost 20 years earlier, despite the inclusion of much turgid (though superficially applied) media theory, a la Katherine Hayles. Back in 1989, Time magazine rather mockingly reported on what the late 1980s UFO flap in the Soviet Union revealed about an empire in unmistakable decline: A disillusioned party member views state sponsorship of psychic and UFO studies as a new sort of official opiate. Says he: "They've been feeding us rubbish about the dream of Communism for years, and we now see they were lying. At least this gives us something new to dream about." So the next time aliens approach and ask for directions, point them toward Moscow. The Soviets need them more than ever. As the New York Times turns from #RussiaGate to full-on, yet always oddly fruitless, UFO disclosure and Oxford University Press's New York office blithely markets American Cosmic as objective scholarship, when it so clearly isn't anything of the sort, are the UFOs telling us something similar about the state of the American empire, I wonder?

  14. 5 out of 5

    David

    More a memoir mixed with research and fieldwork than a solid piece of scholarship. If you are interested in the intersection of religion and ufology then this is the book for you...otherwise you can give it a pass. Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Rob

    Interesting. Weird at times, but interesting.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Robert Gibb

    The intersection between UFOs, aliens, and God is a concept throughout the book that fascinated me the most. Maybe the things we can’t understand are all connected. Below are some other interesting concepts and snippets from the book. Reading these will help you determine if reading the whole book is a good use of your time. You can find my full review here: https://igotpassion.net/2020/01/02/am... 18th Century Psychic Cosmonauts At the beginning of American Cosmic, the author mentions a person who The intersection between UFOs, aliens, and God is a concept throughout the book that fascinated me the most. Maybe the things we can’t understand are all connected. Below are some other interesting concepts and snippets from the book. Reading these will help you determine if reading the whole book is a good use of your time. You can find my full review here: https://igotpassion.net/2020/01/02/am... 18th Century Psychic Cosmonauts At the beginning of American Cosmic, the author mentions a person who lived over 250 years ago and claimed to travel to other planets and speak with non-human beings with the assistance of an angel. The book is called Life on Other Planets (1758) and I plan on reading it. "Psychic cosmonauts like the eighteenth-century philosopher/theologian Emanuel Swedenborg crop up throughout the history of religions. Swedenborg claimed that, with the assistance of an angel, he had visited Mercury, Mars, Venus, and the moon. He claimed to have spoken to beings on those planets and he published his experiences in a book, Life on Other Planets (1758)." Tuning “The Signal” The main character in the book described the routines he implements to receive multi-million dollar, life-changing ideas from “an unknown source.” Without his healthy routines, “the signal” that sends him the ideas is distorted. "I equate this clarity he describes to having peace of mind. When the mind is at rest and not over-stimulated with caffeine or alcohol—or under-stimulated from lack of sleep—it can be more creative. It also has the energy to manifest creative ideas. And these ideas, according to the main character, come from 'a source' that is alien." To Tyler, “alien” is synonymous with something that is subtle and good, much like how I think of God. "So, in order to receive the signals and to transmit the signals, we have to tune our physical bodies and DNA. Because of this, I make sure I sleep really well. I use the eight plus one rule. That is, I sleep for eight hours, wake up, and then make myself go back to bed for an hour. That one hour, the top-off, really makes or breaks my day. I barely drink alcohol, as it interferes with sleep, and I never drink coffee. Coffee really messes up the signal." Creativity Tyler’s tuning process is part a “protocol” that is required to make contact with the source of his best ideas. But not everything can be controlled in this protocol. There is an “accident aspect” that is associated with the surfacing of his best ideas. "The 'accidental' aspect of Tyler’s protocol brought to my mind the biochemist Kary Mullis, who had discovered the highly influential polymerase chain reaction and won the Nobel Prize for the discovery in 1993. He also had an anomalous experience that he referred to as a UFO encounter, although he was very careful not to 'conclude' that was what it was. I was struck by Mullis’s description of his own process of creativity and its similarity to what Tyler was telling us: “Creativity is when you are trying to figure something out and something else keeps intruding. You finally give in to it, and it turns out to be the answer you were looking for. Perhaps something is lost and instead of looking for it, you let your hands lead you to it with your eyes closed. You might be looking something up and find the wrong subject and it turns out not only to be related, but to be exactly what you were after. It’s not an accident. It was inevitable and it all makes perfect sense after the moment, but it’s unexpected. That’s how creativity happens. The focused beam of your consciousness is very narrow, but you have a creepy sense of what is right behind you.“ Future Selves I love the idea mentioned in the quote below. It’s similar to the idea presented in the movie Interstellar. However, in the movie, the beings do communicate with human beings in the present, giving them access to a fifth dimension and the ability to communicate through the connection formed by love. “Maybe they are from our future and are our future selves, and that is why they can’t communicate with us, because they would change our present and their own history if they actually did make contact. Maybe that is why they don’t communicate with us.” The Bible and Aliens Some UFO sightings that people explain are strikingly similar to aerial phenomena mentioned in The Bible. Two reverends have even written books on the topic. It’s possible that the surreal experiences that prophets in the Bible talked about are connected to the UFO experiences of today. "Some theologians read the Bible in a similar manner. For them, the UFO or flying saucer is equivalent to aerial phenomena mentioned in scripture. In the late 1960s, Presbyterian minister Barry Downing advocated for this interpretation in 'The Bible and Flying Saucers'. The Reverend Michael J. S. Carter, a graduate of Union Theological Seminary, offers a contemporary version of this claim in his book, 'Alien Scriptures: Extraterrestrials in the Holy Bible'." You can find more interesting snippets here: https://igotpassion.net/2020/01/02/am...

  17. 5 out of 5

    Joshua Byrd

    The truth is out there.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Ivan Buchanan-Januskevic

    An interesting view at the topic from an outside perspective. Less informationally dense than I would have liked, and a bit too focused on the Catholic faith for my personal tastes, but it does draw a lot of interesting parallels between spiritual experiences and those of UFOs and extraterrestrials, for in reality, is there really a difference?

  19. 4 out of 5

    Agasthya

    man, this was disappointing. the premise - studying ufo experiences through the lens of religion - is really great, and there are some very interesting theories the author asserts in the book, but overall, it felt like the author's editor said, "not enough aliens!". Way too many alien encounter stories that undercut the author's promise that she was not going to address the objective truth of encounter experiences. maybe I didn't get the point, or maybe the audio book nature made it hard to foll man, this was disappointing. the premise - studying ufo experiences through the lens of religion - is really great, and there are some very interesting theories the author asserts in the book, but overall, it felt like the author's editor said, "not enough aliens!". Way too many alien encounter stories that undercut the author's promise that she was not going to address the objective truth of encounter experiences. maybe I didn't get the point, or maybe the audio book nature made it hard to follow, but it definitely felt like the author was taking the stance of "aliens are real, they have interacted with humans, and here are the consequences", rather than "these people truly had some sort of experience (that is truly mysterious and unexplained!), so let's explore the consequences of how they classify and understand their own experiences." disappointing.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Michael Adams

    Fairly interesting examination of the intersections between science & technology, science fiction, the UFO phenomenon, and faith. Travels along paths already blazed by the likes of Jacques Vallee and Jeff Kripal, but does a good job as a summary and offers some unique anecdotes of it’s own which is simultaneously it’s greatest differentiator and biggest detractor. The “story” part of the book is threadbare at best. By the time I read the book I had heard the entirety of the “blindfolded and take Fairly interesting examination of the intersections between science & technology, science fiction, the UFO phenomenon, and faith. Travels along paths already blazed by the likes of Jacques Vallee and Jeff Kripal, but does a good job as a summary and offers some unique anecdotes of it’s own which is simultaneously it’s greatest differentiator and biggest detractor. The “story” part of the book is threadbare at best. By the time I read the book I had heard the entirety of the “blindfolded and taken to a UFO crash site” bit recounted on various podcasts 3 or 4 times and it had begun to feel overhyped even then. Overall a decent synopsis of the UFO and it’s role as a new mythology, but with a lot of ephemera around it.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Wendelah1

    I read about half of this incoherent mess before I gave up in disgust. It was a waste of my time. The author starts out as an outsider, an academic who is supposedly conducting "research," but somehow along the way, she becomes a "believer," with no real explanation of why. How this got published in the first place is a mystery. I read about half of this incoherent mess before I gave up in disgust. It was a waste of my time. The author starts out as an outsider, an academic who is supposedly conducting "research," but somehow along the way, she becomes a "believer," with no real explanation of why. How this got published in the first place is a mystery.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Ray Foy

    There is an interaction dynamic exhibited by the operation of the UFO phenomenon that is as important to study as the phenomenon itself. How this dynamic is abetted by current technology is the concern of American Cosmic. SUMMARY The author of American Cosmic, D. W. Pasulka, is a professor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, and she brings her academic knowledge to bear on the UFO issue, which she sees as a sort of new religion. In her book’s Acknowledgments, Ms. Pa There is an interaction dynamic exhibited by the operation of the UFO phenomenon that is as important to study as the phenomenon itself. How this dynamic is abetted by current technology is the concern of American Cosmic. SUMMARY The author of American Cosmic, D. W. Pasulka, is a professor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, and she brings her academic knowledge to bear on the UFO issue, which she sees as a sort of new religion. In her book’s Acknowledgments, Ms. Pasulka offers thanks for support to Jeffrey Kripal, Michael Murphy, Christopher Bledsoe (experiencer), Whitley Strieber, Edgar Mitchell, and Jacques, Vallee. These are some pretty solid supporters, in my opinion, indicating the level of experts who take her work seriously. Much of the book is recounting events undertaken by Ms. Pasulka in the course of her research. This includes a trip to an alleged UFO crash site in New Mexico where she and some companions discovered an anomalous artifact that became an important example in her studies. A research trip to the Vatican private archives and observatory was also an object lesson for her and the note upon which she ends her book. Her companions in the above-mentioned New Mexico trip are a large part of American Cosmic as object lessons (both are scientists as well as UFO experiencers) and contributors. They are referenced in the book with the pseudonyms of Tyler D. and James. The rest of the book is Ms. Pasulka’s application of what she learns from her research to the UFO phenomenon. What she avers is that striking similarities exist between UFO experiences and religious experiences. She follows on the work of Jacques Vallee in this. Also she places much emphasis on how technology promotes UFOs as a religion, using examples from current life and culture. The books’ last chapter (before the short Conclusion) is perhaps its most interesting as it describes Ms. Pasulka’s research trip to the Vatican. She brings back more from her observations and interactions there than from the contents of the ancient books she perused. SOME ITEMS OF NOTE Ms. Pasulka notes often that there is a reality to the UFO phenomenon, but that there is also a cultural aspect that is just as important to understand. Her concern is for how the phenomenon’s interactions with people promotes religious-like belief. I think she makes this point clear, but it did leave me to wonder how much of a believer she is in the phenomenon’s physical reality. Images and themes from 2001: A Space Odyssey support Ms. Pasulka’s assertion that technology promotes a culture that then promotes UFOs as religion. In particular, she sees the movie’s monolith prop as being a representation of phenomenon that impact humanity (the UFO phenomenon as well as Evolution? Perhaps the former is an operative of the latter). In dealing with the UFO community of experiencers and adherents (especially online), Ms. Pasulka notes their largely uncritical nature that often leads them to accept fraudulent UFO photographs and videos. The religious similarity there is obvious. I thought most interesting Ms. Pasulka noting the role of synchronicities as a bolster to religion and paranormal/UFO phenomenon. While often cited as “proof” of the paranormal, synchronicity may just be how the universe works. PROS AND CONS (MOSTLY PROS) I like that American Cosmic strikes a nice balance between scholarly depth and readability. Ms. Pasulka’s prose is engaging as she describes her journey of discovery into the UFO phenomenon. There is a section of notes grouped by chapter, a short glossary, and an index. These aid readers wanting to go deeper, without being overwhelming. And I like that Ms. Pasulka is respectful when relating the experiences, views, and feelings of people without endorsing their viewpoints. She does this well with Tyler D. and James, whom she acknowledges as brilliant while maintaining her objectivity as to what they’ve come to believe about UFOs and nonhuman intelligence. IN SUM American Cosmic is somewhat controversial in the UFO community, I believe, mostly because Ms. Pasulka does maintain an agnosticism regarding the reality of UFOs. She sticks to her purpose of analyzing the cultural impact of UFOs rather than the question of their reality. I think a lot of UFO fans would rather she came right out as a “believer” or not. That she doesn’t is, in my opinion, the strength of her book. But I suspect that many in the UFO community’s problem with Ms. Pasulka is that they feel threatened by assertions that much of what surrounds UFO “belief” is psychology, human nature, wishful thinking, and an unknown force that is part of the universe (Jacques Vallee also went down this road). If I’m right about that, it actually supports Ms. Pasulka’s position. In my own studies of UFOs and paranormal phenomena over the years, I’ve come to see the religious aspect examined in this book. Reading the works of Jacques Vallee also makes it evident. And so I deem American Cosmic an important work and a solid contribution to understanding the UFO phenomenon.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Eric Gilliland

    Professor of Religious Studies Diane Walsh Pasulka spent six years researching the UFO phenomenon and the culture surrounding it. While the UFO craze no longer holds the place in pop culture it had in the late 20th century, many still devote their lives to the mystery. There's a lot to unpack in American Cosmic. The most significant revelation in the book is that the tin foil hat crowd are not alone chasing UFOs. There's a large number of scientists, engineers, writers, and "cultural elites" lea Professor of Religious Studies Diane Walsh Pasulka spent six years researching the UFO phenomenon and the culture surrounding it. While the UFO craze no longer holds the place in pop culture it had in the late 20th century, many still devote their lives to the mystery. There's a lot to unpack in American Cosmic. The most significant revelation in the book is that the tin foil hat crowd are not alone chasing UFOs. There's a large number of scientists, engineers, writers, and "cultural elites" leading double lives as UFO researchers and seekers. Academics work in anonymity out of their colleagues will disassociate from them. They refer to themselves as the "invisible college." Pasulka gained some access to this "invisible college" and becomes a character in her own book. She recounts her adventures with "Tyler D", a mystery man who's apparently a NASA scientist, MMA fighter, venture capitalist, and the guru behind cutting edge medical technology. Over the years Tyler came to believe "off world intelligence" guided him towards his discoveries through psychic communication. The opening chapter recounts Tyler taking Diane and a colleague to visit a purported UFO crash site in New Mexico. While there they discover an "artifact" that may or may not have been planted. At the book's heart is the mystery of existence and consciousness. Pasulka approaches the subject matter as a religious scholar, in the tradition of Carl Jung who made connections between religion and UFOs. Insights are also gleaned from neuroscience, mass media studies, and quantum physics. Advances in these fields are contributing to understanding the paranormal. Comparisons are made between Tyler's experience and those of composers making music - neurology tells us we feel outside of ourselves when moments of intense creativity occur. Anyone can channel this part of their brain, not just the Mozarts among us. We now live in a reality when most of our information comes from staring into screens. Pasulka's argument here gets a little cloudy, but the concept is that the reality of screen is starting to merge with actual reality. The simulation is more real than the real world - like The Matrix. While characters in a movie are fictional, they nevertheless exist in our minds. How many times have you heard someone compare a movie to a religious experience? An example is a new religion based on Star Wars. While Star Wars exists as fiction, the effect of these films on many is powerful and life changing - the logical next step is a religion based on the stories. All religions stem from narratives that in time become more real than real to its followers. The ubiquitous presence of media has also shaped the way we perceive the UFO phenomenon and everything else. Media shapes our memories to the point where they blend with the reality. American Cosmic is not proselytizing any "truth" about UFOs and other phenomena, but attempts to understand it. Media shapes our understanding and may be portals to understanding these mysterious phenomena people experience. Those who believe they've had contact with ET's express narratives that are similar to movies and TV shows, as if the idea of an encounter is already embedded in our brains. Those who believe in alien contact are not sure of what it means either, but they are sure these beings are curious about us. Yet a voice in my head says these elites (mostly wealthy white men) are simply bored and have nothing better to do, what better fate than to be chosen by the visitors? Pasulka criticizes Steven Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind as a simplistic movie, but I find it interesting that the protagonist of the film is an every man. Not some brilliant rich white guy. I come away from American Cosmic thinking the "invisible college" may be more of a diversion for those with tons of money and time on their hands. Nevertheless, American Cosmic is a compelling mix of academic rigor and intellectual adventure, I would not be surprised if a movie or TV show will be developed from it. But the book left me with more questions than answers. Skeptics get short thrift and that annoyed me. Carl Sagan is mentioned many times, and while he was intrigued with the concept of life elsewhere, he remained a skeptic about UFO encounters until the end of his life. We're left with the impression he was a believer in UFOs. Sagan's final book The Demon Haunted Earth lamented the rise of pseudoscience and conspiracy theory culture in America. Even more ominous is the idea of media becoming the new reality. We've seen the political ramifications of misinformation becoming fact in the minds of many. Some believe media saturation could ricochet into something else entirely, perhaps a spiritual awakening. If there really are intelligent beings meddling with us, the nature of their being would be so abstract it would make little sense to anyone is another takeaway from the book. Meanwhile life goes on. Pasulka, D.W. American Cosmic: UFOs, Religion, and Technology. New York: OEP, 2019.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Gregory Gallavin

    This is what author D.W. Pasulka has set out to do in American Cosmic: “This book is about how technology informs a widespread and growing religiosity focused on UFOs, but it is also a story.” Pg 3 Regarding the first half of that – technology informing religiosity - on page 21 the author describes a visit to an undisclosed desert location in New Mexico where she views a familiar looking landscape. Her host informs her that it was featured in an episode of The X-Files. She then goes on to state “M This is what author D.W. Pasulka has set out to do in American Cosmic: “This book is about how technology informs a widespread and growing religiosity focused on UFOs, but it is also a story.” Pg 3 Regarding the first half of that – technology informing religiosity - on page 21 the author describes a visit to an undisclosed desert location in New Mexico where she views a familiar looking landscape. Her host informs her that it was featured in an episode of The X-Files. She then goes on to state “My belief in the objective truth of this site didn’t matter. It had already become true for millions of people, through media…I was standing on ground zero of the new religion.” Does she mean to imply that people can’t tell the difference between a fictional TV show and reality? That they are basing a religion on a fictional TV show? She just doesn’t state her argument precisely enough for me to understand what she’s getting at here. But then, sixty pages later, she comes back to offer some clarification: “What one sees on a screen, if it conforms to certain criteria, is interpreted as real, even if it is not real and even if one knows it is not real” (pg 82). So it would seem that she really is asserting that people have a difficult time distinguishing fact from fiction. However, she does not provide any evidence at this juncture to back this claim up and for me this is a huge problem. Furthermore, she doesn’t address whether people believe all the other themes covered in the X-Files, because the show certainly explored more than just aliens. They had every manner of ghost, bug monster, mutant, fungus, etc. Did every viewer believe all of these were true as well? And what of the viewers who may have enjoyed watching the show but never believed that the UFO phenomenon was legitimate? Of course, another 32 pages later she mentions in passing Carl Jung and his concept of amplificatory interpretation. Finally, in Chapter 4, When Star Wars Became Real, she begins to really expound on her ideas. She begins referencing some more rigorous research and somewhat more fully fleshing out her ideas. However, at the same time, her ideas became a tad muddled to me. She mentions the religion Jediism, which is of course based on the Star Wars movies. Practitioners of this religion know full well that Star Wars in fiction, although apparently believe there is some underlying truth to the concept of The Force. This would seem to run contrary to her earlier point about the inability to distinguish fact from fiction. And then later on she describes people who believe they have been abducted by aliens. Of them, she states that “…the experience is remembered with and through the vast corpus of media products about abductions and UFOs.” The way she more or less blends these three concepts together rather than treating and exploring them each separately became confusing to me, as well as the way she jumped around from topic to topic. I'm also not comfortable with how she implicitly states that this technological influence seems to affect all people more or less the same way. This caused her rating to drop by a star and she had barely enough research to keep from losing a second star. However, in the author’s defense I will recognize that all of the different approaches to the subject matter still fell under her main thesis that technology informs religiosity. It’s just that the presentation could have been clearer. Further in defense of the author, in one interview she mentioned that large pieces of the book were cut by the editor, so perhaps this was the result. One additional criticism I will offer is that at times she spent so much time reviewing the ideas of Jacques Vallee that I felt I would be better off putting down American Cosmic and just reading Vallee’s works instead. The preceding criticisms aside, Pasulka did offer me some new ideas and perspectives that I had not considered before, and I will keep those ideas in the back of my mind as I further explore related topics. Generally speaking, I found her perspectives to be insightful. Now, on to the second part of the author’s goal, which was to tell the story of her adventures exploring the UFO phenomenon. For me, this aspect of the book far outshone her treatment of the other half of her goal. I quite enjoyed her descriptions of meeting billionaires, entrepreneurs and star scientists who were all engaged with the exploration of the UFO phenomenon. I particularly enjoyed reading about her visit to recover pieces of a purported crashed extraterrestrial vehicle. If you are thinking about reading this book or you have read and enjoyed it, I encourage you to listen to some of Pasulka’s interviews. She interviews quite well and offers information that was not presented in the book. Errors: Daemons are in your computer, not devils. While Whitley Strieber did author some fictional books, Communion was presented as non-fiction. Pasulka misidentified it as a novel.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jared

    I had a hard time making sense of this book as I read it. The main ideas with regard to belief in UFOs that I came away with are 1) the ways in which religious phenomenon from the past was sort of interpreted as such because, say, Catholicism was the frame, but the events and impact could be said to have UFO origins and 2) the ways in which technology is becoming integrated with the human experience, with humanity itself being a vessel for communication and experiencing AI-enabled synchronicity I had a hard time making sense of this book as I read it. The main ideas with regard to belief in UFOs that I came away with are 1) the ways in which religious phenomenon from the past was sort of interpreted as such because, say, Catholicism was the frame, but the events and impact could be said to have UFO origins and 2) the ways in which technology is becoming integrated with the human experience, with humanity itself being a vessel for communication and experiencing AI-enabled synchronicity such that religious experiences are induced. I will add that the other main idea doesn't seem to be so central to this book, but religious studies more broadly, which is the idea of excluding whether or not experiences are "true," but rather evaluating the nature of their existence, e.g. their impact on people. Just as importantly, this book reads as a sort of character study, primarily of an individual called Tyler D., who is, per the dictum above, taken at his highly-censored word to be someone who communicates with external intelligences to create biotechnologies and has some sort of storied career in space exploration that is distinguished enough to get him into the inner sanctums of the Vatican, which is admittedly nothing to sniff at. It is with descriptions of Tyler most of all that one must practice suspending intense skepticism, particularly as the book nears its end, when the author seems to take particular pleasure in his religious conversion experience having to do with, perhaps not incidentally, Catholicism, the religion with which she is personally aligned. With regard to anomalous experiences themselves, they can range from abduction and soaring past Mars and spotting Bigfoot to simply creating some distance between oneself and one's ego. It is perhaps easiest to see the parallels to religion with regard to the latter, and it was when reading those accounts that I felt myself most compelled to think about my own experience in this context. I came to this book through an interview with Pasulka I'd heard on the Ezra Klein show. The interview, combined with the book, has brought UFOs into my consciousness in a way they were not before and has caused me to think much more deeply about experiences I've had, particularly with regard to meditative states and an episode of sleep paralysis I had where I awoke to see two figures at the end of my bed which faded as I regained consciousness and mobility. Much of what I found challenging about the book had to do with the suspension of disbelief. However, I also struggled to wrap my mind around the broader concepts and hypothesis. I'm not sure why I struggled in this regard. I think it might have to do with organization, primarily. I have not read the UFO literature more broadly at all and may check out books by Jacques Vallee, who seems to be a seminal figure in this space. Overall, I would recommend this book as thought-provoking and to practice the academic religious frame of regarding belief, which takes frequent pausing as you read the book to let episodes of sharp skepticism pass. Tyler D. was the greatest struggle for me in this regard, the presentation of whom surpasses even the way we view and venerate the great tech innovators of our time.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Aaron Kleinheksel

    This is definitely a genre-bending book when attempting to sort it by shelves... American Cosmic is written by a professor of Comparative Religion w/ an interesting resume, to include advising on some feature films. She wrote this book at least partly because she felt we may be witnessing the birth and growth of a new world-spanning religion, which is a rare event and one which has never been chronicled contemporaneously. This was a unique direction from which to approach the "UFO phenomenon," a This is definitely a genre-bending book when attempting to sort it by shelves... American Cosmic is written by a professor of Comparative Religion w/ an interesting resume, to include advising on some feature films. She wrote this book at least partly because she felt we may be witnessing the birth and growth of a new world-spanning religion, which is a rare event and one which has never been chronicled contemporaneously. This was a unique direction from which to approach the "UFO phenomenon," and enough to get me very interested! In the authors words: "In one sense, I feel as if I have been studying this phenomenon my whole life, but I didn't call it UFO research; I called it religious studies." and: "...the history of religion is, among other things, a record of perceived contact with supernatural beings, many of which descend from the skies as beings of light, or on light, or amid light." The sheer number of UFO encounters and recorded evidence is voluminous and growing at an exponential rate. While there are definitely a fair share of hoaxes, something is going on outside of our understanding or ability to easily measure / perceive. Over 60% of Americans now believe in aliens... depending on how you ask the survey questions, that number can be far higher. The news media now gives air time to UFO stories and treats them seriously. The military and members of the scientific community are coming forward with their own admissions and stories... Prof. Pasulka engages w/ all of this and adds an area of her own expertise, the pervasive modern media and how it shapes peoples thinking on this topic, even down to their memories of events. I'll be honest, the intersection of UFO's, belief, consciousness and media took up probably at least a third of this short book and was, for the most part, of little interest to me. That is why the book earned 3 stars and not more. She could have just done a single chapter on that aspect and I'd have gotten her point. The most interesting parts of this book were the personalities the author meets along the way and the experiences they share with her from their lives. I won't give any of that away. In any event, I don't think anyone can read this book and not come away feeling that this material world in which we live is hiding a great many things of which we know almost nothing, and that our experienced reality is also a veil. I recommend that anyone who reads this also read Alien Encounters: The Secret Behind The UFO Phenomenon. Reading these 2 books together will give anyone with an interest in these ever-more common phenomena a far better understanding of the subject matter than watching the History Channel ever will, without drawing you into the thick weeds associated with it. 2 Corinthians 11:14 - And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light."

  27. 5 out of 5

    Mark Scheel

    In American Cosmic, the reader meets author Dr. D. W. Pasulka, a professor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina Wilmington and researcher extraordinaire into the possible interconnectedness among Catholicism, science, technology, media and UFO phenomena. And by the conclusion of her both personal and scholarly exploration, one is likely never to view religion, technology and UFO sightings in quite the same way again. She opens the door to a plethora of fresh possibilities and In American Cosmic, the reader meets author Dr. D. W. Pasulka, a professor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina Wilmington and researcher extraordinaire into the possible interconnectedness among Catholicism, science, technology, media and UFO phenomena. And by the conclusion of her both personal and scholarly exploration, one is likely never to view religion, technology and UFO sightings in quite the same way again. She opens the door to a plethora of fresh possibilities and intriguing new perspectives. Dr. Pasulka engages and collaborates with numerous renowned authorities in their various fields including those she terms “experiencers”–actual witnesses of UFO phenomena. She also relates how a division into two camps exists between those researchers who employ hard science and rigid methodology (and work mainly in secret) exploring “anomalous encounters” and those who speculate and write publicly amid the growing body of popular UFO lore. Her field research is extensive and broad, taking her, for example, to a purported UFO crash site in New Mexico as well as the Vatican Secret Archives in Rome. With an academic background in both religion and philosophy, she is adroit at highlighting the similarities between ancient, Biblical nonhuman contacts from “above” and the spate of contemporary heavenly “alien disclosures.” These supposed contacts are, she maintains, forming the basis for a new religion, quoting the acclaimed psychoanalyst Carl Jung as having declared regarding “flying saucers,” “We have here a golden opportunity of seeing how a legend is formed.” She even discusses these analogies with the 1917 Miracle of Fatima. The role played by the popular media is discussed, demonstrating how such popular film productions as 2001: A Space Odyssey, Star Wars and The X-Files can reshape our expectations and collective memories and ultimately influence our personal reality. The internet might be seen as an interacting component of our very personalities. Are UFOs materially real? Some serious researchers believe they are; others believe it’s an ethereal phenomenon created by some unknown nonhuman intelligence acting on human consciousness. Whatever the case may be, Dr. Pasulka demonstrates that the search for understanding is intensely ongoing, accompanied by an undying faith that, as The X-Files declared, “The truth is out there.”

  28. 4 out of 5

    Travis Timmons

    Equals parts fascinating and maddening. Definitely unsettling. I actually recommend reading the book, since I think it covers some important contemporary--i.e. how UFO-related phenomenon increasingly take on a religious character, the influence that media (and heavily mediated events) plays on cognition, plus awareness of the "Invisible College" (whether it actually exists or not). One fundamental critique I have of Pasulka's book: it is incoherent in the sense that the book can't decide if its Equals parts fascinating and maddening. Definitely unsettling. I actually recommend reading the book, since I think it covers some important contemporary--i.e. how UFO-related phenomenon increasingly take on a religious character, the influence that media (and heavily mediated events) plays on cognition, plus awareness of the "Invisible College" (whether it actually exists or not). One fundamental critique I have of Pasulka's book: it is incoherent in the sense that the book can't decide if its a personal faith journey or a fearless academic laying bare of X. Either options are legitimate. However, straddling the two means that Pasulka's scholarship suffers, as she pulls away from it for the sake of her narrative and the characters she's writing about, and the narrative feels a bit shallow (e.g. I would have appreciated a deeper investigative dive in main characters like Jacques Vallee, "Tyler D," or "James" -- why should we trust these men?). Then there's the little things: e.g. Pasulka takes a famous Jung quote out of context, or misrepresents a story about Facebook's social chat bots that were "shut down." These, and other moments, cause doubts to linger in my mind about how Pasulka gathers and presents evidence. She also has some big missed opportunities, such as or shying away from exploring the darkside of the UFO/spiritual stuff like demonology, etc. or really interrogating Vallee's advice "to trust no one" and "don't believe what you see." In fact, Vallee's advice seems like the central problematic of the entire book: trust, belief, and seeing are at the crux of these topics. Toward this end, I would have liked to see Pasulka really test "the phenomenon" against cognitive biases (e.g. hind-sight reasoning, confirmation bias, etc.), and, as such, opening belief itself up to these problems. She moves in this direction with her intriguing overview of media and cognition, which I would have loved to read even more about. At the very least, I am grateful for this book, which presents weird and unsettling phenomenon in ways that compel my (qualified) belief.

  29. 5 out of 5

    JustSomeGuy

    A rational and objective examination of UFOs, but not one that attempts to prove the existence of extraterrestrials, but rather, makes the case that the belief in them constitutes a new form of religion. The book describes how perceived contact with unexplained phenomena such as UFOs have a powerful effect, including the sense of experiencing something divine, and these feelings can coalesce to form a belief system - a religion. Of course, everything we see is impacted by the media, a forum that A rational and objective examination of UFOs, but not one that attempts to prove the existence of extraterrestrials, but rather, makes the case that the belief in them constitutes a new form of religion. The book describes how perceived contact with unexplained phenomena such as UFOs have a powerful effect, including the sense of experiencing something divine, and these feelings can coalesce to form a belief system - a religion. Of course, everything we see is impacted by the media, a forum that can take anything, and turn it into something else - a hoax, a conspiracy, a myth - distorting the impact of these experiences, minimizing them to fringes, free to mock and ignore. This book, this researcher, is so logical, so measured, so careful, not to make the leap from witnessing UFOs to extraterrestrials visiting Earth. In fact, the author is careful not to draw any definitive conclusions about the UFO phenomenon, other than that it exists - something the US Government finally admitted publicly. Comparisons are drawn between a traditional UFO encounter to such biblical events as the 1917 appearance of the Virgin Mary in Fatima - an apparent 'miracle' that the Catholic Church approved as 'worthy for belief'. The theory posited throughout the text by a scientist is that more so than satellites and rocket ships, that sensitive humans are the best receptors of the UFO phenomenon, just as the most devout, through prayer and worship, are more likely to follow the tenants of a religion. I took particular interest in how mysticism, the supernatural and the unexplained could simply be our interpretations of a higher functioning existence that we simply don't yet have the tools to comprehend and fully participate in. According to several of those the author interviewed for her research, answers to such phenomena do exist within quantum theory, so perhaps these experiences are simply a first step to greater understanding about the universe and our role within it.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Chris Harris

    Professor Pasulka's examination of the ontology of UFO belief systems starts off in very promising vein, noting the degree to which the field has been coopted by charlatans out to make a fast buck from the gullible. The field has had more than its fair share of grandiose narcissists able to convince other people that their cosmology is accurate since the 1940s (as an examination of the careers of, say, George Adamski, George King, or Cyril Henry Hoskin will rapidly show.) The initial tone of the Professor Pasulka's examination of the ontology of UFO belief systems starts off in very promising vein, noting the degree to which the field has been coopted by charlatans out to make a fast buck from the gullible. The field has had more than its fair share of grandiose narcissists able to convince other people that their cosmology is accurate since the 1940s (as an examination of the careers of, say, George Adamski, George King, or Cyril Henry Hoskin will rapidly show.) The initial tone of the book made me hopeful that someone was finally going to call out the woefully credulous state of the field in an academic work. As Jacques Vallée was involved in the professor's investigations, things looked very promising - his insights on the phenomenon are interesting and unconventional and make more sense than most. But the second half of the book focuses on the theories of one such anonymised fantasist, reported with a disappointing degree of credulity. I'm sure "Tyler Durden" is extremely charismatic; he may also be extremely rich and probably mildly famous with it, but the torrent of quantum woo that he produces would give any competent physicist conniptions. His eventual religious conversion at the climax of the book is such a comically staged and manipulative act that I sat shaking my head as I read about it. It's exactly the sort of stunt that a narcissist wanting to impress someone would pull. Perhaps Professor Pasulka has never met or worked with a narcissist before; I have not been so fortunate, and I found myself wanting to tell her to get as far away from "Tyler" as she possibly could. The book, then, is a fascinating one. Just not for the reasons I was expecting when I started reading it...

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