Sunday, February 26, 2023

The Labyrinths of Forbidden Science - the journals of Jacques Vallee

The publication of “Forbidden Science 5” in February 2023 – “Forbidden Science 5 – Pacific Heights – the Journals of Jacques Vallee” by Anomalist Books, continues a remarkable literary journey. Beginning in 1992, through to 2007 in various editions, with Volume 1, covering the period 1957 to 1969, then 2008 with Volume 2 (1970 to 1979), by 2016 with Volume 3 (1980 to 1989), by 2016 Volume 4 (1990 to 1999), and now with Volume 5 (2000 to 2009) Jacques Vallee shares more than 5 decades of life experience engaging with the mystery of UFOs (UAPs) and the paranormal.  
Bill Chalker gearing up to read FS5

There are many fascinating insights throughout this journal’s decade particularly with regard to UFO/UAP and paranormal issues that have been the subject of a lot of attention since the seismic shift in serious focuses by the scientific community, the military and mainstream media, in the wake of December 2017 New York Times story. The Robert Bigelow focuses with the NIDs and BAASS organisations, the connections with the BAASS/DIA AAWSAP, the Skinwalker ranch milieu, the Wilson-Davis saga of hidden aerospace SAP activities involving “recovered technological hardware not of this Earth and not made by human hands”, other efforts to track down such things, the French connections (such as the ebb and flow of GEPAN, which would spawn GEIPAN), and many other intriguing matters are addressed in the journal covering the period from 2000 to 2009.


Sadly, “Forbidden Science 5” (FS5) begins and ends with personal loss – Vallee’s mother Madeleine in January 2000 and his life partner and wife Janine in January 2010.  The “labyrinths” of life cast a heavy spell over this volume.

 (Credit: Jacques Vallee/Forbidden Science 5/Anomalist Books) 

Way back in May 1955, it was his mother call that led young Jacques Vallee to witness “a gray, metallic disk with a clear bubble on top” hovering over a local church (I September 1958: Volume 1, 25). 


On Janine, “She is my horizon, my guiding light, the standard of my mind.  I can survive alone, as I do here (JV is alone in France - BC), but it’s a dull sort of life” (12 September 2005: 5, 289).   

“Janine herself witnessed two unidentified lights at Spring Hill” (5, 415).  “Janine called me after her last night at Spring Hill.  She was awakened in the middle of the night by a very bright, large, unidentified “thing” that bathed the front of the house in white light as it flew by.  It is ironic to think our long experiment may have worked after all.” (24 January 2000: 5, 19) “As a child in Morocco, she had seen the face of what she thought was an impossible little boy outside a second-story window … Few people know the parameters of this giant puzzle better than the two of us: We’ve met every significant researcher and most of the influential witnesses in the last half century.  They became part of our lives.  We’ve heard all the theories and initiated a few of our own.  Yet our quiet dialogue in the soft night boils down to this confession: that the physical reality of a transcendent unknown, which I see so clearly, cannot yet be formulated into a scientific statement that makes sense.  I remain an optimist.  I wonder, amidst all the confusion, if we are not closer than ever to an illuminating answer, hidden in plain sight, as Jeff Kripal says.” (20 July 2008: 5, 415)  


Jeffrey Kripal, a religious studies academic researcher from Rice University, reached out to Vallee during October 2007 indicating, “Early on, with Passport to Magonia and The Invisible College, you saw that UFO phenomena must be contextualized comparatively in the broader history of folklore and religion, as well as the general field of psychical phenomena …” (5, 381) Kripal visits the Vallee high rise apartment condominium (Hummingbird) in San Francisco in December 2007, and is struck with the Vallee library and the ‘ritual space’ of his study organised around “the vision of Magonia” seeing a parallel between Jung’s Bollingen Tower and this San Francisco Tower, and that Vallee literally works subrosa, ‘under the rose,’ (5, 385) as roses top each of his hand made stained glass windows that incorporate deep mystical themes, including Bishop Agobard holding a book entitled Magonia. Jacques Vallee becomes one of Kripal’s “Authors of the Impossible – The Paranormal and the Sacred” (2010), where Kripal reminds us of Vallee’s perspectives in 2007 expressed in the essay “Consciousness, Culture, and UFOs” which appeared in Diana Tumminia’s “Alien Worlds”: “… the phenomenon is indeed a real manifestation in a physical sense …. We are dealing with physical objects that interact with their environment through the emission of light and other electromagnetic radiation, through mechanical and thermal effects, and through psychophysiological changes in the witnesses who are in close proximity to the phenomenon …. The believer’s mistake is to ascribe meaning and credence to the secondary perception, the mental image created by our brain to account for the stimulus. The skeptic’s mistake is to deny the reality of the stimulus altogether, simply because the secondary perception seems absurd to him or her.  What we take to be reality may, in fact, be a mere appearance, or projection, onto the “screen” of our four-dimensional space-time world from a much more complex, multidimensional, more fundamental reality.”


There is much to fascinate and intrigue, and even frustrate the reader, as the journal describes the complexities of Vallee’s interactions with the phenomenon, the folklore and the impact of it, as well as the many twists and turns of the various participations and descriptions of the more secretive approaches to researching and investigating it.  


The continuing activities of Robert Bigelow’s National Institute for Discovery Science (NIDS) are covered in some detail, until it shuts down.  Then there is the intrigue of the even more secretive venture involving Bigelow’s BAASS organisation formed to facilitate the partnership with the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA), namely the Advanced Aerospace Weapon System Applications Program (AAWSAP).  Vallee’s journal provides many interesting insights into these developments.  


Much of Vallee’s AAWSAP involvement focused on the initial development of the Capella Data Warehouse, but he fears, “In one year, they will have hundreds of thousands of entries in incompatible formats, and it will be another sinking cathedral.  So I made my recommendations, turned over my final report and my handwritten notes from our 1988 trip to Colares (see Vallee’s excellent book “Confrontations” (1990) and FS 3 (1980-1989) for further insights into the Brazilian investigations), and kept my peace.  Much of my time now is devoted to Janine’s care, I told Bob (Bigelow), and I can’t take any additional assignment within BAASS (27 February 2009: 5, 476).” Vallee could see the six databases assembled by April 2009 would need “a massive statistical re-calibration and quality control effort, but I doubt if anyone realizes the need for this, so inebriated are they with the hundreds of thousands of entries we have inside those computers, potentially a source of big errors, mere shadows in cyberspace if we don’t compile the difficult screens.” (5, 483).  It is clear that Vallee was pessimistic. “Privately, I see BAASS following the same trajectory as Dr. Hynek’s CUFOS under Al(I)an Hendry in the 70s, when they started checking cases carefully and found that much of the “evidence” disappeared under serious scrutiny.” (5, 485)   Allan Hendry’s excellent contribution “The UFO Handbook” (1979) emerged from this CUFOS milieu.  Vallee highlights, “BAASS is running a vacuum cleaner over the field of international ufology and falls into the trap about which the wise Major Murphy warned me, ending up with 95% of the information … but missing the five percent that really matter.” (26 April 2009: 5, 485-486)   Invoking “Major Murphy” in 2009 seems a bit playful, when the December 1980 paperback edition of “Messengers of Deception – UFO Contacts and Cults” reveals “there is no Major Murphy.  I invented him … a fictional character … and patterned him on several real individuals I had met and interviewed during my research.”  Still one gets the point that any database needs to have carefully scrubbed and evaluated data, a critical lesson, that all of the more recent new ventures seeking to use AI and various UFO/UAP data bases need to take on board.  The spectre of the old computer adage – garbage in, garbage out – looms large here, and Jacques Vallee is in an excellent position to push the message of quality control in the data.


“This is really a dream come true for many of us,” stated Jacques Vallee some 5 years later  in his preface for his presentation of his research paper “Unidentified Aerial Phenomena – A strategy for research,” at an important workshop focusing on the scientific examination of UAP UFO observations held at CNES (French equivalent to NASA) headquarters in Paris on 8-9 July 2014. It proved to be an important step in the long road of developing a viable UAP UFO science. The GEIPAN workshop in PARIS – CAIPAN – Collecte et Analyses des Informations sur les Phenomenes Aerospatiaux Non Indentifies – “allow the exchange of methods, tools and experiences between people with practical, specific knowledge in the analysis of rare and unpredictable phenomena, whether natural or artificial (unidentified aerospace phenomena, lightning, fireballs, etc)”.  Vallee’s CAIPAN paper abstract indicates, “After years of ideological arguments based on anecdotal data the field of UAP research appears ready to emerge into a more mature phase of reliable study. Renewed scientific interest now exists in many countries, based on credible official or semi-official documents. Without pre-judging the origin and nature of the phenomena, a range of opportunities arise for investigation, hard data analysis and new theoretical exploration. In order to avoid repeating past errors, however, such projects need to generate new hypotheses and test them in a rigorous way against the accumulated reports of thousands of observers.” 

“Unfortunately such a repository of reliable global data does not yet exist (and he was including Capella – BC). Furthermore, the level of difficulty in assembling it has either been ignored or underestimated. The purpose of this paper is to briefly review previous work in the compilation of UAP databases and outline some new directions for research. We also raise the question of identifying researchable issues and consistent ontologies in the UAP domain. 

“With respect to the last point, the challenges of data collection and analysis over a limited territory are illustrated by a longitudinal study of 167 screened UAP observations performed by researcher Jean-François Boëdec in the département of Finistère between 1950 and 1981. His study shows how such focused investigations could be extended to perform a regional or even national assessment of the patterns behind the phenomenon.” 


It is here that a point I made in my review of Forbidden Science 4 is worth restating, as it is relevant to the issue of quality control of the data.  Some classic cases over the decades start to loose their gloss over time when critical issues start to either undermine them or bring them into doubt. For example, Jacques Vallee refers briefly to uncertainties and concerns about the famous Dr. X case of 1968 in his “Forbidden Science 4” (the nineties) but the nuanced details were not shared. Forbidden Science 5 adds little. “Many of our favorite cases have disintegrated under long-term scrutiny. The Dr. X story turned into a vaguely occult tale.” (July, 2008: 5, 414)   Earlier (1 August 2000) Vallee wrote, “When I was lecturing on the subject in the seventies and eighties, I spent much time on events like the Dr. X observation … If I made a presentation today I couldn’t use (it) … Dr. X may have experienced something, but he lied about some key aspects.”  We still don’t know the devil in the detail and as Jacque Vallee has placed his files into an archive at Rice University’s Fondren Library, at Houston, Texas, with an embargo until January 2031, we are not likely to find out, unless he further elaborates on the affair.  


My point really is that the evolution of such cases and the application of quality control and ongoing reassessments is a critical part of the ongoing research process.  Knowing about such things in detail now rather than in a decade times helps with that process.


Should we consider a case like the fascinating 1998 Haravilliers encounter as another possible candidate of concern?  Jacques Vallee provided some limited, but fascinating details about that affair in Forbidden Science 4.  It certainly attracted my attention and I wrote to him about it to try to get further information.  While I was wondering if aspects of it were relevant to the study of possible “solid light” cases, Jacques Vallee advised me it wasn’t a “solid light” case, but “patches” of “light, but no detail was shared.  Instead I eventually tracked down details via other French sources, so I could better understand the strange light beam behaviour. These seemed to demonstrate some phase changes of the “light” involved, which might be significant in better understanding the phase changes apparent in some “solid light” cases. Further open elaboration and sharing of relevant UFO data (that still respects privacy and other confidences) now, rather than a decade hence, would greatly help research and investigations currently under way.  In Forbidden Science 5 some issues were mentioned about the Haravilliers case, such as the use of hypnosis “by silly ufologists” which may have left the main witness “alienated and depressed.” (5, 105)  I would certainly like to have the benefit of Jacques Vallee’s detailed analysis of this affair. He provided some information on the affair to NIDS in 2000 (5, 34) and SSE in 2001 (5, 88), but neither seem readily available now.


Uncertainties seem to be plentiful in the older French case that is a strong focus of a number of Vallee’s journal entries between 2000 and 2009, namely the Soissons affair: “a stunning observation by two very reliable witnesses in August 1977, of a series of phenomena that escalated over three weeks and were clearly seen by a team of Gendarmes they alerted.  They took pictures and tested for radioactivity (negatively).  After (Vallee’s new (as of January 2007) research colleague) had contacted authorities (back in 1977 – BC), he’d rushed to the site and was authorized to take plaster molds of the imprints he still has. (5, 343).  Vallee adds, “I now have the verbal testimony of the main witness, aged 64.  He stated to me that the property belongs to his parents… On the first night, his wife was at the window. The time was about 10.30 pm. When he asked her why she was staying there so long, she just said, “I’m watching a shooting star.”  Two minutes later he was watching the phenomenon with her, obviously not a shooting star.  Both saw it as a bright light approaching, and they made three observations: (1) They were petrified and could not take their eyes from it; (2) There was total, utter silence, no air vibration, no animal noises, no wind; and (3) They became terrified as the unknown object went into a field beyond the gate and “seemed to watch them” as it changed color and eventually took off. When the witnesses went to the site, they found the vegetation crushed into the soil, forming three imprints, each 80 cm to 1 meter in diameter.  The gendarmes visited the site, oddly accompanied by … the Army!”

“An officer came to interrogate us.  He pulled out a 6-page questionnaire from his briefcase,” stated the main witness. “The questions corresponded precisely to what we had experienced and included items such as ‘Have you heard any sound? Was there a change in the level of ambient noise? Did you feel any pricklings?’ It was obvious the officers had a clear idea of the physical and physiological correlations to UFO sightings.” 

“The Army stayed on the site for several days, taking extensive measurements.  So why is it that no one at CNES seemed to know about the case? Was it not researched by GEPAN?” (23 January 2007: 5, 344)

    (Credit: Jacques Vallee/Forbidden Science 5/Anomalist Books)  

Given my own long focus on UFO “physical trace” cases (see for example my chapter on “Physical traces” in the compilation book “UFOs 1947-1987” compiled & edited by Hilary Evans with John Spencer) I was very interested in this August 1977 account. Indeed, I had actually investigated a striking witnessed UFO landing case from June 1977 near Orange, NSW, Australia, soon after its occurrence, in the company of Terry Bishop, a local investigator, a child psychologist (my future wife Anne) – the main witness was a child – and Dr. Geoff Stevens, a scientist with the Australian Atomic Energy Commission at Lucas Heights in Sydney, who undertook thermo-luminescence studies of “imprints” at the site, which indicated neither excessive temperature or radiation.

                                                      (Credit: Bill Chalker/UFOIC)

Vallee describes his own retrospective field investigation of the Soissons site in March 2007. Locals well remembered the events, indeed one even recollected his own parents seeing a “flying saucer” land beside the road they were driving along, near Provence, back in either 1954 or 55, and witnessing “two short silhouettes that walked near it.” (5, 347) Vallee “spoke on the phone with the retired gendarme who conducted the main investigation. He told me that the grass was burned all over the places where the object had touched down. He also said that the official statement he typed would have been destroyed after ten years if Gendarmerie regulations were followed.  He thought the Army would have buried the case.  Does CNES have a copy?” (5, 347) Vallee states, “the primary investigator from Soissons took me to see the plaster cast of the landing gear of the object, stored in a bank vault, so I was able to take measurements and photographs (one is reproduced in Forbidden Science 5, along with a photo of their 2007 field visit).” (5, 398) The Soissons investigator told Vallee “that the gendarmerie superior officer in the case, a major, was willing to meet me … Why did they fail to report seeing the object up close in the official document I found in the CNES archives?  Why did they lie to their superiors, stating they went back for a stake-out but saw nothing? Finally, the key question: How could a massive object, over ten tons, emerge out of a simple wandering light?” (5, 402)

   (Credit: Jacques Vallee/Forbidden Science 5/Anomalist Books)  

Vallee meets, “the main witness of the Soissons landings, who came over to meet us, is a dynamic retired man in his late sixties … The Major didn’t know what happened to his report, so he was pleasantly surprised when I showed him the copy I’d discovered in the official CNES files in Toulouse.

“We spent much time going over the details of what he saw at the site, which, as it turns out, is called Le Trou du Diable … The Devil’s Hole. He was 30 meters away from the object when it seemed to emerge and drop down from the hovering light.  So why is the official report silent on the main features of the case? Why does it simply note some superficial trace analyses, without mentioning that two Gendarmes were present at the site, watching everything?  Their radio was out of commission and their minds so stunned they vaguely spoke of getting out of their car, but did nothing of the kind, contrary to plans they had made.

“Why doesn’t CNES know about this? The answer is simple:  The Major’s superiors told him not to mention it because they would surely be brought before a shrink; their careers would be in jeopardy. The media would be crawling everywhere.  It’s another situation showing why the best cases never come before official panels.” (9 June 2008: 5, 408)


Jacques Vallee was clearly impressed with the Soissons case.  From the limited picture revealed in his journal I tend to feel the same way, but here I can only see fragmented aspects of this intriguing affair.  Given my long term interest and involvement with such physical trace close encounter events I would like to see as much of the totality of data on the affair as possible. But how likely is that? It seems that is largely dependent on Jacques Vallee. Wither Soissons? Perhaps Vallee may have developed a determined position on this affair more than a decade beyond these journal fragments?


We return to the ebb and flow of Jacques and Janine’s private labyrinths, facing together further darkening turns:

“Awake at 5 am, I taste the night, my anxious thoughts, and a landscape of burning mysteries to explore: ancient reports in Wonders in the sky (Chris Aubeck and I are reaching the end of our screening of cases); modern reports like Haravilliers, Soissons, and others; then the long and fruitless search for definitive answers.  And now, Bigelow’s amazing new project (the short lived DIA mediated BAASS/AAWSAP program, elaborated upon in a limited way in “Skinwalkers at the Pentagon – An Insiders’ Account of the Secret Government UFO Program” (2021) by James Lacatski, Colm Kelleher and George Knapp – BC). (20 July 2008: 5, 414)

“Janine has lost faith in this research.  She insists that my magistrate father was right when he spoke of the frailty of human testimony. Even when I replay for her my interview with the Major, who was in uniform and within feet of the huge Soissons object when it landed, she shakes her head: “All this has lasted too long, it remains too vague.  You have no real evidence.”

“It’s hard to argue with her view, which comes from someone with as much experience as I do. Many of our favorite cases have disintegrated under long-term scrutiny ….As for the experiments at Bigelow’s Utah ranch, they have yielded puzzling enigmas and some reliable experiences but no more scientific clues than our own attempts at Spring Hill (the latter methodologies for attracting “balls of light” don’t seem to have been elaborated upon, but has “ritual space” have something to do with it? – BC).

“What is it, then, that made the three deep imprints at the Devils’ Hole? What is it that flew over Haravilliers at dawn, startling six men on their way to hunt?” (20 July 2008: 5, 414-15)


It seems like a trail of fragmented interactions with manifestations in the labyrinths of UFOs, the paranormal, and of life.  Perhaps the principles, passions and philosophies of the closely connected Japanese arts of kintsugi(“golden joinery”), kintsukuroi(“golden repair”) and wabi-sabi(embracing the flawed or imperfect), via the roles of quality control and quality assurance, learning from history, experience and continuing re-evaluations of data, may help along the way.  There remains the spectre of some extraordinary realities.  The unravelling has its rewards.


I’m up for more, as I’ve been at it only for more than five decades, Vallee clearly more.  Jacques Vallee has revealed many truths, some pliable facts and even trails of fiction, as many others have in this incredible journey through the many paths to understanding UFO/UAP realities. Thank you Jacques Vallee for your courage and persistence, particularly in this particular decade (Forbidden Science 5 (2000-2009) and its personal 2010 “Reflections.” From the perspective of early 2023 we can see that Jacques Vallee had much more to offer.  I recommend “Forbidden Science 5” and the volumes that preceded it, any that might follow.


A parting aside …. Vallee is drawn to what he calls “intersigns” (coincidences, mytho-poietic aspects and other variants). I’m no stranger to such things, as they seem common, but the real question is their significance – banal, interesting, or extraordinary.   Journalist and author Ken Anderson described some we shared in “Extraordinary Co-incidences” (1993) and “The Coincidence File” (1999).  I had some while writing “Hair of the Alien”.  I also had some strange variants submersing myself in Vallee’s rich Forbidden Science journals, this one included. During the period reading the latest, I took a break and visited a charity book sale not expecting deep surprises.  I certainly wasn’t expecting the following – “The Acentric Labyrinth – Giordano Bruno’s Prelude to Contemporary Cosmology” by Ramon Mendoza. It was only later on the way home on the Metro, a small measure of “intersign” milieus were revealed – a deep discussion of labyrinth variants, even tilting at Borges’ Labyrinths, that gets a brief mention in Vallee’s journal I was currently reviewing. 


Labyrinths, in their many variants, are everywhere. Jacques Vallee’s journals are wonderful examples of the literary and evidential kind.


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