Jacques Vallee is one of today's most widely
respected researchers of unexplained aerial phenomena.
He earned a master's degree in astrophysics while living
in France and holds a Ph.D. in computer science from
Northwestern University. Vallee is the author of several
books about high technology and unidentified phenomena,
including the seminal work Passport to Magonia, published
in 1969. He lives in San Francisco.
Chris Aubeck has
built the largest collection of pre-1947 unexplained
aerial cases in the world. In 2003, he co-founded
The Magonia Project, a remarkable network of librarians,
students, and scholars of paranormal history on the
Internet. The group has accumulated thousands of
references, searched media archives in several languages,
and collected hundreds of rare documents, scientific
reports, and newspaper clippings. Aubeck lives in
Vallee examines sightings in antiquity
Customer Review by John H.
Macdonald - November 29, 2010
It's been a long time since
Vallee's seminal Passport to Magonia: On UFOs,
Folklore, and Parallel Worlds...I've long anticipated
Jacques Vallee's latest book, and I do recommend
it highly. That said, it is only fair to let readers
know that this is much less of Vallee himself than
I had hoped, the authors devoting most of the book
to a chronology of 500 reports of strange events
reported from ancient times to 1879, complete with
sources and notes for each (Readers familiar with
Vallee's Magonia Database will instantly recognize
the format). The chronology ends in 1879, as this
is the point at which manmade objects appeared in
the sky for the first time. Vallee devotes much of
his commentary to sections the precede and follow
the cases, presenting his criteria for inclusion
and standards of credibility, as well as a summary
of his approach and mindset. This is a valuable introduction
to the complex framework through which he views these "anomalies".
Those unfamiliar with Vallee's thought will be brought
up to speed quickly. The brief discussion of Thomas
Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions as
it pertains to "anomalies" was very interesting.
The main thrust of the book
is that these unexplained phenomenon did not appear
suddenly with Kenneth Arnold's "flying
saucer" sighting on June 24th, 1947, but have
been with us since the dawn of recorded history.
His thesis is that each generation views these events
through it's own cultural filter and frames them
in a context that is peculiar to its time and place.
The bottom line is that the extraterrestrial hypothesis
is not the only way to view these events; Vallee
speculates that this view may simply be a product
of our times, and explores alternatives. He also
explains that his method is "fact based" rather
than "belief based"; essentially refusing
to filter events through our cultural lens to establish
credibility, accepting an event as reported even
if it defies "common sense".
The structure of the book is interesting, being
divided into three main sections: 1.) A Chronology
of Wonders, 2.) Myths, Legends, and Chariots of the
Gods, and 3.) Sources and Methods. These three sections
are preceded by an in Introduction and a Forward,
and followed by a Conclusion chapter; these alone
are worth the price of the book.
Part One - Chronology of Wonders...presents in chronological
order, 500 recorded events of unexplained aerial
phenomenon that predate man's ability to take to
the air. These cases are those examined by the authors
using criteria outlined in the book and found to
be credible in terms of their sources and reliability.
It is important to note that the events are reported
as given by the source, and there is no discussion
or evaluation of each case; you read what was reported
and in most cases the report is a half page or so.
This is not a bad thing, but one would love to have
Vallee's thoughts on many of these cases.
Part Two - Myths, Legends,
and Chariots of the Gods...is comprised of those
accounts that seem to be questionable: blatant
hoaxes, religious visions, and atmospheric effects.
This is an effort to remove from the "canon" those
cases which, on examination, should be dismissed,
lest they cloud the more credible cases in Part One.
Various accounts from popular ufology (such as the
Dropa) are investigated and reasons given as to why
they should be considered questionable at best. This
is a rewarding exercise as we see the author's mind
Part Three - Sources and
Methods is a fascinating discussion of the methods
used to judge the credibility of cases and an examination
of sources of all kinds. This chapter presents
the idea of fact based vs. belief based reporting
and examines both the "ancient
astronaut" beliefs, and the modern "extraterrestrial" hypothesis
arising after the Kenneth Arnold sighting. Disgarding
both "belief systems", he provides his
own answers - which I will not attempt to paraphrase.
The Conclusion Section provides an analysis of what
has been learned from an examination of the cases
presented in the form of twelve questions and answers
from the authors.
The entire book is a terrific one volume introduction
to this seminal thinker, and an attempt to expand
the range of possible explanations for these events
beyond the extraterristrial hypothesis. For anyone
interested in unexplained aerial phenomenon, this
is a treasure trove of information. Vallee fans will
be delighted; those unfamiliar with his work will
For some interesting thoughts
on possible explanations for the "high strangeness" phenomenon,
those with a bent toward particle physics and quantum
theory will certainly enjoy the classic The Holographic
Universe: The Revolutionary Theory of Reality. Talbot
presents a chapter that is focused on events that
have no seeming rational explanation in our current
view of reality, and this chapter alone is worth
the price of the book.