THE OMEGA PROJECT:
Near-Death Experiences, UFO Encounters, and Mind at Large
By Kenneth Ring, Ph.D.
Book Summary by Quentin T. Benson.
- UFO – unidentifiedflying object usually assumed to be an aircraft from another planet or reality
- Ufologist – someone who studies the UFO experienceor who is part of the UFO community of scholars
- Ufology – the study of the UFO experience, particularly the abduction experience
- UFOE – UFO experience
- UFOErs – UFO experiencers, those who have had an experience involving UFOs.
- CE3 and CE4 – Close Encounters of the Third Kind (viewing aliens) and Fourth Kind (alien abduction).
- CE3rs – people who have had a Close Encounter of the 3rd Kind
- CE4rs – people who have had a Close Encounter of the 4th Kind
- AE – abduction experience
- NDE– Near Death Experience, NDEs- plural of NDE
- NDEr(s) – Someone who has had a near death experience (plural form)
- OBE – Out of Body Experience OBEs –plural form
- OBEr –Someone who has had an OBE – OBErs- plural form
- EE – Extraordinary encounters/experiences, EEs –plural form, EErs – people who have had extraordinary experiences plural form.
CHAPTER 1: ANOTHER ROAD TO OMEGA
UFO studies began in the late 1940's and have from the beginning been either sensationalized or ridiculed.
However, with the publication of Whitley Strieber's book Communion, and other publications/presentations in the 1980's, UFO research has become more respectable and a subject of genuine, scholarly research.
Ring speculates this may be due simply to the fact that 19 million people in the United States alone have reported inexplicable airborne phenomena.
Ring first began his interest in the UFO experience in the course of researching and teaching about NDE's. He found himself offering his students other glimpses of unusual experiences, and among them were UFO experiences. (UFOEs).
Ring had already begun drafting a possible investigation of UFOEs when he met Whitley Strieber.
Until that point, Ring, a clinical researcher and professor of psychology emeritus, had devoted his scholarship to studying near death experiences (NDE's).
In conversation with Strieber, Dr. Ring discovered what he felt was a significant similarity between UFO encounters (UFOE) and the NDE.
This led Ring to speed up his developing research project, and The Omega Project is what resulted.
Dr. Ring is quick to point out that it is impossible to communicate the intensity and sincerity of those who have had UFOE or NDE.
After hearing many first-hand accounts of the UFOE, Ring was completely convinced the UFOErs were entirely sincere in their conviction about what they believed had happened to them.
The balance of Chapter 1 involves Dr. Ring's preparations, research, and funding applications leading to The Omega Project. He hints that the project itself had surprising conclusions.
He found there is a specific personality type that is inclined to have both UFOEs and NDEs. He suggests there is an encounter-prone personality, and that this book deals with the psychology of extraordinary and so-far, unexplainable phenomena this personality type seems to attract.
Ring cautions that the Omega Project was not undertaken to explain away the UFOE or the NDE in purely psychological terms, because it deals also with the effects of both types of experiences on the later lives of the experiencers.
Ring indicates it is the after-effects of both types of experience that set them apart from other psychological experiences, and hints that both experiences are evolutionary. [Ring's italics]
CHAPTER 2: VARIETIES OF UFO ENCOUNTERS
Because of the nature of the Omega Project, much of the content of the book consists of first-person accounts of both UFOEs and NDE's, as well as the research tools devised by Dr. Ring and his staff, along with the statistical results gathered.
The latter are contained in the lengthy Appendix. The reader shouldn't skip this portion of the book, especially the sample research questionnaires, as they give ample evidence of Dr. Ring's thoroughness.
The bulk of Chapter 2 consists of first-person accounts of UFO encounters (UFOE), and as such, must be rendered exactly; therefore, I have quoted two such accounts here.
"I awakened from a dream or what I thought was a dream. Under hypnosis...I recalled being taken aboard a spacecraft. I was on a surgery table in a well-lit round laboratory-type room.
I was paralyzed—couldn't move anything but my head. The encounter was terrifying. I have some real concern—fear [and] anger about whether they [the entities] have the right to do that without our consent."
"...in...Alaska...I saw a moose at the top of a hill, so instead of walking home [after school], I investigated the moose. When I got to the top of the hill and into the woods, I couldn't see the moose, but instead saw a shiny, metallic round craft.
I then found myself inside [it] somehow and saw two seats and a control panel of colorful, festive light. I sat down and then heard footsteps behind me. A being with large eyes and about four feet tall telepathically said, 'Do not be afraid,' and I wasn't.
He took my hand and took me to a chair in another room and sat me down and flashed different colored lights over my head and telepathically repeated, 'Remember the light.'
When that was done, he led me to the control panel and I sat down and suddenly I saw the tops of the trees, then I saw the earth, and it was so beautiful.
I did not want to return. We came back to the same spot as we left, and then I found myself outside the craft, and I walked dome and excitedly told my mother that I had seen a moose!'
Dr. Ring comments on the number and variety of UFOE and says there are fairly consistent features that tend to occur is nearly all such experiences. He mentions four that are of particular interest:
1. There is often an eerie quality to these encounters.
2. A surprisingly high number of UFOEs are experienced in early childhood.
3. UFOEs are rarely isolated occurrences, but tend to recur throughout life.
4. People who have UFOEs are likely to have had other odd things happen in their lives.
Number 4 in particular intrigued Dr. Ring.
Ring goes on to detail reasons NOT to discount UFO incidents.
1. UFO sightings have at times been found to correlate with radar signals at the time of occurrence.
2. Analysis of photographic evidence supports their existence.
3. There are physical traces on the ground after some such experiences that can be scientifically measured.
Ring then details UFO sightings of well over twenty different people. He is careful to include only accounts by intelligent, well-educated people, many with advanced degrees.
Some encounters are harrowing, while some are associated with positive feelings. Some are singular events, but others are witnessed by more than one person, very often husbands and wives.
Ring notes there is no correlation between age or gender and the psychological reaction of the experiencer to the UFO encounter. Ring notes that such encounters elicit either a trancelike fascination or paralysis from terror.
Ring describes the experience as seeming to be mind-numbing at the time of its occurrence even for witnesses to the encounter who are held spellbound.
Rings adds that the experiencers consciousness seems profoundly altered by UFO sightings both during and after the encounter.
One of the most commonly reported occurrences is "missing time"—an interval of time about which the experiencer has amnesia.
There are also descriptions of electro-magnetic effects and interruptions such as machines or lights turning off and on by themselves, as well as objects moving, even appearing to fly across the room.
Dr. Ring supposes than since there are so many disconnected but similar accounts of such bizarre activity, that it is statistically unlikely that all of them are delusional.
Next, Dr. Ring steps up the intensity of the chronicled encounters from Close Encounters of the 1st and 2nd Kind, to Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and eventually of the Fourth Kind.
In the 3rd Kind encounters, Ring again begins with the accounts of children, most of whom are about five years of age. Occasionally after such experiences, the child suffers headaches or other illnesses for a period of time afterward.
The youngest child to report a UFOE was three years of age!
Close Encounters of the Third Kind differ from the 1st and 2nd Kind in that they include the appearance of "alien beings" of various types from beings about four feet tall with enormous eyes and long, narrow fingers, to tall robed creatures.
Some of the beings are described as kind while others are unfeeling and clinical with a few described as hostile—but only after the experiencer tries to escape from them.
Many of these 3rd Kind experiences take place while people are camping far from home. Dr. Ring sums up the recurrent features of these close encounters thusly:
1. Despite the experiencers age and gender differences, their descriptions of the "beings" they've encountered are all remarkably similar.
- The "beings" are small of stature
- They have large eyes and a disproportionately large head
- The "beings'" behavior is detached, clinical.
- They don't seem to be malevolent.
Ring notes the consistency of the descriptions of the beings is prima facie evidence that "something" other than stories produced under stress is involved in these accounts, especially since there are hundreds of unrelated accounts extant in the UFO field of interest.
2. The behavior of the witnesses/participants to CE3s is consistent both at first and over time.
There is evidence of consciousness discontinuity in first-person accounts reflected in expressions such as, "the next thing I knew", "then I blanked out", suddenly I found myself", and so on.
Dr. Ring suggests UFOE, however much they bear the consciousness discontinuity of dreams, are NOT so much dreams that one fall into, but seem more like dreams into which one awakens". [Ring's italics] Ring asks the reader to keep in mind that there may be some kind of connection between dreams, fairytales and UFO narratives.
That being the case, he points out how UFOE could represent the drama of the initial encounter with the alien. Psychologically, such an experience is a rupture of the individual's old reality and the promise of continuing shocks as the new reality begins.
Ring takes this analogy one step further in the next chapter by extending it into the Hero's journey, as the perceiver moves from simply meeting the alien to interacting with the alien.
CHAPTER 3: CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE FOURTH KIND (CE4s)
In the psychology of the mythological journey, first comes contact, then comes the journey. Ring points out that CE4s appear to represent the full heroic experience as it appears in literature.
1. The Hero is separated from the ordinary.
The experiencer is taken away against her will.
In UFOEs this is called The Abduction.
She is ritually inspected, tested.
In a CE4, this is called The Examination and has all the lurid overtones of a very bad SF movie.
2. The final stage of the journey.
In UFOEs this is called, The Return.
The experiencer is returned usually to the location where the abduction began.
Dr. Ring points out that some UFOErs remember the full account of their experiences while others remember only under hypnosis.
Some abductees recall the experience as a dream, and others believe the episode was physical. Ring says whether the experience is recalled as dream or actuality, the nature and resulting effects are identical. Hypnosis, in other words, does not create or affect the UFOE.
Next, Dr. Ring explores the UFOE upon children. Most children have their first UFOE at about age five. The youngest dictated his narrative to his mother when he was age three.
In nearly all cases of childhood UFOE, the subject is asleep before the experience occurs, although most subjects recall the experience as being "real".
Some UFOE in children are benign occurrences having the nature of a Disneyland amusement ride. Most, however, have a more ominous tone and many are quite frightening.
Most begin with the child being in bed prior to being abducted, examined and returned back again to bed.
During the abduction experience, the child is often given a physical examination frequently involving genital examination, and sometimes given instruction about the nature and history of planet Earth.
The children are frequently "told" through non-verbal means that they are special in some way that is unclear but important.
Children having these experiences are usually quite frightened, even terrified by them, especially as they begin and take place when the child is at his most vulnerable, asleep in his own room.
Other childhood UFOEs occur in the daytime in outdoor settings—the next most common occurrence.
The bulk of Chapter 3 are first-person narratives of CE4s, first those of children followed by those of adults.
Although most of the children were too young to understand or have heard of the experiences they describe, Dr. Ring points out that the accounts given by children are particularly lurid.
All the accounts have similar themes and the children recounting them are all around age five.
Ring suggests that such regularities indicate something systematic at work, and beg further investigation as to why these regularities exist.
Abduction stories persist into adulthood as some children continue to have such experiences throughout life after beginning them at about age five.
Other subjects begin their UFOEs after reaching physical maturity.
Adults can at times show physical marks on their bodies that correspond with "experiments" they believe were conducted on them during their abduction experience (AE).
Like the UFOEs of children, adults have three types of AEs: 1) dream-like but not remembered as dreams, 2) sleep-related, 3) and outdoor encounters.
Unlike children, adults who experience CE4s sometimes have physical evidence of trauma on their bodies that persists over a lifetime.
Others show symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder(PTSD). Although "examinations" including examination of the genitals are not uncommon among the abduction narratives of children and young adults, they sometimes occur in older abductees as well.
The oldest subject of such an examination was 75. Most CE4s are clinical and relatively benign, but occasionally an experiencer believes herself to have a lifetime of terrifying clinical abuse at the hands of dispassionate aliens.
Every alien encounter is unique, yet examined as a whole, they have much in common. They appear to follow the general outline of the epic Hero's Journey.
Especially in adult, outdoor narratives the encounters begin in extremely strange circumstances. Cars suddenly stop running and pull to the side of deserted roads where their occupants wait helplessly to be abducted.
The abductee seems to be paralyzed or entranced unable to act of their own volitions.
If they resist the aliens, they are forced to comply and their abductors often become harsh.
On the other hand, compliance sometimes brings reassurance from the aliens.
A submissive attitude during the abduction proceedings seems to bring about a better post-abduction psychological state.
Many abductees feel their experience is absolutely physical and "real". Others having nearly identical experiences will deny the physicality of the abduction, describing the experience as "being in my mind"...then expressing doubt about whether or not the experience was completely imaginary.
Dr. Ring indicates it would be easy to dismiss all such experiences as "not real" except for the one absolutely verifiable fact—the experiences are real in the aftereffects of their abduction experience.
Something has happened because the CE4rs have been permanently changed by the experience. Ring quotes Jacques Vallee, a distinguished ufologist, as saying that the UFO experience can only be understood in terms of its effects.
Dr. Ring hints that his research will show fascinating correlations in the effects of UFOEs.
CHAPTER 4: NEAR DEATH EXPERIENCES
This chapter consists almost entirely of first-person NDE accounts such as the following:
While in the hospital in June of 1983, I was so ill my doctors and his associates thought I wouldn't leave the place alive.
One night, long after the night nurse had come by to check on me, a strange feeling came over my entire body.
I knew I was dying. I could actually feel the energy of life leaving. The beginning of a glow appeared in the upper left corner of the room.
While watching it, [I] seemed to [see it] envelope the entire room and transform it into the beginning of a tunnel.
I began moving through the tunnel which beared [sic] off to the left and slightly downward, the glow ever increasing and just far enough ahead that you couldn't actually see its source.
To my immediate left there seemed to be a window, much like a passenger train has, travelling [sic] alongside. On the other side, stood my wife and children. Upon reaching the end of the tunnel,
I was aware of a presence to my immediate right mentally offering me a choice to either go on (from the tunnel's end) or return.
I knew I could respond ONLY ONCE—my decision would be final.
Mentally choosing to return, the experience ended. The following day, my condition was greatly improved and continued to do so each day after to the amazement of everyone.
The NDE is a far cry from the AE of the UFOE. In fact, the NDE is in nearly every way the polar opposite of the UFOE.
The recurrent features of the NDE, or core NDE, have been corroborated by dozens of researchers all over the world. The extent of NDE in the United States alone is estimated to be about eight million incidents.
The NDE is not an isolated event in other words.
How do NDEs differ from UFOEs?
1. The onset of the NDE is most often reported as beginning with a tremendous feeling of peace and security whereas the UFOE is often begun in terror.
2. NDErs find themselves "up above" their physical bodies which they perceive as detached observers, while UFOErs are always within the space of their physical bodies.
3. NDErs are met or greeted by beings who are or seem familiar while UFOE always deal with alien beings of some sort.
4. NDErs may journey through non-physical realms while UFOErs remain in what seems like the physical, though alien, world.
5. The NDE resolves with the subject's return, either into a state of exhilaration, or anger at having "lost" the peace and joy of the experience. UFOErs are returned to the place where their contact began often with feelings of fear or disorientation.
Despite the obvious differences between the UFOE and NDE, Dr. Ring declares that at a deeper level, there is a common link between these extraordinary encounters—the archetypal structure of both experiences.
As the UFOE takes the general form of the Hero's Journey, so does the NDE. The domains of the two experiences are quite different, yet both NDE and CE4s appear to represent the Initiatory Journey.
Both NDErs and UFOrs enter a non-ordinary reality where they undergo an initiatory ordeal after which they return to their "real" life, but in some way transformed by their experience. Both NDEs and CE4s have the same structure and contain the same factors.
Dr. Ring examines only ten of these factors and uses a chart to compare them. The ten factors and their comparisons are listed here.
FEATURES OF THE TYPICAL NDE and the TYPICAL CE4
1. Precipitating event
2. Form of separation
3. Initial response
4. Perception of reality
5. Nature of beings
6. Nature of encounter
7. Sense of encounter
8. Motivation regarding encounter
9. Determination of return
10. Emotions upon return
11. Memory of encounter
12. Immediate aftermath
COMPARISON BETWEEN FEATURES OF TYPICAL NDE and TYPICAL CE4
1. NDE- life threatening crisis/UFOE- sudden abduction
2. NDE-Swept up into a realm of peace and light/UFOE - taken away to an alien environment
3. NDE- Peace, security/UFOE - fright terror
4. NDE - Hyperreal/UFOE - dreamlike
5. NDE - Being of light, dead relatives or friends/UFOE - monstrous alien creatures
6. NDE - Compassionate self-examination, spiritual insights/UFOE - clinical physical exam, awareness of some alien purpose
7. NDE - Totally self-affirming/UFOE - sense of violation
8. NDE – desire to remain in place of peace/UFOE - to escape or be set free
9. NDE - Personal choice, imposed injunction/UFOE - determined by alien beings
10. NDE – Disappointment, loss, but also exhilaration/UFOE - relief, hatred, anger and confusion
11. NDE - Memory intact/UFOE - memory impaired
12. NDE - Strong, varied emotions/UFOE - PTSD symptoms
13. NDE - Usually happen once/UFOE - often recurring
14. NDE - Usually happens in adulthood/UFOE - often happens in early childhood
NDEs are frequently characterized by out of body experiences (OBEs), especially at the beginning of the NDE episode.
The subjects usually find themselves outside and "above" their bodies, observing their own demise. There is no sense of fear expressed, only peace and rarely curiosity.
While the UFOEr describes the abduction experience as dreamlike and detached, the OBEr is hyper-aware of physical reality although no longer a part of it.
Time is quite irrelevant in both experiences, but the hyper-awareness of the OBE during the NDE is widely recognized.
The experiencer can sometimes recall things seen while out of body in accurate detail although years have passed since having the experience.
After the initial OBE, the NDEr may pass through a tunnel of light or something that appears to be an actual tunnel.
They may be greeted by angelic beings, compassionate thought-forms, or dead friends and relatives with whom there is telepathic interaction of a compassionate, informative nature.
At this time there may be an episode of self-examination as well, also with an emphasis on compassionate understanding. In fact, the experience of love, acceptance and compassion for oneself is so great it is not merely felt, but seems to infuse the being of the NDEr.
Children experience the same effect as adults, but in a setting suitable for a child's understanding. Love is the abiding theme of all NDEs—love, compassion, self-acceptance, love for this planet and for the cosmos.
This is the apogee of the NDE—love for all things including Self.
Returning to physical life after a NDE takes many forms. Some people are told the MUST return to finish their lives. Others are allowed to choose whether to die or return to life.
Those NDErs with the greatest desire to return were mothers of young children. Many NDErs have no wish to return, but are simply sent back.
These returnees are often full of regret and become depressed for months after the NDE.
Many return to severe pain and illness, but are full of joy at getting a second chance at life.
Others are given healing messages that lead to a return of physical health.
To conclude this chapter, Dr. Ring says it's almost impossible to read first-person accounts of UFOEs and NDEs and learn anything that could be considered statistically significant; however, all the experiences have one commonality—an individual indeed have the experience.
Might all these individuals share something in common? And if they did, indeed, share some commonality, what might that common ground be?
It was this question that led to the development of The Omega Project.
CHAPTER 5: The Omega Project
Dr. Ring begins this pivotal chapter by quoting the complaint of one of the premier ufologists of the time as saying that no matter how many thousands of UFOE accounts are collected, no research had then been conducted on what the individuals reporting these experiences might have in common.
Setting the reports of UFOEs and NDEs aside, what might be learned about the background and history of people making UFOE reports?
Would there be similarities between the two?
Dr. Ring devotes this chapter to describing the process by which he and his staff devised a battery of questionnaires to determine just that, and also how funding for the research was sought and found.
Previous research along this line had been inconclusive Dr. Ring believed because it focused on psychopathology.
What if there was no significant psychopathology? What else might the experiencers have in common?
One term that leaped to mind was fantasy proneness, a term then sweeping the ufology community.
Dr. Ring devised a questionnaire to determine fantasy proneness, as well as another to illicit the degree to which NDErs and UFOrs were susceptible to paranormal experiences or extraordinary encounters (EEs).
The ability to have EEs is linked to the ability to dissociate, a form of psychological fragmentation in which one aspect of a person splits off, like an autonomous entity, from the primary Self.
If the ability to dissociate unlocks the door to alternate realities, it is important to know how prone EErs are to dissociation. And if the ability to dissociate is marked among EErs, how was that ability developed?
One of the most common ways people learn to dissociate is through attempting to escape the effects of child abuse and trauma.
Could NDErs and UFOErs have a history of child abuse? Another questionnaire was devised to seek the answer to this question.
The first five chapters of The Omega Project are in essence an introduction to the research project.
The first-person accounts are not quite able to sink the reader into stultifying boredom, but one is infinitely grateful when Dr. Rings finally gets down to what he does best—analyze data for significance.
Having studied the UFOE as well as the NDE for a number of years, Ring and his associates devised questionnaires for four groups: NDErs, UFOErs, and people who had not had a NDE or UFOE, but who were merely interested in them.
These latter two would form the control groups.
The Omega Project questionnaires would seek statistical data on fantasy proneness, childhood psychic sensitivities, susceptibility to non-ordinary realities, tendencies toward psychological dissociation, and incidence of child abuse.
In addition, Dr. Ring wanted to plum the depths of the aftereffects of EE experiences, so questionnaires were developed to seek data about the wide range of aftereffects experienced by the four groups.
Up to the time of the Omega Project, the only evidence that there were broad-ranging aftereffects from NDEs and UFOEs was anecdotal.
Dr. Ring wanted statistical evidence of the type and kind of changes that might have emerged as a result of these experiences—solid evidence.
Previous to the Omega Project, the evidence collected on NDEs had been flawed by lack of systematic approach and statistically irrelevant samples.
Previous statistical studies of UFOEs had been marred by lack of a control group. Ring proposed to eliminate these problems with the Omega Project, and in addition, he proposed using a new belief study to determine if NDEs and UFOEs caused changes in their experiencer's personal beliefs.
First, hundred of letters of invitation were sent to potential participants compiled from various sources detailed in the chapter.
The letter described the Omega Project, asked the potential participant to take part, and detailed all that would be required in terms of filling out questionnaires at home and returning them by mail. An informed consent sheet was enclosed.
No payment was offered to potential participants other than an offer to send them the results of the study.
The letter contained a return-mail postcard indicating the potential participant's willingness to participate, and a letter detailing how the various questionnaires were to be filled out. The following is a list of the contents of the project questionnaires and other forms and papers:
1. Background information sheet detailing demographics.
2. Experience and interest inventory that determined the experience and interest of anyone agreeing to participate in the Omega Project.
3. Childhood experience inventory to assess the incidence of unusual psy and paranormal experiences the person may have had in childhood, including fantasy proneness, psy-sensitivity, and ability to discern alternate reality experiences.
4. Home environmental inventory to solicit information on child abuse or other childhood traumas.
5. Psychological inventory to measure the tendency toward psychological dissociation.
6. Psychophysical changes inventory that covered a wide range of psychophysical changes.
7. Life changes inventory to assess changes in personal values/interests.
8. Religious beliefs inventory to provide a measure of shift toward a universal spirituality
9. Opinion inventory to assess potential impacts of NDE and UFOE on personal beliefs and worldviews.
Dr. Ring then goes on to break down the various batteries into which questions on the battery were designed to measure what effects/beliefs.
Once the questionnaires had been returned, they were inspected to insure all the inventories had been filled out correctly, and each packet was filtered to see which group it fit, either NDE, UFOE, or the control groups who had no experiences, but only expressed an interest.
The project ran for 15 months with a breakdown of participation thusly: NDE = 74 participants, NDControl = 54, UFOE = 97, UFOControl = 39 for a total of 264 participants.
All the data was collected and entered by Dr. Ring and his team of four research assistants. He describes this time of data entry as "waiting for the feast".
And when the data was finally produced, feast he did.
CHAPTER 6: CHILDHOOD ANTECEDENTS OF EXTRAORDINARY ENCOUNTERS
All the statistical data of the Omega Project is located in the Appendices of Dr. Ring's book, but he gives an anecdotal presentation of the data in the body of the text.
He calls it a "walking tour" of the project's results which reveal an understandable profile of the psychology of someone inclined to have EEs such as NDEs and UFOEs.
Dr. Ring also summarizes the data periodically so the reader doesn't lose sight of its significance. He advises his readers who are allergic to data to just read his summaries.
Before getting to the meat of the project data, Dr. Ring again makes clear how the data was organized according to "types of experience"—not just the broad NDE and UFOE, but broken down even further for the purpose of statistical analysis.
The respondents formed five basic groups within the foundational four. (See previous chapter for the foundational four) The five groups are:
1. Interest in UFOs only or a psychologically non-impactful sighting (nine respondents)
2. A psychologically impactful sighting or physical trace (20 respondents)
3. Perception or encounter with humanoid beings without abduction (CE3) (21 respondents)
4. Abduction episode (CE4) (38 respondents)
5. Dreamlike, telepathic encounters or multiple experiences (18 respondents)
When the statistical analysis was complete, Dr. Ring and his staff discovered something surprising to them. All comparisons showed no statistical difference among the four experiential groups.
They did differ from the control group on most issues. Dr. Ring indicates the importance of this finding because it reveals those reporting abduction episodes are NOT psychologically different from the other experiential groups.
Using that statistical evidence, all the experiential groups were combined to form one large group to compare with the control/non-experiential group.
The NDE group and the UFOE group now being organized in a systematic way, it was possible to proceed with statistically analyzing the rest of the data.
The Childhood Experience Inventory (CEI) was a true/false document designed to measure three psychological factors that could sensitize subjects to the existence of strange, unexpected phenomena such as NDEs and UFOEs.
The first factor analyzed was fantasy proneness. If fantasy proneness increases the likelihood of reporting an EE, then those subjects in the NDE and UFOE groups should score higher than their controls.
In fact, they didn't. Fantasy proneness is NOT a significant factor in EE, NDE, and UFOEs; however, the tendency toward sensitivity to alternate realities is definitely a factor.
As an example, two of the questions that showed a tendency toward awareness of alternate realities were, "As a child, I was able to see into 'other realities' that others didn't seem to be aware of," and, "As a child, I was aware of nonphysical beings while I was awake."
These sentences are not concerned with fantasy, but in real perceptions of non-ordinary reality.
NDErs, UFOErs indicated that even as children, they were already sensitive to alternate realities while their control groups were not.
The statistical data indicates that UFOErs had a greater tendency toward "other" sensing than respondents with NDEs only, with the UFOE control group coming third and the NDE control group being least significantly represented.
The same ranking was true for those respondents who claimed to have had childhood psychic experiences.
Dr. Ring summarizes: Analysis of the CEI shows that people who have NDEs and UFOEs are not prone to fantasy, but are sensitized to non-ordinary realities—particularly true for people who have had UFOEs.
Ring goes on to give first-person narratives from the childhood experiences of people who would later have UFOEs.
The most common of these experiences is to see nonphysical beings at night when the child is roused from sleep.
The responders insist they were not dreaming at the time of the nonphysical sighting. Dr. Ring did not solicit these responses.
They were often noted in margins of the psych inventories as well as in letters included with the Omega Project return packet.
Finally, Dr. Ring uses a personal case history to illustrate the kinds childhoods many of the respondents shared.
The person in question is a woman, 37 years of age. She has a history of paranormal experiences from birth onward, many viewed as OBEs, and after age eight, she began to encounter beings in alternate realities.
She also "saw" fairies with non-physical senses she can't accurately describe. This woman describes her life as a "paranormal potpourri".
This woman is NOT a rare creature in the world of NDE and especially UFOEs.
Other UFO researchers have determined that CE4rs are particularly psychic.
It is the ability to blur the edges of reality that make UFOErs different from other people.
In all other respects they seem quite normal.
Despite all evidence, anything labeled "psychic" is still not regarded with anything like respectability in the world of statistical psychology.
Dr. Ring seems less bound by the opinions of others and more willing to go where no one has previously been willing to venture.
He is willing to state, especially since he can back it up with statistical analysis, that those who report EE are not just psychic, but have been since they were children!
And immediately, like the inquisitive scientist he is, Dr. Ring asks the question, "If respondents are indeed psychic, what caused them to develop that way?" That question brings up the next statistic inventory.
The Home Environment Inventory (HEI) was intended to measure various aspects of childhood abuse/trauma, since the ability to dissociate is often developed in an attempt to escape the horrors of child abuse.
Five factors of child abuse were inventoried:
1. Physical abuse and punishment.
2. Psychological abuse
3. Sexual abuse.
5. Negative home atmosphere
Respondents were asked to answer questions on these issues by using a five-point scale that ranged from never = 0, to always = 4.
The statistically significant results showed a consistent pattern of child abuse for both NDErs and UFOErs.
There was marked difference between the experiential groups and control groups on all five child abuse components.
UFOErs and NDErs were significantly higher in all categories, very similar to one another, and differing markedly from the controls.
This indicates both experiential groups are likely to have had troubled childhoods. The same groups also reported more serious or life-threatening illnesses as children.
In short, the experiential groups all had much more stressful childhoods than those of the control groups.
Dr. Ring qualifies his finding regarding child abuse in the histories of the experiential subjects thusly:
1. Studies such as the Omega Project can actually tell us nothing specific about the childhoods of the respondents—it only shows what they tell.
2. The study shows people who have NDEs and UFOEs are inclined to say they also experienced abuse, neglect and negativity in their homes as children. The study does not show significance of abuse, nor does it imply that all people experiencing NDEs and UFOEs are abused as children.
3. There are other factors that may cause heightened awareness other than child abuse; however, child abuse, trauma, serious illness and other stressors may contribute to this type of sensitivity.
If it is true the EErs have endured child abuse more than the controls, it should be able to be measured.
That is what Dr. Ring attempted to do with the third inventory—the psychological inventory. This questionnaire is very specific in its focus.
It was designed by a colleague of Dr. Ring's to measure tendencies toward psychological dissociation.
This inventory uses a five-point scale with responses for strongly disagree to strongly agree and gives a single dissociation tendency score.
Ring used this psych inventory as a check on the supposition of child abuse in the histories of UFOErs and NDErs, and also to explore the role of dissociative ability in catalyzing access to non-ordinary experience.
Since child abuse is known to cause dissociation and dissociative disorders, it is likely that those who report a history of child abuse will also score higher on the ability to dissociate.
Many ufologists attribute the ability to dissociate as the chief attribute needed to access non-ordinary realities.
It would be reasonable to expect NDErs and especially UFOErs to score high on this inventory, which they did.
The findings of the Omega Project bear out the hypothesis that dissociation is the door to non-ordinary realities.
Ring summarizes his findings thusly: There is good statistical support for the assumption that the ability to dissociate is part of the psychological profile of all EErs, but especially for UFOErs.
Dissociation is a normal experience, as Dr. Ring is quick to aver. Everyone dissociates to one degree or another at various times.
Only dissociative disorders are pathological. People who have NDEs and UFOEs show dissociative tendencies, not disorders.
Dr. Ring concludes the psychological history portion of the Omega Project by developing a theory of propensities for extraordinary encounters.
He states that by proposing such a theory he hopes to provide a basis for rigorous hypothesis testing in the future.
He begins the argument for his theory by proposing that a history of child abuse plays a central role in promoting sensitivity to UFOEs and NDEs.
His second assumption states that growing up under such conditions tends to develop the dissociative response as a psychological defense mechanism.
Thirdly, by "tuning out" abuse, Dr. Ring believes the child is more likely to stumble into alternate realities.
Over time this would foster relatively easy access to non-ordinary experience.
This attunement to the "other" is not caused by dissociation.
The capacity for psychological absorption is the ability to focus one's attention on one's inner reality and away from the external environment.
Once the person has dissociated, it is the ability to focus on the inward reality, to become absorbed in it, that makes EEs likely.
Childhood abuse not only predisposes an individual to dissociation, but also to psychological absorption.
Psychological absorption has already been demonstrated as crucial to the mystical experience and Dr. Ring suggests it is also central to what he calls the 'encounter-prone personality—an individual with a history of child abuse who has a developed dissociative tendency as well as the capacity to become deeply absorbed in alternate realities.
Such people, Dr. Ring supposes, when exposed to the shock of near death or a UFOE, "flip" into a non-ordinary state of consciousness from which they are able to perceive what others cannot.
Ring goes on to state that as trauma goes, child abuse is not the only traumatic experience that might condition an individual to altered states of reality.
Quite benign childhood games could have the same effect, or extended periods of illness might also bring about these changes in perception.
Dr. Ring produces a chart in his book that outlines and delineates this process.
The reader should make every effort to examine this illustration as well as the various inventories and data sheets contained in the book's appendices.
Dr. Ring concludes the section on childhood history by saying that the past is only one aspect of the extraordinary encounter. Just as important, and perhaps MORE important is what happens after the encounter.
CHAPTER 7: PSYCHOPHYSICAL CHANGES FOLLOWING EXTRAORDINARY ENCOUNTERS
From this point, the Omega Project ceases to focus on the past and turns its attention to the present.
Dr. Ring points out that the psychological distance gained from observing experience through statistical analysis allows the observer a clearer perspective thus revealing a dimension of meaning in NDEs and UFOEs that has always been present, but has been obscured by a tendency to sensationalize such experiences.
Dr. Ring implies that by acquiring distance from the experiences, their meanings become revealed in ways that have previously been obscured.
The Omega Project's most thought-provoking revelation is the pattern of psychophysical changes that occur in individuals who have had UFOEs or NDEs.
By psychophysical Dr. Ring means an alteration that involves both mind and body. It is well known that during hypnosis the mind can bring about changes in the body, warts vanish, for example.
Strong belief in religious symbols can cause the appearance of stigmata. A wide range of cognitive, emotional, physical, physiological and behavioral changes can be linked together to form a whole.
Ring uses the term psychophysical to indicate changes of this type that involve the entire human system of being.
Dr. Ring summarizes the Psychophysical Changes Inventory (PCI) thusly: The respondents were asked to what degree they had changed as a result of their NDE or UFOE. The inventory was designed to survey six primary domains of psychophysical change.
1. Physical sensitivities to light, sound, humidity, certain foods, etc.
2. Physiological and neurological functioning- regulating body temperature, blood pressure, etc.
3. Psychoenergetic functioning- sleep patters, unusual energetic sensations in body, etc.
4. Emotional functioning-mood fluctuation, emotionality, etc.
5. Expanded mental awareness-increased information-processing capacity, sense of expanded mind, awareness of "other"
6. Paranormal functioning-telepathy, precognition, psychokinesis, etc.
Dr. Ring found an astonishingly marked difference between the answers of the experiential groups and the control groups on this inventory.
The NDErs and UFOErs were both MUCH more likely to have experienced psychophysical changes following their EEs.
The statistical differences are described by Ring as "huge" and "highly significant" and are the most impressive of the entire Omega Project study.
There is a pattern of change that ranges across both groups. It begins with heightened physical sensitivities to environmental stimuli such as light, sound, air pressure, humidity, etc.
The experiential responders also indicated they became more sensitive to drugs, alcohol and various foods after their EE.
Ring calls this a generalized sensitivity effect. He mentions that the pattern of greater sensitivity continues with a group of effects having to do with metabolic rate, body temperature and blood pressure.
Such changes have always been known and/or rumored through the ufology community, but the Omega Project is the first time such changes have been actively documented in a quantifiable way.
Ring speculates these changes may be part of what he calls a psychophysical transformation that follows NDEs and UFOEs.
Half of the experiential respondents as compared to 15% of the controls claim their nervous systems function differently after their EEs.
Many believe their brains are structurally different than they were previously. Ring states that our brain changes all the time. Most of us are not aware of those changes.
EErs are so aware, at least the third who reported their belief that such a change had indeed taken place. Ring ponders what could have happened to these people to make them aware of such neurological subtleties.
Many EErs describe being aware of energy currents flowing through their bodies. They claim to need less sleep for optimal functioning.
The also have become more emotional and more emotionally volatile. EE respondents tend to describe what they characterize as "mind expansion".
Fifty percent compared to 15% of the controls say they are often flooded with more information than they can absorb.
They also say they can process information better than before their EE. Half reported increased psychic ability.
Summarizing the findings of the Psychophysical Changes Inventory, Ring says the inventory reveals a wide range of changes following the groups NDEs and UFOEs.
Ring suggests these changes hint at a more subtle level of physical functioning as well as better psychic awareness.
UFOEs/NDEs may in fact actually reprogram the experiencers' nervous systems to a higher level of awareness and sensitivity.
Experiential respondents are more than three times as likely to claim they have "electrical sensitivity" than controls.
Reports of blowing out light bulbs, stopping wrist watches, and the like have been reported on other studies, and Dr. Ring went back over his inventory seeking more information.
He found a number of respondent notations in the margins and noted that women were the most likely to make such notations.
His curiosity piqued, Dr. Ring found another study specifically about electrical sensitivity after UFOEs.
The developer of the research, Michael Shallis, an Oxford lecturer, had personally studied more than two-hundred such cases . Ring found the other man's research tied in nicely with the Omega Project.
The combined studies indicate that electrical sensitivity is not rare. Shallis was able to show electrical sensitives have certain traits in common.
In other words, there is an electrical sensitivity syndrome. Of those who exhibit this syndrome, 80% are female. Electrical Sensitives (ESs) tend tohave many allergies.
Seventy percent had allergy problems compared to 15 percent among non-sensitives. These people have other sensitivities as well to bright lights, noise and approaching thunder storms.
They are more than usually emotional and their emotions tend to change quickly from one to another.
A high percentage of ESs claim to have had psychic experiences and believe they can heal through paranormal methods.
Most ESs have had at least one major surgery.
Ring says because Shallis does not have a control group, his findings have to be taken not as statistically significant, but as suggestive of a broader need for study.
Ring's staff compared their experiential respondents to the controls on factors such as allergies, sensitivity to light, hearing acuity, mood fluctuation, psychic ability, and healing gifts.
The researchers found the ESs were from twice to four times as likely to say they are now characterized by such qualities as before having a NDE OR UFOE.
It appears these experiences may also tend to promote the development of electrical sensitivity.
Ring wonders why these developments occur after EEs, and begins to examine the available facts.
First all he notes UFO literature is full of accounts of electrical disturbances and other electro-magnetic phenomena.
NDEs are full of references to light and light is an electro-magnetic force.
He wonders if all these electromagnetic occurrences might not affect a direct change in the respondents' personal electrical fields.
Even medical doctors have commented on the existence of what seems to an "extremely complex biomagnetic energy field that operates outside of the confines of the nervous system alone."
Ring quotes Robert O. Becker, a widely regarded researcher on the biological effects of electromagnetism..."scientific discoveries of the past three decades have gradually resulted in a new paradigm of the nature of life.
Living things now may be viewed as basically electromagnetic in nature...all living thing are intimately tied to the natural geomagnetic fields of the earth...
This intimate relationship between the earth's geomagnetic field and living organisms stimulated a re-evaluation of the relationship between electromagnetic fields and psychic phenomena...[and showed that] a firm link has been established between (them)."
A Dr. Shallis also attributes women's undue sensitivities to electromagnetic fields to hormonal variations through the month.
The bottom line is that human biomagnetic fields are affected by electromagnetic disturbances.
Dr. Ring puts all the research, theories and speculation together and suggests that psychophysical changes reported in conjunction with UFOEs and NDEs are indicative of some sort of psychobiological transformation permanently increasing ones sensitivity to electromagnetic fields.
Ring admits this is extravagant speculation, but hopes others will continue to refine the research in the area of human electromagnetic energy.
Next, Dr. Ring delves into what he calls the Kundalini Syndrome.
The basic concept of kundalini as it appears in tantric yoga is said to be an extremely subtle form of bioenergy that usually lies dormant at the base of the spine.
Kundalini energy can be liberated by various kinds of spiritual disciplines or experiences.
The arousal of the kundalini force can be extremely traumatic and destabilizing both mentally, emotionally and physically.
Symptoms of kundalini awakening are varied but can include spontaneous changes in posture, patterns of breathing, tingling sensations, orgasmic sensations without sexual arousal, hot and cold flashes and the sensing of energy currents in the body as well as severe headaches.
The awakening of kundalini force can bring about sensations of profound ecstasy and cosmic consciousness, or dreadful terror of insipient madness.
NDEs particularly can lead to kundalini reactions, and spiritual emergencies can result if people are not aware of what is happening to them.
Dr. Ring wanted to know if EEs could precipitate the rise of kundalini force, and he wondered if NDEs in particular are prone to setting off a kundalini reaction.
Embedded within the Psychophysical Inventory (PT) is a nine-item kundalini scale inquiring mostly about the physical or energetic manifestations typical of kundalini rising.
The Omega Project statistical result showed a consistent kundalini effect across all nine items of the scale. Respondents are roughly three times more likely to report these symptoms after EEs.
Kundalini experiences were noted in both NDErs and UFOErs, but there was an enormous statistical difference between the experiential and the control groups.
Dr. Ring surmises that the kundalini force may be activated not by the NDE or UFOE themselves, but in lifestyle changes the witnesses make after their EEs.
Experiencers may begin meditation, change their diets or do other practices that affect the kundalini force. Ring admits no one knows what actually causes the reports of kundalini rising in those who have had unusual encounters.
At the point in time when the Omega Project takes place (early 1990's), Ring admits we can only know that reports of kundalini rising exist.
We cannot know what causes this effect to occur. The good professor expresses the hope that further research will take place around the psychophysiological effects of NDEs and UFOEs.
The Omega Project clearly shows statistical evidence that many extreme changes occur in witnesses of EEs.
Ring wonders, "Do these changes last? Do they persist over time?" He describes the process whereby he and his staff determine the answer—the pschophysiological changes reach their maximum effect within five years of onset and are persistent over time.
The personal changes that occur after NDEs and UFOEs are permanent in other words. In Dr. Ring's own words, "Extraordinary encounters appear to be the gateway to a radical, biologically based transformation of the human personality."
Experiencers undergo changes that effect their nervous systems, brains, and mental processes in such a way as to allow what appears to be a higher level of human nature to manifest.
The Omega Prototype is the name Dr. Ring gives to this new kind of human consciousness.
Ring predicts that further research will reveal the primary force behind these changes in consciousness is the awakening of the kundalini force, the so-called evolutionary energy of humanity. In terms of spirituality, the kundalini experience is the path to enlightenment.
If a number (millions) of such enlightened beings should appear at once, it could potentially change the course of planetary development, since the kundalini experience is evolutionary, a path for humanity to enter a higher state of consciousness.
EEs tend to activate the kundalini transformative energy in ways we need to understand.
It permanently alters the individual probably by acting on the autonomic nervous system.
Ring was the first research psychologist to propose kundalini as a reason for the pschophysiological changes that occur after EEs. Since then, other researchers have come to identical conclusions.
Margot Grey, another NDE researcher concludes, "...similar physiological mechanisms are operating in both the NDE and kundalini phenomena...they are both aspects of the same evolutionary force."
Ms. Grey speculates that there may be a growing number of people who have had these experiences, and from there she leaps to, "It would appear that a new breed of mankind may be about to be born, and that in order for this to happen our consciousness and biological structure are undergoing a radical transformation."
Other researchers have developed their own reports concerning kundalini activation. Devising a questionnaire to detect kundalini arousal in research subjects, it has been found that NDErs are about twice as likely to report kundalini symptoms as control groups.
Dr. Ring says what is new to his interpretation of these findings is that he is prepared not only to include NDErs in this evolutionary group, but UFOErs and others who have had similar experiences.
Ring says that if NDErs and UFOErs undergo a kind of spiritual transformation, then perhaps those who experience shamanic trances, ayuhuasca/mescal ceremonies and metaphysical visions might also have similar kundalini awakenings.
The question of where electrical sensitivity fits into this matrix Ring leaves open for investigation saying we know too little about the experience to speculate upon its causes or ultimate meaning, although he can't resist giving his opinion that this sensitivity is another manifestation of the kundalini experience.
Certainly kundalini activation and electrical sensitivity have correlated effects associated with EEs, and Ring supposes they appear together as part of the evolutionary alchemy of EEs.
By whatever name you give the experience, by whatever path you have the experience, the evolutionary outcomes will be the same.
He suggests that the real significance of NDEs and UFOEs is their evolutionary implications for the future of humanity, and he calls for more research to determine with greater exactitude the evolutionary nature of EEs that transform the mind and characters of those who have them.
CHAPTER 8: BELIEFS AND VALUE SHIFTS FOLLOWING EXTRAORDINARY ENCOUNTERS
EEs left deep psychophysical grooves on many of Dr Ring's respondents. Tracing those spiritual grooves, Ring finds that EEs initiate profound changes in the experiencers values and belief systems.
In many cases, these changes are large enough to be called transformative. To evaluate personal change, Ring and his staff constructed the Life Changes Inventory (LCI) and the Religious Beliefs Inventory (RBI), intended to measure changes from religiosity to spirituality.
The LCI selects for nine of what Ring calls "value clusters".
1. Appreciation for life
3. Concern for others
4. Concern for impressing others
6. Concern with social/planetary issues
7. Quest for meaning
Reponders were asked to evaluate each item's change since having or becoming interested in EEs on a five-point scale from "strongly increased" (+2) to "strongly decreased" (-2) with "no change" being assigned a value of zero.
Dr. Ring states that three separate statements serve to encapsulate the main trends he discovered using the LCI.
1. All groups, even the controls, reported becoming more universal in their social concerns and spirituality.
2. These changes are a bit more evident among the experiential groups, and among those same groups are significantly greater over the following value clusters.
3. Appreciation for life, self-acceptance, concern for others, decreased materialism, quest for meaning and spirituality.
4. NDErs showed a greater change than the UFO group on increased generosity of spirit, decreased materialism. NDErs showed a significantly larger increase in their concern for others, less interest in impressing others, and less materialism. Ring point outs that his previous work with NDErs showed the same patterns of change.
Following Ring's evaluation of the LCI results are several first-person accounts of changed attitudes following NDEs and UFOEs.
He also comments upon the fact that the changes seemingly wrought by these experiences on their receivers is static over time—in other words, the changes provoked by EEs appear to be permanent.
From the beginning, one of the changes most evident among EErs is an increased interest in the natural environment.
The earliest accounts of UFOErs sound warnings about the making and stockpiling of nuclear weapons.
More recently, warnings of environmental pollution have become even more pronounced, such topics as ozone depletion and deforestation of the planet.
Many NDEs are followed by visions of horrifying planetary cataclysm, so it's not surprising that NDErs also report their concern for the environment increased after their brush with death.
Whitley Strieber has stated that both for himself and other UFOErs, there is an apocalyptic message embedded within the UFOE of approaching planetary doom.
Ring attempted to statistically assess changes in environmental concern by adding a new value cluster to the LCI—concern with social and planetary issues.
Generally, he found an increase in that value among his respondents, particularly for UFOErs.
The LCI revealed this value had increased more than any other for UFOErs—fully 85 percent of them having increased their interest in planetary environmental issues.
Although even the control group showed increased sensitivity toward environmental concerns, by far the greatest increase was among EErs.
Dr. Ring includes several first-person narratives illustrating increased love of life at profoundly deep levels.
One UFOEr propounds his belief that alien life is attempting to "help" humanity save itself from environmental ruin.
This alien attention is kept at very subtle levels of interference due to an otherworldly injunction against such meddling, an injunction similar to Star Trek's Prime Directive.
The Religious Beliefs Inventory (RBI) measures changes in religious beliefs following EEs.
Dr. Ring explains that he has used this same inventory previously to measure changes in the beliefs of those who have had NDEs.
In the case of the Omega Project, both NDErs and UFOErs were evaluated along with the control groups of the merely interested.
The RBI contains two value clusters, universalism/spirituality and conventional religiosity. Again, the scoring was on a five-point scale from +2 to -2 with no change representing zero.
A positive score reveals a change toward universalism, while a negative score shows a shift toward sectarian religiosity.
Dr. Ring states the results from the RBI are definitive. All groups show a highly significant increase in universalism.
Following EEs, people don't become more religious, but they do become more spiritual.
Lastly, Dr. Ring discusses the results of his Opinion Inventory (OI). On this battery, respondents were to specify agreement or disagreement with 30 statements of personal belief, or offer 'no opinion'.
They were not required to indicate any degree of change since having an EE, but since the inventory was taken after such experiences or interests had developed, the OI can be viewed as a kind of post-test.
The OI assesses three clusters of beliefs and worldviews: 1) possible evolutionary significance of EEs, 2) the possible purpose of such experiences, 3) possible extraterrestrial influences in human affairs.
Ring again reminds the reader of his previous conclusion, arrived at through other studies and examined in his other books, that NDEs are catalysts for human evolution.
He alludes to Whitley Strieber's work as indicating the same may hold true for UFOEs.
This conclusion he states, has only been elaborated on by some researchers, not by the experiencers themselves.
The OI was designed to elicit such opinions from those who had actually undergone EEs.
Considering the analyzed results, the answer to Dr. Ring's hypothesis is unambiguously clear.
All groups believed that humanity is in the midst of an evolutionary leap toward greater spirituality and awareness of a larger reality.
All believed that their experiences were part of that evolutionary process. However, a marked difference is noted between the opinions of NDErs and UFOErs in regard to the kind of purpose behind this evolutionary process.
NDErs tend to see a spiritual meaning—the spreading of divine love—behind the evolutionary process, while UFOErs are only partially in agreement.
This is the first difference between NDErs and UFOErs noted in the Omega project.
NDErs also reflected a missionary zeal in spreading the word of their evolutionary change in attitude that was not seen in UFOErs.
They seem to feel driven to share their new insights with others. UFOErs, on the other hand, see extraterrestrial life as being the avenue for evolutionary change.
NDErs find spiritual evolution within themselves.
UFOErs, while experiencing the changes internally, are more inclined to attribute the cause of the changes to external forces from other planets/realities.
UFOErs, while believing in extraterrestrial interference, see that engagement as being for the benefit of humanity and not as a threat.
Thus both opinions tend to be positive in their influence on the respondents. Both groups are in agreement about human life being influenced by "higher forces".
NDErs and UFOErs only disagree on what constitutes a "higher force", but they agree that the influence is positive regardless of its origin.
The bottom line—both groups agree that humanity is in a cycle of spiritual evolution leading to a positive outcome.
Summarizing the results of the Opinion Inventory, Dr. Ring states that all groups agree a purposeful intelligence is accelerating human evolution toward higher consciousness and greater spirituality.
The opinions of both NDErs and UFOErs again show a fundamental kinship.
CHAPTER 9: HEADING TOWARD OZ: Demystifying Extraordinary Encounters
At last, Dr. Ring gets to the bottom line: What does all this mean?
Before he actually produces any answer, Ring comments that mysteries may exist, not to solve, but to savor, implying the Omega Project may ultimately lead nowhere.
He also cautions against the pull of romanticism. Simply because one study seems to indicate a particular conclusion, doesn't imply that conclusion is correct, no matter how attractive one may find it.
Ring warns that what might be true is not the same as what is true, and that the tendency to accept all that glitters as being gold without examination is foolish.
To produce any theory from the Omega Project, Dr. Ring revisits earlier chapters.
First, the kind of person who is susceptible to UFOEs and NDEs is very similar, so any theory must take that into account.
People who can remember and recount EEs are called encounter-prone. Encounter-prone individuals tend to have certain childhood experiences in common, i.e. a history of "other" experiences as well as a history of child abuse.
Finally, Ring mentions that EEs have a distinctive pattern to their content and to their aftereffects. Any theory must take those patterns into account.
Since all EE's begin or contain "light", Dr. Ring examines what is known about the effects of light on humans, with particular emphasis on the electromagnetic properties of light.
There are natural processes of the earth and its atmosphere that produce unusual light effects such as rainbows and aurora borealis. There are other luminous effects known simply as "earth lights".
These effects are not well-understood, but appear as "ball-lightening" and other balls of light that seem to hover, float, fall to the ground, remain stationary or appear to move purposefully.
There are also "earthquake lights" that occur during or after seismic activity. In daylight, both earthquake lights and earth lights can appear to be metallic.
Researchers have found that earthlights are prone to be seen in specific places on the earth and have been seen for generations.
There is a clear connection between earthlights and fault lines, bodies of water and power lines.
From the existence of earthlights, Dr. Ring moves to the research on them by Michael Persinger and Paul Devereaux that shows them to be related to tectonic stress.
Tectonic Strain Theory (TST) postulates that most UFOs are natural occurrences, direct products of the stresses and strains of the earth's crust.
In short, UFOEs are geologically derived events misinterpreted by human beings according to the folklore of the times.
Persinger theorizes that as seismic events generate light effects, they may also generate electromagnetic fields across the entire spectra of light, biologically hazardous radiation, and even electromagnetic fields sufficient to cause engines to stop or start independent of their operators.
In short, far from being extraterrestrial, research indicates the electromagnetic effects of the earth itself appear to be sufficient to generate UFOs.
These earth effects then could have significant electromagnetic effects on humans who are near them. In fact, virtually all the physical effects of UFOEs can be explained as electromagnetic disturbances of both the earth's and human beings' electrical fields.
Persinger, trained in neuroscience, points out that electromagnetic stimulation of the temporal lobe of the brain can produce a "waking dream".
Among the impressions that can be created this way are a sense of presence, apparitions, floating and spinning sensations, OBEs, hearing inner voices, and powerful feelings of deep meaningfulness.
In short, Persinger asserts that UFOEs are brought about by electromagnetic phenomena that are likely to induce a state of activity in the temporal lobe of the brain that might be thought of as a microseizure resulting in an instability that permits the perception of an apparent UFO event.
This combination of electromagnetic disturbances creates hallucinations that are later recalled as actual memories. They are memories in fact, but just not the memory the individual believes she recalls.
Just as the temporal lobe of the brain can be influenced by electromagnetic forces to produce very real-seeming hallucinations, it also appears to produce those same general hallucinations in NDEs.
Not enough research has been produced to declare temporal lobe activity in NDEs to be more or less biologically identical with that of UFOEs, but researchers believe this is clearly indicated and that the needed research will come.
Dr. Ring is already convinced enough to be willing to concede that NDEs and UFOEs are so similar because they are caused by a similar reaction in the temporal lobe of the brain.
Thus, using the theories of Persinger and Devereaux, Dr. Ring is able to bring a rational explanation to the NDE and OFOE phenomena—or as he, himself names it—a natural as opposed to a supernatural explanation.
Ring expresses this as a surmise because the research to prove it is still sketchy.
Still, he proceeds to use the Persinger/Devereaux theories to propose more theories of his own which that refer back to the encounter-prone personality previously discussed.
Are these people somehow different in their temporal lobe function from people who are not encounter-prone? Devereaux is already on the job stating that some people are more likely to have electrical "microseizures" than others.
Such a person upon entering the electromagnetic field of earthlights could be more easily triggered to experience a UFOE than someone less sensitive.
Dr. Ring states that this description of the temporal lope sensitivity of some people to electromagnetic stimuli could be his theorized "encounter-prone personality".
Persinger also indicates that temporal-lobe lability is associated with "exotic" beliefs and is strongly correlated with other physic experiences.
Individuals with this sensitive temporal lobe characteristic also have vivid, exact memories especially of childhood events, are easily hypnotized and dissociative.
Persinger also mentions that those people who have endured childhood abuse, particularly between the ages of four and six, have increased ability to dissociate under stress.
He believes such childhood trauma may increase temporal lobe lability.
Dr. Ring believes there is ample evidence to suggest that the encounter-prone personality is likely to have greater than average temporal lobe sensitivity.
Thus it can be seen than while NDEs and UFOEs are outwardly unrelated, the underlying characteristics of the individuals who have had EEs are very much the same.
Still, Ring wonders why the two EEs studied by the Omega Project have such different motifs, and begins by examining the patterning of the UFOE.
Through lengthy quotes by a number of scholarly researchers, Ring introduces and reinforces the idea that the patterning of UFOEs is taken from science fiction.
This is not to explain away the UFOE, but simply to identify why it takes its particular form.
Ring says the electromagnetic stimulus that produces the UFOE in temporal lobe sensitives has no doubt always been part of the earth's geophysical existence.
However, in the past, the hallucinations produced in temporal lobe sensitives probably took the form of the folklore of their own day.
Ancient Egyptians and Greeks were abducted by their gods, examined, and returned to earth.
Medieval people were caught up into the heavens by God or angels and later returned. The form is the same, only the trappings of the stories has changed.
The NDE pattern is much less influenced by popular culture and beliefs and has remained stable over time.
It is only in our lifetime that it has been named and extensively studied, but instead of creating more NDEs, the phenomenon occurrence has remained stable, though certainly existing in a more accepting climate.
Students of shamanism find the elements of the NDE to be the classic shamanic journey, an experience available to anyone who adopts certain practices, the most common being the creation of an artificial NDE through the ingestion of psychedelics.
The same thing can occur after a serious accident or illness.
The affected individual enters into a trance and passes through a series of near-death motifs that are real in their aftereffects, not merely interactions with symbols of the unconscious.
The NDErs falls inadvertently into the first stage of the shaman's journey and then returns. The shaman continues the journey voluntarily to parts unknown except to the shaman.
The NDE is not just a by-product of a sensitive temporal lobe, but is a direct interaction with an alternate reality.
To this point, all research has reduced UFOEs and NDEs to simple biological/electromagnetic explanations that seem logical enough.
However, with the introduction of shamanism into the mix, pure reason goes out the window. Ring therefore states that it does NOT follow logically that neurological experience must be caused by neurological factors.
Such a statement, he says, is similar to saying that television images are caused by televisions.
Ring theorizes than a labile neurological state may be necessary before certain information and images can be received, but the sensitive state is more like a window than a broadcasting station.
Even the most reductionist of Ring's quoted scientists seems willing to concede this point. NDEs especially may be windows looking into an alternate reality.
Does that imply that UFOEs are a 'lesser' form of EE? Are NDEs and UFOEs two distinctly different forms of EE with NDEs being more "real" while UFOEs are a cultural artifact? Ring's answer is no.
He suggests that UFOEs, while more transparent to cultural influence, are actually the shamanic journeys of a technologically advanced society.
Functionally, the NDE and UFOE are equivalent experiences.
Coming to the end of the Omega Project, Dr. Ring begins a discussion of human imagination.
He states that imagination is often pejorative in the Western mind, something associated with childishness and the emotionally overwrought.
Imagination and fantasy are believed to go hand-in-hand, so imagination is always associated with the unreal.
Dr. Ring suggests an alternate interpretation—imagination as objectively self-existent—imagination not as imaginary, but as imagined.
This theory of imagination was first put forth by the Islamic scholar, Henry Corbin in 1972, and Ring believes its acceptance is fundamental to any hope of shedding light on EEs.
Firstly, Corbin's theory has nothing to do with fantasy or the typical use of the word "imagination". It doesn't refer to fiction or anything "made-up" through flights of invention.
Instead, Corbin refers to a third kingdom that can only be accessed by bypassing ordinary perception and linear thought.
When the conventional mind is sufficiently muddled or set aside, the third kingdom is revealed—not as fantasy, but as distinctly real to the mind of the perceiver.
Corbin, a student of mysticism and visionary experience, explains this third kingdom as being more real and irrefutable, more coherent than the apparent physical world perceived by human senses.
Visionaries returning to the physical world are aware of having been "elsewhere".
The third kingdom is hidden behind physical sense perception, and must be sought and discovered.
It cannot be considered imaginary or the product of fantasy. This third kingdom not only posses its own reality, but is populated with beings.
Corbin describes this world as having dimension, but not physical dimension. Instead, Corbin measures the third kingdom in terms of psychospiritual senses.
In Corbin's sense, imagination is a creative power that functions in altered states of consciousness. In those states, imagination is a sense organ, an organ of perception such as alchemists called imaginatio vera (true imagination).
The world of imaginatio vera is supra-sensible and can be directly experienced by anyone, thus Ring suggests it is this world that is experienced by UFOErs and NDErs.
It is a world beyond fantasy and even hallucination, as real in its own terms as earth is to our physical senses.
EErs are sensitized to the third kingdom and third kingdom encounters. Other researchers are beginning to accept the imaginal quality of EEs.
Researchers who would once have dismissed EErs as delusional at worse or gullible at best are now admitting that such people are not hyperimaginative, but are instead more open and receptive to possibilities.
CHAPTER 10: OMEGA REVELATION: Ecological and Evolutionary Implications of Extraordinary Encounters
Taking this hypothesis of a genuine alternate reality as a given, Ring now posits more questions that require answers.
What is the force behind the creation of this alternate reality?
Is it a human construction, a kind of planetary thought field created and sustained by mass human consciousness, and if so, for what purpose?
Or is there some other agent behind its existence helping to create and coordinate EEs—and if so for what purpose?
If there is some purpose behind the messages being brought back from this realm by EErs, what is it?
Ring admits there may be no way to determine such answers, but says grappling with the questions is significant in itself because a significant number of modern humans have all been dreaming the same dream. Why?
In attempting to answer these questions, Ring quotes Michael Grosso, a contemporary philosopher with a long-standing interest in UFOEs, NDEs, and other types of visionary experiences.
Ring states that more than any other thinker, Grosso has formulated a conception of EEs that allows for the answering of such questions as those of the preceding paragraph.
Grosso's thesis, Ring describes as, "beguilingly simple".
In short, the threat of planetary extinction from nuclear or environmental catastrophe is so great it is reshaping human consciousness and lifting it to a new level--a consciousness that leads away from materialism to spiritual transcendence.
This is necessary because humankind now possesses the technological ability to murder itself and the planet it inhabits.
Behind this ecological imperative lies what Grosso calls the Overmind—Mind At Large.
Grosso's concept of Mind At Large may seem like another term for "God", a dues ex machina in a planetary drama, but Mind At Large (MaL) as envisioned by Grosso is a transpersonal aspect of mind that is capable of interacting with and affecting matter.
In particular times of peril, MaL intervenes in planetary affairs to effect positive change and help humanity escape from danger.
As we approach ecocide, MaL is attempting to initiate the changes necessary for human survival by using electromagnetically sensitive people as receivers for MaL's ecological warning, encoding the warning in the symbolism of NDEs and UFOEs.
These experiences, according to Grosso, are humanity (most specifically USA humanity) "examining" and ultimately finding itself wanting, then bringing an increased sense of ecological awareness back to physical reality.
Grosso says these EEs are healing experiences for the human mind directed toward healing the earth of modern human excesses. Humanity is in need of revitalization and EEs are one means of getting the message across.
Grosso goes on to link UFO abductions with the Christian belief in the Rapture. The Rapture could be seen as divine abduction.
Since so many wait for this abduction to take place, this state of expectation might "seed" the collective unconscious toward the experience of abduction in general.
In fact, these themes have been part of the UFOE canon for years, and in an increasingly atheistic/humanist culture it may be easier to believe in space aliens than in God.
UFOEs may indeed be the expected Rapture.
Grosso also includes NDEs as part of his concept of a Mind at Large transcendent imaginal order.
He sees such experiences as evolutionary catalysts during a time that may be a planetary death crisis. As Dr. Ring pointed out previously, after having NDEs many experiencers have visions of coming planetary ecological disaster that is inevitable.
Grosso feels MaL is sending these experiences as a warning of such a disastrous future, and believes the people who experience them are a sensitized warning system.
Whitley Strieber's two books on UFOEs also consistently warn of coming ecological catastrophe, and his contention is widely supported by other UFOErs.
It is widely believed in ufological circles that UFOEs are warnings of coming environmental disaster unless humankind changes its greedy ways.
Dr. Ring states that it is we who are aliens on this planet, and it is we who pose the greatest threat to it--far more than any alien civilization from outer space.
Ring quotes Thomas Berry, a historian, who feels we are entering what might be called a new "shamanic age" populated by "shamanic personalities".
A shaman is someone who has traveled into unknown realms and brought back a greater understanding of humanity's presence on this planet.
In short, Berry sees UFOErs and NDErs as shamanic personalities who have journeyed into the unknown and brought back the message of increase environmental awareness.
Ring embraces this idea by expanding on it. Historically, prophets arise at times of cultural crisis.
Since environmental destruction is a planet-wide occurrence, a planet-wide community of prophets is necessary at this time, and Mind at Large is attempting to provide this community through the expression of EEs that expand the minds of sensitive individuals, making them into environmental prophets.
Ring suggests the prophetic function is being democratized as MaL bestows soul-opening experiences on ordinary people who are selected to bring back the message to humanity at large.
Ring believes EErs are the true visionaries of our time, bearing the new myth of the Twenty-first Century—the message of planetary regeneration.
In fact, Ring suggests that if we truly use these messages of regenerative transformation correctly, not only the planet, but humanity itself will be changed for the better.
John White, writer and editor of many books on higher consciousness and a student of EEs, states his belief that we are evolving into a new species he calls homo noeticus.
He speaks of how rapidly human evolution appears to be developing in our time, and states that the forerunners of the new human species are present on the planet now.
Ring draws the line at the idea of a new human species evolving out of the present species...the idea that the species mutates itself in times of need.
Instead, he embraces the idea of the Omega Prototype, a "new breed" of homo sapiens. Strieber is in agreement with the "new species" theory.
He seems to believe the "visitors" as he calls them, are visions of our future evolution, and what he has seen could not be described as homo sapiens, but is another species entirely.
At this point, Ring proposes that the Omega Project itself may, in fact, be a tool of Mind at Large to create the "Omega Prototype" implying the subject matter itself may contain the seeds of human consciousness alteration.
He admits this is rare air indeed, and as purely speculative as science fiction; however, he cannot resist the temptation to at least make the suggestion.
In the realm of EEs, Ring says seeing is destiny. By this he means that our fascination with EEs and the experience of steeping ourselves in their lore will lead to the shamanizing of modern humanity.
He sees this progression thusly: 1) Humans first evolved physically, 2) Next came cultural evolution, 3) Now we approach consciousness evolution.
The Omega Projects shows that it may be possible for humans to live in two realities [or more] simultaneously. We will have one part of our psyche in the physical world and another part in the imaginal world.
Ring seems to believe NDEs and UFOEs are enough to begin this process of shamanizing, but he is unclear about how it will continue, or even whether or not further "lessons" are necessary.
Ring believes that EEs are developing humanity's potential for shamanic visioning such that humanity will have a new consensus reality existing both in the physical and imaginal worlds.
He imagines humans living on in spirit after physical death with no observed break in their existence. To put it in Ring's own words, we will "no longer be incarcerated in the doomed prison of historical time."
NDEs, UFOEs, and other visionary experiences are forcing us to think in new ways.
Grosso believes this is Mind at Large's primary intent and when completed will lead humanity to "modify our basic ideas of how reality works."
Jacques Vallee believes EEs are part of a control system that regulates human belief systems, culture and even human evolution, and idea similar to the Mind at Large concept.
Ring takes these ideas further by stating that EEs are not designed to control us, but to confound us. Extraordinary experiences loosen the chains of fixed ideas and make room for new ones.
Before a new system can be put in place, the old system must be deconstructed and abandoned.
Carl Raschke and others posit that UFOEs and similar outré events may shake the foundations of our beliefs about reality, opening floodgates of speculation that will lead to the eventual replacement of our old belief systems with new ones.
Dr. Ring goes on to say these deconstructivist views are rife within the ufology community. Despite variations on the theme, EEs of all types are baffling and are meant to be baffling.
In confronting the unknowable without attempting to explain it rationally or deny it hysterically, we create the potential of an evolution in consciousness.
Dr. Ring supposes that EEs of all kinds are koans of consciousness.
Mind at Large or something appears to have given humanity a cosmic koan to ponder.
Whether or not we are able to unravel its meaning is yet to be determined.
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