Zen in the Art of Close Encounters book cover

Want to know what the hell's really going on?

Some of the writers, thinkers and investigators listed at right may have caught on. Could they be getting crazy/wise from their exposure to UFOstuff? Read this collection of their often brilliant, witty and insightful work, and see if it doesn't happen to you!


  • Edwin A. Abbott
  • Shari Adamiak
  • Bill Barker
  • Daniel Drasin
  • Ersatz Dodo Comedy Team
  • Marilyn Ferguson
  • Neil Freer
  • Steven Greer
  • Michael Grosso
  • Nick Herbert
  • Jon Klimo
  • Stanley Krippner
  • Rima Laibow
  • Timothy Leary
  • Charles le Canard
  • Michael Lindemann
  • John Mack
  • Terence McKenna
  • Jean Mundy
  • Brian O'Leary
  • Olian
  • Peter Rojcewicz
  • Ron Russell
  • John R. Salter
  • Howard Schachter
  • Philip Slater
  • Paula Underwood Spencer
  • Leo Sprinkle
  • Dennis Stillings
  • Whitley Strieber
  • Barry Taff
  • Stan Tenen
  • Keith Thompson
  • Millen Trench
  • John White
  • Robert Anton Wilson

Here's the copy from the back cover:

Hey man. . . Are UFOs real?? That's the wary question from anyone who's only recently discovered this mind-pretzeling, science-monkeywrenching phenomenon. In today's vernacular the reply might be, "Yep, sure are: If you can expand your meaning of "real" to include what's beyond what you can imagine you can imagine -- and then double that."

An evocative, much older, but just as radical reply might be this from The Practice of True Reality by 12th Century Zen Master Hongzhi: "If you accord everywhere with thorough clarity and cut off sharp corners without dependence on doctrines, like the white ox or wildcat, helping to arouse wonder, you can be called a complete person. So we hear that this is how one on the way of non-mind acts, but before realizing non-mind we still have great hardship."

In that spirit then, here is a large anthology including the best kinds of high and low strangenesses you may have heard of (and some you haven't imagined). These are the kind that present us with paradoxes on top of paradoxes. Our neurological relays pop -- which may be exactly the point!

Everything from reports by people who've initiated successful contact, to serious psychiatric essays, to cartoons, to a disconcerting short story, to the connection with psychedelics, to a kid telling of being levitated out of his bedroom at night for a romp on the local swing set with several little gray UFOLKS, one of whom fell off a swing flat on his back.

The Reviewers Said:

Pursglove's book is a welcome relief to guys like me who are tired of the brickishness in some UFO circles -- an alienated sort among reality-oriented types who apparently haven't grokked the idea, as Terence McKenna puts it, that the world is "a psychological construct of some sort within the brain/mind/body system." . . . How will Zen in the Art of Close Encounters fare in the minds of literalists everywhere? I don't really know, but I know how it should fare. Though all books on Zen are "selling water by the river," here's a cup that it's sold in that's filled to the brim. -Michael Miley, UFO magazine, Nov/Dec, 1995

Finally someone has stumbled across the missing key to the UFO mystery: a sense of humor. Playfulness and a sense of the absurd set this anthology apart from most books on the topic. . .Pursglove compares the mercurial, multi-faceted nature of UFOs to the logic-busting koans of Zen. "It's a both/and -- and maybe more! -- not an either/or." -Brain/Mind Bulletin, May, 1995

In some ways it's like a book of nude photography -- people will want to check it out not for the words, but for the experience. There's enough variety in it to pique the curiosity of just about anybody. . .who's willing to take the risk. -David Ritchey, MUFON UFO Journal, October, 1995

Hearing the sound of one hand clapping, it is said, quiets the mind and allows an unbiased and unnameable vision of true reality to enter. By the same token, reading these different explanations of the UFO phenomenon at one swoop prepares the soul for the entry of UFO truths beyond those recorded in this book. Zen in the Art of Close Encounters is a useful anthology. Its only fault is its misleadingly offhand subtitle -- the book is far more serious than that. -John Chambers, FATE magazine, May, 1996

Paperback, 5 1/2 x 8 1/2, 333 pages, photos, maps, illustrations, cartoons, bibliography, 36 authors and artists. US$8.70 ppd. Outside USA add US$3/surface or US$10/air. Checks payable to The New Being Project. Send to1200 Lincoln St.  #278, Bellingham, WA 98229


What follows is a short essay from the collection by its editor..........

Bewilderment about the fact that there is anything at all, and the curiosity about meeting that fact as a wonder, is the best part of man. -Goethe

Your Koan* for Today: What do the Crop Glyphs Mean?

Paul David Pursglove

*A koan (pronounced ko-ahn) is a question or statement for a Zen student to meditate on and attempt to "solve". Koans are intentionally unanswerable in the terms in which they are presented, though they often appear to make perfect sense; e.g., the question in the title here. The idea is for such questions to function as mind-unbinding platforms or springboards for the student.

Has it occurred to you that with the glyphs, the ETs, (Extra-Typicals, please; we don't really know their origins.) in their ongoing attempt to implant themselves into human affairs, are now appealing to our aesthetic sensibilities? Possibly another subtle ploy to make their presence known without wreaking earthly havoc? Have you noticed that with almost no exceptions these formations never depict any symbol or shape that has political, religious (not even New Agey spiritual) or archetypal significance? And my impression is that those who've interpreted a few as meaningful in some human way have had to stretch wildly to do so. I mean, after all, what if we decided to go gonzo-interpretive over the most frequent shape found in glyphs, the circle!!?? Now, there's a symbol of enormous import and powerful "Meaning" the world over. . .etcetera, ad nauseam.

Mandelbrot Set image

But then, there's that exquisite, perfect Mandelbrot Set figure that our friends laid down in Cambridge University's back yard in August of '91. This location, by the way, was out of their usual glyphing grounds. . .hmmmm. The Mandelbrot set has, however, no political, religious, or archetypal human significance. It's strictly math, strictly aesthetic, non-representational of anything at all. Hard to make any "sense" out of a computer icon for chaos. Notice that after all the head-shaking wonderment at it, the commentary dried up. No one, but NO ONE, seems to be able to make any capital on any interpretation of any of these figures. Even the ones that look something like a giant fish also look like a space craft or maybe a ??? They remind me of R. H. Blyth's comment: "Zen is the unsymbolization of the world and all things in it."

Could you do that? What if I gave you a pencil and paper and said you have three hours to draw twenty different hard-edge shapes none of which have any human significance in any culture of any era? Oh, and furthermore, they can't be disguised images pulled from your, or our, unconscious processes. We have a panel of expert shrinks and a few of Joseph Campbell's best students in the back room who'll be easily able to spot that kind of stuff. And no closing your eyes and scribbling either! Make hard-edge shapes! And make them have rough symmetry in many cases (but forget the old Rorschach folded ink blot trick), and make many elements in them be recognizable geometric figures. Good luck!

My hit is the ETs have tried damn near everything else to get us collectively to sit up, take notice and acknowledge their presence and importance without de-stabilizing everything on the planet. They've trotted out an amazing plethora of stunts that ought to have sabotaged our general denial and desperate clinging to reductionist, scientized materialism.

They take people aboard what appear to be spacecraft, or make eerie night-time bedroom visits. They do precise, bloodless, cookie-cutter rectumotomies, and other -otomies and -ectomies on hundreds of bovines all over our continent (and elsewhere). They bring out their "Big Bertha" triangular and boomerang shaped "craft" and buzz thousands of residents of Putnam and Dutchess Counties in the executive level bedroom communities north of New York City for two years in '81 - '82. One of them even turns around and comes back when one of those residents says in his head, "Oh, don't go. Come back. I want a closer look." They do the same, only more so, for two more years in Belgium ('89 - '91), particularly Brussels (the new capital of all Europe, ladies and gentlemen; how perfect can a target get?!?!), and they do get the Belgians, Air Force and all, to acknowledge them.

Yet, that big ongoing story. . .somehow. . .never makes it to the eleven o'clock news on U.S. TV.

They buzz the Concorde's 1971 maiden flight with a bright ball of moving light and make certain the event is caught on film from the chase plane. The Concorde has aboard a full load of scientists that day. They zoom around the sky near enough to the 9/91 Discovery shuttle mission to be caught on several on-board video cameras for minutes at a time. The footage includes occasional sudden 135° direction changes that would make pizza dough out of any human meat-body.

And they never give us a smoking gun that would satisfy Carl Sagan.

A bumpersticker: ETs ARE CTs.

Those of you who recall your cruel adolescent years will know what a "CT" was. But I mean Consciousness Teaser.

My further hit is that's exactly what the glyphs are supposed to be. Nobody ever made an economy collapse or went to war over a Zen koan. Maybe some super-bright ET read some Dogen Zenji or Alan Watts and persuaded his colleagues to give this nutball, non-meaningful, glyph scheme a whirl. "Let's see what these blinker-brained clowns will do with THIS stuff!" And the whole committee has the ET equivalent of a major belly laugh.

"And, I'll tell you what," s/he goes on, "We gotta do it in an English speaking country. We got the Russkies and them Belgians scratchin' their heads real good. Now we just gotta get them Brits and Yanks sweatin' at least a few bullets about their tee-ninetsey lil' ole pencil-petered cosmology." (You see, my ET here is from a giant star cluster called Texmass. Speech of this kind is considered high art there.) "How 'bout we start layin' down these shapes in some place they think is, well, just kinda, holy? But not like anywhere near someplace they're callin' holy now! Do that, and that partic'lar 'holy' bunch'll grab them patterns an' run; turn 'em right into stained glass winders 'r sumthin'. We've made that kinda mistake before. I'm damn sick a listenin' to them folks that pray 'n whine up a storm every time they spot one of our ships. 'Oh, oh, please come down and save us. You must be Jeeeezus. Save us from these other mean 'n nasty humans that wanna steal our mahcrowaves 'n marry our daughters.'

"Glory! Them folks is jes' plain eat up with the dumb ass!

"No way. Let's try some place that, to them's, got a weird holy feel to it; where there's bunches a maybe-sacred things around that've already got even them college type, head-trippin' Brits and Yanks scratchin' an' scratchin'".

Soon, the committee decides to focus on the Stonehenge/Avebury-Silbury area, a treasure-house of enigmas. "Dayumm!!" our Texmass native exclaims, "That oughta git their heads all katty-wampus in a hot New York minute. Betcha they'll bounce basketballs through mine fields just to git next to one a them things!"

(Later on, in 1992, the plan seemed to be enjoying a little success. Even to the point that a major Yank drug firm, manufacturers of an elixir called "Bud Lite", used an image of a crop glyph in one of their TV ads that spelled out the drug's name. My Texmassene was heard to remark, "Well sir, them Yanks 'r cross-threaded between the ears fer sure! There they go doin' jes' like what I was afraid them religion types'd do. But, mebbe, jes like one a them Yank cowboy presidents said, 'Better to have a man inside the tent pissin' out than havin' a man outside the tent pissin' in.'")


And now for something only slightly different:

Hubert Benoit is (was?) a French psychiatrist and author who wrote two books about Zen, neither of which, astonishingly, had even one single oblique reference to Freudian or any other psychodynamic model. In one book he detailed a scheme he'd discovered for giving oneself the "feel" of a Zen insight or mini-satori/kensho-esque experience. Or: what it might be like to "work" on a Zen koan when one was getting close to having the koan's dilemmic horns pop one's neurological relays. (If that last seems like a mind-pretzeling crossed metaphor to you, then you're getting into the spirit of what I'm driving at here.)

He called it "divergent language". Divergent in the sense that it aims, so to speak, directly at creating a sentence (in any language) using all the rules of grammar and syntax, but which has no meaning whatever, no matter how you look at it. What we do normally is create "convergent" language; the words we say converge on meaning, on associations and chains of associations, etc. So, Benoit's device could be called as easily, "dissociative language." In this experiment (and it is an experiment, not an exercise; you can't know in advance how the sentence is going to come out), no word can relate meaningfully to any other word. It's impossible to remember a "good one" an hour later; there's nothing in our networkey, cyber-whatever brain/mind that's structured to retain such stuff. I've written dozens of them, and can't recall even one to use as an example here. I'll have to make one up now. And, I'm sure if you try to create one, you'll find you enter an unusual awareness domain. For you can't "search" around for the "right" word in the usual way. You are almost forced to let go and allow the totally incongruous word to appear, of its own accord, in consciousness. And that's the title of the book where he describes this: Let Go!


There's a quick three-worder. No, it's not "creative" in any of the normal senses; try to remember it tomorrow. And it's not a joke. Jokes are loaded to the gunwales with meaning. It is a little like the double-talk Red Buttons was so famous for. It's not a cartoon; they, too, effervesce with meaning. If you or an auditor can make a cartoon out of it, the sentence has meaning, and you have to go back and "let go" again.

Any of you familiar with Zenny stuff will see right away how neat a way of "sitting" this could be. Occupies the monkey-chatter brain on exactly the right edge. Done for a while in a moderately sensorily deprived situation like a Zendo, it could "drive you out of your wretched mind" (my favorite line from R. D. Laing's The Politics of Experience).

Ok, so why do I go on for 500 words about this? Because I think the ETs either studied Zen, as I said above, or possibly read (or intuited on their own) Benoit and adapted his mind-trick to a visual presentation method, only in reverse. That is, they make the visual, "divergent" image. We're invited, nay almost seduced, by the very enigmatic quality of the image, to get into the kind of consciousness that created it in our attempt to get any kind of handle on it at all. If we spend any time doing this, of course, we soon find there's no handle to get hold of. Or such handles as there may be aren't at all of the order of things we'd normally call "handles". Happy day!

In July of '92, Steven Greer and a CSETI team in England drew a non-meaningful geometric figure on paper, one the glyph-makers had never created. Then they sat for some time and silently "transmitted" that image with a request that the glyph-makers lay one down like it. The glyph-makers did. This is an astounding event, and I mean in no way to diminish its importance by saying that to me, this is just getting warm.

Eric Beckjord did a kind of contrasting experiment. During the summer of '91 he got some friends in England to join him in tramping out a "sign" in a crop field that read "TALK TO US" in ten-foot high block letters. A day or so later in a field nearby appeared a "sign" in block-like symbols, looking for all the world like lettering similar to Beckjord's sign; very close to the same size, but completely indecipherable. Not really letters, not really not letters. Beckjord studied and studied it. The only flash he got was this: He lives in a neighborhood in Los Angeles where there are several Korean restaurants. Korean printing, as it appears on these restaurants' large signs, looks very like the shape he got in response. Maybe the ETs had zoned in on his skull for material for a reply. But (and here comes the fun part!), he checked with a Korean who can read and translate this printing. The glyph was in Korean -- gibberish.

(Oh boy! Scrabble placates cornfield. Sorry. In this context, of course, that sentence is decisively convergent language -- but the multi-layered pun is almost worth stretching for.)

Beckjord's experiment, though totally bound up in the verbal mode of communication, is maybe getting a degree or two warmer, if what I'm driving at here has any merit at all. (It tickled me a little that he quite innocently asked them to "talk to us" in English when, after all, what have they been doing if not talking to us? But not in English. Or Korean.)

The next step might be to do one of those group drawing experiments they use in some schools and occasionally in human growth or encounter groups. We have a big roll of butcher paper open on the floor. I draw a line or mess of lines in red. You have a blue crayon and pick up where I left off. None of us knows where we're going or what we're trying to make a picture of. A third person with a green crayon adds his/her lines or shape(s) or fill-in(s). And on it goes. Laughter is almost always a part of such a venture. Looking at each other with new eyes is, too. As is finding things out about yourself you didn't know. Let's get a group out there in a field to start a glyph, sit down for a bit and telepathically invite the (other!) makers to add on. Next day we add. And so on. And NO sneaky business on our parts, no hidden agendas of what this glyph is "supposed" to look like at the end or, god help us, mean!!! Or what the glyph-makers are supposed to communicate to us or what burning questions we want answered.

Another, maybe more advanced, variation: Get a sympathetic abstract artist to draw several non-interpretable figures, reminiscent of nothing. Go make one in a field. Sit down, telepathically request the other "artists" to add on to, embellish, or use the one we made as the basis for, or part of, a completely different one of their own. This is saying to them, "Hey, we can dig it. Do your THING!"

And many more ideas will surely come to you of ways to get a non-linear dialogue going using what the glyph-makers have given us. The idea is: LET'S DANCE! But we don't need to spell that out in words. Just start dancing. They do aesthetics. . .We do aesthetics. They hit us up with Zen puzzles. . .We hit them up with some Zenny puzzles of our own.

This'd be a lot of work, but we could lay down part of one of the simpler M. C. Escher optical illusions. Follow this with a telepathic invite to the others to add, change, build on, do their own or whatever struck them as a response. (Wouldn't it be utterly fascinating if they would not respond to that? Then we could try something else and see what drew a reply, maybe get a clue as to why it did or didn't.)

And what about those sounds the BBC and Colin Andrews and others recorded in a couple of formations? Let's get out there and sing something. "Amazing Grace" for starters (maybe someone could write some new and more apropos lyrics for the ". . .save a wretch like me" part). Then we could bring a keyboardist and synthesizer or two, play the tones Colin got, and let the keyboardists go ga-ga with improvs against them. (Hell, it worked in the movie Close Encounters. . .; got a window-shattering answer!)* Then, sit in silence focusing on requesting an auditory response.

We might then hear sounds and songs like none we've known before. The kind we can't prove where they came from, the kind we don't want to prove where they came from. We sing 'em a little Gospel, and they give us. . .The Music of the Spheres!

*Obviously, I'm not the first one to have noticed the relationship of sound and music both to the UFO and to crop-formation phenomena. However, I wrote this before I'd read that astronomer Gerald Hawkins, co-author of Stonehenge Decoded (1965) said he'd discovered that the geometry of crop glyphs contains mathematical ratios found in the diatonic musical scale.