Can it be true?
Is it really possible that the story and experience of UFO abduction, which had this country so mesmerized back in the 90s, is a remembrance/re-enactment of the African American historical trauma? Mediated through the harrowing experience of the world’s first abductee, the African American Barney Hill?
There are no reliable statistics on how many people have experienced–or remembered, or reported–UFO abductions. The number is surely in the thousands. And if the theory I set out in my last post is correct, we’d surely expect African Americans to account for a large chunk of them.
I don’t want to say there haven’t been any black abductees since Barney Hill. But their number is vanishingly small. UFO abduction is an overwhelmingly Caucasian phenomenon. The pattern set in the granddaddy-abduction, of black man and white woman taken together aboard the spaceship, has to my knowledge never repeated itself.
And that’s not the only problem my theory faces. We still have to explain just how the experience of enslavement, centuries ago, might become part of the unconscious of a black man born in 1922. Thence to be liberated or unleashed by the hypnotic skills of Dr. Benjamin Simon. After all, it’s not as if traumatic events leave their mark on the genes.
Or do they?
When I gave a reading from my book at the Catawba County Library last month, and spoke in the question-and-answer period about the Hill abduction, Tammy Wilson called my attention to a 2007 “Nova” program entitled, appropriately, “Ghost in Your Genes.” Suggestive evidence that sufferings endured by the grandparents’ generation–specifically, recurrent famine in an isolated Swedish village–might shape the life expectancy of grandchildren who’d never known a hungry day.
And there are other, non-genetic ways trauma can be conveyed from one generation to the next. Psychologists who work with the children of Holocaust survivors are familiar with this. The parents spare the children the grisly details of what they’ve endured in the death camps. But somehow–through gesture, through recurrent act–the experience is transmitted, wordlessly, to replay itself in those who’d never suffered it. “The second generation absorbs the unvocalized deep memory from the parent,” says Israeli psychotherapist Dina Wardi (quoted by Daan van Kampenhout). “The real stuff is never transmitted through words.”
So the problem, of how Barney Hill inherited the trauma of the slave ships, is deeply mysterious–especially given the long time gap–but not insoluble. It’s the other difficulty that really troubles me.
Why is it the offspring of the perpetrators (or beneficiaries) of African slavery who’ve re-enacted, with ever-growing accumulation of bizarre and often blatantly sexual detail, a pain neither they nor their forerunners ever endured?
Is it possible that in a great historic crime–like the Holocaust, like slavery–the deep psyches of perpetrator and victim become entwined, enmeshed, bonded? (They’re both, in a sense, partners in the crime.) This seems to be the experience of those who’ve worked with the “Family Constellations” therapy pioneered by Bert Hellinger, and sometimes used for the joint therapy of the children of Nazis and of survivors. My own thoughts on this subject have been influenced by my experiences in a workshop at the Hellinger Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, and by an important book I purchased at that workshop, Daan van Kampenhout’s The Tears of the Ancestors: Victims and Perpetrators in the Tribal Soul (2008). I’m not ready to buy the whole Hellinger “package” of psychological theory–he and his followers often seem to me a great deal too sure of themselves, given the uncertainty of the evidence. But that they’re on to something about the deepest layer of our souls, I came away without the slightest doubt.
So I think it’s possible: the perpetrators and their heirs (whether genetic or cultural) can unconsciously experience what they once inflicted on others.
We mustn’t forget–if Barney was the world’s first abductee, as I called him, he wasn’t alone. His wife Betty was in the alien ship with him.
It’s even possible that, as some UFO skeptics have claimed, it was Betty who did the lion’s share of shaping what became their joint account of abduction, through dreams she began having a few days after their eerie experience in the New Hampshire mountains. But if it was Betty who created the abduction narrative, it was Barney who felt it. “When Dr. Simon played the recording of Betty reliving under regressive hypnosis what should have been the terrifying experience of being taken aboard the alien craft–not knowing if she and Barney might be dissected like frogs–her voice was as calm as if she were describing a trip to the local supermarket.” So says Phil Klass–with, I imagine, a bit of a sneer. But if Betty’s lack of affect is proof for Klass of the unreality of the abduction, surely Barney’s super-affect ought to be proof it was in some sense real!
(“As I listened to Barney reliving his UFO encounter, I could agree completely with the doctor that Barney had indeed seen ‘something,’ and it had been a terrifying experience.” That’s also Klass–and what an admission! I wish Klass were still alive, so I could ask him what, in his opinion, that “something” was.)
Child of the slave, child of the slaver–collaborators in the re-enactment (soon to be replicated thousands of times over) of the ancestral crime. What became of them both?
Betty lived to a ripe old age, the great lady of UFO abductions, passing away only in 2004. Not so Barney. He died of a cerebral hemorrhage on February 25, 1969–five years, almost to the day, after the hypnotic regression that first exposed him to the literally unspeakable enormity of what he’d carried inside him.
He was 46 years old.
These are difficult problems, their threads leading down into the deep complexities of the human soul. Please help me think them through. Post your comments here or at my Fan Page, www.facebook.com/JournalofaUFOInvestigator.