Compartmentalization: UFOs and Social Paralysis
I just finished listening to Joe Rogan’s interview with Bob Lazar, a man who claims to have worked at a super-secret military installation some miles from Area 51 called S4, where he was tasked with reverse-engineering a UFO propulsion system. My gut feeling was that this man is telling the truth. He seemed humble, undramatic, and honest about what he does and doesn’t know. He doesn’t claim to have a special connection to ETs, nor does he appear to monetize his experience. But my purpose here is not to establish his credibility or argue for the authenticity of UFOs. That should no longer be necessary, now that the New York Times, the US Navy, and other authoritative sources confirm much of what people like Bob Lazar have been saying for decades.
The testimony of one man is a thin thread on which to hang an entire thesis. I could choose any of innumerable testimonies, some much better corroborated than Lazar’s. But there is one aspect of his story that especially rings true as a sign of our times. Lazar describes how research on the extraterrestrial vehicle was highly compartmentalized. He and one other scientist worked together on the propulsion unit, a kind of anti-gravity device, and made little progress. They were permitted no communication with the scientific community in general, nor even with other teams working on the propulsion unit or other aspects of the craft. Everything was done on a “need to know” basis. Lazar attributes the lack of progress to this compartmentalization. Science, he says, progresses through the free interchange of ideas and the cross-fertilization of insights. Notwithstanding the popular mythology of genius scientists making heroic breakthroughs alone in their laboratories, science is a collective endeavor, a culture.
No doubt, secrecy and control were what motivated the compartmentalization. But the phenomenon is not limited to secret military installations, nor to central governments. What Bob Lazar experienced was a distilled microcosm of a much more general trend: the separation of information into mutually non-communicating domains. As that trend takes over society and our own minds, it has the same effect as at S4: stagnation, paralysis, and a failure to understand.
The UFO phenomenon itself offers a prime example. Yes, I’m going to call them UFOs and not UAPs or whatever terminology has become fashionable. The term UFO itself once carried an aura of dispassionate scientific objectivity in comparison with “flying saucer.” Eventually, it fell into disrepute, so other terms were invented to sound more scientific. I’ll stick with UFO.
Where was I? The UFO phenomenon exemplifies the separation of knowledge into mutually non-communicating compartments. In one compartment lies conventional scientific knowledge and its attendant beliefs about what is real and what is possible. In another compartment we have the now officially-confirmed fact that aerial craft have been flying around our planet for decades if not longer, exhibiting technological capacities far exceeding our own, and apparently violating numerous basic laws of physics. Not officially confirmed, but still beyond reasonable doubt, is that some of these craft are in the possession of the United States government (or agencies therein, or corporations attached to it).
If the contents of these two compartments were allowed to mix, the resulting psycho-chemical reaction would cause an explosion. Why? Because they contradict each other. When matter and anti-matter collide, they are annihilated with a burst of photons. Thesis and antithesis collide in a burst of understanding.
What new avenues of scientific inquiry would result if we allowed anti-gravity devices and the “impossible” materials of extraterrestrial artifacts to enter recognized scientific reality? What philosophical, social, and political change would result if we admitted the truth that we are not alone here? That question, “Are we alone here?” is after all one of the fundamental spiritual questions human beings ask.
The architecture of society-as-we-know-it, and the modern individual that populates it, depends on insulating contradictory beliefs from each other. What happens when we allow them to collide? Initially, the world stops making sense and we are thrown into turmoil. To prevent that, certain data points must be excluded from reality. We gain thereby a certain temporary stability, a false sense of permanence—at the cost of being trapped within the reality-bubble we have created.
Here is another matter-antimatter pair that the Lazar material brings into collision. On the one hand, most people in this country (or at least the educated classes) believe in the basic reliability of what authoritative institutions like government, academia, and the news media assert as fact. While recognizing areas of contention at the frontiers of knowledge, most people accept, in its basic lineaments, reality as our central institutions offer it. That acceptance now bumps up against the evident fact that the authorities have hidden something profound from us for three generations. More than that, they have asserted the exact opposite of the truth that they knew, and persecuted those who disputed them. This collision of contradictions should be enough to explode the illusion of the integrity of our knowledge authorities. It has not, only because we keep UFOs sequestered in public discourse—and often in our own minds—as an oddity, a non-essential topic.
How often do UFOs enter into the political conversations of our time? Or into the conversations career guidance counselors have with students? Or into academic conferences in the field of materials science? The UFO craft at S4 would have profound impact on all of these, if only they were admitted into consensus reality.
Were we to demolish the walls of the separating compartments, we would stand in awe of the possibilities before us. Basic assumptions about what is real and possible are false. When we drop them, rapid progress in understanding the world and solving its problems becomes possible. It also inspires us to ask, What else are they hiding from us? What other firmly established assumptions of science are not true? What else is real beyond the bounds of our beliefs?
Of course, it is not only UFOs that we keep sequestered away so that they won’t disrupt consensus reality. Most people I know have had some experience that blatantly contradicts what establishment knowledge authorities (government, science, academia, Wikipedia, fact-checkers, the mainstream media) say is possible. It could be healing from a supposedly incurable condition, it could be an awe-inspiring synchronicity, a reading from a psychic, a communication from a deceased relative. We might be able to explain them away in rational, scientific terms: “It was just coincidence.” “An electrical short made the radio turn on at that moment to play my mother’s favorite song.” “I confabulated the memory of grandma visiting me in a dream the night she died to tell me everything is OK.” “There must be some explanation.” Or maybe we just don’t think about it, or we assign it to the compartment called “spiritual,” thereby making it not of this world. These are all ways to sequester such experiences away from what we call reality. In so doing, we neuter their disruptive potential to expand our reality, our lives, and our selves.
The separation of spiritual knowledge and everyday beliefs into separate compartments takes many forms. I just heard a story about a man who is highly respected in a certain spiritual community for his wisdom, insight, maturity, and compassion. Well, recently a vulgar and hateful social media post came to light, authored by this same man. Whatever beliefs motivated that post, they contradict his sincerely professed spirituality. Let’s not be too quick to sneer at his hypocrisy. Who among us doesn’t carry mutually incompatible beliefs and motives, sometimes acting from one set as if the other did not exist? Who among us does not sometimes maintain a public image that differs from private reality? Who does not operate secret programs, perhaps to gain some advantage, favor, or approval—programs so secret they may even be hidden from oneself? These are like government black ops that are so secret they detach from the agencies that spawned them, entering the same alternate reality as the UFOs they study. They must be reintegrated for the psyche—individual or collective—to become whole.
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The winds of change are blowing. For decades, people like Bob Lazar have been subject to intense campaigns of ridicule, character assassination, and erasure (both literal and figurative). The crude hatchet job that is Lazar’s Wikipedia page is typical. These campaigns have the effect of squeezing such people out of reality, making them into what Orwell called unpersons. It becomes difficult to evaluate their authenticity according to any objective criteria. For example, while Lazar claims to have worked at Los Alamos National Laboratories in the 1980s, the lab has no record of him. Is he lying, or was the record scrubbed? Intriguingly, an old Los Alamos Lab phone directory does list him. Similarly, his claim to have taken courses at MIT and Caltech in physics and electronics is denied by those institutions.
One can drill down into the claims and counterclaims, the debunking and the rebuttals in the Bob Lazar affair and UFOlogy in general, and still never arrive at the bedrock of certainty. Judging the case solely by publicly available materials, one faces two distinct and self-consistent realities. In what we might call Standard Reality, Lazar is a fraud, and Caltech has no record of his attendance because he never went there. In Alternate Reality, Lazar is truthful, and Caltech expunged his record at the behest of the security state which (as is consistent with his story) wields tremendous behind-the-scenes power.
The cordons separating these two realities are unraveling, and Alternate Reality is leaking into Standard Reality. One by one, various elements of Bob Lazar’s story are vindicated. Navy reports describe craft moving in exactly the ways Bob has described. The “conspiracy theory” of the last 70 years—that the government was deliberately suppressing information on UFOs and running secret programs—is now indubitable conspiracy fact. How deeply does the conspiracy penetrate into the halls of power? What other conspiracy theories are true? We do not know.
We would like to be able to appeal to some body of unimpeachable, publicly available, objective evidence to establish which of two self-consistent stories is true. That can never happen when the control of evidence is itself part of maintaining narrative reality. As soon as belief systems are embroiled in economic or political power, those systems begin to guard the raw materials of their narratives: evidence, data, and facts. What information the guardians of orthodoxy admit to the treasury of facts depends on what the new information serves. Even if the filtering is not deliberate, inconvenient facts will bear intense, hostile scrutiny, while convenient ones will pass through unchallenged. That is why, on so many issues today, well-meaning, intelligent people can come to disastrously wrong conclusions, trusting what convention (centered around powerful institutions) presents to them as fact.
With some issues, a nebula of alternative realities surrounds a clearly defined orthodoxy. With others, two or more sides of comparable power vie with each other in narrative warfare. In either case, the result is social and political paralysis—the same lack of progress that Bob Lazar describes, writ large. To take a recent example of the first type, the pharmaceutical-public health complex and their allies in Big Tech vigorously suppressed generic, natural, and holistic approaches to treating Covid by exiling them from reality, with “fact checks,” censorship, ridicule, and legal prohibition, guarding an orthodoxy that redounded to their own wealth and power. Alternatives were safely compartmentalized in society’s margins. Now, it is certain that some of those alternatives had less merit than others, but because of their banishment to a separate reality, doctors and scientists couldn’t engage in the intellectual and clinical intercourse necessary for progress to happen. We were like a stunted brain divided into mutually non-communicating sections.
Paralysis also results when separate orthodoxies, vying for supremacy, separate their adherents off into their own tribal reality bubbles. This is happening right now in the United States with its “culture war,” which brings to mind a vicious game of tug-of-war on the deck of a sinking ship. With strenuous effort, first one team then the other pull the marker a few feet toward their side. Neither side—much less society as a whole—makes real, lasting progress. Why? Ultimately for the same reason the UFO reverse engineers didn’t. No real communication is happening. No communication can happen, when each side has written off the other as despicable monsters, and banishes any datum that validates the other side.
I have described some of the ways how the deliberate compartmentalization of S4 mirrors a more general fragmentation of the collective mind as well as the individual psyche. This fragmentation renders us stupid. It traps us in a partial, self-reinforcing reality bubble. The problems lie inside the bubble, but the solutions lie outside it. The only way to access those solutions is to reweave the disconnected strands of society and self. As these sundered bits of knowledge and experience reunite, a new intelligence is born in a scintillation of understanding.
At what price comes this new understanding? The price is a loss of control. The antidote to the lies, secrecy, cover-ups, and denial is transparency: transparency in governance, transparency in relationships, transparency within our selves. Noncommunicating parts of self and society must come back into communication. That entails a loss of control, because who knows what will happen when strangers meet. Who knows what energies will be released when thesis and antithesis collide.
It takes courage to practice transparency: to allow oneself to be seen, as well as to see others fully. Courage, and healing. Trauma and ideology have riven the modern self and modern society into fragments, which take refuge in social and psychic compartments. A long road to reunion lies before us. On it we learn non-judgement, we lose our attachment to being right, we develop unconditional love of self and others, and we reintegrate marginalized people and parts of ourselves. Thus do we collect the fragments of reality. If we have also developed the ability to abide in the discomfort of not knowing, we can, in that empty place, reassemble these fragments into new understanding.
The above formula—hold a humble space for conflicting realities to collide—can release our society from its current paralysis. Perhaps we can do this using something resembling a Truth and Reconciliation Committee process. It is more important to release the truth than it is to punish anyone. Our lies and secrets are killing us—literally, in the case of the exclusion of holistic medicine from public health, and in the case of environmental damage hidden beneath the gloss and routine of normal consumption. Lies and secrets are like blood clots in the body politic, so ridden now with necrosis it can barely function.
Our descent into compartmentalization is not wholly a bad thing. The bubble I’ve called Standard Reality accommodated a certain kind of development for the human species. Drawing on what we developed there—much of what we call science and technology—we built a mighty tower. So rapid was its progress skyward that we reasonably assumed that soon, it would reach unto Heaven. With each stage of its construction, life got better and better. But progress seems to have slowed of late. Vast sections of the tower crumble faster than we can repair them. As the biblical story suggests, the builders eventually abandon the construction in a babble of confusion. They can no longer communicate with one another. So it is as well with the edifice of civilization. We will not resume our progress until we reunite our splintered society and psyche. Once we do, we may perhaps see the folly of the project to attain paradise through technological and social control, and we will turn our united energies toward an entirely different project.
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