In the Summer 1952 issue of World Events, Scott Nearing headlined his article “The Flying Saucer Mystery” ahead of Recent Events in Korea, Preparations for Collective Suicide and his acerbic dismissal of John Dewey upon that educator’s death:
“He and Sigmund Freud did more than any other men in the present generation to perpetuate the myth of individualism and glorify particularism, while science and technology, the bond-servants of profiteers and war-makers, were regimenting the individual into the mass society which is engulfing the modern world. [Dewey] supplied the philosophical justification for dealing with every problem by itself and the devil take principle.”Scott Nearing, World Events
For those who have visited Helen and Scott’s Harborside homestead, many may have been surprised to find two shelves of books devoted the the UFO question. For many this has seemed an inexplicable anomaly in the collection of a radical economist. However, two recent July New York Times articles by Ralph Blumenthal and Leslie Kean on the Pentagon’s UFO unit made me think it would be of interest to explore the issue from the perspective of my research on the Nearings.
In his 1952 article, Scott did not say directly “I believe in UFOs.” As a lecturer and debater, he knew that such declarations could scuttle the acceptance of your position before you had a chance to present evidence. How he goes about his argument is to note that after an early phase of newspaper and public interest (1946-9):
Then came a spectacular change of policy. The armed forces and the FBI took a hand. The Air Force set up Operation Saucer (1949) to which all reports on space ships were directed. There was a press and radio blackout. People who reported sighting space ships were subjected to a mild third degree by the authorities and Operation Saucer, when approached by inquirers, insisted that reporting observers have mistaken weather balloons, unusual cloud formations or the planet Venus for space ships.Scott Nearing, World Events, Vol ix, #3—Letter 75
Thus, having raised questions concerning governmental machinations, he goes on to empirically review the published literature, from the Autumn 1947 issue of the Fortean Society’s magazine Doubt, to the Borderland Sciences Research Association’s (BSRA) Round Robin, to Donald Kehoe’s 1950 “sober…checked and counter-checked” The Flying Saucers Are Real, to Palmer and Arnold’s just then published The Coming of the Saucers: A Documentary Report on Sky Objects. Scott summarizes his research under four headings:
- 1 These UFOs are not terrestrial. They are from outer space and their visits are increasing yearly.
- 2 Terrestrial atomic explosions have unbalanced inter-planetary relations and we are being observed.
- 3 “Space ships seem to be beneficent, rather than inimical…they have merely made their observations and then gone on their way.”
- 4 Humans are lagging behind these space travelers in the understanding and beneficent use of nature’s prodigal gifts.
Scott does not speculate where these ships might originate from, nor does he understand their design technology. Still, the “prodigious possibilities” of communication with these obviously more advanced extraterrestrial beings would, in his view, lead to an illumination of our inter-planetary responsibilities.
On July 24 and 28, 2020, Blumenthal and Kean (in their New York Times articles titled “U.F.O. Unit At Pentagon Will Publish Its Findings” and “Staying Grounded on U.F.O.s” respectively) reported on the continuance of UFO investigations by a Pentagon program known as the Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon Task Force (UAPTF). Previously the Pentagon had said that the 22 million dollar Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program had been discontinued in 2012. A recent Senate Committee reported new spending on the renamed program (UAPTF). Luis Elizondo, a former military intelligence official who resigned in October 2017 from the erroneously-reported “discontinued” unit, said that the program is “convinced that objects of undetermined origin have crashed on earth with materials retrieved for study.” Eric W. Davis, a consultant to the Pentagon, revealed during a classified March briefing that “retrievals ‘from off-world vehicles not made on earth’” had been made. Former Senate majority leader Harry Reid added:
“After looking into this, I came to the conclusion that there were reports—some were substantive, some not so substantive—that there were actual materials that the government and the private sector had in their possession.”
Within the last two months, Florida’s Republican Senator Marco Rubio voiced concerns that many UFO sightings are concentrated around military bases. Scott had noted the same fact back in 1952. In a July 28 follow-up, “The Story Behind the Story,” Blumenthal and Kean declared, “And to be clear: U.F.O.s don’t mean aliens.” However, they close their ruminations with the following paragraph:
Our sources told us the A.A.V. (Advanced Aerospace Vehicle) does not refer to vehicles made in any country—not Russian or Chinese—but is used to mean technology in the realm of the truly unexplained. They also assure us that their briefings are based on facts, not belief.
And therein lies the crux of any discussions surrounding UFOs…. In answer to the question “Do You Believe?” Blumenthal and Kean’s response is “‘No, we don’t believe in UFOs.’ As we see it, their existence, or nonexistence, is not a matter of belief.” and further note that military officials “are now concerned about the potential threat represented by very real, advanced technological objects…”.
While Scott was attempting to collaborate various reported sightings, Blumenthal and Kean report on the actual existence of physical evidence which is of a highly classified nature. The only intelligence briefing Trump seems to have paid attention to is this military concern over UFOs and this might explain his instituting a militarized United States Space Force (USSF). Scott Nearing, and Blumenthal and Kean, demur to discuss the origin(s) of UFOs, but as Scott wrote from Cape Rosier:
“Careful reading of the materials on space ships which has appeared in books, magazines and newspapers, coupled with the shifty, hush-hush attitude of the federal government authorities, leads inescapably to several conclusions…”
…the four conclusions which I enumerated above.
But there is more to Scott and Helen’s interest in UFOs.
Just as Scott’s investigative bent had led him to personally inspect slums for the Pennsylvania Child Labor Committee during his college years, to touring the ancient terrace agriculture of the Northern Philippines, to educational fact-finding expeditions in the Soviet Union, to being in Berlin as Hitler seized power, to a trip through civil war torn Spain, to visiting the “mushroom” towns of the poor in South America after being detained and interrogated by the Secret Police in both Venezuela and Columbia, and to a research trip down the Nile as he approached the age of 90, Scott and Helen also traveled to investigate the UFO phenomena. During the winter of 1952-3, he visited Rosewell, NM, and also participated in a BSRA (Release 1-B-53) discussion “Contact with the Guardians (‘Disc People’).” This symposium was lead by George Adamski at his famed Palomar Gardens campground. Adamski had been investigating, photographing, and communicating with UFOs since 1946. In this transcript he related his conversational encounters with disc people who hailed from Venus. Their planet of origin was known due to the symbols left behind in their footprints. Adamski was also a student of Theosophy, the unification of the Earth’s religious traditions, constructed by Madame Helena Petrovna Blavatsky. Helen had grown up in a Theosophical household, gone to Europe in 1920 to study violin and also Theosophy under Annie Bassant, Krishnamamurti and later studied Theosophy in Australia with C.W. Leadbeater. In Blavatsky’s Secret Doctrine, she posited that more spiritually advanced beings populated Venus, Mars, Jupiter and all the other planets. Thus, it is not surprising to find Theosophical authors quoted and footnoted in Leslie and Adamski’s Flying Saucers Have Landed:
About eighteen million years ago, say the strange and ancient legends of our little planet, at a time when Mars, Venus and Earth were in close conjunction, along a magnetic path so formed came a huge, shining, radiant vessel of dazzling power and beauty, bringing to earth ‘thrice thirty-five’ human beings, of perfection beyond our highest ideals; gods rather than men; divine kings of archaic memory, under whose benign world-government a shambling, hermaphrodite monster was evolved into thinking sexual man.Flying Saucers Have Landed, page 9
Reading Scott and Helen’s personal correspondence from the late 20’s until the early 50’s, you find an intense period of occult research, most especially during their Depression era Vermont homesteading. While Helen was more deeply steeped in the works of Bessant, Blavatsky, Leadbeater and Sinnett’s Mahatma Letters, Scott was an avid student of spiritualism…from seances and table tippings in World War I Toledo, Ohio, to a deep study of Bucke’s Cosmic Consciousness: A Study in the Evolution of the Human Mind. While I am not a scholar or student of Theosophy, astrology, automatic writing, palmistry, ESP, astral projection or graphology, I do wish to give the reader an idea of how these seemingly disparate subjects coalesced in Scott and Helen’s thinking from the various esoteric sub-cultures of their time. In the case of UFO-contact, it came in the form of Theosophical mediums and controls such as Yada Di Sh’ite and Ramond Natilli who conversed with the other-worldly beings and whose writings were studied by Scott and Helen and in like-minded bulletins such as the BSRA’s “Clairaudient Dictations” edition. During the sugaring season of 1944, Helen experienced multiple sessions of automatic writing which were dictated to her by astral beings, forewarned by her Theosophical studies. The experience was intensely real for her and Scott participated by reading the texts and formulating future questions. Thus, the intercommunication of mediums with “Disc People” and those on other planes of existence were a known science to them.
In the last decade of his life, Scott was laboring upon one final book – a summation of his sociological research entitled Social Forces. This is also the title of the 1909 essay collection by Edward T. Devine that was very important to Scott’s early writings on sociological amelioration. If there is one line from that book that I might quote as an underpinning tenet of Scott’s pro-active sociology, it would be this: “The greatest social force in the world is the quickening influence of a high ideal.” This high ideal could be realized only through the conscious enlightenment of the individual to the ultimate good…service to others. Or as Scott wrote in 1975: “Capitalism has had as its slogan ‘Every man for himself.’ The slogan of Marxism is ‘Serve the whole people.’” (Civilization and Beyond, 251). Such enlightenment could only evolve through a course of intense study. For Scott, his spiritual teachers were Tolstoy, the Buddha, the Christ and, during the 30’s, Helen. He also placed great stock in the post-civilization apex to be achieved through socialist construction. However, not everyone could abide this amalgam of the spiritual and the Marxian. During the 30’s Scott was publicly attacked by fellow traveler Mike Gold for his Theosophical interests, which were believed to be antithetical to Marxist Communism. Other than among friends and the open-minded, he rarely brought his occult studies into public utterance.
Scott and Helen’s occult science explorations naturally progressed into an interest in the post-WWII sightings of UFOs. I have not seen any public denunciation of Scott’s 1952 article, but by the 50’s communist intellectual sparring was a shadow of its Depression era heavy-weight aspirations. No matter the consequences, I think the Nearings always “knew” that there existed higher beings who on occasion communed with humans and thus elevated the spiritual potential of the species as a whole. “Disc People” were simply the latest incarnation of spiritual guides to be a “quickening influence of a high ideal.” Scott’s unpublished Social Forces is housed in Boston University’s Rare Book Room. In it you can observe the inescapable evidence of advancing age: the handwriting sprawls loosely, lines pulling downward as they advance across the unlined page in a crabbed, spidery cursive. Yet his voice is still intact and he allows more spiritually personal musings to enter the prose:
Our segment of the Island Universe is passing through a phase of man-vantara or period of manifestation. This manwanshara [sic] will continue until the useful aspects of the Earth are effectively used up: in the sense that the immense timber resources of North America have been effectively used up by 1980—available supply [failing] demand and was nutmeat by importation from Canada and other outside sources—the End is clearly in sight.Scott Nearing, c. 1980
Here we see the underlying spiritual wisdom overlaid with real world facts: Our abilities have outstripped our willfully-ignored wisdom. This outstripping process Scott titled Civilization. He felt that by removing societal restrictions placed on individuals by capitalist structures, the higher ideals of our spiritual teachers could usher in “…a good life individually, socially, cosmically…”:
…we could elaborate a substitute inter-planetary culture in which a chastened, improved, rejuvenated humanity could play a creative role, in accordance with our own capacities and our destiny as an integral part of a joint enterprise to which our sun furnishes light, warmth and vibrant energy… Do we also have the imagination, courage endearing to accept the challenge and take our post in the team that is directing the expansion of our expanding universe?Scott Nearing, Civilization & Beyond, page 255
Note the interlinking terms….inter-planetary culture, joint enterprise and our post in the team. While Blumenthal and Kean restrict their investigations to the physical evidence, the Nearings were far more interested in why UFOs were visiting the earth. Ultimately, Scott came to the conclusion that it is not their superior technology that is of importance. It is their actual presence “…apparently beneficent, rather than hostile or destructive…” The simple fact that they have not used their superior knowledge against us is a reason to view their “mission” as spiritually instructive and peaceful.
Which is exactly what science fiction has been trying to teach science since Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s Frankenstein.