The Phenomenon: A brief review

In the next few hours a new documentary film about unidentified aerial phenomena—a.k.a. UFOs—and close encounters is going to be released. It's called The Phenomenon, by director James Fox. I have had the privilege of watching it a few days before launch, so I could share my views on it with you. What follows are my unbiased opinions. I am under no contractual obligation to issue a review and have no financial stake at all in the film or this review.

James Fox has clearly been working on this film for years, following his previous documentary on the subject, Out of the Blue (2003). As we have come to expect from him, The Phenomenon is a serious, cautious, level-headed work. James's strength is not so much in breaking news on the subject, but in thoroughly examining—under the light of reason and evidence—what is already known, filtering out the abundance of garbage, gullibility, hysteria and nonsense that, unfortunately, prevails in this field. Just like before, he serves us a distilled summary of what is reliable and significant—yet no less astounding—about the phenomenon.

In addition, James has once again proven himself able to dig one layer deeper than the rest, exploring the subject from more telling—albeit non-traditional—angles. His revisitation of the 1966 Westall school incident in Australia, and the 1994 Ariel school event in Zimbabwe, are cases in point. Both are examples of close encounters involving dozens of witnesses. In both cases, the narrative clearly transcends the common storyline of aliens from another solar system dropping by for some kind of research purpose. James has managed to bring back the direct witnesses of these events, decades later, and re-interview them with the insights of today. This was just about what I had wished someone would do; and he did it.

The most significant part of the movie is—without a doubt, in my mind—the examination, at the Stanford School of Medicine, of metal samples collected from alleged UFO visitation sites by respected researcher Dr. Jacques Vallée, over decades of investigation. This is the much hoped-for hard evidence. An analysis of the atomic structure of these samples was conducted with a state-of-the-art ion beam microscope, which yielded surprising results: the isotope ratios in these samples are unlike anything known to occur on Earth. Such a finding may sound too highbrow to be significant—especially in light of the much more incredible claims routinely made in this field by suspicious characters—but it certainly is. In fact, my only criticism against the film is that James—perhaps in a concession to mainstream tastes and expectations—hardly explores the finding in the final cut. The subject was left behind just as I thought we were warming up to it. Perhaps we will read more about it in academic publications, but I confess to have been annoyed at the brevity of the coverage of what was perhaps the one truly new news in this film.

If your interest lies in new UFO and close encounter cases never before reported, this film is going to disappoint you. Breaking news is not what James is trying to achieve here. But if, instead, you are looking for a more thoughtful review of previously reported cases, then this is for you. More than probably any other subject of general public interest, the UFO field is fraught with nonsense, charlatanism, fraud, gullibility, wishful thinking, and in-your-face idiocy. Although I have always been interested in the subject, I very quickly become nauseated by what I find each time I dare dip a toe in it. James's movies, however, are refreshing; they represent a breath of fresh air in a foul-smelling mad house. This is the great value of his and Vallée's efforts: a welcome injection of reason and honesty in an otherwise toxic space.

In this context, The Phenomenon subtly and unpretentiously distills what is credible and significant in the long history of unidentified aerial phenomena and close encounters, serving the viewer a clean platter, freed from trash and nonsense. James has left out not only the nonsensical or questionable cases, but also the nonsensical or questionable elements of the cases he does cover. Parasitic claims and 'witnesses' that feed on otherwise credible events are, to my relief, nowhere to be seen. This judicious filtering clearly involved a lot of care and thought, having been accomplished discretely, elegantly, without furor. Indeed, it is delightful the see the film's narrative steer clear of every mine in the field. What is left may not be as spectacular as the vivid imagination of charlatans, but it remains extraordinarily interesting for the more discerning and levelheaded tastes. The value of this documentary thus resides as much in what it doesn't say as in what it does say. Such discernment makes it rather unique.

As a matter of fact, although UFO and close encounter cases have obvious scientific significance, I believe they have even more metaphysical significance. I say this because the phenomenon seems to defy not only the limits of our technology, but also the laws of physics and—even more significantly—the laws of logic. Many of these reports are absurd, their very absurdity speaking to the sincerity of the witnesses and the courage of those who are now making the hard evidence available, as well as acknowledging the bewilderment of the highest instances of government. The Phenomenon does include what many of you will consider headline-making new admissions by well-known, high-ranking government officials and politicians. But for me this is not the cream; the cream is how the cases reported consistently instantiate the seemingly absurd features I discussed in my book, Meaning in Absurdity, where I cover the UFO and contact phenomena from an angle you are certainly not used to: nonsensical flight paths and movements, weird angles of attack in flight, alleged telepathic communications more akin to spiritual experiences than encounters with explorers from another planet, illogical behavior on the part of the 'visitors,' etc. There is much food for thought in there.

It is this absurdity of behavior so often seen in the phenomenon that makes me believe that its relevance is as much metaphysical as it is scientific. Here we have nature behaving in a way that defies its own known laws and our very logic. The phenomenon is telling us something important about the nature of reality and ourselves, rather than the exploratory interests of aliens from another star system. And it is under this light that I invite you to check out The Phenomenon. For the more significant hints about the nature of reality are to be found not in the headlines, but the subtle aspects of what is, most definitely, a very strange phenomenon indeed.


  1. Yah, _our_ physical 'laws' (hence 'science') are function of _our_ axiom-and-presumption based beliefs. You Create Your Own Reality (YCYOR) applies, I think - except when someone else's creation 'bleeds into' yours.😀

    1. I don't think we, as seemingly individual agencies, create our own reality. But the point is taken.

    2. BK ... Well surely we create beliefs, and those, like the belief in materialism, have an impact on our reality, thus insofar as we create such beliefs, we 'create' a reality that corresponds to them, no? Not to say that if we stop believing in gravity, it will go away, but what if we start believing in the primacy of consciousness, and what reality would correspond to that? UFOs might just be the beginning :)

    3. I suppose that our physical bodies and their capabilities are the very tools
      -- the mental tools -- that our minds use to manipulate this mental reality in which we live. Just because we're ultimately using our minds (and our minds alone, since everything is mind) to reconfigure the world around us, that doesn't mean that we should have unlimited psychic or telekinetic powers to do so, particularly if we're just purposefully limited alters of the "cosmic mind".

      Would that be fair to say?

  2. I'm reminded of a subject I posted about on a prior thread: the psychical research performed in the late 19th/early 20th centuries. There also, among the many exposed charlatans and their gullible followers, was found a small, hard kernel of what seemed to be authentic mediumship involving genuine though difficult conversation with the departed. No less an intellectual light than William James, who was involved in some of this psychical research, went public with his utter bafflement over what the researchers found when they put, for example, humble housewife Leonora Piper under the microscope for several consecutive decades. James called this most investigated medium who ever lived his "white crow," proving to him, against his inclination and will, that not all mediums (crows) were black (frauds). For those interested, Michael Tymn has written an excellent book about the history and results of the Leonora Piper investigation. Thus I look forward to watching "The Phenomenon" and meeting a few more white crows, this time ones that actually/apparently fly. As Hamlet put it, in the Bernardo spirit: "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, then are dreamt of in your (materialist) philosophy."

    1. I think that it worth pointing out that research into mediumship continues into the modern day, although it tends to be rather more mental mediumship rather than physical. Anyone interested can look up Julie Beischel's work at the Windbridge Institute in Arizona.

  3. I enjoyed reading this review. Maybe the director can publish a brief sequel to follow up on the points you pointed out that could have been more emphasized. Great job as always Bernardo! Tom Klim Leader of the Bernardo Kastrup Fan Club

  4. It is puzzling. But then it is also puzzling how some individuals, in some sense do seem to create a reality which break our shared physical "laws". I am thinking of people such as the Indian mystic Sai Baba whose jaw-dropping feats are explored in Prof Erlendur Haraldsson's book "Modern Miracles" and Joesph of Copertino whose arial exploits are explored in Michael Grosso's book "The Man who could Fly". So where as individual agencies most of us cannot create our own reality it seems a few exceptional individuals can in some unknown way mold what we understand to be fixed physical laws..

  5. Like glitches in the matrix, surreal experiences are reminders that we are living in a dream.

  6. Fantastic. I always think Vallee was on to something with his linking it to the faery phenomenon of present and past times. He posits that we have always interacted with a form of intelligence which seems to live alongside us, or parallel to us. We interpret/filter this intelligence in different ways according to the times. So goblins and elves of the past are now the 'greys' of today. Although I should point out that 'faery encounters' still occur today. I would recommend visiting the site 'Dead but Dreaming' to delve into the world of modern faery encounters. The spelling 'faery' is used to differentiate them from the 19th century/victorian image of 'fairies' 'Faery' is closer to the source meaning 'fae'.

  7. The unusual or irregular isotope ratio in the metals intrigues, but it doesn't necessarily evidence the ET hypothesis, it may be - admittedly this is radical but whatever the truth here, it is radical - a PK phenomenon. It may be an unconscious alchemical phenomenon as Frenchman Jerome Huck is positing (Le Feu des Magiciens, in French only). The metals themselves after all are all too earthly. I tentatively (following Huck) suggest a mind-matter intersection or interface with deep symbolic meanings (occult, alchemical). As radical as this is, it is consistent with psi and shamanic phenomena, and a conscious universe hypothesis or theory.

    Have not seen the doccie, so am curious if the paranormal angle in UFO cases is covered, or if it is not stressed at all.

  8. Alien love sounds like theology but with scientific language. So instead of angels coming down we have aliens coming. Instead of God arriving we have the Mother Ship coming to sort us out! On the Joe Rogan podcast a guest spoke of aliens seeing how fucked up we have become, monkeys splitting the atom, they sent emissaries from the stars to halt this.. In the old language it'll be God sending his angels to halt it. Same themes and stories but scientific language instead of theology language.

  9. I studied the UFO enigma for over 40 years and in these 40 years little progress has been made. Moreover, the further we look into this phenomenon the more questions arise like the Russian matrushka dolls; every doll you open contains another doll. The psychic angle has been thorougly investigated by John Keel, in fact he was the first to come up with this view: 'Earth is a playground' - Disneyland of the Gods. No visitors from deep space but an earth-bound phenomenon with strong connections/akin to ghosts/faeries etc. The same enigma in a new jacket. Jacques Vallée, Withley Strieber and Graham Hancock all suggest the same.

    In my humble the solution/answer is a stack of three different components:
    1. Some UFO's are biological entities.
    2. Some UFO's come from an unseen dimension inhabited by intelligent beings that intersects with ours
    3. Some UFO's are indeed from extraterrestrial origin

    Ad 1:
    This was studied by Trevor Constable in the fifties ('They Live In The Sky'). Constable found amoebe-like entities which cross our skies visible only in the infrared spectrum. A clear proof of these entities is found in the 2001 Space Tether Experiment in which a satellite is hooked on a long cable by the Spaceshuttle crew. The cable snaps and in the footage one can see hundreds of circular discs that swarm the cable like fish. They look and behave like living entities. Moving, making right angles, shifting from visible to invisible.

    Ad 2:
    Difficult to grasp, but I firmly believe that some UFO's come from a world like ours that exists as a more psychic plane and its dimensions intersect with hours. The inhabitants can make themselves visible/invisable at will and reached a technical advanced stage eons ago. This unseen dimension and its inhabitants were there before homo sapiens came along. These are the people that like to play tricks on us. Ghosts, faeries, leprechauns etc. but also cropcircles are their trademark combined with bullying and deception.

    Ad 3:
    Some UFO's come indeed from other worlds. Strange that we still have discussions if life exists elsewhere. It's also strange that we look into radiowaves as a token of intelligent life. I think that advanced species do not use radiowaves as a carrier for communication. Way too slow. There must be other means of real-time communication hidden in the fabric of time and space. And yes indeed, it is quiet out there because we do not listen to the right sources. Maybe that once we tap into the 'universal cosmic communication bus' it is deafening.

  10. Bernando any update in your views here since the most recent disclosures? This seems to be one of the greatest discoveries in human history!!