Abductions and Birth Memories:
Al Lawson's Corner
Thesis: Alien abductions are archetypal fantasies involving belief or
deception, in which the subject's birth memories play a central role.
The articles incorporating this view are written by Alvin H. Lawson, Ph.D.
Lawson has been an active CE3 researcher for 25 years. He taught a class in
UFO literature at CSU, Long Beach for ten years, and worked with hypnotist
W. C. McCall, M.D., on more than 100 hypnotic regressions of "abductees"
and related CE3 subjects. The Imaginary Abductee study was an early
Lawson-McCall collaboration (see "Hypnosis of Imaginary Abductees" below,
for discussion and four Imaginary transcripts).
Lawson takes on the advocates of the ET hypothesis (the
"ET-True-Believers") concerning claims of abduction by aliens, makes some
telling points against these claims, and presents his counter theory, the
Birth Memories Hypothesis. The opinions expressed are those of the author,
and Lawson claims copyright over his original material. (E-mail:
alawz at earthlink.net)
THE IMAGINARY ABDUCTEE STUDY Twenty-one years ago this spring, a colleague
and I took a group of people who knew relatively nothing about CE3
abductions, hypnotized them, and gave each an Imaginary abduction. We asked
them eight simple questions, without additional cueing, and directed them
to respond fluently and in detail. Almost all of the sixteen subjects
involved gave us interesting narratives with many specific incidents about
getting onboard, seeing alien creatures, having an examination, interacting
with the aliens, and being returned. Comparison studies of Imaginary and
"real" abduction narrative transcripts showed there were many similarities
and very few significant differences between them. We came to believe that
the difference between an Imaginary and a "real" abduction witness is this:
both have lived out a fantasy, but only one of the two can be certain that
he or she has not been deluded. Our study provided strong reason to
conclude that "real" abductions are fantasies or hallucinations --
especially in view of the complete lack of unambiguous physical evidence
supporting any CE3 abduction case.
The Imaginary Abductee study made informed skeptics of us, and we assumed
that in time replications of our research would occur. We also assumed that
skepticism about CE3 abductions would spread. We were wrong on both counts.
Since 1977, credulousness about CE3 claims has become more entrenched each
year, and now there are literally dozens of New Age pro-ETH book titles
published annually, and almost no serious skeptical alternatives are
allowed to join the debate.
Writing in the fall of 1997, after the media excesses of the Roswell
anniversary, and facing the probability of an increasingly active
millennium-apocalypse crowd, we can only imagine what kind of hysterical
belief systems we could be facing by 2000 AD, and after. Still, over the
years, a few ufologists have not forgotten the Imaginary series and its
implications for CE3 abduction research. The work has been mentioned
favorably in many books, and after a half-century of familiar wild claims
and stale abduction reports, proponents and skeptics alike seem to be in
need of an alternative abduction theory.
BULLARD'S QUESTION In 1989, twelve long years after the Imaginary study,
even proponent Thomas Bullard had some kind words to say about it, in the
course of an otherwise negative critique (in Journal of UFO Studies). What
was most significant was Bullard's surprising argument for a replication of
the Imaginary Abductee study:
Imaginary cases thus pose a vexing question -- how can
non-abductees tell stories even broadly like those of real
abductees? For all the differences in frequencies and descriptive
specifics, imaginary subjects still bring out unusual details and
even extended vignettes of uncanny likeness to scenes from real
abduction narratives. Non-abductees have no experiences to draw
on, no hidden memories to tap. How can they still imagine a good
abduction? More to the point, how can the hypothesis of an
objective abduction survive if anyone can tell the abduction
story, no experience required?
Any answers can only be speculative, given the uncertainties
surrounding the non-abductee experiments. We need to know more
about them; we need very much to repeat them....
Though we differ on almost all other elements of CE3 research, I agree
heartily with Bullard here if he means that there should be a serious and
independent attempt at replication of the Imaginary study. I must add, too,
that the answers to some of Bullard's questions in the quotation reside
largely in the thus far forbidden territory, for ufologists, of perinatal
studies -- i.e., events occurring before, during, and after birth. If
Bullard or anyone else undertakes a replication of the Imaginary study
without a willingness to open an eye to the perinatal world of the Birth
Memories Hypothesis (BMH), their replication attempt will be biased and may
One of Bullard's questions bears repeating: "...how can the hypothesis of
an objective abduction survive if anyone can tell the abduction story, no
experience required?" How indeed? It is an important question -- in effect
Bullard is asking, "Are CE3 abductions real?" Actually, there is no
question more portentous for the entire CE3 abduction phenomenon, because
on its answer hangs precariously the validity of thousands of pro-abduction
books and articles written worldwide over the past five decades. Also
involved are ever-increasing numbers of ET-True-Believer investigators and
their faithful followers, who are committed to the same beliefs.
AN ANSWER TO BULLARD'S QUESTION This paper is in effect an answer to
Bullard's question. We have long concluded that CE3 abductions are
archetypal fantasies involving belief or deception in which an individual's
birth memories play a central role. Our case for perinatal memories was
always strong -- but it has been strengthened immensely by recent brain
One objection to the Birth Memories Hypothesis of CE3 abductions had been
that the undeveloped fetal brain cannot contain memories. But
neuroscientists in the past few years have shown that there is an
"emotional memory" centered in the amygdala, which preserves a record of
the first few years of human emotional life, including pre-natal events. By
the age of three or four the declarative memory, centered in the
hippocampus, and other developing rational faculties provide the beginnings
of what we call conscious existence. But we can recall the "missing time"
of our emotional memory indirectly, during traumatic incidents, and I
believe also when we fantasize in uninhibited ways -- as in a CE3 abduction
The perinatal data we see in CE3 narratives are real. We found that the
eight abduction sequence questions we used helped stimulate perinatal data
from our Imaginary subjects. Similar questions must do the same with "real"
abductees as well, for we have found an average of 17-21% of
perinatal-related language and references in both Imaginary and "real"
narratives. Each of the many steps on the abduction sequence carries
perinatal potential because the entire sequence is a matrix based
ultimately on birth experiences. The matrix is evident from the earliest
human times in the shaman's "vision trance," and it is currently manifest
in CE3 abduction fantasies -- both of which have perinatal origins.
BONDING -- THE CLIMACTIC PERINATAL EVENT The great end-purpose of the
shaman/abductee/neonate's adventure is the climactic perinatal event -- the
phenomenon of bonding with a symbolic or actual parent-figure, usually the
mother. Bonding is also a major concern in psychologist and True-Believer
John Mack's work with abductees (see Abduction, 1994), though he avoids
discussion of other perinatal processes. Perhaps it is the aliens' symbolic
connection with the bonding experience that makes the fantasy of alien
confrontation such an unforgettable and extraordinary event for witnesses.
All of the first four of our Imaginary subjects were seemingly obsessed
with bonding early on -- they all felt "watched" long before they saw any
entities, and were eager to see the "somethings" they sensed were nearby.
As it worked out only one of them experienced a fully positive human/alien
bonding relationship, though another subject had a partially satisfactory
The Imaginary Abductee transcripts have never before been made available in
complete form, and I have decided to "publish" the first four of them
online, analyzed and critiqued. Significantly, two of the four Imaginary
subjects' narratives show distinct signs of the remembered effects of
maternal drugs at delivery. This alone is near-proof of the connection I
see between CE3 narratives and birth memories -- but there is much more
evidence as well. I expect the Imaginary transcripts to become part of the
ongoing ETH dialogue, and I trust that serious consideration will be given
at last to the Birth Memories Hypothesis. Perhaps the transcripts will help
bring about a replication of our Imaginary Abductee study.
These observations give ufology a serious and scientific rationale for
viewing CE3 abductions not as alien-caused incidents, but as psychological
and mundane events. Few True-Believers will like what we say, or agree with
any of it. Yet the arguments proposed deserve a more substantive response
than the hoots and snorts of dismissal they have received for two decades.
Read on, and decide for yourself the appropriate answer to Bullard's
painfully probing question.
During the spring and summer of 1977 Dr. W. C. McCall and I carried out the
Imaginary Abductee study, in which sixteen volunteers were hypnotized and
given imaginary UFO or CE3 (for Close Encounters of the Third Kind)
abductions. Our study was one of the very few significant scientific
research programs in the history of CE3 abduction research.
We developed the Imaginary study for several reasons. First, we simply
needed more data about alleged abductions, and the study seemed to promise
us abduction narrative data from fantasized CE3s, in a convenient synthetic
form. We also wanted to learn more about using hypnosis effectively in
abduction cases, and we thought the Imaginary work would help us with
"real" cases. Above all, we were dissatisfied with the inconclusive results
from our previous abduction case investigations, and we were seeking a way
to be certain whether or not an abductee was telling a factual story.
Bill and I were increasingly doubtful about abduction claims, which had
proliferated during and after the big 1973 UFO flap. We still remembered
the 1975 Garden Grove CE3 hoax, and the dubious sessions with several other
supposed abductees since then. We weren't debunkers; more like enlightened
agnostics. Neither of us gave much of a damn whether abductees' claims were
caused by real aliens or-as Melville's Ishmael might put it now-by the
aftereffects of an undigested deep-dish pizza. Yet we were curious as
kittens to know why apparently sane people suddenly claimed they had been
abducted by space-creatures, and we continued our investigations.
We started the Imaginary study with what turned out to be a set of
boneheaded assumptions. First, we were nearly certain that the Imaginary
narratives would be superficial, vague, and predictable because we thought
subjects would be echoing details from media stories, films, and stale UFO
lore. Related to that was our second expectation: we were ready to bet the
farm that Imaginary abductions would contrast dramatically in particular
ways with "real" CE3, so that we would eventually learn specifically how to
tell hoaxers from actual abductees. Thus we fully expected the Imaginary
study to be a kind of touchstone for determining the "truth" of CE3 claims.
We were very wrong, however, because our uninformed Imaginary subjects'
narratives contained dozens of detailed and subtle similarities with real
CE3 reports, and no significant differences, given our limited protocol of
only eight questions. Needless to say, we were most happy that we wrongly
underestimated the Imaginary subjects. But what really stunned us was that
a few of their narratives contained echoes of unpublished abduction cases
that the Imaginaries could not possibly have known about, because the
investigators had shared them with me privately. I wondered about that. A
great deal. Our subjects had been selected precisely because they were
unfamiliar with the UFO phenomenon and its literature. So how did the
Imaginaries do it? Was it telepathy? Maybe alien tricksters?
Like much of our previous CE3 work, the Imaginary study produced a series
of surprising and mystifying events for us, and we carried out the weekly
sessions and studied their results in a continuing state of high
excitement. Yet for a long while McCall and I were flying blind, with no
way of comprehending the significance of the Imaginary data. Not until much
later did we see that the experiments were an essential first step that
would bring us initially to an understanding of many previously obscure
details about supposed CE3 abductions and, eventually, to the Birth
II. TYPES OF UFO EXPERIENCES
Before plunging into the perplexities of the abduction phenomenon, it will
be helpful first to put the variety of UFO events into perspective, and
then to discuss briefly how abductions relate to other reports. According
to The Hynek Center for UFO Studies (CUFOS), CE3s are only one of several
possible UFO experiences. We follow the CUFOS model throughout this book,
although I have serious reservations about it that I will discuss in a
moment. The CUFOS formulation:
Unusual light in night sky
An apparently metallic discoid object
Radar blips confirm a visual UFO
Close encounter/first kind - UFO within 1/4 mile or
Close encounter/second kind - UFO leaves ground
Close encounter/third kind - UFO occupants observed
FIGURE 1-1: CUFOS' RANGE OF REPORTED UFO EXPERIENCES
Some researchers add more categories, Close Encounters of the Fourth or
Fifth Kind or more, for various kinds of alien activity; though that seems
redundant and confusing. Once an alien entity is supposedly observed its
existence is established, and what happens after that is by comparison
irrelevant. For clarity and simplicity, I use the terms "CE3" and
"abduction" interchangeably throughout.
DO CE3s RELATE TO UFO SIGHTINGS? The CUFOS procedure attempts to
systematize the full range of possible UFO events, but there is a problem.
Its neatly evolving arrangement implies that a Close Encounter of the Third
Kind, during which entities are not only seen but may abduct the witness,
must necessarily be related to UFO sighting events. However, there is
simply no evidence that compels us to see sightings and abductions as
integral parts of the same phenomenon. The only connections between them in
CE3 case lore are provided by some alleged abductees' occasional
descriptions of an initial bright light, and later accounts of the supposed
UFO interior, modified by four decades of mythology about "flying saucers."
In many cases, abductees are taken from their beds through walls or windows
into an alien realm, with no UFO, strictly speaking, playing a part.
In addition, there are major differences between the UFOs described by
abductees and those in sighting reports. The few good UFO "unknowns" in
sighting reports are described as nuts-and-bolts objects, many of which are
discoid. But no two abductees describe the same UFO. Their details of
exterior shape, size, and color are often vague or contradictory - accounts
of vast halls, multitudes of interior rooms, or even a second story inside
the UFO are wildly inconsistent with abductees' initial estimates of the
UFO's relatively small dimensions. Proponents say such disparities result
from hundreds of different models of UFO vehicles zipping through our
skies. But we conclude that abductees' UFOs seem more like dreamworld
vehicles than actual craft, and so sweet reason and the philosopher Occam's
merciful razor -- the axiom that the simplest alternative explanation is
best -- dictate that such inconsistencies are best explained as abductees'
UFOs AND CE3s ARE UNRELATED PHENOMENA I believe that some UFOs are
physically real anomalies (though not necessarily alien craft), but that
abductions are non-physical, psychological events (specifically,
fantasy/hallucinations, as we will show below), and so are unrelated to UFO
sighting reports. Even if some sightings of UFOs are partly or wholly
hallucinatory, as is probable, the fundamental distinctions between
sightings and CE3s are demonstrable.
In support of this view, there has never been an authenticated CE3 case in
which two or more people observe a distant UFO, watch it approach and land,
and then see occupants emerge from it and abduct someone. Even one such
event would show indisputable connections between UFOs and CE3s; but none
exist, which seems odd if -- as is claimed by some proponents -- alien
craft are abducting Earthlings by the thousands annually.
Even the "best" abduction cases cannot prove much of anything, since they
cannot provide any unambiguous physical or other compelling evidence apart
from purely anecdotal claims. Nor can the guestimated 50-year total of
2,000 to 5,000 abductions worldwide establish a relationship between CE3s
and UFO sightings. Thus I am convinced that UFOs and CE3s are separate and
distinct phenomena -- a view obviously not shared by many in the UFO
community. Paradoxically, in the interests of clarity and convenience I
must continue the confusion by using CUFOS' terminology throughout these
essays. Future changes in fundamental ufological concepts and
classifications will make a more rational methodology possible.
For more look at:http://www.geocities.com/Area51/Vault/6521/SA1.html
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