Dr Vallée's Diary

Jacques Vallee. Forbidden Science: Volume Two, Journals 1970-1979. Documatica Research, 2009.  - Reviewed by Peter Rogerson. Originally published online April, 2009.
Not a cheap book, nor one that is likely to attract a wide audience from the general public, but Vallée's diaries will be of interest to three groups of readers: historians of the computer industry, social historians of 1970s California, and ufologists of a certain age. Yours truly fits into the latter category, and what attracted me to this book was not the hard science, (there isn't any) or the amazing revelations (there aren't any) but the portraits of people whose names were familiar, and the general gossip.

The book practically begins with one of those UFO conferences, this time in a French country house owned by a relative of Vallée. Among the guests is Charles Bowen, the depressed, henpecked editor of FSR, who is non too pleased that the conference is being held in the middle of nowhere rather than Paris, and spends the time whining about his godawful wife, godawful job and godawful financial state of FSR, and being put out by the presence of Michel Jaffe of the American UFO group Data Net, whom, Bowen whines, is "not a recognised authority" (one wants to say "like what I am" in imitation of Ernie Wise).

Much of the ufological part of these diaries is taken up with Vallee's relationship with J. Allen Hynek, and the latter's various grand plans, all of which tend to come to nothing, including the great CUFOS, whose science directors seem to spend the time resigning and whose supreme headquarters was a shop front next door to a dry cleaners in a down-market suburb of Chicago. At least this seems to be an improvement on the bankrupt NICAP, and APRO. Once upon a time one of the French ufologists (not the one who was the son of former President of France), went on a several thousand mile trip to visit the Lorenzen's, who spent the entire time whining on about their dead dog!

Perhaps diaries are always in some ways ghost stories, haunted by lost lives, lost childhoods and lost youth. Vallée's chronicle of the 1970s haunts us with images of a time when almost anything seemed possible and exiting: when psychical research looked as though it might become scientifically respectable, and all sorts of gurus claimed to have answers.

Vallée introduces us to a range of characters who might be characterised as Byronic, i.e. mad, bad and dangerous to know. There is Anton Le Vey the well known lion tamer, self proclaimed Satanist and friend of Jayne Mansfield, Sammy Davis Jnr. and Marcello Truzzi, Ira Einhorn the well known guru and murderer; the former contributor to FSR revealed as an occultist, crypto-fascist, and permanently stoned freeloader; there are Targ and Puthoff, Ingo Swann and other inhabitants of the Californian psychical research scene; the 'intelligence officers' and others who are about to reveal the big secret but never get round to it.

There is the adventure of hunting for the great ufological breakthrough in arcane texts and lost philosophies, the sense that some great revelation is round the corner, but the end of the diary is marked by disillusion; Einhorn’s murder of his girlfriend Holly marking the final seal on the loss of hippie innocence, which in truth had gone bad years before. The New Age was going to be as sick and sad as the old one.

Thirty years on from the last entry there is still no great ufological or paranormal revelation, not an inch forward, but miles backward. The reasons are obvious from this book, the endless back biting, the utterly shambolic nature of the ‘investigators‘, but above all, the pursuit of a chimera, the idea that there is a unique UFO phenomenon, which is the product of some sort of non-human intelligence. Though Vallée at times accepts that the UFO phenomenon or phenomena is/are a compound of various physical, psychological and socio-cultural factors and makes much of criticising supporters of the ETH, he is, himself still wedded to the chimera of single core UFO phenomenon as the product of mysterious non-human intelligences. He still cannot see that attempts to interpret anomalous experiences in terms of non-human intelligences of unknown nature, origin and powers, can only lead at best to years of futility and waste, and at worst a one way trip to either the cultist's compound or the mental hospital.

Had ufology abandoned this futile quest and asked realistic questions about the kinds of atmospheric phenomena and psychological/neurological processes which might generate puzzling UFO reports it may actually have got somewhere and contributed something to science, and an attempt to understand what kinds of human needs the UFO mythology answers would have given us some valuable insights into the human condition.

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