“And Elisha prayed, and said, LORD, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see.
And the LORD opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold,
the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.”—2 Kings 6:17
The king of Syria was in a rage. This was no trivial fit; it had been a long time coming. Over the last few months, his frustration had mounted following defeat after devastating defeat at the hands of inferior rivals…those impudent Israelites. Their repeated anticipation of his every stratagem suggested something beyond a gifted general’s battle-honed acumen. Thinking back, it now seemed painfully obvious that a mole was afoot; all along, a pernicious traitor had leaked his battle plans. Now the time had arrived for decisive action! Pondering his best options, he resolves to offer a magnificent bounty for the head of the rat. If no one claimed the reward, then fearsome consequences must fall upon all until the spy is routed from their ranks. Before issuing this decree, he summons his wisest advisor and asks for the enemy agent’s identity. The royal counselor explains that there is no rat; rather, “Elisha, the prophet that is in Israel, telleth the king of Israel the words that thou speakest in thy bedchamber” (2 Kings 6:12). Enraged by his apparent exposure, the king sends an entire division to capture Elisha.
Early the next morning, Elisha’s compatriot is dismayed by Syrian troops surrounding the normally sleepy city of Dothan. In a panic, he cries to his overly calm mentor, “What should we do?” Showing no fear, Elisha beckons the Lord, “Open his eyes, that he may see” and as if from nowhere, the mountains are suddenly “full of horses and chariots of fire,” a vastly superior divine force to that of the Syrian raiders. There is an otherworldly army protecting Elisha that cannot be seen by regular folks. Even so, no battle is necessary as Elisha prays and the Syrian soldiers are led off in a blind trance right into the clutches of the king of Israel and his army. The Israelite king is merciful and sends them home bewildered with sheepish promises to stop their raids.
What are we to make of this astonishing text? Over the years, preachers have made great use of the story as a way of encouragement in the face of overwhelming odds. Of course, such encouragement depends on the belief in this unseen dimension and the reality of the Lord’s superintendence. Interestingly, the chariots of fire actually appeared prior, in 2 Kings 2:11, when Elisha’s predecessor, Elijah, was carried up to heaven in a whirlwind. It seems quite fair to infer that the otherwise unseen army was in a parallel dimension, one that transcends normal human perception. We suggest that other glimpses of this unseen world include the army of angels encamped around Jacob (Genesis 32:1–2) and the heavenly visions of the prophets (Ezekiel 1; Is. 6). In the New Testament, Ephesians 6:12 reinforces the idea that unseen spiritual warfare is an ongoing reality.
Since Scripture supports the notion of an unseen dimension, it should not be too much of a leap for Christians to accept that this notion might find modern analogs. A helpful illustration comes by way of a nineteenth-century Victorian satire called Flatland by Edwin Abbot. The fantasy is set in an absolutely flat world of two physical dimensions where all the residents are geometric shapes like squares, circles, and triangles who believe that all of reality is completely explained by length and width. However, the protagonist, just your average square, is visited by a peculiar circle that appears out of nowhere, expands to a typical size, diminishes to a dot, and then disappears. It turns out that the circle is no ordinary circle but a three-dimensional sphere! In an especially poignant scene, the sphere attempts to describe to the incredulous two-dimensional square, with great difficulty, how he passed into Flatland from the third dimension: “See now, I will rise; and the effect upon your eye will be that my Circle will become smaller and smaller till it dwindles to a point and finally vanishes.”[i] While this confuses the square very much, it amazes him even more when he experiences the extra dimension firsthand.
Of course, the square is skeptical at first, but his life is forever altered once he becomes aware of this hitherto unknown dimensionality. Indeed, the sphere takes the square on a mystical voyage to the third dimension, transforming him to a cube. Upon arrival, this passage captures the square’s astonished naiveté and the sphere’s rebuke:
Awestruck at the sight of the mysteries of the earth, thus unveiled before my unworthy eye, I said to my Companion, “Behold, I am become as a God. For the wise men in our country say that to see all things, or as they express it, omnividence, is the attribute of God alone.” There was something of scorn in the voice of my Teacher as he made answer: “Is it so indeed? Then the very pick-pockets and cut-throats of my country are to be worshipped by your wise men as being Gods: for there is not one of them that does not see as much as you see now. But trust me, your wise men are wrong.”[ii]
Much like Elijah’s servant marveling at the angelic chariots of fire, this new three-dimensional perspective reveals what the Flatlanders never saw. Even more, the attributes our naïve square friend had assumed were exclusively divine are, in fact, everyday trivialities for three-dimensional beings, even evil cutthroats. Perhaps the moral implications of this analogy apply to the fiery chariot-riders as well?
The Flatland illustration is useful on many other levels (pun intended). For instance, imagine the perceived supernatural abilities a three-dimensional being has over a two-dimensional being. It would be possible to literally run circles around the two-dimensional entity while only appearing for a couple brief moments, alternately in front and behind, as the three-dimensional being briefly intersected the two-dimensional plane. If we press this analogy forward to our four-dimensional spacetime and imagine entities with access to spatial dimensions unseen to us, then the impossible abilities of RUFOs (residual UFOs) start to make more sense. These sorts of RUFO sightings are ubiquitous in the literature.
RUFOs are frequently seen making ninety-degree turns at speeds that would destroy conventional craft. For instance, veteran investigator John Keel once marveled, “They execute impossible maneuvers, such as sudden right angle turns, and disappear as mysteriously as they had come.”[iii] While ufologists universally acknowledge a snowballing caseload of craft exhibiting such impossible physics, the scientific mainstream is largely uniformed. The evidence is certainly available, but the UFO taboo as discussed elsewhere in this series discourages objective inquiry. Because ignorance rules the day, a brief survey of a few representative cases is in order.
The Nash-Fortenberry sighting is a compelling classic example of RUFO behavior that seems to defy known physical laws. On the clear night of July 14, 1952, a PanAmerican passenger plane, piloted by Captain William B. Nash and copiloted by William Fortenberry, encountered a RUFO over the skies of Virginia. The pilots described the craft:
We judged the objects’ diameter to be a little larger than a DC-3 wingspread would appear to be—about 100 feet—at their altitude which we estimated at slightly more than a mile below us, or about 2,000 feet above ground level.
When the procession was almost directly under and slightly in front of us—the pilot had to rise hurriedly from the left-hand seat and lean to see them—the objects performed a change of direction which was completely amazing.
All together, they flipped on edge, the sides to the left of us going up and the glowing surface facing right. Though the bottom surfaces did not become clearly visible, we had the impression that they were unlighted. The exposed edges, also unlighted, appeared to be about 15 feet thick, and the top surface, at least, seemed flat. In shape and proportion, they were much like coins. While all were in the edgewise position, the last five slid over and past the leader so that the echelon was now tail-foremost, so to speak, the top or last craft now being nearest to our position. Then, without any arc or swerve at all, they all flipped back together to the flat altitude and darted off in a direction that formed a sharp angle with their first course, holding their new formation.
The change of direction was acute and abrupt. The only descriptive comparison we can offer is a ball ricocheting off a wall.[iv]
This classic law-defying behavior suggests extradimensionality, but what makes this sighting particularly striking is that not only was it reported by expert witnesses, but the RUFOs were also observed between the airliner and the ground, allowing for accurate measurements of altitude, size, speed, and motion as compared to landmarks below that provide perspective. Furthermore, they were seen and reported by several groups of independent ground witnesses within an hour of the pilot’s observation, long before the event was reported by the mass media. This case was classified as “unknown” by the US Air Force’s Project Blue Book.
Another representative but lesser-known example comes from Robert Laing, an accomplished electrical engineer who describes a RUFO witnessed by his University of Michigan astronomy professor along with the entire class of thirty-five students:
My belief in flying saucers is based on a sighting of a UFO twice from the roof of the astronomy building at University of Michigan by an entire astronomy class of about thirty-five students and their professor, Dr. Lawler in the fall of 1957 while charting the stars. Dr. Lawler told the class the next day that she received about a hundred phone calls from local residents that night. I was in that astronomy class. What we saw was a disk travel at least three thousand miles an hour with no sonic boom, stop above us instantaneously without slowing down for about ten or twenty minutes with a pulsating red light all the way around it, and then instantaneously move from a dead stop to about three thousand miles per hour again, make a sharp ninety-degree turn at the same speed without slowing down, and race off to the horizon. About twenty minutes later it returned at the same speed from the place it left, made another sharp ninety-degree turn and left. No human could be in a vessel that goes from 3000 mile[s] per hour to a dead stop without being crushed and vaporized. No human being could go from a dead stop to an instantaneous velocity of 3000 miles per hour without disintegrating. No human could stand a right angle turn at 3000 miles per hour and live. This event was reported about eleven years later in the NICAP Journal, the National Investigation Committee on Arial Phenomena.[v]
This life-changing sighting, coupled with his Christian faith, eventually inspired Laing to publish the Intelligent Design Theory website, where he competently muses over various theological and scientific topics.
A more recent and well known case is the RUFO that appeared over Brussels, Belgium, on the night of March 30, 1990. After a policeman reported strange lights in the sky, which were confirmed by ground radar as a large unknown craft, two Belgian Air Force F-16s were scrambled to intercept. The pilots established radar lock three times, but within seconds, the strange craft executed incredible evasive maneuvers, later estimated to have gravitational forces of 40gs (g-force is force due to acceleration felt as weight). From the perspective of the fighter pilots, the craft seemed to be aware of their targeting. The elusive escapes were fantastic because even thrill rides like roller coasters are designed not to exceed 3g. This is because sustained g-forces above 10g can be fatal or lead to permanent injury. Even for unmanned drones, a turn eliciting 40g defies conventional aeronautics. This incident remains unexplained, and the Belgian defense minister has publicly admitted being mystified by it.[vi] These sorts of sightings are by no means unusual, as RUFO reports go, and we could cite many more examples. We will discuss two ongoing 2012 cases later, but the point we wish to press is the parallel between these RUFO reports and the experience of the square in Flatland. It seems likely that the RUFOs are taking advantage of a similar extradimensionality.
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While both the interdimensional hypothesis (IDH) and extradimensional hypothesis (EDH) posit that RUFOs are craft navigating between different realities, there is a distinction. The prefix “inter” means “between” or “among.” The IDH proponents think of flying saucers as concentrated blobs of energy that manifest based on wavelength. A useful analogy can be drawn with radio signals. We are all being bombarded by encoded, information-rich signals completely unawares. However, a receiver dialed to the right frequency can decode these signals. Did something like that occur when Elijah’s servant was suddenly able to perceive the army and fiery chariots? Keel, an early advocate of the IDH, explains in paranormal terms:
Your eyes are also receivers tuned to very specific wavelengths of the spectrum, and they turn the signals from those wavelengths into pulses, which are fed to your brain. Your brain, in turn, is also a very sophisticated, little-understood receiver, and it is tuned to wavelengths far beyond the receiving capabilities of manufactured electronic instruments. Most people are running around with crude biological “crystal sets” in their heads and are not consciously receiving any of the sophisticated signals. However, about one-third of the world’s population possesses a more finely tuned instrument. These people experience telepathy, prophetic dreams and other bizarre signals from some central source. If you are one of that 30 percent, you know precisely what I mean. If you belong to the larger, ungifted two-thirds, you probably regard all this as nonsense, and we may never be able to convince you otherwise.[vii]
Following this line, Keel linked UFOs to ghosts and demons. While this idea has merit, it is extremely hard to prove. The extradimensional theory is similar, but has more scientific support. Perhaps there is room for both?
In her recent bestseller, Leslie Kean argued that “the hypothesis that UFOs are of extraterrestrial or interdimensional origin is a rational one and must be taken into account, given the data we have.”[viii] Though many of the top minds in ufology have adopted extradimensional theory, the greatest champion is Jacques Vallée. Long before it was popular or had much scientific support, he wrote, “I believe that the UFO phenomenon represents evidence for other dimensions beyond spacetime; the UFOs may not come from ordinary space, but from a multiverse which is all around us.”[ix] Vallée famously collaborated with the “father of ufology,” J. Allen Hynek, on several books, and it seems their thinking runs parallel. At the 1977 International UFO Congress in Chicago, Hynek advocated what he called the “extradimensional intelligence hypothesis” and argued that the UFO phenomenon is neither entirely material nor mental. He stated, “I hypothesize a ‘M&M’ technology encompassing the mental and material realms.”[x] This seemingly bridges the gap between extradimensional and interdimensional.
In other words, extradimensional entities may be interacting with our world interdimensionally (e.g., psychically and spiritually). Philosopher Michael Grosso notes that the phenomenon is able to, “affect radar, cause burns, leave traces in the ground and at the same time pass through walls, appear and disappear like ghosts, defy gravity, assume variable and symbolic shapes, and strike deep chords of psychic, mystic, or prophetic sentiment.”[xi] After years of investigation, Lieutenant Colonel Nelson Pacheco of the United States Air Force determined, “The five-or-so percent of UFO reports that are not misrepresentations, delusions, or hoaxes are real in the sense of being intelligent but peripheral psycho-physical intrusions into our experiential universe by metaphysical intelligent entities that exist outside our spacetime continuum (what some would call a parallel universe).”[xii] A similar hypothesis was offered by the prolific paranormal author, Brad Steiger: “We are dealing with a multidimensional paraphysical phenomenon that is largely indigenous to planet Earth.”[xiii] Indeed, many competent researchers believe that these beings have always been nearby, an idea congruent with a biblical worldview. Even though the extraterrestrial hypothesis (ETH) gets preference in popular parlance, intellectually honest secular researchers at least allow for extradimensional ideas. But what about the scientific community? Do hard-nosed, skeptical scientists entertain such fantastic notions? Indeed, they do.
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[i] Edwin Abbott, Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions (Boston, MA: Roberts Brothers, 1885), 112. Viewable here: http://books.google.com/books?id=R6E0AAAAMAAJ&ots=BaLaIlYilo&dq=Flatland&pg=PA112#v=onepage&q&f=false
[ii] Ibid., 125-126.
[iii] John A. Keel, Our Haunted Planet (Lakeville, MN: Galde Press, Inc., 2002), 89.
[iv] William B. Nash and William H. Fortenberry, “TRUE Report On Flying Saucers,” originally printed in TRUE magazine, 1967; viewable here: “We Flew Above Flying Saucers,” UFO Evidence, last accessed January 16, 2013, http://www.ufoevidence.org/Cases/CaseSubarticle.asp?ID=94.
[v]Robert L. Laing, “UFO Sightings; Reports and the Government Response – Aliens, the Pyramids, Obelisks and Extraterrestrial Life,” Intelligent Design Theory, last accessed January 16, 2013, http://www.intelligentdesigntheory.info/ufo_sightings_reports_evidence_aliens_government_response_flying_saucers_egyptian_pyramids_obelisk_extraterrestrial_life.htm
[vi] This case is detailed in Leslie Kean, UFOs: Generals, Pilots and Government Officials Go On the Record (New York, NY: Three Rivers, 2010), 37.
[vii] John A. Keel, Operation Trojan Horse (Lilburn, GA: Illuminet Press, 1996),44.
[viii]Leslie Kean, UFOs: Generals, Pilots and Government Officials Go On the Record, Kindle ed. (New York, NY: Harmony Books, 2010), 13–14.
[ix] Jacques Vallée, Dimensions: A Casebook of Alien Contact (New York, NY: Contemporary Books, 1988), 284.
[x] Curtis Fuller, Proceedings of the First International UFO Congress (New York, NY: Warner Books, 1980), 164–165.
[xi] Michael Grosso, “Transcending the ‘ET Hypothesis,’” California UFO 3, no. 3 (1988), 10.
[xii] Nelson S. Pacheco and Tommy R. Blann, Unmasking the Enemy: Visions and Deception in the End Times, rev. ed. (Arlington, VA: Bendan Press, 1994), 30.
[xiii] Brad Steiger, Blue Book Files Released, as quoted in Canadian UFO Report, volume 4, number 4, 1977, 20; also as cited at http://www.mt.net/~watcher/quotes.html.
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