The Cryptoterrestrials by Mac Tonnies

This post originally appeared on I Read Odd Books

Book: The Cryptoterrestrials

Author: Mac Tonnies

Type of Book: Non-fiction, speculation, metaphysics, aliens

Why Do I Consider This Book Odd: Because it posits a theory that the little green men, I mean grays, are not from outer space but really live on or in Earth and have been deceiving us for years.

Availability: Published by Anomalist Books in 2010, you can get a copy here:

Comments: I had planned to do an “Alien Intervention Week” here on IROB, but at some point, I think I realized  that discussing all of the books I read on the topic in the space of one week would kill my spirit for months.  Most of the books spoke of a mindset that challenges my love of the odd, steeped in strange science and spurious proof that if challenged would result in months of unsettling e-mails sent to me from people whose sense reality would make it hard to respond, yet their earnestness would demand a response.  So I am going to spread these books out – it may take me years to discuss the handful I read – so that I can distribute the agony in such a manner that I don’t get emotional cramps every time I need to check my e-mail.

Plus I’m not that “into” aliens as a whole.  Discussing aliens has become not unlike discussing religion for me – a tiresome argument that no one can win. Yet the idea that aliens have intervened in the human race for assorted reasons falls into this category of “fringe” for me so of course I am drawn to it.  So it’s not like I can’t read it even as every bit of my common sense tells me to leave the topic alone.  It’s maddening.

You know how it is.

But this book was a reasonable breath of fresh air where odd theories of aliens meddling with humans beings go.  Mac Tonnies wrote a fascinating book of speculative ideas and  it was disheartening, to say the least, to learn that this interesting book was published posthumously, for Tonnies passed away in 2009 at the age of 34. If you have some time one day, comb through Tonnies’ blog, which I link to above. His ideas on transhumanism are engrossing.

In a way, this book is a perfect example of the sorts of ideas that made me a fan of the odd.  When I was a kid, books on Forteana were not so insistent.  They posited what happened (fish falling from the sky), posited a few potential answers (waterspouts drawing water and fish from streams, or an angry god), and left the reader to wonder and maybe discuss the topic.  Now the book on fish falling from the sky has spurious science to prove a particular point of view, all other points are dismissed, and the discussion becomes entrenched and adversarial.  Tonnies’ book made the fun of Forteana real again.

So Tonnies puts forth the idea that aliens are not from other planets but may be “cryptoterrestrials.”  Humans or near-humans or humanoid-like creatures that live among us.  Those who see little green men or little gray men are not seeing creatures from other planets but instead are seeing creatures that have lived among us on Earth.  Hidden creatures that may or may not be our genetic brethren, but that have nevertheless been with us for millennia.

This is an interesting idea and Tonnies goes about discussing it using a calm erudition that was thrilling (and appalling in a way because he is gone and there will be no more from him).  His prose is very crisp and delivers complex ideas in manageable bites so that readers like me don’t choke.  But I think the best way to show you this book is to give you snippets that resonated with me, examples of an excellent mind and an excellent book.

When you know a book is encouraging you to think, and is not an example of someone making a case for strange beliefs that are antithetical to science and history, it becomes a lot easier to just let your brain go and “what-if.”

This book is more or less an attempt to reconcile little people of myth – fairies, elves, etc. – with a hidden species of humanoids on Earth.  The book does not state, in that irritating manner that makes me despair of most books on this topic, that he had found the real solution, etc.  He was just trying to get us to think about what the experiences of those who have “seen” little people or grays could mean if one was not actively trying to dismiss at all using current standards of rationality.  Here’s the premise of the book:

I propose that at least some accounts of alien visitation can be attributed to a humanoid species indigenous to the Earth, a sister race that has adapted to our numerical superiority by developing a surprisingly robust technology.  The explicitly reproductive overtones that color many encounters suggest that these “indigenous aliens” are imperiled by a malady that has gone uncured throughout the eons we have coexisted.  Driven by a puzzling mixture of hubris and existential desperation, they seek to perpetuate themselves by infusing their gene-pool with human DNA.  While existing at the very margins of ordinary human perception, they have succeeded in realms practically unexplored by known terrestrial science, reinventing themselves at will and helping to orchestrate a misinformation campaign of awe-inspiring scope.

Though Tonnes does not try to invoke “science” and “history” (the oft-repeated insistence that aliens had to have built the Pyramids because no human could have done it never fails to make me sad), he does use reason to explain some of the experiences people have with the psychology that could be behind the way aliens may present themselves.

For one, they pass themselves off as aliens because they know alien interaction claims are dismissed.

By utilizing our innate fascination with interplanetary visitors, the cryptoterrestrials have ensured that any accidental sightings of their craft will be ascribed to the ETH [extraterrestrial hypothesis].  The mainstream media, quick to “debunk” for fear of inciting ridicule, thus ignores credible sightings and inadvertently assists the cryptoterrestrial agenda.  And if by some chance the sighting is undeniable, its cultural connotations will almost certainly relegate it to our collective fortean attic.

And even as I am certainly not a True Believer in aliens, I can sort of see the logic in this but only in so far as we are encouraging discussion and not an advocacy.   But most interesting to me was Tonnies’ discussion about the pageantry behind UFO sightings.

In a related vein, I don’t think it’s accidental that so many UFOs are adorned with mesmerizing flashing lights.  While one can always argue that conspicuous lights indicate the presence of some truly unearthly propulsion system, it’s just as possible that they’re a deliberate (and relatively low-tech) attempt to make a rather ordinary conveyance look unearthly, thereby eliciting the excitement of the very ET enthusiasts whose sightings are certain to be ignored… or, at best, published in some obscure journal or website.

The antagonist in me says that of course it would be relegated to the unimportant or ignored because most UFO sightings are pants but Tonnies had a point. Several, in fact.  The spectacle of the ships makes the mundane seem fantastic and that which is fantastic is dismissed.

Tonnies had an interesting explanation behind SETI’s inability to find a message from ETs:

Maybe one of the reasons we have yet to make irrefutable contact with extraterrestrials is because ET civilizations tend to reach a point of terminal decadence, an erotic cul-de-sac that precludes exploration.  (Compare and contrast such an implosion to the “Singularity” many of us are waiting for with bated breath.)  Sufficiently advanced ETs may while away the millennia in a hedonistic stupor, brains (or their equivalent) melded to pleasure-generating devices.

When statements like this are made outside of a need to “prove” them, they are delightful to a person like me.  Just speculating that the aliens are in their version of some Orgasmatron and have no desire to answer our call or call out to us is fun to think about.  It’s only unsettling when the things ancient peoples painted on jars is used as evidence of the theory.

But then again, one can wonder if SETI really wants us to know if they have had contact with aliens:

In paranoid moments–and there can never be enough of them–I have to wonder if SETI has any real plans to disseminate the discovery of an ET message.  After all, acknowledgment of the signal, while certainly  hard-won vindication for many scientists, could conceivably trigger the end of the search–and with it the end of the SETI Institute as we know it.

This is the ET version of “they have a cure for the common cold, man, but the doctors won’t let them share it!”

I think I liked how he dealt with some of those who want to debunk the experiences of those who have had contact with aliens (for the record, the only story I have read that ever struck me as true was the Travis Walton story).  In this passage he is addressing the notion some hold that the “UFO mystery” is wholly unrelated to the claims of those who think they have encountered aliens:

For the most part, the ufological landscape remains a sparring ground for entrenched notions of of dispassionate ET visitors and equally tenacious claims of popular delusion.  Consequently, we’ve gone about attempting to “debunk” a phenomenon that continues to defy definition.  While many–if not most–well-known abduction narratives are indeed fallible, disquieting findings from emerging (or suppressed) disciplines promise to reframe the debate.

I suspect the truth, if we can find it, will be considerably weirder than “mere” extraterrestrial visitors or sociologically induced fantasy.

I think this is important, the notion that things that have yet to be credibly defined as a unified phenomenon cannot really be debunked as a whole.

(And if it matters, Tonnies tends to believe as I do that many people who report alien interaction may well have been suffering from sleep issues, hypnogogia, and other organic brain altering situations.  Not all, but some.  He also addresses the common forms these interactions take, from the infamous probes to the wide belief that aliens are using us for DNA, involving all kinds of sexual interaction and hybrid babies.)

I rather enjoyed Tonnies’ explanation of why it is that the aliens don’t just show themselves already.

There are a multitude of reasons a visiting civilization would refrain from “landing on the White House lawn,” foremost among them the potentially debilitating effect open contact might wreak on terrestrials.  History shows that relatively advanced sea-faring cultures topple less developed cultures, in part by collapsing defining assumptions and rendering cultural self-hood obsolete.  If we’re of any research value to a visiting civilization then interfering at the macro-sociological level might threaten to destroy years of patient work.

Interesting, but there’s more:

It’s possible that UFOs would like to initiate something like formal contact but are restrained from doing so by the physics of perception, as Whitley Strieber has suggested.  So the pageant in our skies might be an ongoing indoctrination, an attempt to become more substantial (in our universe, at least) so that a more meaningful dialogue can be reached at some indeterminate point in the future.

And this next part was just awesome.  Why?  Because quantum physics gets invoked, which in and of itself sort of renders this sort of speculation little more than Schroedinger’s Alien:

If UFOs are attempting to breach our universe, our ingrained sense of disbelief might be preventing them in some arcane quantum mechanical sense.  Strieber has argued that official denial of the phenomenon is designed to thwart a potential invasion of non-human intelligence, in which case it seems an enduring stalemate has been reached (with occasional power-plays made by both the UFOs and earthly officialdom).  This idea is similar to the citizens of of the Planck Brane in Rudy Rucker’s science fiction epic Frek and the Elixir.  In Rucker’s novel, the inhabitants of a parallel universe must accumulate a critical level of prestige and notoriety or else cease to exist.  The ruling class consists of six individuals who are so well-known and casually accepted by the other Planck Braners that they persist with their individuality intact while their fellows vanish during periodic “renormalization storms”; only when the main characters deride and purposefully ignore them to [sic] they fade into the quantum background.

You need to be really smart or really stoned to groove on the above.  I’m just moderately smart and utterly sober, but there was a time when I found this sort of thing more likely than, say, Jesus rising from the dead.  Rather than invoking quantum mechanics, I just think of it as the “Tinkerbell Syndrome.”  Wish really hard or she’ll die.  Believe really hard and the aliens can finally show themselves.

The only really new thing I picked up from this book was the idea that abduction experiences can be the result of excessive exposure to electromagnetic waves.

If we’re evolving faster to meet the demands of an increasingly compromised planet, I suppose it’s not out of the realm of possibility that our brains are being forced to adapt to the ubiquitous electromagnetic fog spawned by the telecommunications industry.  Maybe some UFOs are a way our minds have developed to make sense of the onslaught of radio and microwave radiation that permeates modern culture.  Radio inundation might be ripping holes in the collective unconscious, leaving conspicuous voids to be filled.

This is all very “woo,” to be sure, but there’s more:

Albert Budden has speculated along similar lines; he describes “abductions” as the psyche’s way of  maintaining identity when faced with acute allergic distress.  I’m actually quite interested in the esoteric neurological effects of EM exposure.

Of course anyone who has watched one of those ghost hunter shows knows that electromagnetic waves can cause paranormal-like activity, but I had never heard of the idea that abduction tales can be explained via fugue states brought on by allergic responses to electromagnetic waves.  This is all very speculative and, in a way, silly; but in a way, it’s not.  Even the silliest idea in this book is no more than an invitation to think.

As you look at this discussion, you may notice that I paid very little attention to the idea of cryptoterrestrialism.  In fact, it makes up only a small part of the book, as Tonnies explored the way we interact and interpret the idea of aliens of all kinds.  I may be wrong as my sole knowledge of Tonnies comes from this book and parts of his blog, but I get the impression that the cryptoterrestrials were not the real purpose of this book.  The purpose of this book was to lay forth a new interpretation of what we see in the skies and what we see in our nightmares, ideas posited so that we continue the discussion of what is out there and what could be happening.  This book, full of strange ideas that if asserted as truth I would snert at, is a collection of interesting ideas and an exhortation to join the conversation.

It’s been a long while since a book on UFOs or Forteana did not insult my intelligence or force me to believe that which is unbelievable.  This book does not violate science or history to make a spurious assertion.  It does not force the reader to take sides.  It just asks us not to close our minds while thinking of the supernatural, and it does so with eloquence, humor and intelligence.  It is a fine book and a slightly melancholy read knowing it was the last book Tonnies wrote.

11 thoughts on “The Cryptoterrestrials by Mac Tonnies

  1. That was an really interesting review. I think the idea that ETs have intervened in human affairs is interesting mostly as a spur to consider what we mean when we speak about human affairs in the first place. That’s why Kubric’s 2001 is so beautiful. It does become a squandered opportunity when the whole thing gets mired in bad science and psuedo-anthropology.

    I like the idea of the Cryptoterrestrials, and also the view that a lot of the common features of UFO sightings could be orchestrated to make them implausible. There’s something satisfyingly perverse about that. Thanks for bringing Mac Tonnies to my attention.

    1. I need to rewatch 2001. It has been so long since I last saw it that I often wonder if remember the movie or discussions of the movie. Mr Oddbooks found a Kubrick documentary about the doors and bathrooms in his movies – I may have a Kubrick day sometime soon.

      I find the ideas Mac Tonnies discussed fascinating. He really did manage to talk about these notions without diving headfirst into material covered in a Michael Shermer book about why people believe strange stuff.

      It’s a very slim book and for the esoterica he presents, it was a surprisingly quick and easy read. If you read it, or any of his other books, be sure to tell me what you thought of them.

      1. So, I bought The Cryptoterrestrials, and I’ve just finished reading it. It probably hasn’t fully sunk in yet, but it was certainly enjoyable.

        For one thing, I hadn’t really considered that we treat UFO sightings as one of two things: a.) human error, vs. b.) evidence of extraterrestrial life, but we rarely consider the third option that they might be evidence of something else entirely. I’m not up on Jaques Valee or many of the other people Tonnies is talking about, so for me it was a nice insight.

        His point of departure (that UFO sightings etc. are evidence of something, but who knows what?) makes for a really refreshing approach. Like you said, it sidesteps so much of what has started to make the topic boring. When he gets into the material about the fringes of perception or the creatures beneath the sea, it takes me back to the excitement I felt reading Victorian sci-fi as a kid. On the other hand, I did sometimes wish he would take one thesis and run with it for a while. He’s constantly spinning five dizzying ideas at once. I guess the aim is just to blow the debate open with endless possibilities.

        It helped a lot that the book was so well written. It was a pleasure to read someone who was so eloquent and evidently so smart trying to synthesis so many of their ideas on a single topic.

        Also, I live by the waterside in a Scandinavian mountain environment. Sometimes at night it’s possible to believe there are others out in the darkness.

        1. When he gets into the material about the fringes of perception or the creatures beneath the sea, it takes me back to the excitement I felt reading Victorian sci-fi as a kid.

          That perfectly encapsulates what I loved about the book. The renewal of the excitement I felt when I first started reading about the paranormal.

          You made my day with this comment. Knowing someone read one of the books I enjoyed because of my discussion makes me very happy.

          When I was a little girl, I would visit my grandparents in a town called Lawn, Texas. It was flat, rural and utterly desolate and near an air force base. So many things would shoot across the sky at night. It was creepy and too easy for me to believe to think there was something out there.

  2. I’m think of the extraterrestrials out of The Earth, however, I think this extraterrestrials or intraterrestrials moro advancet in as.

  3. This intraterrestrials descendets of the dinosaurs of the crestacicus and eocenos evolutionary during 60 millos years. This more advencet in scienc and tecnology and bioetic in your as.

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