There are books that make you feel as if everything you know is uncertain. D. W. Pasulka’s American Cosmic is such a book. Its subtitle, UFOs, Religion, Technology, only pauses at the brink of the rabbit hole down which this study will take you. Over the years I admit to having been jealous of colleagues who’ve been able to make an academic career stick. The credentials of a university post open doors for you, even if you’re a professor of religion. Pasulka has opened some doors here that I suspect many would prefer to have kept closed. This is a compelling book, threading together many themes tied to religious studies. There are things we might see, if only we’ll open our eyes.
Although immediately and automatically subjected to the ridicule response, UFOs are a fascinating subject. This book isn’t about UFO religions—of which there are many—but rather it connects this phenomenon to the study of religion itself. In Pasulka’s related field of Catholic studies, there are those anomalous accounts of saints who did the impossible. Like UFOs, they are subjected to the ridicule response, making serious discussion of them difficult. Might the two be related? As you feel yourself spinning deeper and deeper down that hole, technology comes into the picture and complicates it even further. Pasulka was a consultant on The Conjuring. I’ve written about the movie myself, but what I hadn’t realized is how media connects with perceptions of reality. Yes, it has a religious freight too.
Every once in a while I reflect that my decision—if it was a decision; sometimes I feel certain my field chose me—to study religion might not have been misplaced. Perhaps all of this does tie together in some way. American Cosmic is a mind-expanding book that assures me all those years and dollars learning about religion weren’t wasted after all. I had a discussion recently with another doctoral holder who’s been relegated to the role of editor. We both lamented that our training was in some sense being wasted on a job that hardly requires this level of training. Still, if it weren’t for my day job I probably wouldn’t have known about this book, and that is perhaps a synchronicity as well. Life is a puzzle with many thousands—millions—of pieces. Some books are like finding a match, but others are like informing you that you’ve got the wrong box top in hand as you try to construct the puzzle with the pieces you have. If you read this book be prepared to come close to finding the white rabbit.