In recent years, there has been an effort, particularly by American folkloric scholars (e.g., Hufford 1982
; Rojcewicz 1986), to bring some conceptual order to a disparate array of paranormal and transcendental experiences whose academic study has heretofore tended to be associated with distinct and somewhat insular disciplines.
Included in this set of non-ordinary occurrences are such phenomena as out-of-body experiences
(traditionally the province of parapsychology), near-death experiences
(near-death studies, medicine), shamanic experiences
(anthropology), psychedelic experiences
(transpersonal psychology), night terrors
(folklore), and UFO encounters
(ufology). That there are significant similarities among subsets of these experiences, both in terms of phenomenology and aftereffects, has long been recognized, but so far there has been no sustained scholarly effort to build conceptual bridges between these experiential domains or to foster their comparative study, despite some expressions of interest in such undertakings (e.g., Ring and Agar 1986
). In the spirit of this kind of endeavor, the need for which has been persuasively set forth by Rojcewicz (1986), I would like to present here a framework for a partial conceptual integration of two non-ordinary experiences previously held to be quite separate and unrelated. I am referring to near-death experiences (NDEs) and alleged UFO encounters (UFOEs),
between which I believe there are some hitherto unsuspected links.
This paper has second purpose as well. After delineating certain commonalities between these types of experiences, I intend to explore their possible joint significance for the evolution of human consciousness. This will involve an attempt to embed these and other types of non-ordinary experiences in a second kind of conceptual matrix that will provide a still more encompassing perspective in terms of which to view the implicit connections among the variety of experiences we will be concerned with.