It’s magnificent. How did it get there? (French National Center for Space Studies)

I am holding a pamphlet from the Foundation for Extraterrestrial Investigations.

“With every mind that is able to lift the veil of ignorance from their eyes,” it proclaims, “the world is one step closer to what is right. There was a time when man believed that frogs were given birth by mud, simply because they were observed to be hopping about from its depths with such avid regularity. We once were sure that the world was flat, and that if one were to stray too far from the center, they would fall into oblivion off its edge. Not too many years past, it was deemed wholly acceptable to enslave a man, woman, or child, for no other reason than the color of their skin. One of the most amazing characteristics of the human race is our ability to evolve. We can evolve not only physically, but even more importantly we can learn to change the way that we think. Unless we feel it advantageous to live our lives within a flattened world where mud spawned frogs hop about the chained and shackled feet of our brothers, then let us not refuse to see the truth of our world as it is. We are not alone. We never have been.”

It must be nice to live in this world.

If you believe in conspiracy theories, everything is being taken care of. It is all very orderly and circular, bound up with “petro-dollars” and shadowy agendas.

In this world, the UFO enthusiasts’ Citizen Hearing on Disclosure (this week at the National Press Club) was a long-overdue shot of pure truth.

At the Citizen Hearing, Mark Cavener approached me to hear what I thought. He confided that he didn’t believe in UFOs, although he had a friend who “did this protocol that apparently came from government remote viewing technology meets Vedic meditation,” which they used to summon UFOs. The resulting video, he said, “was very impressive.”

“I’m not a believer,” he continued. “I’ve seen things with my own eyes that were, you know, have changed my life. Do I believe there’s things in the sky you can’t identify? I didn’t believe. It’s not a belief. I know there’s UFOs, being I saw one. I couldn’t identify it, and it was flying.”

In this world, the CIA is uncannily competent. Billions of dollars go into hard, scientific research into alternative energy and space travel technologies. The solutions to all of  Earth’s problems already exist. They are simply being kept from us. Sinister people (probably affiliated with Goldman Sachs) run everything, and they are so good at it that no one knows of their existence. Anyone with evidence of this has the uncomfortable habit of perishing in car a accident or being scared into silence. It’s nice. It’s orderly. It’s almost reassuring.

“I’d like not to believe some of the things that I hear,” said Sarah, a Citizen Hearing attendee who wouldn’t give me her last name. I came upon her compiling a list of other things to look up, including Agenda 21 and something called Chem Trails. She is 70, with two kids and four grandkids, and has actually seen objects in the sky. She came all the way from Indiana and says it was entirely worth it. Her belief stems partly from personal experience and partly because “I’ve read quite a bit of literature, and the consistent themes seem to be: Get rid of your nuclear bombs, and you’re destroying the environment.”

“What would your explanation be? There are lights in the sky!”

Kim Carlsberg, the proprietor of UFO Sky Tours in Sedona (“SEE UFOS NOW ASK KIM HOW!” proclaims the brochure), is more direct about it. “Every morning, every human being on this planet” is living a lie, she says: that we’re alone. “It’s here. It’s on this planet every day.” (The UFOs on the brochure are blurry and greenish or pinkish. You can also take “powerful vortex tours.”) She says the UFO coverup is like “if you’re in a relationship and your boyfriend is having an affair all the time and you know it,” she explained. How does that make you feel? Nobody should have to live like that.

And you can see it, too, if you try. Clap if you believe in fairies. Squint upward, if you believe in UFOs. Maybe you really see something. Carl Sagan asked in 1993: “Is it possible that people in all times and places occasionally experience vivid, realistic hallucinations, often with sexual content — with the details filled in by the prevailing cultural idioms, sucked out of the Zeitgeist? When everyone knows that gods regularly come down to Earth, we hallucinate gods; when everyone knows about demons, it’s incubi and succubi; when fairies are widely believed, we see fairies; when the old myths fade and we begin thinking that alien beings are plausible, then that’s where our hypnagogic imagery tends.” The occupants of our subconscious manage to creep out. People once spotted goblins and fairy circles in the grass. In the days of mythology and gods, people kept announcing that Zeus had shown up and copulated with their toasters. Now, it’s aliens.

“Whatever gets you through the night,” John Lennon sang, “‘s all right, ‘s all right.”

Maybe so.

But at a certain point, all this distrust is pernicious. The snake devours its own tail. If you have to pick one belief around which to orient your life, why choose the idea that the flickering lights in the sky are sentient beings who are Kept From You By A Malicious Cabal instead of the idea that the people around you are basically good and doing their best, that bad things occasionally happen, that the scientific method has not let us down yet, that people try and fail, and that incompetence is generally a readier explanation than malevolence?

And there are deeper implications as well. It’s the apocalypse problem. Every few years, the human race goes wild, craving an End of the World. Y2K. 2011. 2012. We want some god to reach out of the machine and solve the overcomplicated plot. But as Sagan also notes: “The idea that beings from elsewhere will save us from ourselves is a very dangerous doctrine — akin to that of the quack doctor whose ministrations prevent the patient from seeing a physician competent to help him and perhaps to cure his disease.” It’s much easier than trying to fix things.

Conspiracy is almost a form of religion, at least in terms of its martyrs, its tendency to proselytize, its efforts to explain everything, its attendant apocalypse. Those who testify have been mocked and pilloried. But the believers struggle on, passing out literature, even knocking on doors. They make pilgrimages to join others who have shared their great vision. It exists in a realm beyond evidence. “Religions die when they are proved to be true,” wrote Oscar Wilde. “Science is the record of dead religions.” If aliens showed up tomorrow beyond a reasonable doubt, the movement would wither up and die. In the meantime, conspiracy tackles everything. Why do bad things happen to good people? Who made us? What are we? Where are we going? The Answer Is Out There.

True believers don’t believe they believe in something false. They feel certain that they know the truth. They wait, with bated breath, for the Great Unveiling, the Disclosure President, the moment the government caves in and All Our Questions Will Be Answered. Apocalypse, at its root, is just another word for disclosure, the triumphant rending of the curtain when all is revealed.

Under this covered dish, in these redacted files, are the answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything. No wonder the government won’t share it. No matter what it was, we wouldn’t be satisfied.

42, my guess. But until then, we’ve got our theories to keep us warm.