Ep 17: An Interview with Dr. Diana Walsh Pasulka
Welcome back to The UFO Rabbit Hole Podcast. I’m your host, Kelly Chase.
In this episode, I’m bringing you an interview with one of my personal heroes, Dr. Diana Walsh Paslka.
Dr. Diana Walsh Pasulka is a professor of religious studies and Chair of the Department of Philosophy and Religion at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington. She holds a bachelor’s from UC Davis, a master’s from Berkeley, and a Ph.D. from Syracuse University. She is the author of Heaven Can Wait: Purgatory in Catholic Devotional and Popular Culture and American Cosmic: UFOs, Religion, Technology, which we will be discussing in this interview.
For me, American Cosmic is one of those rare books that changes everything about how you see the world. And that process has been ongoing. I’ve gone back to it a few times over the last year, while also absorbing all of Diana’s other interviews and lectures that I could get my hands on. Each new reading builds upon itself, and the closer I get to understanding what she’s really saying, the more astonished I become.
To be clear, this book doesn’t just bear rereading, I’d argue that if one truly wants to absorb its full impact, it requires it.
On its face, the narratives and concepts laid out by Diana in American Cosmic are as compelling as they are surprising. The first time, I read the whole thing in one breathless sitting, and was struck by the thought that it would make a thrilling Hollywood blockbuster–although admittedly unlike any that I had ever seen before.
And I think it’s easy to read American Cosmic once through, and in doing so, have your mind so sufficiently blown that you don’t bother to go back and look for further revelations. But I’m a firm believer that taking that approach with this book is a mistake. There is a much deeper and more challenging vision that Dr. Pasulka’s work is putting forward. It’s a vision that doesn’t just illuminate the UFO phenomenon, but reframes it entirely within the context of our relationship to religion, media, and technology, revealing fundamental, profound, and at times, disturbing questions about the very nature of our reality.
In the late 1940’s, astronomer Fred Hoyle said, “Once a photograph of the Earth, taken from the outside, is available… a new idea as powerful as any in history will be let loose.” And I think that quote cuts to the heart of much of what will follow in my interview with Diana.
Because we aren’t just talking about humanity’s journey to space, but what that monumental transition tells us about what humanity is and what it might become. It’s a transition that isn’t just about crossing a physical boundary. It’s about the change that occurs when a species is able to escape its home world and look back at it from a perspective once thought to be reserved only for the gods.
And it’s also about the mechanisms by which this transmission is spread. Because although just a handful of people out of billions who have ever been born had seen that vision of the Earth from space with their own eyes, once that first picture was taken and sent back to Earth and made public, that image changed everyone. It lives in all of us now.
And if you listen closely to what Diana is saying, you can begin to unfold the vast implications of that seemingly simple idea–and what it might mean for the future of humanity.
Here is my interview with the inimitable, Dr. Diana Walsh Pasulka.
Listen to These Episodes First
If you aren’t already familiar with Diana’s work, you’ll definitely want to start with these two episodes before listening to this interview to get the full context of our conversation.