Notes from the Contact Underground


My Contact Work Begins


Copyright 2003 Joseph Burkes, MD

This document represents the views of the author alone. It does not represent CSETI position or policy


Joseph Burkes’ Personal Account

I had never attended a UFO meeting before, but after reading on the subject for over a year, I finally got up enough courage to attend a meeting on this very unusual subject. CSETI director, Dr. Steven Greer, was a featured speaker at the UFO Expo West in May of 1992. It was just a week after the Los Angeles Riots. The pungent aroma of burnt out buildings was still quite strong in our “city of the angels.” I attended the UFO Expo that was held at the LAX Hilton. I wandered into a lecture hall that was one third empty.  At the podium stood a tall blond, bearded, well dressed man in his mid-thirties who introduced himself by simply stating, “My name is Dr. Steven Greer.” Emergency room physicians by trade, we shared the same occupation. I was curious to hear what my fellow ER doc had to say about the UFO phenomenon. I was immediately impressed by what I heard

Dr. Greer’s call for a citizen’s diplomatic mission to the Ets was interesting because I had been a citizen’s diplomacy peace activist during the Cold War. As a member of several delegations of medical workers, I had traveled repeatedly to the former Soviet Union to meet with other physicians to discuss the medical consequences of nuclear war and the dangers of the nuclear arms race. I also served as an officer in the US affiliate of the Nobel Prize winning organization “International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War.” 

What excited me about Greer’s approach was that he combined what appeared to be high ideals, with the courage to actively go into the field and attempt to interact with the intelligence presumably responsible for the flying saucer phenomenon. With my growing interest in UFOs and my decades of experience as a peace activist, I guess you could say wild horses couldn’t keep me away.

The following month, after rearranging my ER schedule, I flew to West Palms Beach where Dr. Steven Greer was giving a workshop on CSETI’s Close Encounters of the 5th Kind Initiative. It was a bold program attempting to initiate contact with the what Greer and his followers called “Extraterrestrial Intelligence.”  His long term goal as presented at the workshop, was to establish a “mutually beneficial, sustainable and cooperative relationship” between humanity and the Extra-terrestrial civilizations supposedly visiting our planet.

In West Palm Beach, following his customary workshop, a demonstration of CSETI contact protocols was offered at an isolated local beach. This workshop/demonstration that I attended, was only one of approximately 100 similar presentations that Dr. Greer gave between 1991 and 1994 as part of an organizing drive for the CE-5 Initiative. It was at the Florida workshop, there on the Atlantic Coast that I first witnessed a UFO.

The south Florida coast in June is hot and very humid. Having spent the last 16 years living in Southern California,  I expected the weather to cool off after the sun went down. Instead it actually got hotter. That night of June 6th I got a real taste of the tropics. As the evening progressed, instead of getting cooler as things do on the West Coast,  the oppressive humidity felt like it was suffocating me. Some of the participants in the workshop had ignored Greer’s request that the field work be carried out in a disciplined and focused manner, with no invitations extended to friends. Instead about a third of the group had brought their wives, boyfriends and various “significant others” to skywatch with us. The presence of so many individuals who had not participated in the workshop contributed to a kind of party like atmosphere. One couple modestly covered themselves with a blanket for some romantic making out. Greer tried to ignore them.

Contrary to CSETI protocol, which banned alcoholic beverages from the research site, several individuals had fortified their contact efforts with what looked like deliciously cool Budwiser Beer. Not to be deterred by such obvious deviations from the CSETI’s proscribed methods, a group of about seven researchers trainees closed ranks around Dr. Greer. We listened attentively to him and carefully followed his instructions to the T. That humid night we were initiated into a guided meditation technique called Coherent Thought Sequencing(CTS), and spent long intervals in silence carrying out the thought projection method that has earned CSETI the displeasure of both mainstream ufology and debunkers alike. We all took turns at signaling into the sky with the half million candle power lanterns. The CSETI Director had brought the lights from his hometown of Asheville North Carolina .

The sky was overcast and by 2:45 a.m., even Steven Greer was ready to call it quits. Dripping with sweat from the sauna like heat, I heard him remark that we should keep watching the skies even as we are making preparations to break camp. He emphasized the need for staying vigilant because  “major events” he told us, can transpire just as a contact team is dispersing. His remark was prophetic, not only for the event that was about to take place, but was also predictive of a pattern of interactions which contactee groups have observed all over the world. As unbelievable as it may seem, it is the continuing experience of many groups, that strange events unexpectedly occur just as a  contact team prepares to end field work. The timing of such closing events is quite remarkable and appears to possibly represent a fond farewell or “adios” from the non-human intelligence responsible for the UFO phenomenon.


Now let us return to West Palm Beach, that night of June 7th 1992. At approximately  2:50 AM it happened. As a group of us were quietly carrying our folding chairs off the beach, a small, silent, pale and blue-green light was seen moving rapidly across the sky. Traveling in a westerly direction, it appeared directly overhead, flying in from the ocean. The sighting lasted only about 4 seconds, but the pale light appeared to be highly anomalous for the following reasons. A low cloud cover was present that night and the object’s trajectory clearly ruled against its being a shooting star. The unknown object flew at a very low altitude. In fact it appeared to be only a hundred feet or less above our heads. Its apparent point of origin out from over the sea, also was important to note. Since there were no ships visible in our vicinity, the possibility of it being a tracer round fired from a rifle seems quite remote. If it were a tracer bullet, it should have been moving much faster. The UFO was totally silent with no associated superstructure nor conventional aircraft lights. In addition it did not vary in luminosity or color during the brief sighting.  A group of about five or six of us all saw the same unidentified blue light, and our descriptions of the object matched one another. It was strange and definitely thrilling. In my excited state I even fancied that the  blue-green was beautiful. I had seen my an anomalous nocturnal light, my first UFO!

Following that experience I knew what I wanted to do. The next month after reading and re-reading the CSETI literature that I had purchased at the workshop, I called the CSETI national office. It turned out to be located in Dr.  Greer’s living room. His lovely wife Emily told me that they were looking for a leader to coordinate the formation of a CSETI research team in Southern California. I took a breath and audaciously replied, “You’re looking for a Working Group Coordinator? Well I think you’re talking to him.”

The following month on August 29th 1993, Dr. Greer’s workshop was held in Woodland Hills California. With that workshop/demonstration we started our very own Close Encounters of the Fifth Kind Initiative Los Angeles Working Group. I was named as coordinator of this fledgling contact team and was designated the responsible party for all of its operations.

Needless to say I had a great deal to learn. I was not an experienced meditator.   Thought projection while in a meditative state is an essential component of the contact protocols. In medical school I had heard about the beneficial effects of meditation in terms of treating hypertension and reducing emotional stress; nevertheless I had never dreamed of trying to follow a disciplined practice of daily meditation as recommended by CSETI.  My wife Yael was far more interested in meditating than I was, and her enthusiasm propelled me to sign the whole family up for a course in Transcendental Meditation. I remember being somewhat disappointed after receiving only about 10 hours of instruction, it seemed that our TM course ended far too abruptly. I felt that I needed more training. In a candle lighting ceremony my TM instructor simply gave me my mantra and that was it. I did not feel very well prepared to go out and continue to meditate on my own. I said to Yael, “Is this all there is to TM instruction?” Nevertheless I was determined to try to meditate.  Soon after starting a daily meditation practice, I noticed subtle changes taking place in our household.

My wife abruptly decided to prepare only vegetarian food at home. I had always been an avid “meat and potatoes” man and had never seriously given vegetarianism a moment’s thought. Now all of sudden I was going without the steaks and lamb chops that I once believed I couldn’t live without.  Strangely it didn’t seem to bother me much. I was surprised to find that I had lost most, if not all of my taste for being a carnivore. Other meditators told me this was reaction to a daily practice was not uncommon.

My career as a CSETI Working Group Coordinator was just getting started and I was engaged in a seemingly never ending search for the perfect research site. The CSETI maxim that the site should me both isolated and at the same time accessible was clearly an impossible combination in Southern California. There were people, homes and barking dogs seemingly everywhere.  I had to exercise considerable caution in my search, as LA nights are populated by a wide assortment of sociopaths. During those first months of Working Group operations I did a great deal of hiking and checking out wilderness real estate. That too was something new for me. The last pair of hiking shoes I had purchased was when I was a medical student, some 20 years prior. I bought a new pair of boots and was ready for action. Every weekend during that Fall of 1992 I could be found climbing up steep desert hillsides trying to find a safe and quiet place to position my team during our field work.

In combination with my vegetarian diet, all this  vigorous exercise caused me to lose almost 20 lbs. The middle age spare tire around my abdomen melted away. The chronic low back pain that was plaguing me for years, suddenly got much better. I was now more physically fit than I had been in years. Participating in group meditation outdoors in nature facilitated some sorely needed spiritual development as well. My growing acceptance of universal consciousness as a possible link between human and extra-terrestrial intelligence, reassured me that the visitors might not be so alien after all. The project however, was not all heavy physical and mental exertion. Our team had time for fun as well. In a comic frame of mind I fancied, based on my personal transformation, that if CSETI ever wanted to recruit hoards of new members, it might try to sell its contact program as a self improvement course. “Yes you too can lose weight and look better! Just follow CSETI’s program of meditation, vegetarianism and vectoring in Et spacecraft. You will loose 20 lbs., be more attractive and feel healthier!”

My promotional campaign was never taken seriously by CSETI’s national leadership. This zany notion did however add a lighter touch to my local recruiting efforts. After all in Southern California everyone is obsessed with their looks. Here in Hollywood its common knowledge that, “It’s better to look good than to feel good. “ This foolishness aside, by the first week of September 1992, our research team was ready to go out into the field to try and interact with what we believed was Extra-terrestrial Intelligence.




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