What Is Enlightenment? Magazine, March - May 2006

Produced by Steve Lantz and Lynne D. Kitei, M.D., 2005

To the old question of whether or not society and religious institutions would suddenly disintegrate if humanity discovered that we weren't the only intelligent beings in the cosmos, it seems there is now a clear answer; "The Phoenix Lights." The fear of people taking to the streets in a fit of mass hysteria certainly seemed a valid concern in 1938, when Orson Welles' eerie Martian-invasion radio drama succeeded in terrorizing more than a few Americans already fearing a German invasion. But today it appears that even if a mile-long UFO were to hover over a major city in plain sight of everyone, it wouldn't inspire much more than a few home videos, cell phone snapshots, and mild curiosity. Well, except among some of the more sensitive, impressionable citizenry---people such as Lynne D. Kitei, a respected Phoenix, Arizona, physician and co-producer of the award-winning new film The Phoenix Lights Documentary.

Photographing her first UFOs over the skies of Phoenix in January 1995, Kitei didn't see anything else out of the ordinary until two years later, when a series of personal sightings of strange lights in the sky culminated in the now-famous events of March 13, 1997. On that clear, ordinary Thursday evening, a one-mile-wide v-shaped formation of glowing amber orbs glided silently through the heavens, attracting the attention of perhaps ten thousand people up and down the state of Arizona. Making headlines in local newspapers the next morning, the close encounter drew little national media interest until three months later, when, on June 19, USA Today and CNN decided to report on the persistent mystery of the event. Soon, every news affiliate in the country was wondering: What were those anomalous lights that drifted through the desert skies on March 13--caught in photographs and on video, yet invisible to the radar scans of Phoenix air traffic controllers?

That's the question driving The Phoenix Lights Documentary, a captivating account of the biggest and best documented UFO sighting of modern times. Featuring testimony from Arizona citizens who span all walks of life-from hospice workers to interior designers, from private investigators to Air Force personnel--Kitei's film makes it difficult to deny that many ordinary people saw something very extraordinary on that eerie night in '97. Add to this the multiple photos and video recordings of the event (including Kitei's own), and the case seems almost irrefutable that, as the documentary repeatedly suggests, "we are not alone."

Devoting most of its efforts to providing evidence for that claim in the form of extensive image analysis and an intriguing tour of UFO history (from cave paintings to the twentieth century), Kitei's documentary is wide-ranging and insightful, with some original ideas thrown into the speculative mix. But in the end, what is most striking about Kitei's coverage of the Phoenix Lights is the deeply spiritual significance that many of the people she interviewed ascribe to the phenomenon. Some declare that they've been irrevocably transformed by their sightings, their minds flung wide open by experiences that seem impossible to comprehend. Others find meaning and significance in the sense of peacefulness, awe, and wonder they experienced at the time of their encounters, recounting deep feelings of "appreciation for being alive and witnessing it." Kitei herself, however, is surely the most profoundly affected, having committed much of her life to a passionate quest to understand her experiences. "Is humankind at large on the verge of understanding what experiencers of unexplained phenomena have known for millennia?" she writes in her book about the Phoenix Lights. "Are we now moving towards our next evolutionary level, the positive maturation and spiritual advancement of consciousness itself?"

I'm sure most of us would certainly hope so. But it's clear that in Kitei's estimation, if we wish to evolve, we need only to watch the skies…