This is the final part of the present series. The full essay can be read in PDF, here. Thanks for participating!
Invasion from Within
“A man’s errors are his portals of discovery.”
As a writer, I like to reduce things to as simple terms as I can, and to always seek out the bedrock of my own experience. That’s why I write. This is especially helpful, even essential, when we enter into the liminal realms of the UFO in which true and false, physical and non-physical, don’t seem to be mutually exclusive realities but weirdly overlapping, even interchangeable, depending on which way we’re looking.
So let’s say, for the sake of positing such a bedrock, that the body and the psyche are the twin poles of human reality. This would make the conscious mind something like a satellite fragment that floats around, somewhere on the outside of both, preventing full embodiment. Full embodiment would only occur when the psyche and the soma overlap and what appear to be two become one (two mutually dependent, “concentric” systems). Until this happens, the mind-satellite will continue to “leach off” our life force through that schism between body and soul. Like the Moon stealing the light of the Sun and sending its deranging rays to Earth, the mind generates its own phantasy experience and causes the body and the psyche both to be haunted (and hunted) by ghostly images of the past.
In this model, the ego mind is at best a helpless witness to the wonders of the psyche—the UFO—and the terrors of the body which constitute the abduction scenario. What it witnesses, if and when it ever fully understands it, will undo its crucial fiction forever. Perhaps this is why the experience of powerlessness is the key to understanding these experiences, since powerlessness is the alpha and omega of human experience.
My growing sense, after decades of stumbling, half blind, through the halls and corridors of Chapel Perilous, is that the psyche is not merely a perceptual but a creative agency; that it is able not only to perceive but to generate experience, and that the age-old dilemma between determinism and free will is an illusion, because the dilemma is rather between the conscious ego mind and the unconscious psyche self, or, more simply, between what we perceive of what is happening (and believe about it), and what is really going on.
This makes the UFO (as Jung suggested fifty years ago) a living manifestation of the overlap and interface between two states of awareness. It is a liminal reality that is “literally” (but also metaphorically!) “abducting” us, like Persephone, into the underworld of the psyche, so as to introduce us to our “shadow” nature and make us whole.
We may be observing with the UFO the degree to which the collective psyche can create a phenomenon out of itself and then become subject to it—and even the victim of it. This makes the UFO a kind of living theater, enacting a collective split between our inner and outer realities. Hence it has taken the form of the vesica piscis, the overlap between worlds.
In the afore-cited Julian Jaynes work, The Origin Of Consciousness In The Breakdown Of The Bicameral Mind, he puts forward a convincing model of how self-consciousness came about in human beings. Jaynes’ book, while still widely read, has been contested in scientific and anthropological circles, but I’m not going to address that. Instead I’m going to simplify and adapt it to suit my own ends, hopefully without mangling Jayne’s original thesis too badly.
Initially, like the other animals, human beings did not possess consciousness as we experience it today. They were conscious at a bodily level, through the senses, but not at a mind level, i.e., they were not conscious of being conscious or of being a “self” that was conscious. They did not possess a self as we think of it today. Jaynes describes this in terms of the two hemispheres of the brain being in total synthesis so that there was neither the rational nor the imaginative faculty which we now associate with the two hemispheres. Instead we might imagine one, seamless perceptual organ, with no need for rational interpretation and allowing for spontaneous, purely instinctive action. Over time, however, and due to the increased sizes of tribal communities and the resulting development of language, humans began to develop a rudimentary sense of self, along with a need to make choices, or at least the awareness of somehow being “moved” to do so. (Pure instinct is not a choice but an unconscious response to the environment.)
Jaynes suggests that this split between the hemispheres of the brain was the beginning of the formation of a separate, rational, sense of I-ness, and that there is evidence for this, or of the period leading up to it, in a work such as Homer’s The Iliad. In The Iliad, whenever the gods “intervene” in the lives of men, it is in the form of the emotions, impulses, and actions of the men and women themselves. Ancient man, in other words, was moved to action only by the intervention of the gods—or rather, he experienced the aspect of his being responsible for action and emotions as “the gods”—forces far beyond his own slowly forming sense of self. This, I propose, is the experience of ego in its very early stages, and is somewhat similar to how a child first becomes aware of itself as a self, via interaction with parents, caregivers, and older siblings—all of whom seem in some sense “above” the child and who therefore have a degree of control over it.
The next stage Jaynes posits in this development of consciousness (I would say “ego consciousness” but anyway) is when humans no longer experienced the gods in such a visceral, inner way but as a disembodied voice, giving them commands, instruction, and advice. Jaynes’ idea is that this was a result of the left brain becoming the center of self-awareness, separate from the less differentiated, more “imaginal” right brain, and how it received wisdom, input, in the only way it could understand it, in the form of language. This would be prior to the inception of internal dialogue and the ego-self as we currently experience it, back when there was still some sort of channel between left and right hemispheres, and between the (self-)conscious mind and the psyche.
Jaynes’ model makes a good case for the idea that, the more a self-conscious mind or ego self develops, the more externalized—“outed”—our experience of the psyche must become. Put another way, as the ego self develops an increasingly impenetrable wall around “it” (I place “it” in quotes because the wall is the ego, since the awareness that exists inside “it” is only possible to the degree that such isolating barriers are in place), as this wall of ego becomes less and less porous and more and more impenetrable, the contents of the total psyche are further and further banished to the wilderness of the unconscious. The price of self-consciousness, then, is unconsciousness.
What I want to suggest now is that this banishing of the “gods”—representing the deeper knowledge, wisdom, and passions of the psyche—has made it necessary for that unconscious material to approach us from the outside, as a separate order of existence, so as to get around—or break through—that impenetrable barrier of ego-mind. Hence we have the increased manifestations of faery lore, demons, and latterly the UFO and the alien abduction narratives, in which the “other” literally snatches us from our sleep and drags us into another, more “psychic” or dreamlike reality. The denser the ego mind becomes, in other words, the denser the manifestations of the psyche must also become, in order to be recognized and received by us at all.
This doesn’t mean such manifestations are unreal. What is unreal in this model is not the psyche and its manifestations but the ego that has isolated itself from the greater reality of the soul, which sees everything through the chinks of its cavern, and which, like Plato’s cave-dwellers—or like a child in its room at night—creates living phantasms out of shadows. The ego, being itself unreal, cannot perceive reality. The UFO demands that we recognize this fact about ourselves because, as a living, nuts and bolts manifestation of the psyche (the gods, etc., etc.), it is literally powerful to destroy us, and this it will do if we fail to understand it as emanating from our own inner depths.
What we do not bring forth from within us will destroy us. I would add to this that, if we are unaware of what is coming forth from within us, we will see it as coming from outside of us, and will either fall down and worship it or do battle with it. At which point, either way, it will destroy us. And for the record, unconscious projection is not “bringing forth,” but the result of disowning and rejecting, i.e. of not bringing forth.
It is obviously more than a minor point that, in his book, Jaynes use of the word “consciousness” actually refers to self-awareness, i.e., what we think of as consciousness. Yet the implications of all of this are that language, and thought-based consciousness, in fact act as a kind of filter for—or even buffer against—consciousness in its pure sense, and that what we think of as the unconscious—i.e. the total awareness of the body—is rather a different, less differentiated form of consciousness that is unable to make it through that filter. The UFO as an externalized psyche-imago may be leading us towards totality or enlightened consciousness; but because we are unable to recognize such a thing even as a possibility (outside of spiritual jargon), it is instead being clothed in the contents of—our closest equivalent experience—the unconscious (pre-egoic awareness). The myths that form around “it,” then, while superficially progressive are actually regressive. They are leading us not towards “super-consciousness” but back to unconsciousness; hence the powerful, almost irresistible allure of “the UFO.”
If we resist the desire to interpret, assume, or believe anything about the UFO evidence, there is nothing to suggest the presence of extraterrestrials, nor is there proof of any kind of autonomous beings at all. All we know for sure is that something is occurring which we don’t understand and which can and often does take on the guise of these things. To approach a complete unknown in terms of the known is a mistake based on the assumption that “there’s nothing new under the sun.” But the psyche is like love: it’s the oldest and the newest thing in the world. And if it’s a creative force, then it may be constantly transforming itself, so that, until the day we fully embody it, it will always, always appear to us as “alien.”
The moment we identify this presence as “something,” we are no longer interacting with it as it is but only with our own tired old assumptions about ourselves and reality. Hence we are looking to it—as to a modern form of saving grace—to come into our lives and transform them into something less tired and old. Maybe this is why the ET never lands, because the moment it did land, it would turn out to be us: just another boring old terrestrial.
The only alternative to this grim and shabby scenario (that of a scientistic “new” religion based around space travel and the UFO) is if there’s an internal “landing”—a moment of transcendental truth in which the body is “invaded” from space, and we are fully and finally occupied by the psyche.
If we agree that UFO is real in some sense, we can also agree that it issues from somewhere beyond our familiar social realm of experience. Even the most mundane interpretation—that it represents extraterrestrial (or possibly human, off-world, or even inner earth/faery) technology that is beyond what we can collectively understand or even recognize as technology—even this model admits that our current understanding is inadequate to explain, represent, or interpret our experience. Because of this, we are obliged—consciously or otherwise—to turn to the elements of the unconscious (myth, fantasy, and dream) to make sense of it.
In Modern Man in Search of a Soul, Jung points out that just because a dream can’t be understood at face value doesn’t mean that the immediately perceived content is merely a façade obscuring a hidden truth. The dream symbol is closely aligned to its content—it’s only that, if we don’t understand the language which it represents, we won’t be able to make sense out of it. Either it will seem like nonsense, or we will misread it and come up with an overly literal interpretation, one that makes superficial sense but misses the deeper meaning. Ditto with the UFO.
It’s not that the UFO experience is merely a façade or false front for some psychic reality behind it. It’s that the UFO is a symbolic narrative which can’t be understood as a literal enactment—even if it is—because we don’t presently have the tools to understand it. We aren’t yet conscious of the kind of “technology” (language) which the UFO employs, so it will always be indistinguishable to us from magic—the stuff of dreams.
What’s the objective of an object that flies unidentified through skies and in and out of our sleep—that subjects its subjects to an experience in which they experience themselves as objects, in an entirely subjective fashion? Coherence depends on a willingness to relinquish our efforts to make the pieces fit in accordance with our subjective view of what constitutes objectivity and coherence. Making sense yet? Or is it time to stop—all that?
If the UFO is an objective representative or “ambassador” of the psyche, then it only appears to be being authored by our perceptions and expectations. In fact, it is the author of our experience of it, and it’s the author of the experiencer, too. The thing being observed is not only creating the observation, but the necessary illusion (the crucial fiction) of an observer observing anything.
To recognize the UFO as us is impossible. The moment we did so, we would also see that there was no “us” to do the recognizing. There is no way to make sense out of a phenomenon that is in actuality the faculty of making sense out of reality. We can only disappear—or be abducted—in the attempt.
We can’t be conscious of consciousness. We can think we are, but then we will only prove that we aren’t. Why? Because thought is not a substitute for consciousness, any more than belief is a substitute for knowing. The finger is not the moon, the map is not the territory, the menu is not the meal—because the medium is the message.
To pursue the UFO is to pursue our own undoing. It will end either in realization or in ruin. Is there even a difference?
None of these statements are true—including this one.