We are the champions, my friends
And we’ll keep on fighting till the end
We are the champions, we are the champions
No time for losers, ’cause we are the champions of the world.
—“We Are The Champions,” Queen (Freddie Mercury)
Are we—that is, we human beings—really the champions of the world?
I think not. And there are signs and clues all about that point in a very different direction. Actually, these indicators have been around for a long time; it’s just that we haven’t taken proper notice of the obvious.
No Time for Losers
That’s probably because many of us didn’t want to see, or acknowledge that some of our basic operating premises are the very ideas and ideals that are bringing us to the point of extinction–or at least are responsible for rending the supporting web of life into shreds, and in the process threatening to make humans a very minor player on the planetary stage. In our present collective state of mind (no doubt delusional to some), we have the inherent right to acquire wealth and power without restriction. These are our only real values, whatever lip service is given to traditional religious or “spiritual” aims. When Nietzsche’s Madman goes to preach the death of God, where does he go? To the marketplace, of course.
But we may finally be moving away from this kind of toxic anthropocentric triumphalism, or what the late Daniel Quinn, author of the philosophical novel Ishmael (1992), regarded as the hidden mythology of a civilization that—at least by some accounts—has long been in a post-mythological stage of development. For Quinn, this toxic mythology is implicit in all of the world’s so-called “higher” religions–by which he seems to mean the Abrahamic traditions, the monotheistic faiths of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam:
“All the major world religions (always excluding animism, of course), are founded on these notions: that man and man alone was the desired object of creation, that man occupies a preeminent place in the order of creation, that man has a value in God’s eyes that is transcendentally greater than that of all other creatures, that this world of matter is illusory, transitory, and worthless” (Providence, p. 168).
So, which is it: hidden mythology or post-mythological?
Even Joseph Campbell, the great mythologist who found myths everywhere, seemed to have believed that human cultures are in a post-mythological age, or what he sometimes referred to as “a terminal moraine of myths and mythic symbols, fragments large and small of traditions that formerly inspired and gave rise to civilizations” (Historical Atlas of World Mythology: Vol. I: The Way of the Animal Powers, p. 8).
What follows is a key exchange between Campbell and Bill Moyers in The Power of Myth PBS television interview (Part 2 of 6: “The Message of the Myth”), which aired in 1988 (only months after Campbell’s death), that makes this clear. This is from the official transcript:
CAMPBELL: Just as the old myths incorporated the tools that people used, the forms of the tools and so forth are associated with power systems that are involved in the culture. We have not a mythology that incorporates these [italics mine]. The new powers are being, so to say, surprisingly announced to us by what the machines [computers] can do. We can’t have a mythology for a long, long time to come; things are changing too fast. The environment in which we’re living is changing too fast for it to become mythologized. You must realize—
MOYERS: How do we live without myths, then?
CAMPBELL: Well, we’re doing it. The individual has to find the aspect of myth that has to do with the conduct of his life. There are a number of services that myths serve. The basic one is opening the world to the dimension of mystery. If you lose that, you don’t have a mythology, to realize the mystery that underlies all forms. But then there comes the cosmological aspect of myth, seeing that mystery as manifest through all things, so that the universe becomes as it were a holy picture, you are always addressed to the transcendent mystery through that. But then there’s another function, and that’s the sociological one, of validating and maintaining a certain society. That is the side of the thing that has taken over in our world.
MOYERS: What do you mean?
CAMPBELL Ethical laws, the laws of life in the society, all of Yahweh’s pages and pages and pages of what kinds of clothes to wear, how to behave to each other, and all that, do you see, in terms of the values of that particular society. But then there’s a fourth function of myth, and this is the one I think today everyone must try to relate to, and that’s the pedagogical function. How to live a human lifetime under any circumstances. Myth can tell you that.
The apparent disagreement between Quinn and Campbell is basically a matter of semantics. For Campbell, a “living mythology” must first and foremost satisfy what he calls “the mystical function.” By this he means that the mythology must be capable of facilitating a direct experience of transcendence, or of breaking through to that invisible plane of reality that lies behind, and is supportive, of the visible plane. Once a mythology can no longer perform this prime function, residual elements or fragments of the remaining functions—the cosmological, the sociological, and the pedagogical—may still be embedded in a culture. But to Campbell this is a headless horseman, the shrieking ghost of a living mythology.
Thus, when Quinn says that there is a single mythology underlying all civilization, including our own, this is not inconsistent with Campbell’s view. Campbell understood that our present world mythologies—particularly in the west—have essentially ceased to function as mystical transporters; their “active ingredients” long having expired even as their inert residues remain. And, as I think Campbell and Quinn both concur, these residues can and do turn rancid and poisonous.
From Mainstream Religion, and specifically the Bible, we inherit the residual idea of “dominion.” Human beings are the ones who are rightfully in charge of the Earth, because we are created in God’s “image” (whatever that means), the “image” of the Cosmic King. We are thus properly the “kings” of this world, as the doctrine of the divine right of kings would have it. The title of the world was rightfully transferred to us at its (and our) origin:
“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.’ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” (Gen.1: 26-7)
This, of course, was the prelapsarian situation, before we messed up, ate the forbidden fruit, and got kicked out of Eden. The world was ours because we inherited it from Daddy. He bequeathed it to us on the spot. It is ours De Jure.
Mainstream Science, which nominally sees itself as the antithesis of religion, would, of course, have none of this Creationist business. We are here only because of the “fortunate accident” of a Big Bang that in turn led to the accident of life coming into being on Earth, evolving from very simple, single-celled amoebas all the way on up to very complex hairless apes. Humans triumphed because they were able, through their superior intelligence, to fight their way up to the top of the food chain, and win the grand prize in the competition of nature, which is “red in tooth and claw.” Not by divine right, then, but by martial force we are the De Facto rulers of the planet. Or, if one accepts the formulation that “might makes right,” then it is a right by customary law—in fact, one of the accepted meanings of the ancient Greek word nomos, which means both customary and positive law, and is the root basis of the English word “nomological.” This is the law of the jungle, the evolutionary survival of the fittest.
But evolution has not ended. Not by a long shot. For we are in the process of acquiring the power to manipulate and control the evolutionary process itself, which will no longer be governed by chance adaptation, but rather by deliberate, conscious, controlled mutation.
All of us “old biologicals” are the evolutionary equivalent of Neanderthals living out our twilight years amongst the dramatic sunlit birthing of a brand new species: the enhanced, artificially intelligent, “plus” model: Transhuman, or, in Stephan Schwartz’s memorable phrase, “Homo Superior” (https://www.schwartzreport.net/?s=homo+superior). Cyber technology, including and especially our ability to manipulate DNA with CRISPR, is making possible the realization of the old fever dreams of both science and religion: to conquer death and transcend our humanity; to ascend to the heavens and become deified as a brand new constellation. The world wide web in our veins and genes will fully operationalize psi capacities for instantaneous knowledge of all things, past, present and future, everywhen and everywhere. Precognition, retrocognition, and clairvoyance at the push of a belly-button–so to speak. The new human will not only be as good-looking as a movie star,, invulnerable to disease, genius level intelligent, and as creative as DaVinci, but effectively omniscient and omnipotent. Only they will no longer sport those decadent fleshly omphaloi, because no one in the future who is not a vestigial Neanderthal will be born “in the old way.” Our cyborg and android replacements, funded by eager billionaires, will become the true champions at last!
This is not science fiction; it is our near-term future. Unless, that is, we decide to take a different path.
I submit that we don’t need to change our genes, “enhance” our humanity with biotechnological implants, or abandon our flesh for silicon and titanium. We just need to change our ideas, so we can live according to the human impulse system that lies just beneath the predatory ideologies in which we have been thoroughly indoctrinated. One might even say brainwashed. Our task is to recover the humanity we lost in playing this game of “civilization,” in which we believe ourselves to be apart from and superior to the rest of the members of the family of life, here on earth and throughout the cosmos, or what Quinn calls “a larger community, a community consisting of all nonhuman life” (Providence, p. 19).
Would this community of nonhuman life include—well, nonhuman intelligences that may either be “alien,” or of origins that are not usually thought of as indigenous to Earth? Could it be that our current encounters with such entities are the subtle drivers of a coming mythological revolution?
Perhaps the path of control is not merely wrongheaded, but is actually just an illusion; we were never really in charge of anything. We just thought we were. Or acted as such; even though, on some, if only unconscious, level we knew better.
Listen to Jacques and Ingo
This, then, brings me back around to the introduction of my post, where I indicated that recently I have become aware of hints and clues strewn about that seem to question our alleged world “championship.”
The first clue comes from Dr. Jacques Vallée, who has been taking to the podcast “airwaves” to promote the newly revised, second edition of the recent book he co-authored with Paola Harris, Trinity: The Best-Kept Secret (2021). This newer 2022 edition is the result of their expanded investigation, including new witness testimony, into the “crash” of an avocado-shaped UFO near the first atomic bomb test site at Trinity, New Mexico in 1945. The crash occurred on August 16th, 1945, thirty days to the day after the “test” explosion; ten days after the first bomb was dropped on Hiroshima; and seven days following the dropping of the second bomb on Nagasaki.
What I think is absolutely crucial to bear in mind here is not merely Dr. Vallée’s considerable bona fides as an astrophysicist and information scientist in Silicon Valley, or his long and distinguished career as a meticulously careful UFO investigator and pioneering theorist; but most importantly are his connections with governmental agencies, through his work on the Air Force’s Project Blue Book with J. Allen Hynek, his tenure at Stanford SRI, his early work on the ARPANET, his efforts with Robert Bigelow’s organizations and their government-sponsored programs (AATIP, AAWSAP and BAASS), not to mention his longstanding association with the UFO investigative body of the French space agency, the CNES. And although he presents his comments as nothing more than speculation, it is not only highly erudite and informed speculation, but it is being made by a respected insider with longstanding proximity to power. Vallée’s “speculations” must be taken seriously indeed.
In Episode # 282 (September 11, 2022) of “Somewhere in the Skies,” Ryan Sprague, the interviewer, asks Vallée about the various resemblances between the UFO cases at Trinity, Socorro, and Valensole (France) that Vallée had just enumerated (and indeed, he has personally investigated all three cases); specifically, whether Vallée believes there is the same technology, and perhaps the same intelligence, at work in all three cases. To which Vallée responds:
“Take it to the next level. We have to wonder: Why is it that . . . we have this extraordinary weapon, the atomic bomb . . . Why haven’t we used it [again, after Japan in World War II]? We didn’t use it in Korea. We didn’t use it in Vietnam. Russia has never used it in its own conflicts around the world. France has never used it. Why? This is the first time in history that a weapon that is extraordinarily effective has not been used for eighty years. . . Does it have something to do—was [the UFO “crash” at] Trinity a signal to us from something else? . . . I mean . . . I cannot answer that question, but we have to ask that question.”
Vallée often speaks allusively and cryptically in the way of someone who is used to giving clues and hints, because he knows a great deal more than he is able, or willing, to tell publicly. But on another podcast, Episode #788 (September 19, 2022) of “Strange Planet,” Vallée was far less allusive and more direct. When asked by the interviewer, Richard Syrett, about his view of the connection between the Trinity crash and the bomb “test” (actually, as Vallée points out, it was a full-scale explosion the size of the bomb that would be dropped on Nagasaki) one month to the day before the “avocado” slammed into the Padilla farm, Vallée replies succinctly and with great emphasis:
“ I think it changed human history. Period.”
Vallée is suggesting that a signal was sent by “Them,” and that the message was received and understood by “us”–that is, the United States; then, the Soviet Union, and subsequently all the other nation-states (including his own native France) that would acquire nuclear weapons capabilities. Now Vallée is not saying, as some have alleged, that there were face-to-face meetings between us and “Them,” or that some sort of formal agreements were signed by governmental representatives. He is pointedly saying no such thing. Yet, what he is saying is no less astonishing. His idea is that “They” deliberately crashed that “avocado” to send humanity a pointed message, in effect: ‘We’ve got something vastly more powerful than what you have, and therefore you best be careful about using it again, lest we use what we have against you.’ If not technically, that is, legally, an act of intimidation, that’s still pretty intimidating, nevertheless, isn’t it?
The question, of course, is this: just why would “They” want to prevent nuclear war? Is it a purely altruistic, “for our own good,” to prevent us from destroying ourselves? Or is it more self-interested? Would a nuclear holocaust possibly harm “Them” or their interests in some way? Are they, perhaps, indigenous to Earth, but hidden, or from an adjacent dimension of Earth that could be adversely affected by widespread use of nuclear weapons? Or are they coming here from afar—another star system—in order to obtain something for themselves that would be jeopardized by a full-scale nuclear confrontation?
This truly is sheer speculation. But whatever it is, Their “interest” in our nuclear capabilities did not end in 1945, as Robert Hastings has so carefully and assiduously documented in his massive volume, UFOs and Nukes (2nd ed., 2017); a point which Vallée well understands and underscored. His further comments indicated knowledge of high level meetings that took place between our own military officials and their Soviet military counterparts to discuss Their interference with the operation of nuclear missile installations, either to cause the unauthorized arming of missiles (as with the Soviets) or their unauthorized disarming (as with the United States); both situations further underscoring the point that Vallée was making: we are not really in charge.
See, we are not the champions!
Of course, Vallee’s “suggestion” about the meaning behind and historical importance of what he calls the “controlled crash” of the avocado-shaped UFO near the Trinity atomic bomb detonation site is only one aspect of his larger point, made in his earlier UFO book, Dimensions (1988): that all of human history, and the evolution of human consciousness that has taken place within it, is the result of the intelligence behind UFOs acting as a control system, using unscheduled patterns of reinforcement, most recently in the form of UFO appearances and close encounters, usually in periodic waves or “flaps,” to provoke awe, wonder, curiosity, and ultimately, sustained inquiry into the great Mystery we call reality. In that sense, all of human history, and not merely our collective reticence to re-use atomic weapons, has been not entirely in our own monkey hands and of their making. This larger point of Vallee’s cannot be ignored or minimized, as it provides an essential context for his claims. Here he is in his own words:
“I propose that there is a spiritual control system for human consciousness and that paranormal phenomena like UFOs are one of its manifestations. I cannot tell whether this control is natural and spontaneous; whether it is explainable in terms of genetics, of social psychology, or of ordinary phenomena—or if it is artificial in nature, under the power of some superhuman will . . . . We also know under what conditions this learning [of a new behavior] is irreversible. These conditions are precisely similar to the pattern that the UFO phenomenon has been following over the years—intense activity followed by quiet periods when it seems to have gone away entirely. Is it trying to teach us something? With every new wave of sightings, the social impact becomes greater. More people become fascinated with space, with new frontiers in consciousness. More books and articles appear, changing our culture in the direction of a new image of man” (Dimensions, p. 272; p. 273).
And yet, this is still an external form of influence, an outside stimulus applied that may or may not elicit the desired response. Is there, perhaps, an even deeper, far more intimate level in which “They” are exercising, or attempting to exercise, mass control over humans?
Here I’m not referring to UFO abductions, which primarily and directly affect selected individuals; or even the further, secondary individual psychological and sociological effects on the rest of us as we come to terms with the reality of abductions (or other high strangeness) as part of the UFO phenomenon. Certainly there are abundant instances of abducted individuals and other close encounter witnesses who report a mysterious loss of self-will, and an extreme suggestibility to telepathic communications or instructions from Them, including memory tampering that blots out time and/or installs so-called “screen memories” in place of the actual events (for example, seeing owls instead of Grays). No, what I’m referring to here is a control factor that affects virtually everyone, and is an internally experienced compulsion rather than an externally perceived factor of coercion.
Enter Ingo Swann.
It was only recently that I finally got around to reading Ingo’s provocative book, Penetration: The Question of Extraterrestrial and Human Telepathy (in its special, updated, 2020 edition; it was originally self-published by Ingo back in 1998). Penetration details his remote viewing of the moon at the behest of some mysterious government entity, and his subsequent encounters with a UFO and an ET (Ingo’s preferred term).
I say “finally” because, back in the 1990s, I was acquainted with someone who knew Ingo. This individual had enormous respect for Ingo and all his psychic and scientific work in parapsychology. As a result, I would periodically visit Ingo’s website and download all the materials he would post there, including his essays on psychic development and his history of remote viewing. Nevertheless, when I read his blurb for the original version of Penetration, it crossed my “boggle threshold,” and I just couldn’t go there. But perhaps my reticence was itself a symptom of the very problem he was identifying and diagnosing.
Well, it “only” took me twenty-four years to cross that bridge after I’d come to it! That in itself says something significant. And when I did read the book, I was astonished to realize that Ingo’s reflections on his extraordinary experiences suggested an alternate set of answers to questions I’d only recently been asking myself. Perhaps my “chance” re-engagement with his work was not a sheer accident after all?
Allow me to back up, just a bit.
My questions had to do with memory, and specifically, with my lack thereof of certain key experiences. I had recently been reading through some of my old journals. What struck me was that I had completely forgotten some of the most astonishing and powerful experiences I’d ever had. I wrote an article for the Monroe Institute blog about this odd discovery (“Don’t Forget: There Is Only Remembering” by Joseph Felser). My question was simple: Why? Why had I forgotten, for example, an ecstatic out-of-body experience, as well as a dream in which I apparently received information through paranormal means?
One hypothesis I considered is that, despite my own professed acceptance of the reality, and therefore, of the theoretical possibility, of such phenomena as OBEs and psi, there may, nevertheless, be a residual, subconscious part of me that automatically censors such experiences when I have them. Perhaps because I am still reticent to rock the boat of the dominant, materialistic cultural paradigm? Am I secretly fearful of ridicule and social ostracism? The psychological need for social belonging is a powerful force that can operate beneath our conscious belief systems and levels of awareness. The other blocking factors I considered were also psychologically endogenous in origin.
Then, a few weeks after I’d submitted my final draft to the editor of the Monroe blog, I began reading Ingo’s book, freshly baked from Amazon. Which got me to thinking: What if the memory blocking factors were not endogenous? What if they—or at least some of them—had an exogenous source?
Before I get down to specifics, allow me to pause to introduce Ingo to those who may not be aware of the enormous significance of his contribution to the studies of parapsychology, and human consciousness in general. While it’s difficult for me to believe that there are such individuals, I’m also aware that, for various reasons, he has not always been given his due. A full and proper biographical summary may be found here (https://ingoswann.com/). But I will let one of Ingo’s remote viewing students, and a contributor to the revised edition of Penetration, have his say here:
“During my almost four years of working with Ingo, I came to recognize him as much more than just the father of remote viewing; Ingo was a creative genius, a gifted artist, a writer, a teacher, a mentor, a visionary . . . an inter-galactic time traveler . . . and a friend” (Penetration, 2nd ed., p. 248).
—-Lt. Col. Thomas M. McNear, U. S. Army (ret.)
Debra Lynne Katz, a well-regarded psychic, remote viewer (too young to have been trained by Ingo!), and researcher who worked in the Ingo Swann archives at the University of West Georgia, says this:
“I was aware he had exhibited convincing evidence of PK and was the creator of the controlled remote viewing methodology . . . [But] I was convinced Ingo was not just a psychic subject [who did extensive experiments with Gertrude Schmeidler at City College/CUNY, and with Hal Putoff and Russell Targ at SRI]—he was as much a scientist in his own right as anyone he worked with at the Stanford Research Institute (SRI) . . . . I’d classify Swann as both an experimentalist and social scientist. I also discovered he was not merely a naturally gifted psychic, but rather had spent an exorbitant amount time developing his skills and then trying to figure out how he could pass on his knowledge to others, even while continuing to hone his own.” (“Fridays with Ingo: Scientist and Psychic,” Mindfield, Vol. 13 Issue #2 2021, p. 13.)
Despite–or perhaps because of –Ingo’s ultra-high reputation for both psychic accuracy and personal integrity, at least some of his close associates were concerned for his reputation, and had reservations about his decision (once the relevant non-disclosure agreement had expired) to write about and publish the sensational experiences which form the core of Penetration. Ingo himself notes in the Preface to the book that he experienced much frustration and inner resistance, and that the manuscript was rejected by more than twenty publishers before he decided to self-publish it (Penetration, p.5). As I indicated above, I myself had experienced a longstanding resistance to even reading the book, despite my esteem for the author. Again, why?
This goes to the heart of the extraordinary events narrated in Penetration, and to Ingo’s own hypothesis as to the reasons why they were basically “eighty-sixed” from his conscious memory.
For those who have no knowledge of the book’s contents, the key triggering event was Ingo’s being tasked, in 1975–in the wake of his astonishingly successful 1973 remote viewing of Jupiter, with numerous psychic data subsequently confirmed by Pioneer 10 and 11–with remote viewing the Moon by a “deep black” government agency evidently concerned with UFOs and aliens. The early chapters of the book describe all the fascinating cloak-and-dagger stuff surrounding the efforts of this agency to bring Ingo on board with their secret project.
What flabbergasted Ingo when he viewed the dark side of the Moon was his perception of a secret alien base, from which he was unceremoniously “ejected,” or warned away telepathically, by the robust alien presence. It was clear to him that the government agent in charge—known to Ingo only as “Mr. Axelrod,” a pseudonym—had already strongly suspected the existence of this base, and was looking to Ingo for confirmation. Subsequently to this viewing episode, Ingo had an encounter in a Los Angeles supermarket that was at once disturbing and comic with what he perceived as an alien that had the appearance of a stunningly attractive and scantily clad human female. Following this bizarre encounter, Ingo was given an invitation by Mr. Axelrod to fly to an unknown location (probably Alaska) to witness the dramatic arrival of a UFO over a lake, as it proceeded to fire apparently lethal beams of energy into the woods and literally suck up lake water into the craft.
Now how in the world could anyone ever forget any of that???
How, indeed? Ingo writes that he had never intended to make a written record of what he dubbed, “the Axelrod Affair,” because of the high level of secrecy that had been involved. However, as the years passed, and his agreement to remain silent expired, he finally decided to make such a record. He was struck by
“a certain astonishment about how EASY it had been to forget about that affair . . . Indeed, one would think that the Axelrod sequences would have been indelibly etched in one’s memory . . . But this was not the case at all. And because this was not the case, I slowly became aware that there was something associated with the sequences—something perhaps best described as a kind of amnesia.” (Penetration, p. 78)
What is the exact nature and source of this amnesia? Ingo doesn’t exactly say out loud in so many words. But unlike my own hypotheses about inward psychological states referenced above, he is clearly here hinting–not so subtly–at an external source, an induced “amnesia” not unlike what is reported by individual UFO experiencers:
“I seem to recall, but can’t remember where, a science fiction story of social-wide amnesia having to do with hypnotic commands to FORGET, FORGET what you have seen, and ATTACK AND DESTROY those who insist they have seen it. . . This kind of thing is really far out, and this writer, of course, cannot insist on anything of the kind.” (Penetration, p. 81)
Actually, six years earlier than the original publication of Penetration in 1998, in a 1992 published article in Fate Magazine (“The UFO Extraterrestrial Problem,” September 1992), Ingo hadn’t been coy or allusive at all: he came right out and said that, in his view, They (he called them “ETs”) were responsible for our widespread amnesia with regard to our own psychic abilities, as well as the overt hostility to all things psychic, as well as the UFO phenomenon, by the “debunkers,” and scientific “skeptics”:
“It should be clear that they [the ETs] are not eager for us to develop psychically enough to enable us to psychically assess them. It is possible to deduce that the reason psychic research is resisted and debunked in our societies may originate with them and not with us. We, as a species, may have been mind-entrained by them to attack and destroy our own psychic capacities.”
Is it true that on a mass scale, including at the level of nation states, we are being coerced and controlled by non-human intelligent Others, ether indirectly and externally, in a cosmic-political sense, as Jacques Vallee would have it? Or directly and internally, through super-telepathy, as Ingo Swann would have it?
As I have previously acknowledged, I have the greatest respect and highest regard for both of these researchers, and enormous admiration for their work and accomplishments. I therefore take their claims with the utmost degree of seriousness. That said, I cannot verify their claims—or falsify them, for that matter. I strongly suspect that there is a core of truth in both sets of claims.
Yet, this question of facticity may be of secondary importance.
What matters more is that their respective suggestions about widespread non-human influence in human affairs are ripples on a wave; they are the harbingers of an imminent transmutation of our human consciousness situation and the advent of a new, post-anthropocentric mythology. This is a full, living mythology in Joseph Campbell’s sense, including a vibrant mystical function; which means the ability to facilitate the direct experiencing of the mysterious.
Ironically, it turns out that the much despised and ridiculed UFO enigma—or “the Phenomenon,” as many now refer to it in all its various and sundry aspects—will upend civilization and its central dogma: that we humans are the champions. This is a cultural fantasy of runaway inflated egotism. We are not in charge of this planet, and never have been. And we certainly don’t own it. Not by a long stretch.
This would have come as no surprise to the indigenous peoples of this American continent, for one. Their mythologies were predicated on the knowledge of the subordinate place of the human being in nature, or of the rightful claims to equality of value and status of the other members of the family of life. Which is undoubtedly why, when Indians (I’m here using the preferred term of American Indian UFO researcher and author, Ardy Sixkiller Clarke) encounter the Phenomenon, they are characteristically far more accepting of “high strangeness,” and less given to what the late John Mack called “ontological shock.” This is precisely because, historically speaking, they have had a very different ontology and cosmology, not to mention morality and spirituality. (If you have any doubt about this, read any of Ardy Sixkiller Clarke’s terrific books, starting with Encounters with Star People: Untold Stories of American Indians (2012)).
For example, in the Zuni creation myth, humans are created last—as they are in Genesis 1 (though not in Genesis 2, where Adam is made before Eve, and both are created before the plants and animals). But unlike those who interpret the Biblical ordering as God “saving the best for last,” the Zunis have a very different interpretation, as my old friend, the author Hal Zina Bennett, notes:
“Finally, it should be remembered that within the Zuni belief system, the most primitive and mysterious life forms are considered to be closest to the Creator. The more fully developed the animal in terms of ego and mental development, the more difficult communication with the Creator becomes. Thus, humans, being the most ‘finished’ of beings, are the furthest from the gods. Poshaiankia provided animals that they might aid humans in all matters of life, including communication with the gods” (Zuni Fetishes, p. 98).
The best general statement of the Indian position that I know of is contained in that marvelous book, Pumpkin Seed Point: Being Within the Hopi (1969), by Frank Waters, who was himself part Indian, and who lived for three years among the Hopi. It was in his chapter on “Two Views of Nature,” where he contrasts the European/Biblical dominionist view (or what he calls “the Christian-European white race”) of the New World as “one vast new treasure house of inanimate nature that existed solely to be exploited for the material welfare of man” (Pumpkin Seed Point, p. 57), with the animist view of the Indians:
“The land was not tangible property to be owned, divided, and alienated at will. It was their Mother Earth from which they were born, on whose breast they were suckled, and to whose womb they were returned in a prenatal posture at death. . . . . The earth-mother had many children other than man: the stem of long wild grass that developed into a stalk of maize, the lofty spruce, all the birds of the air, the beasts of plain and forest, the insect and the ant. They too had equal rights to life. They supplied the needs pf man, but they were not sacrificed ruthlessly and wantonly” (Pumpkin Seed Point, pp.64-65).
Waters goes on to explain how the Indians’ various sacrificial ceremonies for taking the lives of plants and animals paid tribute to the one life force, variously named by the different tribes, that is the creative field of consciousness that pervades and unites all things. The Indians did not consider themselves as above all life, its master or ruler, but rather, “[t]hey regarded themselves as a part of one living whole” (p. 65).
It is precisely this fundamental attitude of humility and surrender of a selfish an arrogant ego that the new, post-anthropocentric mythology must and will embrace.
Of course, among the American Indians (and indeed all indigenous peoples), there have always been sorcerers as well as shamans; individuals who used their connections to the “one living whole” to benefit only themselves, and to harm others for pleasure, power, or profit. This selfishness is in sharp contrast to the shamans, who characteristically used their visionary powers and connections with the spirits to help the community keep in tune with the greater powers, and to heal the wounds, both physical and psychic, that life can and does all too often inflict on us as individuals.
The thing is, in tribal cultures, sorcery was regarded as deviant and evil. That’s the difference! Our present “civilization” is built upon “sorcery;” it is mainstream rather than marginal and parasitic. By and large, our culture “heroes” are those charismatic power, wealth, and attention-worshipping charlatans who greedily grab everything on the plate for themselves, without compunction or hesitation, and will steamroll over anyone and anything that may get in the way of them getting exactly what they want, when they want it–which is always “now.” We have regressed to a condition of pure, unadulterated infantilism.
This cannot be sustained. We are headed for disaster—and transformation.
“We do have a right”
In this light, accepting the reality of the UFO Phenomenon and our proper place in the whole may be not just humbling, but downright humiliating, especially at first. It’s going to be an arduous transition in many ways, including emotionally, and is very far away indeed from being all sweetness and light.
As Whitley Strieber reports in Communion: A True Story (1987), when he was initially abducted by what he came to call “the Visitors,” he was subjected against his will to invasive and, in some cases, quite painful physical procedures by his captors. The one apparently in charge—the tall Gray he perceived as female—informed Strieber, quite matter-of-factly, that they were going to perform an operation on him. Here is the exchange between the Gray and Strieber as recorded in the transcript of Strieber’s initial hypnosis session when he first recovered the memory of the traumatic event:
“We won’t hurt you.”
“I’m not gonna let you do an operation on me. You have absolutely no right.”
“We do have a right.” (Communion, p. 83)
We do have a right.
We come back again to the question of right, with which we began our discussion here. De Jure or De facto? There is cosmic justice, and I’m not talking about karma here. As Frank Waters observed, the American Indian view was that the rights of humans did not automatically or necessarily trump the rights of the other non-human members of the family of life. Indeed, the spiritual rituals of Indian peoples, as well as their everyday experiences—which were all part of the greater ritual of life—paid homage to the spirits of the animals, plants, rocks, and water, and all the elementary powers which they recognized as superior to themselves, and with which they attempted to remain always in sympathetic accord.
Let me be clear: I’m not calling for the ego to be erased or annihilated in order to effect a merger with some formless All, as many Hindu and Buddhist traditions would require us to believe. This is old mythology, too, and not the new mythology to come. If nature had no use for an ego—for our individuality—she never would have created it in the first place. Ego exists for a reason. Making it into the cause of all evil and the source of all suffering is equivalent to saying that the universe as we know it never should have been. Which is the same thing as whining that Adam and Eve never should have exercised their God-given freedom of will to eat the “forbidden fruit” that gave them the knowledge of who and what they really were. What must be incorporated into the new mythology, then, is an understanding that the ego is a means, not an end in itself; it is a tool of consciousness to accomplish the creation of a certain kind of awareness and rational intelligence. To worship the ego, as we do, is thus idolatry. But to hate it or wish for its annihilation is equally mistaken. The new mythology must integrate wholeness with individuality. With the exception of some quantum physicists and other “deviants” like parapsychologists and those who have had Exceptional Experiences, our civilization has largely forgotten wholeness.
One final point: The humiliation of a grossly inflated airbag monster of an ego is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for a true act of spiritual surrender. It isn’t enough for Icarus to crash on Earth; he needs to go down to the Underworld.
As I said above, and as Whitley Strieber–and thousands, if not millions of other UFO experiencers– confirm, it is most assuredly not all sweetness and light. The Underworld is a very dark and dangerous place.
There is an important figure, largely forgotten today, but from whom we could learn much.
W. Brugh Joy had become a practitioner of alternative healing and teacher, but his original profession was that of a classically trained medical doctor whose credentials included the prestigious John Hopkins University and the Mayo Clinic. His practice of internal medicine was thriving and he was living the California Dream: beautiful house, beautiful wife, fast sports cars, etc. But something didn’t feel quite right. He couldn’t put his finger on his reason for his dissatisfaction, but it began to take a physical toll, as well. He was having excruciating abdominal pains which were subsequently diagnosed as idiopathic chronic relapsing pancreatitis—”idiopathic” meaning of unknown origin. No physical cause could be determined. No one could tell him why he was sick.
Joy had begun a daily practice of meditation in his office, sort of as a last resort. One day in meditation he heard a booming voice that told him that his life as he had known it was all over. The voice—I would call it his daimon—proceeded to give him a set of detailed instructions, including a worldwide itinerary to visit certain places like the Findhorn community in Scotland, which, at the time, was totally unknown to him. But Joy had the good sense to heed the daimon, and in short order, his practice, his house, and his sport cars were all sold, his marriage was dissolved, and he was off on his physical and spiritual journeys. Later on, much to his surprise, he suddenly realized that his attacks of pancreatitis had ceased, as well.
This fascinating story of transformation is thoroughly documented in Joy’s first book, Joy’s Way (1979), which I only read after I read his second book, Avalanche: Heretical Reflections on the Dark and the Light (1990), at the suggestion of a colleague and friend after it had just been published. Joy’s Way is a typical “New Age” book in the sense that it is dominated by positive thinking: sweetness and light.
However, in Avalanche, written ten years later, he describes a seminal experience of what William James, following Emmanuel Swedenborg, would have called a “vastation,” or a complete annihilation of certitude and emptying of belief. In this episode, which occurred in Egypt as he was observing the sunrise from the top of the Great Pyramid of Cheops, he was confronted with what he described as “meaningless, painful void” (Avalanche, p. 7), which struck me as I read his account as not at all unlike the godless, irrational universe described by dour Existentialist philosophers such as Albert Camus. All his nice, New Age spiritual bromides collapsed in a heap of rubble, leaving only this dark void. Yet, inexplicably he felt liberated and unburdened, even exhilarated. Thus began an even deeper and richer quest for self-knowledge that took him to the works of such as C.G. Jung, and to the further reaches of a painful, yet paradoxically illuminating introspective examination of his own “dark” side.
Not everyone in his audiences appreciated this turn to the unconscious, however. Joy interpreted this as resistance to knowledge of one’s own dark side, and fear of the consequences of surrendering to that which is beyond our control. You don’t always get love and light, or just what you want or even expect:
“[T]he Mystery Play of Life unfolds in ways beyond the understanding of our ego and, in fact, may call for our particular combination of forces to serve Life in a manner that is not ego-enhancing. The Mystery Play may even call for self-sacrifice and personal death” (Avalanche, p. 188).
Now, who among us is prepared to receive that disturbing message?
Joy himself would find out when he gave a joint workshop with David Spangler, the mystic, author, and onetime Findhorn co-director. Their audience was shocked and scandalized when Spangler made a similar point:
“The best example of this was presented by my friend David Spangler during a dialogue he and I were having in front of the participants at one of our annual five-day year-end residential retreats. As we were discussing the subject of surrendering to Spirit, surrendering to the Force that directs the Unfoldment of life, David pointed out that when we do so to serve Spirit, we may be asked to become the blade of grass on which the storm troopers’ boots walk!” (Avalanche, p. 188).
This passage struck me deeply, and it stayed with me for many years after I initially read it in 1990. Perhaps ten years or so ago, I was moved to write a kind of homage to this ideal of surrender. It came to me in the form of what I called “a fractured fairy tale”:
Once upon a time, a foolish man got himself into a bad situation that was depriving him of his peace of mind, his happiness, and even his health. No matter how hard he tried to free himself from his troubles, nothing changed.
One night, just before retiring, he dropped to his knees by the side of his bed, looked upward to the heavens, and cried out loud to God.
“Oh Lord,” he pleaded, “I’m not a particularly good or pious man. But if you release me from my troubles, I promise to obey only Your Law. Thy Will be done.” The man kept repeating his prayer, over and over, and sobbed himself to sleep.
The following morning, the man awoke, anxious but hopeful. But alas, as he went through his day, he realized to his agony that the situation hadn’t changed; his prayer had gone unanswered.
More desperate than ever, that night, just before retiring, he dropped to his knees beside the bed and, turning his gaze downward, addressed himself to the Infernal One.
“Oh Satan,” he pleaded, “I’m not a particularly bad or impious man. But if you release me from my troubles, I promise to do Thy bidding.” Suddenly the little room was suffused by flash of light, a dark cloud of smoke, and the foul odor of sulfur. Inside the cloud was the Evil One Himself.
“Are you sure you want to make a deal with the likes of me?” the Devil asked slyly.
“Yes,” the man replied. “I’ll do anything you ask.”
“Okay,” said the Devil. “It is done.” And in a flash, Satan was gone.
The following morning, the man awoke, anxious but hopeful. But alas, as he went through his day, he realized to his agony that the situation hadn’t changed; his deal had been broken. He cried out in anguish: “Satan, you have betrayed me!”
Instantly, the Horned One appeared before the man, flashing his demonic grin. “No, I haven’t,” replied Satan. “I was the answer to your prayer.”
We absolutely do have free will. I’m not suggesting otherwise. At a bare minimum, we have the ability to say yes or no to our fate, or to what life asks of us. We can ignore the daimon, we can refuse to surrender, and then we can crown the ego as world emperor, giving it unbridled free rein.
But having free will doesn’t mean that we will, or should, get whatever we want. We’re not in charge, no matter what we think; nor should we be. In point of fact, as we are discovering, we don’t have the right to do whatever we want to do—to endlessly exploit and plunder the Earth’s wealth of resources, jeopardize the well-being of countless other species and life-forms, and endanger the health of the planetary biosphere itself.
The undoubtedly traumatic mythological tergiversation that will take place in the not-too-distant future will require us to stop asking what we want from life, and instead ask what life needs from us. This may initially feel like an onerous imposition; but only this way lies true freedom. We must heed the daimon. I have heard the Dutch philosopher Bernardo Kastrup say as much, and I couldn’t agree more. I am convinced that our collective encounters with UFOs, especially as they are no longer dismissed and ridiculed by cultural authorities, will be a prime stimulus to do so. As Joseph Campbell well understood, it is only from such direct personal experiences with the Mystery that a genuinely new mythology will arise.
The late archetypal psychologist James Hillman loved to quote that line from W.H. Auden’s poem: “We are lived by powers we pretend to understand.” Yet, it is precisely in that pretense—that conscious, deliberate, free act of pretending—that lies the genius of play: the wonder of human creativity as it responds to its encounters with those numinous powers. That’s precisely where the new mythology will come from. The play’s the thing.