Friday, January 21, 2011

Contact – a modern parable

Ever since earthling humans first gathered together around the ancient fire at night, we have listened to storytellers narrate the epic adventures of old. We have always asked… eyes a-glow… for the tellers of such tales to recount the exploits of the hero who stumbles across a door or portal to the spirit world. We have listened, transfixed as the storyteller describes our hero’s meeting of the little ones, the fairy folk who inhabit this other world. We have been amazed at the mysteries revealed and treasures given to our hero and delighted at his or her return to the “ordinary world” only to have the treasures melt away at journey’s end.

These tales of the other ones have been part of our most archaic mythologies, as far back in time as human memory goes. Whether they be… the elves, fairy folk or leprechauns from European traditions, the Jinn of Middle-Eastern tradition, the Abatwa from Africa, or the Yosei of Japan… there they are… peering up at us with those big almond eyes… tempting us to follow. A significant portion of our temptation has been the marvelous treasures that are promised, or at least implied. Treasures such as silver & gold (of course), magical objects (technologies) of power or secret knowledge that promises to expand our hero’s personal power. Often, our hero assumes that these promised gifts will provide a resilient and tactical advantage to his/her tribe.

This recurring motif is archetypical in the Jungian sense, being consistently present throughout Earth’s many cultures and mythologies. The archetype of the hero, as well as the archetype of the other resonates with all peoples. A student of Dr. Carl Jung, Joseph Campbell popularized the understanding of the universality such tales. Campbell mapped out the cycle of this story in what he called the mono-myth, or the hero’s journey. During the journey, a strange encounter with beings that are not of the waking world invariably comes to pass.

The nature of the encounter and our perception of the beings encountered has evolved over the course of human history. The appearance of such entities has morphed over time to reflect the culture’s current sophistication of understanding. More concisely, new metaphors for describing these entities encountered… supplanted the old. In ancient times, fairies communicated with our ancestors. In medieval times, incubi or succubi haunted our sleep… even paralyzing us and initiating sexual experimentation upon us.

In the early part of the last century, a new metaphor began to surface, like a U-boat’s periscope, above the waters of our collective unconscious. This metaphor reflected our emerging global industrial and scientific understanding and sophistication. Balls of light that at one time may have passed for angels became popularly known, by the WWII pilots who observed them, as “Foo Fighters.” After the War, these phenomena were observed more frequently. A now famous sighting near Washington State’s Mount Raineer in 1947 by pilot Kenneth Arnold popularized the term “flying saucer” in humanity’s newly global consciousness.

As the metaphor aligned or resonated with the current mental sophistication, wheels within wheels and fiery chariots gave way to technological imagery of alien spacecraft. The rascally leprechaun transformed into “little green men”… the sinister reproductive schema of the incubi became the “grey alien agenda.” A chance Meeting with the fairy folk has become… contact. The imagery of a century ago… wandering upon the “circle of the fairies” …is analogous to finding a UFO landing site, or discovering a crop circle. Note the similarities in the physical characteristics.

This mysterious and metaphorical re-alignment of shared cognitive imagery continued through the space-race era. As it did, our metaphors continued to evolve. The psychedelic revolution of the sixties and seventies added new dimensions to the now extra-terrestrial question. Psychedelic experience shed new light on the shamanic experience of indigenous peoples, necessitating a re-thinking, and greater appreciation for the otherworldly explorations of the past.

Organic hallucinogens such as peyote and psilocybin, as well as magical concoctions such as ayahuasca, came to represent a vehicle of intention, or action… that facilitated communication with otherworldly entities. Within this new context, the sorcerer or ayahuasqueros, in addition to being a shaman, became envoys to these worlds. Carlos Castaneda’s shaman, Don Juan… spoke of “mescalito” …the entity (little green man) within the peyote cactus, who was the gatekeeper to the nagual realm, described by Castaneda as a “non-ordinary reality.”

Thus the concept of extra-terrestrial contact comes full circle to include not only a physical encounter but also the possibility of said encounter taking place in a non-ordinary, alternate space or dimension... the realm of the fairies. As the psychoactive fungus, Amanita Muscaria often grows in a “fairy circle” configuration; the connection between fairy (crop) circles and extra-terrestrial contact takes on a more profound connotation. These entities, past and present, continue to be associated in symbolism, if not in fact. After all, the saucer… the modern symbol of an alien vehicle… is first and foremost a small plate, an artifact used to serve either food or drink (as is the chalice or grail).
Indeed, the possibility of physical contact alone seems limiting…

To search expectantly for a radio signal from an extraterrestrial source is probably as culture bound a presumption as to search the galaxy for a good Italian restaurant. And yet, this has been chosen as the avenue by which it is assumed contact is likely to occur. Meanwhile, there are people all over the world - psychics, shamans, mystics, schizophrenics - whose heads are filled with information, but it has been ruled a priori irrelevant, incoherent, or mad. Only that which is validated through consensus via certain sanctioned instrumentalities will be accepted as a signal. The problem is that we are so inundated by these signals - these other dimensions - that there is a great deal of noise in the circuit.
- Terrence McKenna

The evolving extra-terrestrial contact experience has been with us a long time. There is significance in not only the experiences but also the symbols and metaphors used to illustrate them. The fact that these symbols have deep meaning to everyone around the globe and throughout history cannot be denied. Similarly, archetypical motifs resonate with all peoples for a deeply interconnected reason. Understood as a metaphor, alien contact is the latest collective conceptual explanation for interaction with extra-ordinary reception of information from universe.

Contact indeed.

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