What is real, anyhow? Erik Davis on visionary experiences and the high weirdness of the seventies counterculture
Last night I digitally stumbled across this:
It’s Erik Davis’s senior thesis, written as he was pursuing his Ph.D. in religious studies at Rice University, and submitted just last fall. You’ll recall that I mentioned Erik’s study of this same high weirdness last year (and that he and I, and also Maja D’Aoust, had a good conversation about daemonic creativity and related matters a few years ago). Now here’s this, the scholarly fruit of his several years of research and writing, and it promises to be a fantastic — in several senses — read.
For me, at least, it’s also laden with mild synchronistic significance. I’m presently teaching an introduction to world religions course using Comparing Religions by Jeffrey J. Kripal as the main textbook, so I’m spending a lot of time immersed in Jeff’s thoughtworld, and also helping undergraduate college students to understand it. In the past two weeks I have had a couple of email communications with Jeff in connection with the crucial networking assistance that he provided in the early stages of Ghosts, Spirits, and Psychics as I was attempting to locate suitable contributors for the book. And then just last night as I was staring at my laptop screen and realizing with pleasure that I had accidentally found Erik’s thesis on the UFOs, synchronicities, psychedelic visions, alien voices, and other crazy anomalistic weirdnesses that characterized the seventies counterculture, I scanned down the cover page and had another surprise when I saw Jeffrey J. Kripal listed as a member of his thesis committee. It’s not a synchronicity in the same league as, say, Jung’s seminal encounter with the scarabaeid beetle, but it was enough to give me a start and a chuckle.
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From an essay by sculptor, guitarist, and Jungian therapist Paco Mitchell on the awesome significance of dreams as psychic, spiritual, religious, and mythic guides to our present and future age of apocalyptic breakdown and revelation:
We are living in an age widely regarded as “apocalyptic,” though many of us steadfastly try to keep the lid on our share of apocalyptic awareness. But, in the end, it is better to lift the lid and peer into the cauldron. Every therapist understands this, and every patient should as well. And the most direct way of seeing into the living darkness that surrounds us is through our dreams.
. . . In his great but underrated book Flying Saucers: A Modern Myth of Things Seen in the Sky, Jung puts our position into perspective:
The present world situation is calculated as never before to arouse expectations of a redeeming, supernatural event. If these expectations have not dared to show themselves in the open, this is simply because no one is deeply rooted enough in the tradition of earlier centuries to consider an intervention from heaven as a matter of course. We have indeed strayed far from the metaphysical certainties of the Middle Ages, but not so far that our historical and psychological background is empty of all metaphysical hope. Consciously, however, rationalistic enlightenment predominates, and this abhors all leanings towards the “occult.”
Although Jung’s book was devoted to an examination of UFO reports as symptoms of a modern myth in the process of forming, the larger syndrome of a myth-in-progress includes more than just flying saucer sightings, reports of abductions, or first-person accounts of being “probed” by aliens. The fact is that revelatory (apocalyptic) images are most likely flooding the dream-field as we speak, enriching our personalities and lives like silt from the rising waters of the Nile. The aggregation of these dream images and the life-experiences associated with them, will contribute over time to the formation of the new myth. Whatever metaphor we choose — a birth, an approaching dawn, an awakening — the features and full dimensions of this emerging phenomenon are scarcely discernible as yet. However, this should not deter us from keeping our eyes open, or lending our shoulders to the wheel.
. . . This responsibility of individuals is all the more enhanced by the charged and peculiar circumstances of the present historical moment. Despite Christian teachings, which imply that all the revelations ever needed are safely contained within the Bible, the fact is that apocalyptic, revelatory impulses from the collective unconscious are just as necessary, and just as valid, today as they were two thousand years ago, when the classical world of antiquity was breaking down. Now, when we lay our heads on our pillows at night, each of us participates in a kind of dream-lottery, to determine who and how many will wake up to find the mantle of John of Patmos on their shoulders, inscribing their own versions of apokalypsis onto the parchments of their dream journals — fragments of the new, soon-to-be-assembled Book of Revelation.
Tonight will see the official premiere in Hollywood of the new documentary film Sirius, which promises to be one of the more interesting — and perhaps more starkly significant? — UFO-related film projects to emerge since, well, ever. The film brings together the enduring “UFO disclosure” meme with the equally enduring theme of our planetary energy-and-environmental crisis, and includes as a central element the famous/notorious “La Noria ET,” the tiny humanoid “alien” found in Chile’s northern Atacama desert region in 2003.
The summary/teaser from the official press release conveys the gist (with, alas, faulty orthography in the form of a dropped hyphen):
Inspired by the work of Dr. Steven Greer, directed by Emmy Award winning Amardeep Kaleka and funded by the highest documentary crowd-funding in history, ‘Sirius’ introduces a DNA sequenced humanoid of unknown classification to the world and sheds definitive light on the scientific reality of UFO’s, ET’s, and Advanced Alternative Energy Technology. ‘Sirius’ is narrated by actor Thomas Jane (HBO series ‘Hung’).
In more detail, and with a similar smattering of mild orthographical gaffes:
‘Sirius’ deals not only with the subject of UFO and ET visitation disclosure but also with the advanced, clean, and alternative energy technology that’s getting them here. ‘Sirius’ goes into eye-opening detail regarding how the disclosure of such technologies, some of which have been suppressed for decades, can enable humanity to leave the age of the polluting petrodollar, transform society and improve mankind’s chances for the survival.
The film includes numerous Government and Military witnesses to UFO and ET secrecy. It also explains the connection to Free Energy and provides not only the vision of contact with ET civilizations as regularly witnessed by the CE-5 contact teams featured therein, but also the paradigm shifting physical evidence of a medically and scientifically analyzed DNA sequenced humanoid creature of unknown classification found in the Atacama desert, Chile. Additionally eye-opening, are the credentials and pedigree of the science and medical team behind this potentially profound and historical announcement.
One naturally wonders what to think of all this. Hokum? Hoax? The Holy Grail of UFO exposés? Or something intermediate? One thing’s for sure: the trailer is quite compelling, both in content and in tone, and the convergence of the specific issues and concerns addressed by Sirius — I’m thinking specifically of the challenge it mounts and describes for the reigning paradigms of scientific orthodoxy and depletion-based energy production — couldn’t be more timely.
Be advised that after tonight the film will, as I understand it, be available for free, full streaming and viewing. (I read that somewhere but can’t seem to track down the source just now.)
Thank you to Jesús Olmo, video artist extraordinaire and lobber of philosophically and aesthetically dazzling email grenades, for the heads-up about this film.
On November 4, The Telegraph reported that the field of ufology, at least as it’s viewed and practiced in Britain, may be dead or dying:
For decades, they have been scanning the skies for signs of alien activity. But having failed to establish any evidence for the existence of extraterrestrial life, Britain’s UFO watchers are reaching the conclusion that the truth might not be out there after all. Enthusiasts admit that a continued failure to provide proof and a decline in the number of “flying saucer” sightings suggests that aliens do not exist after all and could mean the end of “Ufology” — the study of UFOs — within the next decade.
— Jasper Copping, “UFO enthusiasts admit the truth may not be out there after all,” The Telegraph, November 4, 2012
This assessment comes from several expert sources, including Britain’s well-regarded Association for the Study of Anomalous Phenomena, which has scheduled a meeting to discuss the issue:
Dozens of groups interested in the flying saucers and other unidentified craft have already closed because of lack of interest and next week one of the country’s foremost organisations involved in UFO research is holding a conference to discuss whether the subject has any future. Dave Wood, chairman of the Association for the Scientific Study of Anomalous Phenomena (Assap), said the meeting had been called to address the crisis in the subject and see if UFOs were a thing of the past. “It is certainly a possibility that in ten years time, it will be a dead subject,” he added. “We look at these things on the balance of probabilities and this area of study has been ongoing for many decades. The lack of compelling evidence beyond the pure anecdotal suggests that on the balance of probabilities that nothing is out there. I think that any UFO researcher would tell you that 98 per cent of sightings that happen are very easily explainable. One of the conclusions to draw from that is that perhaps there isn’t anything there. The days of compelling eyewitness sightings seem to be over.” He said that far from leading to an increase in UFO sightings and research, the advent of the internet had coincided with a decline … The issue is to be debated at a summit at the University of Worcester on November 17 and the conclusions reported in the next edition of the association’s journal, Anomaly.
These developments are in turn linked to the recent closing of the UK’s official investigations into UFO phenomena:
The summit follows the emergence earlier this year of the news that the Ministry of Defence was no longer investigating UFO sightings after ruling there is “no evidence” they pose a threat to the UK. David Clark, a Sheffield Hallam University academic and the UFO adviser to the National Archives, said: “The subject is dead in that no one is seeing anything evidential.”
Obviously, this is all quite interesting. But more than that, it’s highly significant, and not just for people who are directly interested in UFOs. Despite the fact that the Telegraph article perpetuates the perennial rhetorical and philosophical foolishness of dividing the UFO-interested community into “believers” and “skeptics” (and also uses the word “enthusiasts” to maddening effect), it’s a very valuable piece of work, because it points to a deeply meaningful cultural moment for the study of anomalous phenomena, and also, more broadly, for our collective understanding of the relative meanings and statuses of anomalies, paranormal events, and material science. Read the rest of this entry