Evolutionary Metaphors & Vast Active Imagination

Evolutionary metaphors—rather like esoteric ‘correspondences’ and the logic of much anomalous phenomenon—baffle ordinary causal logic precisely by transcending its limits by inferring beyond itself, and thus providing a symbol of a reality yet to become. Indeed, to understand the evolutionary metaphor’s ambiguous nature we must develop imaginative as well as supra-logical faculties which can process the level of reality from which these metaphors emerge, and in doing so, it would be immediately grasped that they can become more than mere symbols but actualities. In this sense one realises that the meaning for something becoming must first reside as an implicit possibility—and only upon its explication does it become manifestly real. One might think of this process in terms of the Big Bang, for indeed, the whole universe was implicitly possible within the first billionths of a second. Although, as we shall see, time itself provides another level of complexity regards the sequential explication of what was previous implicit.

We are, quite literally, within two minds regards our cosmological picture. For it is in these elevated states of mind, as in moments of Faculty X, and other forms of ‘relational consciousness’, that we are capable of grappling with these ‘higher order’ incursions into our lives. Furthermore, this directly relates to our perception of meaning in our everyday lives, for we remain, to an extent, limited within the lower rungs of the hierarchical structure of consciousness. And at the lower levels, of course, meaning itself becomes more diffuse, less relational and resultantly more two-dimensional and relative, that is, without any qualitatively ‘higher’ or ‘lower’ aspect.

These various levels of consciousness, which Wilson called the ‘Ladder of Selves’, enable us to see a direct correlation between the diffuse and ‘meaningless’ states of consciousness in contrast to the integrated sense of related meanings. Indeed, with each ascent of the ‘ladder’, a degree of integration occurs in the psyche which enables a comprehension of the interrelated nature of reality, and, therefore, the underlying sense of purpose and meaning of existence. Understanding this, of course, provides an essential reason for increasing our consciousness, for it enables us to see lower states as more disconnected from the truth than the higher states and, furthermore, that the intentional nature of consciousness in itself implies to what degree objective meaning is grasped and integrated.

Fundamentally it is this recognition that consciousness is, in relation to meaning, active rather than passive, which in itself opens up an interesting approach to the anomalous. The evolutionary metaphor, in this sense, guides consciousness towards an increasing development of its higher faculties, goading the mind up the ‘ladder of selves’ towards a more inclusive sense of reality. Mysteries, after all, are simply those realities we have not yet understood, and with each increase of our knowledge, mysteries become less mysterious, but not necessarily any less marvelous.

A certain invigoration and mental healthiness comes with the recognition of large-scale meanings, for example, in a religious vision of a divinely purposeful life. Again this directly relates to Wilson’s idea of the ‘birds-eye view’ as opposed to the close-up, and diminished ‘worm’s-eye view’. Furthermore, one infers, by its very premises, that there is something beyond ordinary everyday existence; in other words, the metaphor refers to something beyond itself. A metaphor, of course, can either be a symbol or merely a figure of speech, even a comparison or, in its more complex form, a poem or mimesis. Nevertheless, a metaphor can sometimes clarify something that is expressed too explicitly—and metaphor in fact ‘embodies’ the issue by example, likeness or correspondence, even by providing an empathic bridge.

If we take metaphor as a form of imitation, or indeed, a mimesis of one level of reality in symbolic form—inferring as it does something outside of itself, yet nevertheless relating to a reality as such—we may begin to see it as a form of what Iain McGilchrist calls an ‘imaginative inhabiting of the other,’ which, he argues, is ‘always different because of its intersubjective betweenness.’ These ‘empathic bridges’ are drawn across by ‘intention, aspiration, attraction and empathy, drawing heavily on the right hemisphere [of the brain], whereas copying is the following of disembodied procedures and algorithms, and is left‑hemisphere based.’ (2009: 249). By contrast, of course, the left-hemisphere merely copies, and the right, being more theatrical and symbolical, prefers the evolutionary metaphor which unifies the thing it is mimicking within a symbolic reality which incorporates more levels of relational meaning than a mere literal-minded representation. McGilchrist argues that the survival values of this sort of thinking are immense, for they would encourage social cohesion and increase the transfer of symbolic—therefore embodied—information between individuals. In fact, the symbol or metaphor is more universal than explicit, analytical language, for this is in fact a much later development both historically and, importantly, biologically.

A ‘magical’ consciousness is not necessarily at odds with reality, in fact, due to its gestalt‑like nature, it can absorb far more information than a careful, analytical approach. For example, Bronislaw Malinowski’s 1914 research into the Trovriand Islanders highlighted the fact that ritual, although being rather ‘irrational’ from a Westerner’s point of view, nevertheless proved the South Sea fisherman seemed to flourish due to a general sense of control, even if, fundamentally, this control was an ‘illusory’ ritual from the point of view of science. Embedded in the ritual was an accurate understanding of reality, and therefore the ritual provided the necessary symbol for the transmission of the fruitful and constructive activity. Howard Bloom in The Lucifer Principle (1998) concludes that ‘[this] belief in magic is one clue to our need for memes. Religious and scientific schemes—clusters of guesswork that sometimes seem like a madman’s dreams—offer the feeling of control, an indispensible fuel for the physiological powerhouses of life.’ (114).

To switch to more recent times, it is curious to note that during these times of upheaval and unrest, memes, defined as ‘virally-transmitted cultural symbol or social idea,’ and now a (sometimes) amusing internet phenomenon, should spread both to entertain, but also, to provide a semblance of symbolic understanding—or control—by condensing information into a compacted and easily digestible ‘punch line.’ If something irritates or baffles someone, there is usually a corresponding meme which aims to represent the illogicality of a political, personal, or social phenomenon. Rather like the Trobriand Islanders, there is a sense that the ‘meme’ in the chaotic environment of the Internet is becoming a means to navigate the unpredictable world of information. In a strange sort of way the internet—a now extremely rich bed of information—generates a type of mythological consciousness, although this is in its earliest and crudest stages.

With the advent of the internet, with its visual and information-rich as well interactive nature, we have once again stepped back into an unusual situation of the ‘metaphorical’ consciousness. That is, now our culture has become complex in terms of its sheer speed of information transfer, we are now re-configuring the way we attend to the world and our psyche. Borders, in a sense, have been crossed, and distance itself is reduced; communication and cultural ideas can leap bounds, and instantly spread throughout the world in the matter of hours, even minutes. This is reflected in news reportage and so on, and even with freak events which are circulated at the speed of light through optic cable.

In this new climate of what the late sociologist Zygmunt Bauman called ‘liquid modernity’ bonds are tied evermore delicately, allowing for an immediate, on-call flexibility to accommodate the ever shifting sands of an information saturated culture.

In recent times we have had to reconfigure our cultural thermostat, integrating new and evermore flexible and experimental techniques to somehow ‘embed’ the information into a context that can provide a discernible and meaningful shape to our world. The symbol, the imagistic condensation into a meme, has become a sort of recombinational ‘search mechanism’ for meaning. Of course, such a cultural environment sets itself up rather well for the reintroduction of a form of magical consciousness, in which images and memes can be used to navigate and control a chaotic environment. Indeed, the language which we use is increasingly orientated towards information, relativism and therefore provides a backdrop in which, once again, the symbol or intent can crossover between language—words—and the image. Nevertheless, it is still too early to fully embrace all of the potential evolutionary implications of a culture so saturated with information fed through a form of media which incorporates all previous mediums.

As a result of this new world of information, the emergence of chaos magic, as I mentioned briefly in the first chapter, takes its stake in the new ‘magical consciousness,’ taking advantage as it does of the postmodern juxtaposition of unusual and experimental points-of-view and harnessing the symbol as a means of codifying magical intent—their will-to-power over a world composed of information.

Now, what we might be seeing in the modern world is the re-emergence of a type of magical thinking that had previously gone underground, so to speak, or had remained dormant in the unconscious regions of our collective psyche. And yet, evolutionary metaphors such as the UFO, synchronicities and flashes of revelatory consciousness seem further away than ever. The cultural zeitgeist tends to diminish the metaphysical—and therefore metaphorical impulses—that constitute the balance and integration of a healthy and dynamical mind. As our culture is becoming increasingly politicized, it, as a result, tends towards a subjugation of the individual, replacing a type of group-think that can easily result of an intensely socially‑networked world. Inner revolutions seem rarer than outer, political ones. The self, as a result, becomes increasingly low-resolution, reduced to a sort of caricature or a vulgarly image-based vignette composed of shallow surfaces. This, of course, has increased our left-hemisphere’s predilection to what McGilchrist describes as the ‘following of disembodied procedures and algorithms.’[1]

In terms of the UFO phenomenon, Jung pronounced that its message, at least in dream symbolism, is intended so that everybody should be aware of their existence by appearing in the sky, but, crucially, they ‘bid each of us remember his own soul and his own wholeness, because this is the answer the West should give to the danger of mass-mindedness’ [my italics] (81). Curiously, and significantly, the UFO for Jung reminds us of our individuality, and for many people who witness the phenomena, one can certainly say that it is a disturbing and unique experience as is evident in many of the witness accounts. Although there are cases in which there is an instilled ecological consciousness, and a sense of planetary responsibility, there is also the element of individual psychic and psychological development brought about by the experience itself.

Here we may turn to the philosophy as outlined in Wilson’s ‘Outsider Cycle’, for again it leads us back to the problem he addresses in the first book of the series, The Outsider. The individual, stricken by an existential vision who nevertheless consciously or unconsciously strives towards a form of psychological integration. Wilson’s Outsider, of course, is in revolt against mass-mindedness, and instead requires for himself an independent and unique vision of something objective—in other words, something that resides outside of the limits of reductionism and the confining, ultimately pessimistic boundaries of postmodern culture. However, as Lachman emphasises, the Outsider’s ‘problems are not his alone; they involve all of civilization,’ he continues: ‘Western civilization [has] reached a dead end . . . and it could only move on if the Outsiders, the men and women of vision and purpose, overcame their uncertainty, ceased to be Outsiders, and imposed their values on the world around them.’ (66-67).

At this point we might ask ourselves, ‘Well, what values should the Outsider impose?’ and for this, we might consider the abductees or UFO witnesses, who, with his normal preconceptions about existence and its possibilities challenged—or even explicitly modified directly by the experience itself—naturally poses a new vision in which time, space and the meaning constituted out of these constants may be turned on its head. Now, whether one becomes an Outsider, in Wilson’s meaning of the word, by undergoing these experiences is difficult to argue, for many considerations of the cases individually would have to be examined in tandem to the Outsider Cycle.

Wilson’s Outsiders, of course, essentially recognised in themselves greater forces than mere personality, and that they were in a sense channels for an archetypal and fundamentally impersonal life force. And if like Stan Gooch we take the UFO, science fiction and the field of the paranormal as a vast arrangement of preformed evolutionary potentialities, as it were, we can begin to see each glimpse into these alternative realities as vision into evolutionary multiplicities, its implicit ‘realities’ yet to become, and furthermore, into its underlying vitality.

In many of the Outsiders as well as the abductees, there is a vision of a new modality of being that infers meaning that is fundamentally practical and personal, and, once actualised in the individual, becomes applicable to society-at-large. In recognising the essentially creative nature of the experience, whether in the visions of the Outsider or in the traumatic yet simultaneously revelatory quality in the works of Whitley Strieber, we may perceive the outline of a new way of understanding of time in order to re-orientate our relationship to meaning. Again, here one is reminded of Wilson’s Faculty X, for Strieber came to realise that we need to ‘unlearn the assumption that the future is in front of us, the present is where we are, and the past is behind us.’ He continues:

‘That is a false view of time. The visitors offer a much better idea of time. They say the future is to the right, and it’s like water. The present is here and now, and it’s like a compressor. And the past is like ice. The water has now been turned into ice because the present has decided the shape the water will take, the shape the past will take. And this leaves room for entry into many different possible futures. We can change that water into any number of different shapes simply by the way we address it … What we have to learn to do—and this is as much an inner movement as an artefact of some potential technology—is to learn to move out of the time stream so that we can examine it more carefully and come to understand its real meaning.’[1]

Implicit in this realisation of the reality of ‘other times and places’ man can act in a far more constructive way, and see himself as fundamentally important in the actualisation of realities in the stream of time. Again, the evolutionary metaphor is what the Kabbalists call tikkun, a repairing symbol that bridges the visible world with the invisible, and vice-versa. Emphasing the nature of time along the lines of Strieber, Lachman describes this process in Caretakers:

‘When we ‘complete’ the world, when we ‘represent’ the ‘unrepresented’, when we infuse dead matter with meaning, when we fill the empty forms of reality with the living force of the imagination, we are moving against the tide that is carrying the fallen, physical world into nothingness.’ (221).

Ultimately, the later view is entropic; it tends towards decay and disorder; whereas the former, ‘infusing dead matter with meaning’ is negentropic; tending towards order and meaningfulness. Here Lachman emphasises the ‘filling up’ of the material universe with implicit meanings which work against entropy and time’s one-directional arrow.

Now there are two poignant symbols of both our understanding of a cosmos—a whole unified meaning—and a chaos, or that which results out of imbalance, allowing in destructive and destabilizing qualities. Jung’s discovery of the mandala in effect symbolizes man’s inner-cosmos, his psyche, into the artistic creation of a whole with a centre—a centre which symbolizes man’s point of individuation. The mandala is an artistic image, usually colourful and which is orientated around a central point, usually pulling inwards, as it were, all of the outside images; it is an attempt to spontaneously express the unconscious and conscious forces into a representative image of one’s inner-being. Usually, but not necessarily always symmetrical, it emphasises the psychic working of an individual, and particularly lays emphasis on integration of the Self. This is significantly in contrast is to the chaos magic symbol, which is orientated outwards towards a magic form assertion (below):

1200px-Chaos_star.svg

Referred to as post-modern magic, or indeed ‘pop magic’, it is symbolised almost entirely by externalized influences, with little emphasis on interiority. As a modern phenomenon, on the fringes, it nevertheless represents a current of occult thinking in modern times. One commentator, the comic book artist Grant Morrison, mentions briefly the notion of a ‘hyper sigil’, a symbolic image which represents for the magician some will of which he wants to exert onto the world around him. The ‘hyper sigil’ is a larger version of an ordinary ‘sigil’ and for Morrison ‘incorporates elements such as characterization, drama and plot. The hyper sigil is a sigil extended through the fourth dimension.’[1] In other words, it is a dramatic cultural shift willed and enacted—or represented—through a cultural medium such as art, music or in this case, Morrison’s imaginative comic books.

This type experimental cultural manipulation is due to the fact that, as Peter Carroll says, ‘for the first time in history we live in a world where a substantial fraction of humanity has freedom of belief, and hardly knows what to do with it’, and this means that postmodernist, post-monotheist ‘culture has yet to formally explicate its ideal spirituality.’ (55) This is where chaos magick steps in. Further on in The Apophenion he discusses a type of neo-pantheism which attempts to provide both an animistic and meaningful interaction with the environment. Uniquely, he places emphasis on the practicality of ‘magical thinking’, disposing it if it fails to work, and integrating it into its system of practices if it fails. Underlying his thesis, there appears to be no over-arching metaphysic, or, in a sense, an evolutionary purpose—it is simply an experimental framework towards the re-building of a magical, metaphorical and analogical—even imaginal—worldview. He continues ‘. . . if a superstition gives good results it gets reused, and coincidence rarely gets dismissed as mere coincidence . . . So if a synchronicity appears spontaneously we should consider interpreting it as an affirmation of deep intent, or a warning from the subconscious.’ (60). And, as we have seen in the idea of ‘deep intentionality’, here Carroll acknowledges a similar ‘metaphysic’ in the sense of what he calls ‘deep intent’—this, essentially, is the closest chaos magic gets to an overall evolutionary ‘metaphysic.’ In essence, Peter Carroll’s ‘chaos magic paradigm’ has its roots in phenomenology, for it incorporates direct experience based on its effectiveness and an active and creative relationship with reality.

Although there is a psychological dimension to chaos magic, what it is lacking is a vision of integration, of an emphasis on inner-development. For example, when it posits the value of analogical thinking, it also understates the dangers of being misled. Ritual magicians warned precisely against these and projected—like Lyall Watson’s Amazonian healer—the psychological dangers into disembodied entities or ritual and symbolic situations. What this did was to contextualize the issue into something concrete; that is, they were explicitly reminding themselves that it had to be dealt with practically and as if it were an objective reality. This emphasis on objective consciousness—by stepping back from oneself—enabled the individual to discipline his own mind by refusing to be ‘taken in’ by a distorting web of entanglements produced by negative emotions—produced either in the individual or a collective malaise present in the ritual atmosphere, or even culture, at large.

However, the philosophical and existential insights of chaos magic cannot be underestimated. Indeed, its relativisms—as can be seen in the idea of neo-pantheism—may seem to undermine any particular philosophical or religious foundation, instead celebrating ambiguity and the ‘meaning perceptions’ ability to make models, new juxtapositions and heady brews of associative thinking. Nevertheless, there is also the element of Alfred North Whitehead’s statement that ‘Speculative philosophy . . . is the endeavor to frame a coherent, logical, necessary system of general ideas in terms of which every element of our experience can be interpreted.’ Certainly, Whitehead’s definition of experience expands over a wide-range of states:

‘Nothing can be omitted, experience drunk and experience sober, experience sleeping and experience waking, experience drowsy and experience wide-awake, experience self-conscious and experience self-forgetful, experience intellectual and experience physical, experience religious and experience sceptical, experience anxious and experience care-free, experience anticipatory and experience retrospective, experience happy and experience grieving, experience dominated by emotion and experience under self-restraint, experience in the light and experience in the dark, experience normal and experience abnormal.’[3]

It is from this gestalt of experience that one can begin to make a new model of the cosmos that man finds himself an important part. It provides a working hypothesis in which one can act out freedom; it provides, as it were, a fundamental set of axioms from which to actively participate in a reality that tends towards greater complexification and, finally, actualizations of the realities implicit in that complexity. Prototypal models—if they are successful of course—go on to become commonplace tools, whether they are cars, light bulbs, helicopters, etc. Again, this was the central insight that drove Arthur M. Young to write about cosmology after he invented the helicopter, for he knew, practically and philosophically, that cosmological models are important for the development of novel ideas and, furthermore, life‑enhancing psychological changes. He also intuitively realized that consciousness itself is a fundamental part of the cosmos we inhabit, for with each evolutionary leap in consciousness is proportional to increased freedom. Young perceived the universe as the declension of light—with its boundless freedom from time and space—into matter, and then, at ‘the turn’ (or ‘shock’, as Gurdjieff would have called it), an increasing complexity of organisms—from mineral to man—until, in a sense, man’s higher destiny is reflected back at him in the cosmos itself. This is referred to in the ancient hermetic dictum: As above, so below.

It is now worth turning once again to the evolutionary metaphor along with the UFO and its associated phenomena. We will again return to the discussion of chaos magic in this new context.

In his book Passport to the Cosmos (1999) the psychologist and parapsychologist, John E. Mack, describes the effects of the abduction phenomenon as an ‘intrusion into our reality from other realms’ that aid and contribute to ‘the gradual . . . spiritual rebirth taking place in Western culture.’ Mack continues:

‘Each of the principle elements of the phenomenon—the traumatic intrusions; the reality-shattering encounters; the energetic intensity; the apocalyptic ecological confrontations; the reconnection with Source; and the forging of new relationships across a dimensional divide—contributes to the daishigyo, the great ego death, that is marking the end of the materialist . . . paradigm that has lost its compatibility with life in the world as we know it.’ (299)

In Mack’s terms, the UFO experience provides a transformational paradigm in which an individual is rather forcibly reminded of their existential position in a cosmological context. Of course, this is in its broadest possible interpretation. Merely as a phenomenological event —perceived as if it were real—it is presented in science-fiction terms, that is, providing a framework in which to examine mankind’s purpose and, moreover, the responsibility of the individual in relation to the universe in which he lives. The experience is always future orientated in the extreme. Again, like Whitehead’s brand of existentialism, one may include the UFO as a symbol for the expansion of understanding ourselves. This, of course, is the sort of thing Jung understood to a great extent, being one of the most formidable intellects to apply himself to the phenomenon.

Whether or not we accept the UFO as an evolutionary metaphor or not, it can, at least be incorporated and integrated more efficiently if it is treated as such. The phenomenon’s demand of multifaceted interpretations offers us the equivalent of a puzzle, an imaginative game, in which one can perceive new patterns, and radically stretch our intellectual, theoretical and imaginative capabilities. Even after a life of directly experiencing and writing about the UFO and abduction phenomenon, Whitley Strieber concludes his lifetime of experience suggests that we are much more than ‘sparks in flesh doomed to die with the inevitable implosion of the body’ and that, indeed, ‘we have hardly even begun to touch on the complexity and enormity of what it is to be human.’ (Super Natural; 336)  He argues that the whole experience energizes a question—that raison d’être behind the evolutionary metaphor—which, he argues, is ‘our most valuable asset and our best hope.’ (336) There is a suggestion in Strieber’s response to the ‘power of the question,’ in which mystery in itself ensures the health of a species, for it encourages a growth towards a further understanding of itself and the cosmos.

* * *

Now, there is the post-modernism of chaos magic and the relativistic—or endlessly relativising—nature that underlies much of modern culture. The esoteric, of course, is also a part of this culture, but found on the fringes—or, as is sometimes the case, subtlety embedded in popular culture such as comic books, films and so on. Its presence is notable in some way, either consciously or unconsciously. Again, chaos magic posits itself as a ‘new paradigm’ in which to update magic for the 21st century; or, at least, as a psychological tool that incorporates belief in paranormal abilities, inter-dimensional entities or extra-sensory powers. Generally speaking, it does not entertain a radical metaphysics that is entirely departed from materialism; its substrate, interestingly, is still basically materialistic in the sense that it relativises Gods, demons, succubae, etc. For many chaos magicians these are merely ‘animated’ psychological projections, garbed in symbols and dramas that make them appear as real—or, for practical and ritual purposes, quasi-independent interactive psychological realities.

Chaos magic, it could be argued, is a result of the chaos of a world with all its symbols uprooted; drifting and displaced; divorced from a central meaning of deeper purpose. To contrast this with Wilson’s description of the Outsider presents an unusual insight into the modern civilized psyche and the plight of an essentially religious individual.

‘He is the creative individual whose instinct is to bring order out of chaos, to question the foundations of society . . . But since the Outsider’s impulse is fundamentally religious—the desire to be more ‘serious’ than other people is the essence of religion—he tends to be less of a misfit in ages of faith than in ages of materialism and skepticism.’ (Mysteries: 265)

Further on in Mysteries, Wilson goes on to discuss UFOs, in which he makes the interesting comment: ‘Our minds are essentially provincial when, ideally, they ought to be cosmopolitan. We are not merely earth-bound; we have our heads buried in the earth.’ Wilson proceeds to cite Vallée’s belief that the ‘UFO phenomenon . . . [is] forcing us to look up, to get used to the idea that we are citizens of the universe, not just of this earth.’ (563)  This, of course, is the basic religious impulse that plagues the outsider; he feels that ordinary existence is too provincial—that rut of materialism and skepticism—and that this desire for ‘seriousness’ is essentially a requirement for a larger context which assents man’s position as significant—and, moreover, requires of us our active participation in a vast evolutionary project.

Again, Peter J. Carroll in The Octavo (2011) recognises that our civilization has reached a degree of immense complexity, some of which he describes as an ‘interdependent system of Integrated Information’ created from fossil fuels and other materials. This, he argues, has come to the point where it has run into a diminishing of its returns. However, mirroring this, he recognises that the individual too works on similar ‘inputs.’ ‘We must look for new horizons and boundaries to change our energy/information input. We can use the input to increase our Integrated Information either in quantity or quality, or we can just squander it away on entropy.’ (135-136). The outsider’s yearning for ‘seriousness’ is the yearning, essentially, for qualitative meaning and purpose that merits and benefits from—while complimenting and elevating—the material manifold of existence. This, essentially, is what Lachman meant when he said the Outsider is demanded to impose his values upon the world, for if he declines to do this the values of negentropy and chaos will win the day.

It is this sort of thinking that underlies much of mythic, analogical and metaphorical thinking, for, as Peterson says, this world of qualitative symbols infers an ‘emergent property of first-order self-reference’ and that it might be ‘regarded as the interaction between the universe as subject and the universe as object.’ (290). This, of course, is exactly what the UFO exploits, for if one reads Jung or a large swathe of UFO literature, there is this constant paradoxical quality in which object becomes subject and vice-versa. The ‘cosmic viewpoint’ is the realisation of universe as subject; in other words, it is implicit in our own being. After all, we constitute the universe by being inside it as much as, simultaneously, ‘outside’ it in the sense that we can become self-referential. To cease to become an Outsider—in Wilson’s adoption—is to cease to be trapped in self-negation, and instead, providing a way out of the boundaries of personality and materialism towards a more elevated state of consciousness—and as a director of evolution.

On an individual level this can be seen with the individual versus mass-mindedness—or the Outsider and Western civilization—for it essentially equates to the same thing. Again, Jung notes in The Undiscovered Self that just as the ‘chaotic movements of the crowd, all ending in mutual frustration, are impelled in a definite direction by a dictatorial will, so the individual in his dissociated state needs a directing and ordering principle.’ (34). The individual, at odds with the immense unconscious forces of the world, must, in himself, experience—or know directly—something which is integrative of both inner and outer ‘warring factions’. ‘[Ego-consciousness] . . . must experience them, or else it must possess a numinous symbol that that expresses them and leads to their synthesis.’ (35). This, of course, was what Whitehead meant with his huge list of all existential experiences, and it is towards their integration that Jung, Wilson and the many other individuals we have discussed in this essay have pointed towards.

Each, in their own unique way, provides a model for the psyche’s ‘coming-to-terms’—through intuition and symbolism—with an evolutionary intentionality. The UFO will remain on the perimeter of this further discussion, but—suitable to its nature—it will return cloaked in a new order of logic which I will further explore in the following sections.

Vast Active Imagination

‘It is impossible to study a system of the universe without studying man. At the same time it is impossible to study man without studying the universe. Man is an image of the world. He was created by the same laws which created the whole of the world. By knowing and understanding himself he will know and understand the whole world, all the laws that create and govern the world. And at the same time by studying the world and the laws that govern the world he will learn and understand the laws that govern him. In this connection some laws are understood and assimilated more easily by studying the objective world, while man can only understand other laws by studying himself. The study of the world and the study of man must therefore run in parallel, one helping the other.’ (75)

The above is quoted from In Search of the Miraculous (1949), one of the most comprehensive books that systematises the teachings of G.I. Gurdjieff. However, it is clear that in the context of this essay that it constitutes an evolutionary metaphor, particularly with its correlation between ‘subjective’ man and ‘objective’ universe and vice-versa. Gurdjieff places heavy emphasis on the study of the processes of nature. These processes, he argues, are sufficient for gaining insights into the mechanisms of man; and, moreover, if properly understood, enables man to transcend their ‘laws’. Gurdjieff’s ‘system’ is based primarily on the notion that the man who truly knows the mechanisms of the cosmos is, in some sense, above them, for by understanding one—truly and not superficially—he can understand the other, that is himself. Furthermore he makes the important distinction between ordinary knowledge and gnosis (revelatory knowledge), or self-remembering. That is, rather than of simply knowing something mechanically, we know it in a deeper, more intimate sense—we know more truly with all of its universal, objective and subjective correlates. This gnosis is essentially Wilson’s Faculty X, or what he called ‘relationality’. We don’t just passively glimpse ‘other times and places’; we know that they are entirely real.

Interestingly there are symbols of wholeness, and this is precisely what the poet or artist—either consciously or unconsciously—is trying to achieve in his most visionary moments. There are also creative ‘flashes’ which enable someone to grasp wholes, which, once realized, relate to something else and so on until they constitute whole inner-landscapes of interrelated facts.

One of the most famous of visionary poems is ‘Kubla Khan’ by Samuel Taylor Coleridge which was, he says, composed ‘in a sort of Reverie brought on by two grains of Opium’ (Coleridge: 12), in which he gained a vision—influenced from the night’s reading—which constituted a whole poem. During a brief nap, he seems to have been a witnesses to the unconscious creative processes. ‘[T]he images rose up before him as things with a parallel production of the correspondent expressions, without any sensation or consciousness of effort’ and upon awakening ‘he appeared to himself to have a distinct recollection of the whole, and taking his pen, ink and paper, instantly and eagerly wrote down the lines’ (Act of Creation: 167). The conscious and unconscious process are here blurred and intermixed: ‘images rose up as things’, these ‘things’ being manifestly perceptible. Also of interest is the fact that he was effectively unconscious, and beneath all this the ‘dream artist’ constructed its meanings in a type of logic usually unavailable to the conscious mind.

In this moment of integrative unconscious thinking working with the act of creativity, Coleridge was unfortunately interrupted by a trivial matter of business—this, it turned out, diminished the ‘whole,’ breaking it into fragments of a vague and distant memory. Nevertheless, Coleridge with acute phenomenological insight, managed to grasp the very process of the loss of this vision and, significantly, its return:

. . . all the charm
Is broken—all that phantom-world so fair
Vanishes, and a thousand circlets spread,
And each mis-shape the other. Stay awhile,
Poor youth!. . .

The stream will soon renew its smoothness, soon
The visions will return! And lo, he stays,
And soon the fragments dim of lovely forms
Come trembling back, unite, and now once more
The pool becomes a mirror. (167)

The ‘thousand circlets’, here, is the left-brain’s ordinary processing of time; its tendency to pixilation and to reduce things to ‘bits’. Our perception of life is choppy like a fast, unpredictable disorder of associations, yet, in moments of insight the stream pools into a reflective insight; that is, as one looks into the pool, it reflects its environment back far more accurately. The left hemisphere’s slowing down enables full images to be grasped by the right hemisphere—yet, significantly, it is in the stream of ordinary existence in which they are expressed, that is, in the form of something like Coleridge’s poem.

Arthur Koestler remarked that the ‘poet thinks both in images and verbal concepts, at the same time or in quick alternation; each trouvaille, each original find, bisociates two matrices.  The dreamer floats among the phantom shapes of the hoary deep; the poet is a skin-diver with a breathing tube.’ (168). Certainly, Coleridge does seem to be in-between two states, and, once the harmonic was disturbed, he found himself more in one ‘stream’ of thought than the other. Temporarily he had slowed down his ceaseless perceptual ‘firing’—by being drowsy and under the effects of opium—and had grasped an emergent and whole image from the unconscious mind—he then managed, albeit before the disruption, to capture fragments of the vision in the form poetry.

In Mysteries Colin Wilson cites the example of Rene Daumal’s experiment with tetrachloride, which he used to inhale in order to descend into similar timeless and imaginal regions of the unconscious. In this state he suffered typical ‘near death experiences’ in which his whole life flashed before his eyes, and, eventually even words began to lose their meaning. Daumal entered ‘an instantaneous and intense world of eternity, a concentrated flame of reality’ in which he experienced a new type—or mode—of knowledge (342). In this state there was an odd play on words and sounds, with unusual incantations and ‘formulas’ which effected, or even maintained, various elements of Daumal’s hallucinogenic visions. Ordinary words, by comparison, felt for Daumal, too ‘heavy and slow’, ‘shapeless’ and ‘rigid’. Daumal continues:

‘With these wretched words I can put together only approximate statements, whereas my certainty is for me the archetype of precision. In my ordinary state of mind, all that remains thinkable and formulable of this experiment reduces to one affirmation on which I would stake my life: I feel the certainty of the existence of something else, a beyond, another world, or another form of knowledge[4].’

And yet, by contrast, the words that sustained both his vision and his own existence, Wilson remarks, are essentially a ‘symbolic recognition that all life is sustained by a continuous act of will, or ‘intentionality.’’ As we have seen, this is Wilson’s ‘basic metaphysic’ of a deep intentionality. It is an essential recognition that the force of life is in fact an extra-dimension of freedom consciousness—of the self-evolving kind—to enter the limited world of matter.  Now, we may compare Coleridge’s broken ‘phantom-world’ to one of Daumal’s late poems:

I am dead because I have no desire,
I have no desire because I think I possess,
I think I possess because I do not try to give;
Trying to give, we see that we have nothing,
Seeing that we have nothing, we try to give ourselves,
Trying to give ourselves, we see that we are nothing,
Seeing that we are nothing, we desire to become,
Desiring to become, we live.

 (Mount Analogue, 119)

Each poem can be summarised by its initial loss of vision, its realisation of nothingness, but, in that ‘loss’, it aims to return to life—or, in Coleridge’s terms, with a pool that becomes a mirror. At the heart of each there is a sense of affirmation, or what another poet, Rainer Maria Rilke’s called ‘dennoch preisen’—to praise inspite of. There is a limit, and once this is reached, felt existence, once again, returns to animate the very substratum of our being; our life and existence—intentionality, the primordial essence of being, underlies and animates a pure ‘becoming’, a stepping-up of complexification into ordinarily inanimate and unknowing forms. Gary Lachman refers to this as an ‘inner ‘event horizon’’, he continues: ‘‘I’ seem to emerge like a fountain gushing out of a ‘nowhere’ that is nonetheless within me. It is as if I reach a kind of horizon, beyond which I cannot see. . . Perhaps that inner ‘event horizon’ there is a place where the unobservable mind and the unobservable universe meet?’ (Caretakers: 220).

A ‘new knowledge’ or gnosis comes into play on the other side of the perceptual event horizon, and, in an implicit sort of way it infers itself, rather like an evolutionary metaphor, through the dense, explicit nature of ordinary existence. Poets or people undergoing extreme and intense forms of consciousness are sometimes able to bring glimpses back, and, if they are capable enough, they create great pieces of art glistening with depths of meanings far beyond the artist’s ordinary consciousness. A descent into the unconscious makes one aware of the hidden machinery of our being, and indeed, our universe; we suddenly understand that just beneath the surface of existence is an animating force that works, in an odd way, on sound and manifestation—and, furthermore, it lies outside of time. It is, in fact, experienced and often described as if a part of a greater whole—this, of course, makes it difficult to articulate in a language unsuited to such conceptual enormity.

Now, Daumal realised that in spite of this feeling of wholeness and interconnectedness, he himself stood outside of it—he was, he felt, somehow a distortion in its patterning. One could say that one mind is in fact a distortion from this unconscious activity, for, it is precisely conscious of it; one mind is a discontinuity between two modalities of being and phenomenon. Whereas the ‘other’ mind—the right brain—is a part of this ‘other’ world in as much as the ‘spectator’ is a part of its own (separate) world. Both ‘I’s struggle to become aware of each other’s existence simultaneously. And yet, there is a relation between the two worlds and one, without the other, would be a hollow and autonomous world and the other, by contrast, a vast chaos of formlessness and vacillation. Both Daumal’s and Coleridge’s visions reminded them of this fact—one world is ‘nothing’, whereas Coleridge’s break from the ‘phantom-world’ is symbolised as an ever increasing distortion of our vision: ‘. . . and a thousand circlets spread, / And each mis-shape the other.’ But, significantly, Coleridge goes on to write, ‘. . . soon the fragments dim of lovely forms / Come trembling back’. This is the point in which the two worlds correspond, and the frontiers are ‘cascade’ into focus.

The essence of the living and the inanimate, the conscious and unconscious is encapsulated in this extraordinary paragraph from Van Vogt’s 1948 short story, ‘The Monster’:

‘Out of the shadows of smallness, life grows. The level of beginning and ending, of life and—not life; in that dim region matter oscillates easily between old and new habits. The habit of organic, or the habit of inorganic. Electrons do not have life and un-life values. Atoms know nothing of inanimateness. But when atoms form into molecules, there is a step in the process, one tiny step, that is of life—if life begins at all. One step, and then darkness. Or aliveness.’ (Vogt; ‘The Monster’: 32)

Van Vogt’s ‘monster’, in fact, is a human being that has mastered the molecular level of his being, and once awakened by an extraterrestrial race on a post-apocalyptic Earth, becomes an unstoppable force of will-power and foresight. One single step awakens the man, and once this happens, he is an unstoppable spearhead of the life force.

Here the question arises: what is the essence and directive of being alive? If we blossom from some unseen dimension, then where is it we are emerging from? Once we have sketched out an approximate understanding of our own intentionality, and of our own inner-world, we can begin to ‘become’ and live more consciously, and therefore. freely. The stepping-up process of molecules into self-reflective, conscious beings that attempt to reach their own perceptual ‘event horizons,’ tends to suggest that man thrives off an imagination that well exceeds our ordinary understanding of the evolutionary process. Man appears to want to embody the process himself—even steering it in accordance to his own will. Man, it is quite clear, is the ultimate intentional animal.

Now Carl Jung had the same vision of man when he arrived from Nairobi to visit the Athai Plains. Upon viewing the game reserve, he saw spread out before him a ‘magnificent prospect’ comprising to the limits of the horizon game animals like zebras, warthogs, antelopes, etc., which were silent but for the ‘melancholy cry of a bird of prey’. Reflecting upon it he felt that it was symbolic—and indeed, a literal vision—of ‘the stillness of the eternal beginning, the world as it had always been, in the state of nonbeing.’ (284). Upon viewing nature as it is, he underwent a type of ‘cosmic consciousness’ in which the meaning of being became clear to him. Says Jung:

‘Man, I, in an invisible act of creation put the stamp of perfection on the world by giving it objective existence. This act we usually ascribe to the Creator alone, without considering that in doing so we view life as a machine calculated down to the last detail, which, along with the human psyche, runs on senselessly, obeying foreknown and predetermined rules. In such a cheerless clock-world fantasy there is no drama of man, world, and God; there is no “new day” leading to “new shores”, but only the dreariness of calculated processes.’ (284-285).

One part of man is essentially invisible—that which cannot be seen are precisely the meanings that are attributed to both himself and his environment, the exercise of his ‘intentional self’. These meanings, of course, remain invisible until they are expressed; that is, until they are manifested into reality. When man works creatively, he brings forth this world in a dynamic between the invisible and the visible. Jung, in fact, quotes an alchemical dictum: ‘What nature leaves imperfect, the art perfects.’ Indeed, the world in which he lives is more vast and complex for man than any other creature—the world is, in its most fundamental sense, a grand mystery. In partaking in the unfolding of his own existence, and in his own awareness of life and death, man is truly in a state of ‘in-between-ness’; between two worlds. Problems, such as psychological imbalance, existential angst, and so on, are essentially an issue of transmission between two modalities of perception—the problem between Whitehead’s ‘meaning perception’ and Wilson’s contrast between a worm’s-eye view and a bird’s-eye view of existence.

We return are back to the ‘cosmic viewpoint’, that imperative of the UFO and, of course, science-fiction literature and esotericism. Both represent the polar opposite of the modern conception of the provinciality of man (one might say it is the dignity of man that underlies the essential cosmology of the Renaissance). The repositioning of metaphors, of worldviews and cosmological frameworks, furthermore, draws us onwards and upwards; it is, in essence, the invisible dynamo of the imagination and therefore, our greatest asset in improving the transmission between two worlds and two minds. The evolutionary metaphor, in a sense, is the bridge that leads to a staircase—or a ladder—to the windowed attic of human super consciousness.

The evolutionary metaphor is the working hypothesis that navigates implicit realities into explicit ones—the metaphor, being evolutionary, demands complexification as much as it requires control and discipline. For, without control, complexity becomes overwhelming, and this is essentially the grave issue for Wilson’s outsider. The world of increasing complexity collapses under its own weight, that is, unless it has a guiding metaphor that pulls it into an understandable shape—a comprehensive structure that includes within itself a purposeful as well as dynamic future. Effectively it is the symbolic cultural equivalent of the mandala of which Jung drew upon to represent the symbolic inner-unity of man’s individual being.

In one of Terrence McKenna’s greatest speeches, he encapsulates what the outsider knows intuitively, and that is that ‘[man] was not put on this planet to toil in the mud,’ and referring to the mechanistic and materialistic culture as ‘the machine’ he argues that we express our own evolutionary directive more purposefully by living creatively. The evolutionary metaphor provides a vision in which we, as McKenna argues, ‘maximize our humanness by becoming much more necessary and incomprehensible to the machine’—in inferring something beyond the limits of a pessimistic culture, it is, he demonstrates, a ‘civil rights issue’ in the sense that it is the suppression of the ‘religious sensibility’. There is, in the language of this essay, an obfuscation of the invisible worlds of the imagination that are the very life’s blood of consciousness and the evolutionary spirit.

Meanings always infer something more, and the more meaningful it is, the less constricting and narrow consciousness becomes. The evolutionary metaphor, insofar as it infers larger inter-dependent realities towards a larger and more inclusive whole, is fundamentally what Wilson meant by ‘relationality’. To use one of Wilson’s metaphors, ordinary consciousness is rather like a ‘piano whose strings are damped so that each note vibrates for only a fraction of a second’ but, in our more ‘wider’ states:

‘. . . the strings go on vibrating and cause other strings to vibrate. One thing suddenly ‘reminds’ us of another, so the mind is suddenly seething with insights and impressions and ideas. Everything becomes ‘connected’. We see that the world is self-evidently a bigger and more interesting place than we usually take for granted. . . We are simply in a state of wider perception—both outer and inner perception.’ (Beyond the Occult: 94)

As I have attempted to demonstrate throughout this essay, it is fundamentally this vision of consciousness, man and the cosmos, which may allow the enigma of the UFO to shed its secrets. If, as reliable theorists like Mack, Strieber and Kripal believe it to be—as an evolutionary ‘wake-up’ call of sorts—then it requires that we meet anomalous phenomenon half-way and recognise that fundamentally it is consciousness that can transcend the material limitations precisely by presaging a greater comprehension of existence itself—both inside and out.

In the closing section there will be an attempt at a grand synthesis of the essential ideas expressed throughout this essay. In the spirit of the concluding chapters of many books on ufology and related phenomenon, I will use both open-ended speculations alongside the philosophical frameworks I have attempted to develop throughout the preceding chapters.

 

Footnotes: 

[1] In a short series of books by Jeremy Naydler called Technology and the Soul (2010) he examines how logic has been transferred to the domain of the machine—and although human beings still obviously use logic, it is nevertheless radically diminished by this reliance on computers and other devices. Naydler argues that this sort of ‘calculative thinking’ in the Middle Ages was called ratio. In this bestowing of machines our own ability for ratio, we have, he argues, grown a ‘collective ratio’ that has ‘grown far more powerful through its having been, in a certain one-sided way, embodied in machines. And so the influence of the ratio on the whole psychic and spiritual makeup of the human being is far greater today than it has ever been.’ Naydler goes on to warn us that the ‘danger that faces us is that we all become so mesmerized by the brilliance of our computers that we begin to think like them, and forget what it means to think humanly.’ (19).

Notes:

[1] https://www.newdawnmagazine.com/articles/aliens-predictions-the-secret-school-decoding-the-work-of-whitley-strieber

[2] http://disinfo.com/2014/10/pop-magic-grant-morrison/

[3] From Colin Wilson’s ‘Whitehead as Existentialist’: https://philosophynow.org/issues/64/Whitehead_As_Existentialist

[4] http://www.allaboutheaven.org/observations/9034/221/daumal-rene-a-fundamental-experiment-part-1-011120

 

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