“We may define therapy as a search for value.”
  —Abraham Maslow

The Alien at the End of This Book

You may already know of Carl Gustav Jung.  You may know him fairly well.  Still, you may be surprised to find out he did enough exploratory writing pertaining to UFO’s for a collected work on that subject: Flying Saucers, A Modern Myth of Things Seen in the Skies.  It’s a very good read, although it may not answer the obvious question do flying saucers exist or not.  Instead, it offers a uniquely Jungian point of view on that idea,  expanding limited notions of what existing really means.

OK, a short confession.  I came across this book because I was wondering lately about how much I would like there to be proof of extraterrestrial life.  That yearning operates cyclically for me.  Sometimes I feel it, sometimes I don’t.  Over the last few months I was feeling it like gangbusters.  I noticed I was watching a lot of UFO documentaries with an insatiable appetite for them.  By the way, they are best in the hours after midnight as a replacement for sleep, doubling their dreaminess.  I wanted to know what the heck was getting into me with this behavior.

The main suggestions proposed by Jung really helped.  They resonated with me.  They elicited that special reaction that feels like the ring of truth: simultaneous surprise and recognition.  I said, “Wow, I agree. It feels true.”  Should I tell you what Jung talks about? Not before warning you that I’m about to.  If for any reason a spoiler at this point is not to your liking, stop reading right here.  As Grover warns in The Monster at the End of this Book: don’t turn the page.  If you do, there’s a monster at the end of this paragraph. It won’t be Grover. Or will it?

Who’s still reading?  For those who are, here’s the bottom line.  Jung describes how the human psyche typically deals with material it has not been able to assimilate by projecting an external symbol, as if communicating something that way.  UFOs are that external symbol.  They are projections of the human psyche, based on material it has not been able to incorporate.  They are also compensatory, which means they contain the attempt to put something back in balance.  What exactly is out of balance is where this theory most compelled me.

On the subconscious level, suggests the theory, we are all profoundly affected by the perilous state of human affairs on Earth.   We are all well aware in our souls, but not as completely in our conscious minds, that our species has created the capacity to render itself extinct through nuclear war, but lacks the maturity to safeguard us against that foolish outcome.  Nagasaki and Hiroshima were two actual examples of going in that direction.  Since then, there has been a cold war, stockpiling nuclear weapons.  Smaller countries have joined the global arms race.  Countless detonations have occurred in the name of practicing.  At this time the political climate on Earth is anything but reassuring of human safety and survival.

This danger manifests within us as a profound helplessness and fear.  Then, according to Jung, our psyche responds by compensating for it.  Because the helplessness and fear are not fully integrated in our conscious lives, the psyche’s response to them won’t be either.  It gets projected outside as a meaningful symbolin this case, the ancient form of the mandala, the symbol of wholeness.  By this theory, Jung equates UFO’s with a projected longing in our species for the spiritual and moral wholeness that will be our likeliest salvation in the face of imminent self-annihilation.

Unfolding this argument, Jung goes to great lengths to explicate the uncanny equivalences between mandalas and UFOs .  He addresses all the typical UFO characteristics exhaustively, covering exceptions such as cigar-shaped spacecraft and how they relate to the story too.  He also connects UFOs to the ways that humans have always looked to the heavens in times of mortal insecurity.  The main difference now is simply our greater technology, which therefore influences the content of our projective process like a translation matrix or filter.

Do UFOs exist?  Another fascinating part of the book is that Jung ventures some bold ideas about how major archetypal projections tend to take place.  He describes how psychic events like these often occur in tandem with physical ones that pertain to them, so we need not rule out one explanation of UFOs for the sake of another.  Instead, we can view all the explanations as occurring together.  Calling it Synchronicity, Jung sees this process of meaningful coincidence as a hallmark trait of important psychological revelation.  He therefore invites us to expand our thinking: let it include opposing ideas, such as real and projection, because they need not contradict each other and are not necessarily incompatible.

3 Comments Categories: book reviews

3 thoughts on “The Alien at the End of This Book”

  1. Laurie says:

    I think we should continue this discussion over donuts. (Donuts are mandalas too.)

    1. graham says:

      And most valid UFO sightings do mention sprinkles…

  2. Terryl says:

    I swear I saw a cigar shaped UFO when we were in St. Thomas. It hovered in the sky and glowed brilliantly for about 5 -10 minutes – and then seemed to de-materialize. The time was about 5 AM – just as the sun was beginning to enter the night sky. I think of this often as proof that there is so much out there that we do not know anything about.
    Your writing is not only excellent but compelling to read!

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