The Mythology of UFO Events and Interpretations: a New Examination. Peter Rogerson

First published in Merseyside UFO Bulletin, volume 5, number 3, Summer 1972  

klaatuOne of the basic myths behind the UFO interpretations until recently was that of the deus ex machina , which would bring an end to history. (1) In [John] Michel’s latest article (2) we can see this theme repeated; the UFO is the precursor of a new mutation of the human species, which will produce an irrevocable discontinuity in evolution, the final, oceanic, unbridgeable generation gap.

These early myths were nurtured, not primarily, by the absurd UFO cults, but by the professional myth makes, the comics, films, science fiction writers, even advertisers” The first great contactee (story) came not from the Californian “saucerites” of happy memory, but from Hollywood in the form of the allegorical science fiction drama “The Day the Earth Stood Still” (1951). This concerns the coming of a prophet Klaatu, in a flying saucer. His arrival interrupts the electrical supplies of the world, the weapons of his assailants melt away. He preaches a message of universal peace, and is martyred for it, releasing the robot Gort, who begins a campaign of destruction. Only the actions of two ordinary citizens, a widow and her young son, save the world and by their love temporarily resurrect Klaatu, but now only the threat of the destructive power of the robot remains to prevent war

As with the later contactee stories, this film was conceived as a warning against nuclear war. (3) Its symbolism is powerful. If men of humanity are ignored, then humanity will be at the mercy of the elemental forces of blind technology. If peace by love is rejected, then there will inevitably be peace by terror. In the dark days when it was made The Day the Earth Stood Still made a deep impact. In its wake the contactee cults grew and flourished. Few if any possessed the vision of the original. Many degenerated into whimsy and were lost completely.

Established science fiction writers also used the UFO legend as a basis on which to build mythological statements. Among the most important of such tales was Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End , another allegorical work. The Overlords, symbolic of scientific rationalism, arrive from space to end men’s squabbles and create a rationalistic utopia on Earth. In the closing chapters it is seen that this utopia is sterile, its rationalist materialism a defence against aspects and powers of the human personality which must be hidden until man has gained wisdom. The release of these powers comes in a generation of divine children, whose arrival means the end of the world, the final collapse into futility of man. The vision of Alpha and Omega at the close is one of the most remarkable passages in science fiction. It is a vision of science as creator and destroyer. The myth of the super-human child is also seen in John Wyndham’s The Midwich Cuckoos . In both we are confronted with a generation of “changelings” who possess the wild talents and threaten the end of history. 

The growing power of the myth of the changeling can be detected in a variety of literature. An idea which undoubtedly began as a primitive interpretation of the birth of a subnormal or deformed child has achieved a new significance. The growing rumour of a coming generation of children possessed of strange and supernatural powers occurs in a variety of guises. The so-called “cross-correspondence” scripts of the early years of this century, allegedly dictated by the post mortem Myers, Gurney and Sidgwick (the founders of the SPR), make much of a coming mutation of the human race engineered from “the other side”. (4) Such myths also occur in UFO situations (e.g., the Appleton case) and black magic cults have talked of children of Satan. These myths suggest a subconscious fear and awe of children, who are seen as a repository of the dark powers within man, unrestrained by culture. 

Similarly the myth of the adult taken to Magonia is growing. Those taken are either destroyed or, like Monsieur Vincent, (5) possessed of new powers. There is a reorientation and men change, draw apart, or are set apart by strange incommunicable knowledge. We can sense this in the case of Dr X, (6,7) with the appearance of the strange stigmata, not only reminding one of the markings used to identify birds, but also forming, as John Rimmer has pointed out, (8) a symbolic figure of a third eye in a triangle. The third eye as a symbol suggests both an increased inner awareness, and incipient splitting of the personality.
 
During the last few years, as noted before, there has been a movement away from these simple images towards more complex patterns. The first hints came with the study of the 1897 airship reports, similar legends to which may have provided the basis for the airship tales of Jules Verne. (9) In these, as with some of his other works, Verne is concerned with the corrupting effect of scientific power on the idealist. The power originally intended to liberate mankind corrupts and then destroys its creator. An apt symbol of the science behind the railroads, threatening the survival of the Mid-western farmers.
 
johnkeel
 

 

 

The basic theme of Keel is that a dark force threatens man, prevents him from developing his faculties to the full, and can destroy him

 
 
  
 
 
It is the work of John Keel and his supporters from which the elusive turn in the myth developed. The basic theme of Keel (and British counterparts such as Gordon Creighton) is that a dark force threatens man, prevents him from developing his faculties to the full, and can destroy him. In an effort to comprehend this force, both Keel and Creighton have turned to the primitive belief in “elementals” the impact of which seems to strike some deep chord in the unconscious. How did this myth arise?  
The very name “elemental” suggests an identification with the dark instinctive aspects of man’s personality. The childishness and general hostility to man, which are said to be attributes of the elemental, confirm this identification. In the case of the poltergeist there is evidence that this is so. (10) The poltergeist is the projection of emotional conflict from the interior reality of the mind to the external reality. The poltergeist allows anti-social actions to be committed without guilt. In a similar manner the violent and sexual “messages” received during “automatic writing”, etc. can be accepted by projecting them on to “evil spirits”, thus allowing repressed desires to be expressed.
 
“Primitive” man (as with modern children) had no conception either of the distinction between animate and inanimate nature, or of causality. All nature had spirits, who directed the natural order of things, and who possessed the qualities of the aspect of nature they represented. These qualities were anthropomorphisms, projections of aspects of the human personality on to the environment. With the arrival of the new intellectual religions, the old myths were driven underground, becoming symbols of the dark instinctive side of man which the new faiths had rejected. 
 
The term “elemental” also gives a vision of terrifying mindless power, an apt symbol of which can be found in numerous reports of “monsters”, “robots”, etc. reminiscent of “Gort” in The Day the Earth Stood Still. The reports of one-eyed giants from South America are also an aspect of this symbol. The Cyclops is totally mindless and instinctive, the lowest depths of mental deficiency capable of post-natal existence. There is also a hint of blindness, and the robot-like behaviour suggests a de-humanised humanity. The totality is a symbol of great but mindless power. 
 
To have too close a relationship with Magonia is dangerous. The MIB has thus an element of taboo; by observing UFO events man has encroached upon the territory of the gods and retribution follows. 
 
The MIB is also the “censor”, preventing men from obtaining knowledge which will destroy them, the knowledge and power of the gods. Similarly, those “taken”, such as AVB and the Hills are prevented from taking artefacts. Paradoxically, the same symbol portrays the MIB as the elemental force within, preventing the discovery of precious secrets.   

The MIB features in many ghost stories. It is a “stock apparition” often interpreted as an undertaker, a monk, in female form as a nun or a widow. The persistence of such traditions suggests the power of the symbol. In a recent folk song, the MIB is explicitly presented as the dark hidden side of man, which men desperately attempt to avoid seeing. 

Closely associated with the MIB in some aspects of UFO mythology is the Dero. The Dero has several important symbolic aspects. Clearly the Dero, a terror from the interior responsible for human tragedy, is a symbol of the dark atavistic forces in the unconscious; it is also a symbol of dehumanisation by the wrong use of knowledge, a theme often expressed in science fiction.    
 
Yet these dark aspects of Magonia are not the whole picture. We have already seen the symbol of the sun maiden (13) and there are other symbols of a similar nature. Keel created a great deal of amusement in some quarters with talk of “hermaphrodite angels”, yet the hermaphrodite angel is a symbol in many cultures – a symbol of primal unity, a reconciliation of opposites. It is a not infrequent dream image, and has great prominence in alchemical lore.  
 
Thus the UFO myth is of a dual nature, capable of creating or destroying, thus mirroring the power of science, and knowledge in general. It echoes powerful symbolic themes which are also to be discovered in literature, especially science fiction. It also serves as a “translation” of older universal myths in modern terms.
 
The Myth of Magonia is total and universal to human experience. It is difficult to present a total meaning of it. Magonia seems to be the symbol of the impersonal, totally alien forces of the natural world, and its duality represents the varying moods of nature. It is these aspects of man which identify him with the natural world, the unconscious, archaic part of ourselves, that is suppressed in civilisation. It has given us our greatest visions and most terrible nightmares, the extremes of beauty and hideousness. The conservatism and timelessness of Magonia symbolises the timelessness of nature, the slow passage of geological time, compared with which the lifetime of men is insignificant. Its capriciousness is that of nature and the instinctive part of ourselves; its power dwarfs our achievements, rendering them powerless.
 
Our comments should not be interpreted as necessarily indicating that the UFO phenomena are wholly internalised: Such a view, despite great scientific difficulties, should not be dismissed out of hand, but the mythological nature of the UFO reports holds true whatever the physical nature of “real” UFO phenomena. The relationship between the “real” and “mythological” UFO phenomena is a field fertile for speculation, speculation best left to science fiction writers however.  
————————————————————————————— 

References:

1. Rogerson, Peter, “The UFO as an integral part of the apocalyptophilia and irrationality of the mid twentieth century”, MUFOB , Vol. 4, No. 1, 5
2. Michel, Aimé, “An enigmatic figure of the XVII century”, Flying Saucer Review , Vol. 18, No. 2, 3
3. Baxter, John, Science Fiction in the Cinema , Barnes, 1970
4. Salter, W.H., Zoar, London, 1961
5. Michel, Aimé, “The UFOs and history”, Flying Saucer Review, Vol. 18, No. 3, 3
6. Michel, Aimé, “The strange case of Dr X”, UFO Percipients, Flying Saucer Review Special Issue No. 30 , 3
7. Michel, Aimé, “The strange case of Dr X” (part 2), Flying Saucer Review , Vol. 17, No. 6, 3
8. Rimmer, John, private conversation with the author
9. Clark, Jerome and Loren Coleman, “Serpents and UFOs”, Flying Saucer Review , Vol. 18, No. 3, 18
10. Owen, A.R. George, Can We Explain the Poltergeist? , Helix Press, 1964
11. Sandell, Roger, “More on Welsh UFOs in 1905″, Flying Saucer Review , Vol. 18, No. 2, 31
12. Dale-Green, Patricia, Dog , Hart-Davies, 1966
13. Rogerson, Peter, “The sun maiden”, MUFOB , Vol. 4, No. 2
 

 

One thought on “The Mythology of UFO Events and Interpretations: a New Examination. Peter Rogerson

  1. Notes on “The Mythology of UFO Events and Interpretations.

    The Past is foreign country, they do things differently there. (L. P. Hartley)

    This essay must have been written in Summer of 1972. about the time of my 21st birthday, and has to be read as a piece of youthful naiveté, and, I have to confess, contains some language and attitudes which show how much we have advanced in 36 years in our attitudes.

    References 2 and 5. These references to articles by the French ufologist Aime Michel in Flying Saucer Review should be reversed. Reference 2 is the article “The UFOs and history”. and reference 5 should be to “An Enigmatic figure”. M. Vincent was St Vincent de Paul
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Vincent_de_Paul
    whose disappearance between 1605 and 1607 Michel found mysterious, the more so because he was (according to Michel) born the Bayonne-Vichy orthotenic line. “The UFOs and history” carried on this theme, claiming that this BAVIC line was some sort of nexus through which an extraterrestrial supermind could manipulate human history.

    The myth of the changeling Please note this was written about 15 years before the alien hybrid motif began to dominate abductionism.

    The cross correspondence scripts. See my review of “The Eager Dead” posted on the Magonia blog) for an update as to what this was really about, and you will never think of the SPR in quite the same light again!

    The appearance of strange stigmata…. Again see how these themes were developing years before they became to the stock in trade of abduction tales.

    “Primitive man (like modern children)… Ouch!! That reveals the sort of attitudes that you could find in the literature I was reading at the time, and how little we had escaped from the colonialist past in the early 1970s. This idea originated with the French anthropologist Lucien Levy-Bruhl, http://science.jrank.org/pages/10050/Magic-Thought-Logic-Rationality-in-Magic.html

    and behind it lies a history of colonialist and racist assumptions which were endemic to earlier generations of anthropologists.

    By a reversal, today there are anthropologists who argue that it was the merging of social and natural conciseness, through the mediation of fully articulate language, which was the trigger for behavioural modernity, and what some see as the explosion of human creativity which followed about 50,000 years ago.

    Rather than being an expression of “primitiveness”, this core animism is a human universal, though one which has been culturally repressed in various times and places.

    Today I would say that the elementals or petty supernaturals (djinns, daemons, boggarts, fairies etc) are personifications of the forces of wild nature, or are mediating figures between nature and culture. The concept of elemental is of course not a “primitive” one, but an invention of early modern alchemists.

    I would also replace much of the sub-Jungian psychologising with the more general notion of habitat and wilderness.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>