From Magonia 16, July 1984.
Ian Cresswell examines the subjective nature of close encounters, and their similarity to dream and trance states.
While it has been assumed by many ufologists that the nature of the UFO phenomenon is of an objective nature with perhaps an element of subjectivity involved in some of the cases, the content of the close encounter experience seems to fully negate this belief. At first, this opinion may seem to be a fair possibility, going by the general appearance of the phenomenon; but not when these experiences are taken apart and certain strange inconsistencies start to appear, along with distortion, and other aspects that don’t make sense within this framework. Perhaps some people involved in our subject haven’t understood the extent of subjectivity present in the UFO phenomenon – especially with the close encounters.
I have made the decision to concentrate on C.E. cases because they seem to offer the most as far as contents and complexity are concerned, leaving us in the position to accept the experience as genuine or not, rather than also study the rest of the UFO phenomenon which could well be reports of many different things not necessarily connected with the close encounters.
One thing that I must make clear at the start is that I consider most of the close encounters to be genuine in as much as that the percipients are convinced of what they have experienced. The phenomenon is a reality – this is no longer in doubt. There will be only a small number of hoaxes in these cases and an equally small number that can be put down to psychosis.
Surprisingly, one of the first things that made me doubtful that there was an objective basis for these accounts was the large number of cases that have been reported from around the world. It seemed much too large a sample, and too wide a variety of types of craft and individuals, if physical objects were involved. A smaller number of cases and types would have been more convincing – what is involved here is more than just different descriptions of the same object or entity. Even individual cases with more than one witness produce different descriptions of the same events – more than one might expect from human error in descriptions. Similarly, there are innumerable cases where events lack witnesses, even in densely built up areas.
Many of these incidents appear to be dream-like in their appearance and contents. On the surface there is a pattern that so often emerges: one of apparent physical craft, with extraterrestrial occupants. Although the ‘plot’ seems correct, the script isn’t and the actors don’t seem to know their lines, judging by the nonsense they spout. So often in these cases objects will appear or disappear from nowhere; entities will appear through the walls of a craft rather than a doorway; objects will land on soft ground, yet leave no markings.
Some ufologists have tried to argue that these distortions and inconsistencies can be explained by the conscious will of the entities in an effort to confuse us as to their real identities, but this argument is merely indulging in intellectual somersaults in order to keep the phenomenon on an objective basis.
What the percipients are experiencing is a distortion of objective reality; they are perceiving a series of images superimposed on objective reality
I suggest that what the percipients are experiencing is a distortion of objective reality, and they are perceiving a series of images superimposed on objective reality, and indistinguishable from it. The origin of these images is subjective, and so is the process by which they emerge into consciousness. They occur outside the conscious will of the witness; they don’t cause them to happen, they can’t imagine them into being, because they occur spontaneously on a seemingly selective basis.
From the standpoint of psychiatry these images would be considered to be of an hallucinatory nature because the percipients are seeing something not objectively there. But this does not seem to be a satisfactory position, because largely the witnesses are not psychotic, and the hallucinations – if such they can be called – are clearly not pathological in nature. Although something is occurring on a subjective level it is no less real than something happening on an objective level: the images of objectivity are built from sensory data that is decoded in the brain.
Too often the unconscious is regarded as a dustbin with little of value in it, but its contents are far more than things which have been repressed because the conscious part of the psyche can’t face the truth. We can imagine the psyche like the proverbial iceberg, the unconscious being the seven-eighths underwater. We hold so very little at any given time in our conscious state, but within the depths of the unconscious lies a complete history of all that has happened to us on both a personal and racial level, and all that has occurred on the objective and subjective level.
It is from this combination of both conscious and unconscious that our night-dreams are made. I feel the images of close encounters are of a similar combined process, with more emphasis placed on that imagery that has never been conscious. Dreams are hallucinations, but are not pathological – or we all be psychotics: It appears that in the dream state we have the nearest comparison to the close encounter experience, both being formed out of subjective images that take on their own ‘reality’ when they are taking place.
It is said that dream states are very much like psychotic states, with the inner imagery continuing over into waking life. Schizophrenia appears to be a conscious dream state, but with one fundamental difference: in the dream state the sense of self and its relationship to the dream world is intact. The contents of the dream may be strange and bizarre, but they are still usually accepted as being real events at the time they occur, and it is only on waking their nature is revealed. In schizophrenia the sense of self is lost, and so are its links with other people, and the environment.It is not just a case of splitting away parts of the personality, but rather a total shattering of it. The schizophrenic believes in the reality of his hallucinations and delusions, and not just at the time they are occurring. This does not match the UFO percipient, as he accepts as reality subjective images which may happen only once in his life, with no further pathological reaction. He is perfectly aware of the rest of the environment and his links with it. The UFO event is the odd thing out and does not belong with the rest of the images of objective reality.
Although the dream state is very much like the close encounter it would not be true to say that the latter is a conscious dream, but their origins, and the process of becoming manifest within consciousness are the same.
Although the dream state is very much like the close encounter it would not be true to say that the latter is a conscious dream. But their origins, and the process of becoming manifest within consciousness are the same – this is the reason so many of the factors against the causation being objective stand out so clearly. The fact of distortion involved in these images is due to their unconscious nature, and has nothing to do with external events. The distortion of objective reality is because the origin of the images is different from that of the perceived state of the witnesses normal levels of consciousness. They only appear to have an independent existence because they are not a product of the conscious human mind.
A number of other factors involved in the process of manifestation also cause distortion in both dream-states and UFO encounters. The use of symbols instead of the actual object, and a symbol of a different type to that meant, causes a great deal of distortion. I am using ‘symbol’ in the sense of a subjective image portraying the contents of the unconscious. The same type of distortion can be seen with the process of ‘condensation’ which is the combination of a number of separate images to form one composite image.
Another factor found in both dream-states and close-encounters is ‘scene-jumping’. The perceived images suddenly change instantly into something else, apparently against all logic.
Before leaving the area of dreams and close-encounter experiences, there are three more subjective experiences worth considering. The first two can be classed together for convenience – hypnogogic and hypnopompic states. The former is the perception of dream images before falling asleep; the latter the perception of such images upon awakening. Their origins and processes of manifestation are the same as for dream states. Although technically, in psychiatric terms, regarded as being hallucinatory in nature, they are not pathological. They are just subjective images. These states are particularly relevant to ‘bedside visitor’ [or 'Old Hag' - Ed.] types of experiences reported in UFO contexts.
The other state I wish to look at is that of the ‘waking dream’. This is often just a single image, or occasionally a series, which breaks through the usual barriers of ego-consciousness to appear in the form of visual images that are superimposed on the environment with no apparent difference at first being noticed. These states are again hallucinatory, but not always pathological in nature. I say ‘not always’ because these states can occur with over use of narcotics or alcohol, or during periods of sleep deprivation. But they can also occur when a subjective image arises with enough associated emotion to drive it through the usual barriers of consciousness to manifest as an objective experience. These are often wish-fulfilments. During the non-pathological appearance of these images there is no loss of self and no loss of contact with the percipient’s surroundings.
It is of great significance that so many of the close encounter abduction cases have come to light because of hypnosis, often following a series of nightmares or a loss of memory following a UFO sighting. I feel that these cases do not argue the case for any objective event having taken place. In the hypnotic state a person will bring forth a series of images which are by now all subjective, regardless of whether they once had occurred in an objective state. In the hypnotic state reality, whether objective or subjective, is regarded as the same, and truth, fantasy and myth are all intertwined. The hypnotic subject will still be able to relate to it, and still feel very aware of self in these trance remembrances.
Regressed memories of this kind are no sure proof of the of the reality of the experiences, but they could well be evidence of its subjective ‘reality’. Consider if a person had a dream during which he encountered a grounded UFO and its occupants, which develops into an abduction scenario. Upon awakening,
like most dreams this is forgotten. But because of the high level emotional energy connected with it, it is likely to return to consciousness one way or another; usually in small remembered sections. Then under hypnosis the dream is brought back fully, and understood as a memory of an objective event of a physical nature.
We have seen how dream and other related states do throw light on the true nature of close encounters.
There is one more state of trance which I would like to suggest is of importance to our understanding of CE cases – that of somnambulism. In its classical psychiatric sense this means the carrying out of physical motor activities, often of a complex nature, while asleep – commonly called sleepwalking. At first glance this may not appear to have much relevance to our field of study, but I would like to draw attention to an important study by C.G.Jung; ‘On the psychology and pathology of so-called psychic phenomena’, first published in 1902, and can be found in the collected Works, volume 1: Psychiatric Studies. Although connected with hysteria, I feel the case is important because of the type of material coming out of trance cases, and the light it throws on the mechanisms involved in ‘paranormal’ activity.In view of the length of this case-study by Jung, I can only give a short summary, and then an extract from it. The case involves a young girl known as ‘SW’, fifteen-and-a-half years old, whose family and near relations manifested many unusual activities, often of a parapsychological nature, which would be of interest to ufologists.
The girl was ‘normal’ apart from a rather reserved manner which occasionally gave way to displays of exuberant joy. She heard about ‘table-turning’ from some friends in July 1899 and soon took part in it. It was discovered that she was a good medium, with communications of a serious nature taking place through the spirit of her dead grandfather.
Then in August of the same year her first somnambulistic attack took place. During this she became very pale, sunk down to the ground or onto a chair, closed her eyes, became cataleptic, drew several deep breaths, and began to speak. In this trance state she copied the voices of her dead relatives. Gestures and actions accompanied the words. These attacks, at their height, went on for about eight weeks, during which time numerous personalities spoke through her, answering questions put by the people present with Jung.
The general level of these massages was superficial and at times childish, whilst others appeared complex and intellectual. Sometimes during the attacks the girl’s eyes would be open, at other times closed. Although in a sleep-like trance she could walk around the room and perform complex physical motor activities, unaware that she was doing so.
If reported today instead of 1899 these events would almost certainly have been interpreted in a ufological context
In these trance states – which she took as being totally real – she was often taken by her ‘spirit guides’ to other parts of the world, to see relatives to see relatives and other people. During one of these trance-trips something happened which I think holds great significance for the understanding of close-encounter states:
“For instance, she once returned from a railway journey in an extremely agitated state. We thought at first that something unpleasant must have happened to her; but finally she pulled herself together and explained that ‘a star-dweller had sat opposite her in the train’. From the description she gave of this being I recognised an elderly merchant I happened to know, who had a rather unsympathetic face.
“Apropos of this event, she told us all the peculiarities of the star-dwellers: they have no godlike souls, as men have, they pursue no science, no philosophy, but in technical arts they are far more advanced than we are. Thus flying machines have long been in existence on Mars; the whole of Mars is covered with canals, the canals are artificial lakes and are used for irrigation. The canals are all flat ditches, the water in them is very shallow. The excavating of the canals caused the Martians no particular trouble, as the soil there is lighter than on Earth. There are no bridges over the canals but that does not prevent communication because everybody travels by flying machine.
“There are no wars on the stars, because no difference of opinion exists. The star-dwellers do not have a human shape, but the most laughable ones imaginable, such as no-one could possibly conceive. Human spirits who get permission to travel in the beyond are not allowed to set foot on the stars. Similarly, travelling star-dwellers may not touch down on Earth but must remain at a distance of some 75 feet above its surface. Should they infringe this law, they remain in the power of the Earth and musttake human bodies, from which they are freed only after their natural death. As human beings they are cold, hard-hearted, and cruel. SW can recognise them by their peculiar expression, which lacks the ‘spiritual’, and by their hairless, eyebrowless, sharply cut faces. Napoleon I was a typical star-dweller.” Psychiatric Studies, pp. 34-35.
There are many other interesting parts of this case study and I can only mention a few of them in passing. A ‘metaphysical chart’ was given on the nature of reality; a great deal about reincarnation and the past-lives of SW. The main period of activity was about eight weeks, with a steady decline over the next six months, until she was finally caught trying to fake physical apports during a seance. From this it would appear that as subjective images started to dry up, SW began to create, her own effects; a pattern similar to several close-encounter witnesses who have faked physical evidence to prolong the phenomenon after an initial genuine encounter. If reported today instead of 1899 these events would almost certainly have been interpreted in a ufological context – the imagery is identical.
I should add that Jung considered the case was a result of hysteria, and that SW’s experiences, although hallucinatory in their nature, had been conscious parts of the ego-state which had become unconscious, then returned, along with other types of internal unconscious imagery to form subjective image-visions of a non-psychotic nature.
In passing, I would also like to refer to another case of around the same period, that has been brought to light by Flournoy in his book From India to the Planet Mars published in 1900. This is the Helene Smith case, and again we have a young girl and a situation of trance-like state of consciousness. Through automatic writing she produced what was said to be the Martian language, but was later shown to be a mixture of French and Sanskrit, with pseudo-linguistic products of her own. This was not done consciously, but the girl was a victim of her own subjective nature. These cases show that today’s events are by no means unique, only the form has changed slightly, and, of course, our interpretation of it.
What we appear to be dealing with in the close encounter experience is something like the somnambulistic state which affects consciousness, to induce a state of semi-consciousness in the person under-going this experience. In this state subjective imagery, mainly from the unconscious, replaces the other ego-complexes to produce a trance state in which automatic behaviour still takes place.
Consider a driver going home on a lonely, deserted stretch of road. There is little to do but relax. It is dark, so there is little to see, and attention begins to drift, and turn to reflective inner thoughts, or else the driver will fall into a peaceful state of mind rather like the state just before sleep. These are the conditions in which the classic close-encounter or abduction occur – a bright light just above the road, a strange sound, and the light takes on the shape of a disc-like object. The car engine stops dead. Small entities emerge from the ‘object’ and approach the car. Suddenly the object vanishes in a flash, at the same time the car engine starts up on its own. The incident is over, and another CE III is recorded.But is this a physical event, is the car stoppage the result of a physical effect on the cars electrical system? I would rather postulate that the driver has experienced something that is totally subjective, in its nature and in its process of manifestation as a series of images imposed on objective reality.
Typically, the light is the first sign of something about to occur as the percipient falls into a different level of consciousness. Although still conscious and aware of his surroundings, the imagery that is being formed is doing so in the same manner as during a dream state, or during a somnambulistic state of trance. Then, as the state gets more trance-like the witness automatically (and thereby unknown to his conscious self) stops the vehicle.
The images become more solid and more complex as the elements from another level of functioning flood through the barriers that have now been broken between the percipient’s conscious and unconscious. The encounter is now the most important aspect of the percipient’s conscious field. As the trance state then begins to lose power, the images vanish, and as they do so the witness again starts up the engine. The incident is over, leaving the driver with no conscious memory of having controlled the car.It is interesting to see how large a part the presence of light plays before the start of all these subjective experiences. It is a light of a subjective nature.
Something very strange is taking place within the psyche of man, the dark side of the moon is becoming visible.
It may be important that the vast majority of these incidents take place during the hours of darkness, as with the coming of darkness the normal states of consciousness begin to alter, the mind is more receptive to subjective imagery from the depths of the unconscious. It may give rise to a state in which the dream has become a total reality for the percipient, as with Jung’s patient ‘SW’, their reality is accepted without question.
Something very strange is taking place within the psyche of man, the dark side of the moon is becoming visible. That which was invisible is now being manifested. Magonia is alive and well, functioning within the depths of the human unconscious.
But what is the nature of the intelligence behind this production of unconscious imagery? Can it be of archetypal origin? An archetype is a primordial unconscious image that is common to all people as part of the collective unconscious. This is why any subjective image of this nature could be experienced by more than one person at a time. Jung did not regard man as being the creator of these images, but that in some way we are the projection of them.These images seem to be of a purely subjective nature, having no place within the conscious ego-state. They appear to have been with us throughout history, with new ones being added with the passage of time. The close encounter experience and the images that are associated with it may signal the emergence of a new series of archetypal images centres around the theme of alien vehicles and occupants.
But is their original human one, or something much deeper that subjective myths and images only mirror? This is not a question that can be really answered by science working on an objective level, but one that can only be answered subjectively – an area that depth psychology appears to best give us an approach to.
What we are dealing with is not the product of pathology, but at the same time is some-thing very different from ‘objectivity’. Even at this state of our knowledge the answer can only be speculative.