Saturday, April 04, 2009

Talking flowers and other denizens of the imaginal realm

At Paranormal Musings, Mike MacDonald recounts a disturbing image he attributes to a jarring early childhood dream:

I am standing in a cave. Sitting before me, on a throne fashioned out of the rock, is what I can only describe as a very large pansy flower. The kind of flower that looks like it has a face with large slanted eyes (I know, when I saw the Communion book cover 20 years ago I almost had a cow.)

Although the flower creature did not speak to me, I could feel that it was communicating to me somehow in a form of extreme condescension and intelligence. Like it was implying to me that it was in total command. Not necessarily in a malevolent way, but in a way of true authority.

I like the shamanistic sensibility of this encounter with the "Other." Ironically, while our conception of the alien has been subject to endless modification by a mass media eager to capitalize on our fascination with the nonhuman, we rarely encounter non-humanoid forms. Mike's description, suggesting nothing less than a sentient plant, recalls the beings encountered by ethnologists who experiment with naturally occurring hallucinogens. (The "large slanted eyes" are an interesting twist. Could the prominent eyes now readily associated with the "Grays" be hardwired in the human brain, destined to recur regardless of the appearance of the being looking out of them?)

Mike might be describing a brush with what psychologist Kenneth Ring has termed the "imaginal realm," a state suspended between waking consciousness and the enigmatic turf of dreams. William S. Burroughs, for instance, described seeing green reindeer and diminutive gray men in his childhood. He later emphasized his concern that the decimation of the ecosphere constituted a sort of lobotomization of the collective unconscious, strip-mining the fertile soil of Ring's world of the imaginal as surely as a fleet of bulldozers set loose in the Amazonian rain-forests.

The pronounced authoritarian demeanor of the flower-like entity offers some support for Burroughs' intuitive sense that nature is angry at humanity's transgressions and more than capable of letting its displeasure be known. It's worth remembering that a hallmark of the archetypal "alien abduction" is a graphic ecological warning, suggesting that perceived ETs harbor a stalwart interest in Earth's environmental sustainability.

Indeed, students of shamanism might argue that the Grays are thought-forms generated by the Earth itself as a means of communication. And at least a few UFO researchers have taken note of their apparent vegetable nature; as the memetic ancestors of the archetypal "little green men," the Grays can be viewed as chilly avatars of our fragile biosphere -- bent on revenge, enlightenment or perhaps a curious fusion of both.

Nor is Mike's memory of encountering a potent nonhuman intelligence within a cave without precedent. Contemporary "abductees" describe their nocturnal journeys to caverns with earthen walls, leading to the natural assumption that they've been transported to underground alien installations. But just as unannounced encounters with bizarre nonhuman beings are far from a modern phenomenon, rock-walled caverns populated by strange beings and bewildering technology enjoy a lively role in world mythology. For example, folklorists have pointed out suggestive parallels between "alien" dwellings and the subterranean domain said to await victims of lustful faeries (whose behavior, more often than not, mirrors that of today's ufonauts).

As Jacques Vallee has noted, we seem to be dealing with a phenomenon that adapts to the reigning symbolism of any given era. That said, perhaps the idea that we're dealing with something fundamentally "other" is a ploy enacted by a planetary mind of which we're inextricably entangled.


Michael R. MacDonald said...

Brilliant, Mac. you are a helluva thinker. Looking forward to our next Espresso - whenever, wherever. I still don't trust pansies, btw.


Mac said...

Thanks for the kind words, Mike!

Tristan Eldritch said...

Great post! Am just in the middle of reading Graham Hancock's Supernatural , which covers very similar ground. I think the work being done by Hancock and Rick Strassman with regard to shamanism and DMT is currently the most interesting line of enquiry being pursued in the close encounters area, and seems a natural progression from ideas advanced by Vallee, Mack, Streiber, and the more adventurous thinkers in the UFO field. Interestingly, Burroughs once spent a weekend in Whitley Streiber's notorious cabin, perhaps pursuing the figures he recalled from his childhood.

Mac said...


Glad you liked it. I think we might be in the beginning stages of an intellectual renaissance when it comes to the close encounter enigma, and explorers like Strassman and Hancock are leading the current pack (fueled by the ideas of Vallee, McKenna, Keel and Strieber).

Ultimately, I don't think that UFOs will prove to have anything to do with ET visitors (although there will likely always be exceptional cases to give us serious pause). I think it's rather more likely that the UFO phenomenon has more to teach us about the nature and role of consciousness, human and otherise.