If current movies and TV shows are any indication—"Fire in the Sky," "Intruders," "Communion," "The X Files," "Encounter," "Sightings"—alien abductions are a hot and important topic. Add to this the growing body of speculation by eminent authorities—John Mack, for example, a Pulitzer Prize winner and psychiatrist, who was the consultant on "Intruders" and whose own life and circumstances parallel many of those of the main character, a psychiatrist, in the movie. As evidence of this increasing importance, Mack himself points to a 1991 Roper poll showing that as many as three million Americans may have been abducted.1
Yet the movie characterization of these aliens ranges widely across a spectrum from lovable "ETs" and spiritual allies to the demonic and violent images of "Fire in the Sky." As for their true nature and meaning, Mack has recently pointed out that it is difficult to get a handle on what is going on here: It keeps changing as more evidence comes in.2
Still, UFO abductions are a truly astounding phenomenon by any standard. If any of the explanations put forth for it so far prove out, Mack’s contentions concerning its potential to fracture the foundations of our beliefs and to revolutionize our understandings of reality are fully warranted.3 If nothing else it is, as Jung called it, a "modern myth in the making."4
However, there is one consistently overlooked aspect. It seems that neither Mack, Thompson,5 nor Judge6 grant any space, let alone credence, to Lawson’s7 explanation that the abduction phenomenon has perinatal origins—that is, is related to memories of birth trauma.
While I am not a Lawson proponent and I do believe Mack when he says that abductions cannot be explained away by the perinatal interpretation because this cannot account for the physical evidence, it seems that such an interpretation should not be dismissed out of hand. Considering the growing body of evidence of the importance of birth on our dreams, images, myths, behavior, motivations, and basic life orientation,8 we should at least be open to the possibility of there being an influence of the perinatal in such occurrences. For one thing, Lawson’s theory takes inspiration from Stanislav Grof’s discoveries about the role and emergence of the perinatal in one’s experience that has led to the development of the increasingly popular modality called Holotropic BreathworkTM.
As Mack makes clear, there is a tendency for a kind of evolution in the understandings of some abductees concerning what is happening to them as they go about therapeutically processing their feelings about the experiences. What was initially traumatic becomes transformative; what was frightening turns into an intensely meaningful experience of powerful bonding. Therefore, while these entities might be seen at first as frightening assailants, they are later seen as guides toward a greater role and an expanded identity, often centered around an ecological mission. This has interesting correlations with Joseph Campbell’s well-known portrayal of the "refusal of the call" during the "hero’s journey."
Keith Thompson saw this connection to the abductees as well. As he put it,
Thus, abductees may color their experiences with elements of being poked and prodded, of having things inserted into them, of being surrounded by alien medical-type beings in a laboratory setting, of having "samples" removed from them for testing, and of being swooped from one place to another without any control or say on their part. Compare this with what might be an infant’s interpretation of their experience upon coming out of the ordeal of birth into a brightly lit room of masked medical personnel and weighed on cold scales, having thermometers stuck up them, having suctions and fingers inserted into their mouths with their jaws stretched wide, having medical samples taken from them for testing for various indicators of health and possible disease, being roughly scrubbed, and then moved to strange places where they are left for periods before being moved around again. And then there are all the other aspects of the perinatal which color the experience as described by Lawson.
This is not, however, to say, as Lawson does, that these experiences are not in some sense real, or that they are entirely derivative of birth trauma. I can say this emphatically for I myself have had at least one experience containing many of the elements of a UFO abduction, but with none of the painful, perinatal-reminiscent elements at all.10 It was the most unusual experience of my life, and was incredibly profound. But I called it "vision," and "grace," not an abduction.
I am not claiming to be special; my experience was not completely without apprehension and fearfulness. Furthermore, from Mother Mary in the Bible to John Lilly and Terence McKenna currently, people have frequently reported encounters with higher entities—whether termed visitations from angels or experiences of "the Other," "Logos," or "allies." It is also possible that the fact that I had been processing my birth, in a deep experiential way, for several years before my "abduction" may have had something to do with the relative lack of perinatal overlay in my experience.
Reversing that possibility reveals another dimension: The fact that Western culture is the only known culture to have so perverted the natural birthing process—with high-tech and sterile gadgetry, drugs, and machine-like efficiency—may account for the cuttingly stark medical tuxedos in which we outfit our modern angels. It may also help explain why the encounter would initially seem extra-threatening and painful in modern times—and in that particular perinatal-reflecting way. After all, it is said of Jesus’s disciples that they "fell on their face, and were sore afraid" at the time of the Transfiguration and the appearance of Moses and Elijah. But nowhere do we see anything like being medically examined and probed in these earlier visitations.
Look at it this way. It is like when you are picking up a channel on your radio but there is too much static obscuring it, or, maybe a better analogy, when that particular band is picking up from two channels at once, so that you—and I am sure we have all had this experience at one time or other—are hearing parts of both broadcasts intermingled. Thus, you hear, say, a Beatles tune on one channel at the same time as a fundamentalist preacher on the "religious" channel—an irritating combination, no doubt, from either end of the cultural spectrum.
At times you hear the music clearly, with only some faint rhetorical rhythms in the background; at other times, you hear the heavy pounding of fundamentalist verbiage, with only a sweet yearning harmonious tinge to it.
In this example, if you do not know otherwise, how do you interpret your experience? If you are hearing the pounding rhetoric foremost, let us say, do you not interpret this experience in the cataclysmic, assaultive, and brimstone terms of the punishing preacher talk? Of course you do. Yet does this mean that the Beatles song does not exist? Of course it does not.
Similarly, and this is the way we have observed this process to work, as you clear out and recognize the personal-pain aspects of the bombastic preacher overlay, you are more able to tune-in to and clearly take in and appreciate the harmonious and loving Beatles tunes.
At first all you did was get access to something beyond yourself—i.e., you turned on the radio. Your interpretation of your radio experience is obviously going to be colored by all aspects of what you pick up at this time. It may be a while before—in looking within, or in gaining access, or in having transpersonal encounters—you are able to discriminate the biographical from the transpersonal and to hear the underlying heavenly rhythm.
In sum, it is not that the encounters with alien entities are either exactly false and derivative of underlying trauma (as Lawson would have it) or that they are entirely accurate. It is possible instead that the truth lies in a "both–and"—a paradox (as is so often the case on these borderlines of the ordinary). It may just be that these realities and memories are real, that these experiences do really happen . . . but that our interpretations and perceptions of them are highly distorted by our individual pain. In the same way Jacob, in the movie "Jacob’s Ladder," could only see demons hounding him until he had relinquished attachment to his former self and finally saw what they truly were—angels attempting to midwife him into the next higher stage of his ascension to hOMe.
2. John E. Mack, "The use of nonordinary states in helping UFO abductees." Presentation at the Third Annual Conference of the Association of Holotropic Breathwork International, 2 May 1993, San Rafael, CA.
3. John E. Mack, "Other realities: The "alien abduction" phenomenon." Noetic Sciences Review, No. 23, Autumn 1992, pp. 5-11.
4. Carl G. Jung, Flying Saucers: A Modern Myth of Things Seen in the Sky. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ, 1978.
5. Keith Thompson, "The UFO encounter experience as a crisis of transformation." In S. Grof and C. Grof (eds.): Spiritual Emergency: When Personal Transformation Becomes a Crisis, Jeremy P. Tarcher, Los Angeles, 1989; and Keith Thompson, Angels and Aliens: UFOs and the Mythic Imagination. Addison-Wesley Publishing Co., New York, 1991.
6. Mark Gauvreau Judge, "The outer limits of the soul." Common Boundary, 11(4) July/August 1993—except for totally overlooking the perinatal perspective, an otherwise comprehensive article providing an overview of the "field."
7. Alvin H. Lawson, "UFO abductions or birth memories?" Fate, 38(3) March 1985, pp. 68-80; and Alvin H. Lawson, "Perinatal imagery in UFO abduction reports." In Thomas Verny (ed.): Pre- and Perinatal Psychology: An Introduction. Human Sciences Press, New York, 1987.
8. See, for example, Elizabeth Noble, Primal Connections: How Our Experiences from Conception to Birth Influence Our Emotions, Behavior, and Health, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1993.
9. Thompson, 1989, p. 127.
10. See Mickel Adzema, "Sure it’s hard! But always are we here helping you." The Rose Garden, October-December, 1995, 26-27, 30-31.
NOTE: A version of this article was originally published in The Inner Door: The Newsletter of the Association for Holotropic Breathwork International, 5(4), November 1993; and it was subsequently reprinted in Spirit of Change and The Rose Garden magazines.
Comments? E-mail me by clicking on: firstname.lastname@example.org Mickel Adzema
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