Alien Abduction: Political, Economic, and Religious Implications
John Mack, M.D.
Summary: It is not altogether clear to me why we become so attached to our ways of seeing the world. Perhaps a comprehensive scientific paradigm, like any ideology, gives a sense of mastery and power. Mystery and the sense of not knowing are antithetical to the need to maintain control and seem, at times, to inspire such terror that we fear that we might blow apart, like the frog in the Tibetan story when confronted with a universe too vast to comprehend. This might explain why it is the intellectual and political elite in our culture that seems most deeply wedded to perpetuating the materialist view of reality.
The Western scientific/materialist worldview has been hugely successful in its explorations of the physical world, revealing many of its secrets and using this knowledge to serve human purposes. We have overcome the harshness of winter, reduced suffering through advances in medicine, and learned to communicate electronically with those far away. At the same time we have applied our knowledge to creating weapons of destruction that can now easily destroy life as we know it. Our use of modern technology to tear resources from the earth is bringing the biosphere to the brink of collapse. We are a species out of harmony with nature, gone beserk in the indulgence of its desires at the expense of other living beings and the earth that has given us life.
The task of reversing this trend is monumentous. Even as we recognize the peril we have created, the vested interests that stand in the way of discovering a balance in our relationship with nature are formidable. Huge corporate, scientific, educational, and military institutions consume many billions of dollars of material goods and maintain, as if mindlessly, a paralyzing stasis that is difficult to reverse. For international business the world seems at times to be nothing more than a giant market to be divided up among the cleverest entrepreneurs.
But there are psychospiritual vested interests that resist change and that are perhaps even more powerful than these material ones. These interests are reflected in the attachment to the notion that the physical laws we know describe all that is, and that if other beings reside in the cosmos they will behave more or less like us. The [formerly] U.S. government-funded SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) program, which operates on the assumption that extraterrestrial intelligence could be found by sending radio waves out into the universe, illustrates this bias. The possibility that advanced intelligences might not choose to communicate with us through such a tiny or limited technological aperture, seeking perhaps some fuller opening of our consciousness, seems not to have occurred to its inventors. As philosopher Terence McKenna has suggested, "To search expectantly for a radio signal from an extraterrestrial source is probably as culture-bound a presumption as to search the galaxy for a good Italian restaurant" (McKenna 1991).
It is not altogether clear to me why we become so attached to our ways of seeing the world. Perhaps a comprehensive scientific paradigm, like any ideology, gives a sense of mastery and power. Mystery and the sense of not knowing are antithetical to the need to maintain control and seem, at times, to inspire such terror that we fear that we might blow apart, like the frog in the Tibetan story when confronted with a universe too vast to comprehend. This might explain why it is the intellectual and political elite in our culture that seems most deeply wedded to perpetuating the materialist view of reality. The UFO abduction phenomenon, which strikes at the heart of the Western paradigm and reveals us to be utterly without control, is more readily accepted at the grass-roots level than by the culturally sophisticated or most intellectually advanced among us. For it is, to a large degree, the scientific and governmental elite and the selected media that it controls that determine what we are to believe is real, for these monoliths are the principal beneficiaries of the dominant ideology.
This "politics of ontology" (Mack 1992) is then the primary arena in which the reality and significance of the UFO abduction phenomenon must be confronted. Before its potential meaning for our individual and collective lives can be realized it has to be taken seriously and moved out of the sensationalized tabloids into the mainstream of society so that the sophisticated media is the mainstream of the society so that the sophisticated media is free to give up their supercilious tone. For our own government and other governments around the world the abduction phenomenon presents a special problem. It is, after all, the business of government to protect its people, and for officials to acknowledge that, for strange beings from radar-defying craft to, in seeming defiance of the laws of gravity and space/time itself, invade our homes and abduct people would create particular problems. This may explain why government policy in relation to UFOs has been, from the beginning, so confusing, a kind of garbled mixture of denial and cover-up that only fuels conspiracy theories.
There are other political implications of the abduction phenomenon. Politics, local, national, and international, is, after all, a game of power. We seek power to dominate, control, or influence a sphere of action. But the abduction phenomenon, by its demonstration that control is impossible, even absurd, and its capacity to reveal our wider identity in the universe, invites us to discover the meaning of our "power" in a deeper, spiritual sense. Ethnonational conflict, which derives ultimately from the fact that we define ourselves exclusively in parochial regional terms (what Erik Erikson called "pseudospeciation"), is the source of prodigious suffering and represents a vast threat to human survival. The more global, even cosmically, interconnected identity that is implicit in the UFO abduction phenomenon, might, at least, offer a distraction from our interminable struggles for ownership and dominance of the earth. At best it could draw us out of ourselves into potentially infinite cosmic adventures. But all this depends on taking the phenomenon and its implications seriously.
The economic implications of the abduction phenomenon are inseparable from the political ones. The loss of a sense of the sacred, the devaluation of intelligence and consciousness in nature beyond ourselves, has permitted the stronger among us to exploit the earth's resources without regard to future generations. Growth without restraint has become an end in itself, as the reports of economic "indicators" endlessly intone, ignoring the inevitable collapse that cannot be far off if the multiplication of the human population continues unchecked and the pillaging of the earth does not stop. Furthermore, if the acquisitive impulse (euphemistically called "market forces") is not controlled, inequities in the distribution of food and other goods that do remain may deepen, giving rise to potential chaos and war without limits. The UFO abduction phenomenon does not speak directly to this issue. It does not, cannot, "save" us. But it seems to be intricately connected with the nature of human greed, the roots of our destructiveness, and the future consequences of our collective behavior. For the abductees, the encounters can be profoundly "enlightening" in the fullest sense.
The UFO abduction phenomenon presents a particular problem for some organized religions. From the beginnings of history groups of human beings, recognizing the power and potential perils of spirit forces "out there," have taken upon themselves the task of guiding us through the "ultimate matters" (Zock, 1990) of life. Religious leaders instruct us in the nature of God, and determine for us what spirit beings or other entities may exist in the cosmos. The Catholic Church in the Middle Ages, for example, in its zeal to impose a particular sort of monotheism based on the Trinity, quite ruthlessly suppressed the nature-worshipping polytheism of much of Europe.
There can be little place, especially within the Judeo-Christian tradition, for a variety of small but powerful homely beings who administer an odd mixture of trauma and transcendence without apparent regard for any established religious hierarchy or doctrine. It is one thing to acknowledge that "spirit" resides in the universe and "we are not alone." It is quite another for "spirit" to show up in such an odd and threatening form, created partially in our own image. At best, this would seem puzzling and difficult to integrate. At worst, to the polarizing perception of Christian dualism, these dark-eyed beings must seem to be the playmates of the Devil (Downing 1990). Eastern religious traditions, such as Tibetan Buddhism, which have always recognized a vast range of spirit entities in the cosmos, seem to have less difficulty accepting the actuality of the UFO abduction phenomenon than do the more dualistic monotheisms, which offer powerful resistance to acceptance.