“Humans need fantasy to be human – to be the place where the falling angel meets the rising ape…You need to believe in things that aren’t true. How else can they become?”—Death
So last time I said that we would be taking a look at how the ancient Greek concept of the daimon might relate to more current paranormal entities. We’ll also explore some theories about the nature of their existence, how they might accomplish some of their feats of “supernatural” wizardry, and how concepts like Jung’s collective unconscious and the Greeks’ World Soul might help us to understand them. That turned out to be a lot trickier than I had anticipated. Nevertheless, I have done my best to try to decipher the indecipherable, eff the ineffable, and scrute the inscrutable.
Daimons were believed to exist in the “Otherworld” between the lands of the living and the dead but which intersects both of them and joins the three realms together. This made them the intermediators between the gods and man as well as connecting them to both the living and the dead. Unlike the Western concept of angels, they were not spiritual beings, but neither were they entirely physical. They were somewhere in between. They were also said to be capable of appearing to us in any form.
Patrick Harpur, upon whose work much of this article is based, maintains that all variety of enigmatic beings (fairies, jinn, big hairy monsters, aliens, etc.) are all actually denizens of this Otherworld, and so he refers to them all collectively as daimons. Like fairies and the jinn of folklore, they can seem to be good or evil, benevolent or malicious, but regardless of their motives, they are always enigmatic. This is likely because we do not even remotely grasp the nature of their intellect, and perhaps they’re in the same boat with regards to us. What may seem evil or terrifying might be meant to guide or enlighten us in some way. Conversely, beings that have seemed completely benign have led people to ruin and even insanity in some cases. A university professor who obediently proclaimed the alien gospel communicated to him lost everything, even his loyal followers, when the end of the world failed to occur on the designated date, and the saucers that were coming to save the faithful never bothered to materialize. We must consider the possibility that even though they might all be the same type of intelligence, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they all have the same motivations or intentions. Perhaps like us, being of the same species does not mean that their objectives are all the same, or that they all even like each other.
Virtually every culture outside of the West, at least since the Enlightenment, has a concept of a shadow world which coexists alongside our everyday reality. Other peoples, and not just those that we consider to be primitive, have never lost their belief in some form of intermediate world between this one and the next. It is perhaps revealing that some of those that we do consider to be primitive (Africans, Native Americans, aboriginal Australians) seem to be the most closely connected to and less willing to share their knowledge of this world between worlds and the ones who reside there. One African shaman who was a little too forthcoming even claimed that he was told by “them” to stop talking about these things to the Europeans lest they sever their ties and cease communicating with him. He obviously took this threat seriously and valued his relationship with these beings enough that he refused to speak to the outsiders about them after this. By this time, however, he had already confirmed their connection to strange lights seen in the sky, although he never associated these with ships from another planet.
This rejection of the very possibility of their existence could be why the UFO abduction scenario is primarily a Western phenomenon. Much like repressed memories which don’t just bugger off and never bother us again, when we deny the existence of the daimonic world, it doesn’t just go away. Quite the opposite; it comes looking for us, sometimes with a vengeance. Harpur has put forth the idea that perhaps the reason most UFO believers never see a UFO (much less have an abduction experience) is because they don’t need to. They are not in denial of the existence of something potentially greater than themselves, even if they consider it to be something as relatively mundane as purely physical beings from another planet. On the other hand, some deeply religious people have had some very involved experiences with seemingly non-human intelligence, which is a bit hard to reconcile with this theory. Maybe the daimons don’t see much difference between the devoutly faithful of any philosophy that doesn’t include them, be it religious or materialistic in nature. Even if we mistakenly take them for space aliens, that was their intention in these instances, and so the joke is still on us. They get to screw with our sense of reality without revealing who or what they truly are. It doesn’t get much more Trickster than that.
Some “UFO contactees” have reported feeling an inexplicable connection and even, in some cases, a strange sense of intimacy with their abductors. Fear seems to play a role in this. The more frightened people are by this understandably terrifying experience, the less this seems to be true. A number of factors could be in play here, possibly the most of significant of which is their particular mindset and whether or not their belief system allows for the existence such things. Those with a rigid and dogmatic attitude that rejects the merest possibility of these things are probably more negatively affected, although what goes on in a person’s unconscious reality probably also plays an important role.
In an earlier piece, I pointed out that while he was a writer of horror, H.P. Lovecraft was actually a devout materialist. He was also plagued by dark and vivid nightmares which served as the inspiration for many of his stories. It seems possible that Lovecraft’s daimons preferred to visit him in his dreams, maybe for better and worse. While he was a gifted and (now) revered author of horrific fantasies, he was also a tormented soul who never found success or happiness during his short lifetime. The daimons giveth and the daimons taketh away. He got to be famous and beloved, but not until after he was dead. Perhaps if he hadn’t scoffed at the very notion of their existence, things would have gone better for him.
It’s worth noting that some of those who claimed to have visited the land of the fairies in earlier times occasionally reported seeing people that they had known but who had died. This is a less common but still reported aspect in some cases of “alien abduction.” We have no way of knowing how prevalent such occurrences might be since they are frequently dismissed by UFO researchers as being some sort of “screen memory” of the actual events, either because it just seems too fantastic and absurd to take seriously and/or because it contradicts their extraterrestrial preconceptions. The far greater factor is probably that most people who have had such an experience prefer to keep it to themselves. Confiding in someone that you were abducted by aliens must be intimidating enough without mentioning that you bumped into your dead Uncle Phil while you were there.
Something which has been reported with more candor is that the abduction experience is sometimes accompanied by an out-of-body experience (OBE) either during or after the encounter. If this is true, then the OBE in general is a clear indication that our consciousness does not reside solely inside of our physical being. In cases where this occurs in connection with “aliens,” it demonstrates that they are able to control or induce this phenomenon in humans. Some maintain that these are just hallucinations caused by an advanced form of mind control used by our visitors, and this is currently an impossible argument to refute. However, if these events are being accurately reported as they actually happened, then it seems that our little gray friends are equally at home in the realms of the living and the dead, the physical and the spiritual.
So if any of this nonsense is true, how does any of it figure into Jung’s collective unconscious, which factored so prominently into my last daimonic offering?
As I pointed out then, Jung believed that the collective unconscious contained the memories and experiences of everyone who has ever lived. Since this information is a part of us all, albeit on an unconscious level, we are all connected to and influenced by it whether we know it or like it or not. This idea is almost identical to the Greek concept of the World Soul (aka Anima Mundi, or Otherworld), which also encompasses and connects all living things. They also believed that the World Soul was the domain of the daimons, who were both part of that reality but also connected to ours. As we shall see, the collective unconscious also has some residents who sometimes like to drop in on us.
Harvard professor of psychiatry John Mack, who researched the alien abduction phenomenon for years until his death in 2004, concluded that these experiences were not occurring in the physical world as we normally think of it but were taking place on some level which could interact with physical reality. He also concluded that if the “victims” of these traumatic experiences could learn to deal constructively with them that these events could become a doorway to spiritual evolution. Here we are very close to Jung’s ideas that the collective unconscious can manifest itself not only in subjective ways to the individual psyche but also in objective ways, and that being able to successfully integrate these experiences leads to personal growth (individuation).
Jacques Vallee, the world’s leading expert on UFOs, has been saying for decades that the UFO phenomenon acts as a kind of belief control system. We have what appear to be scientifically plausible ships from another planet and their alien occupants visiting our world but behaving in irrational and illogical ways, often with trappings that can only be described as paranormal. Appearing to be something other than what they are, behaving illogically, challenging people’s beliefs and placing them under enormous pressure in order to provoke spiritual growth sounds a lot like the tactics used by (and the ultimate function of) Jung’s Trickster archetype, and the archetypes reside in the collective unconscious just as daimons call the Otherworld home.
Vallee also maintains that the UFO phenomenon is nowhere near being new, as some think, and that it has not changed over time. Only our perception of it based on what we’re prepared to accept is different. To this end, it presents itself in whatever guise is believable to people at the time (or at least some of them). If we believe in fairies, then they appear as fairies. If our culture has conditioned us to consider fairies to be a childish myth, but that visiting aliens are a possibility, then we encounter aliens. Sometimes they might assume forms for reasons all their own which are unfathomable to us. What this intelligence really is might be something which we aren’t completely able to comprehend. What we think it is and what we call it really doesn’t matter. The best that we can do at this point is observe and describe what they do and hypothesize based on that. This becomes even trickier when one considers that much of what they do may be designed to intentionally confuse and mislead us. Trickster-esque indeed.
But their Trickster-like behavior doesn’t end there. I’ve mentioned elsewhere how early on during my UFO abduction obsession, I noticed the similarities between this phenomenon and how biologists sometimes go about gathering data on certain animals. In these particular cases, the scientists swoop down suddenly on some unsuspecting creature in a helicopter, immobilize it with a tranquilizer dart, land their craft and then proceed to examine the helpless beast, often tagging them with an electronic tracking device so that they can be located again in the future for further study. Any of this sound familiar to you UFO buffs?
In that article, I argued that aliens might feel wholly justified in treating us the way that we treat “inferior” lifeforms. What I really meant (but which was outside the scope of that piece) was that this would seem to be a perfect example of poetic justice from a Trickster point of view. How would we like it if we were the “inferior” lifeform getting a taste of our own medicine, even if it’s for our own good? As I mentioned last time, as denizens of the Otherworld, which the Greeks believed connects all living things, the daimons are, by definition, nature spirits. Perhaps from their point of view, we are no different from a rhinoceros or a caribou in some ways, except that we are the only critters who consider the other animals to be inferiors.
Beyond trying to reach an understanding of why these beings do the things that they do is the question of how they do it. It’s all well and good to say that they are paranormal beings who can read our minds and manipulate our dreams and move between dimensions, but how do they do that? To say that they’re magic and leave it at that is not a real answer. Even magic has to have an underlying foundation.
One interesting possibility as to how these things might be accomplished is if the daimons are a plasma-based lifeform and their home is a plasmasphere which occupies the same space as Earth. If so, then these two realities could intersect without our being aware of it, and the beings there might be able to connect intimately to us through the (currently theoretical and unproven) bioplasmic component of our bodies and/or brain functioning. A more complete examination of the theory of plasma-based lifeforms can be found here. The author does a far better job of explaining it than I ever could, although I should point out that he never talks about the plasmasphere as being the home of daimons or any other paranormal beings. I’ve just taken the ideas put forth there and applied them to this particular topic, which seems to me to be the next most logical step. In any case, you should really read it. If the theories presented in it are even just somewhere in the ballpark of being accurate, the implications are truly mind-blowing.
Another possible explanation for how these beings connect with us and potentially manipulate our concept of reality is dimethyltryptamine (DMT), the psychoactive ingredient in psilocybin mushrooms and some other plants. University of New Mexico psychiatrist Rick Strassman injected 60 volunteers with DMT as part of a research project funded by the National Institute of Health. He was surprised to discover that many of his subjects described encounters with “aliens” and nonhuman beings during their DMT trips and that their descriptions of these meetings were remarkably consistent. Rather than dismissing these experiences as mere hallucination, Strassman came to believe that the consistency of the reports indicated that DMT could open our perception to the existence of other dimensions and allow us to communicate with intelligent beings residing there.
Amateur DMT explorer Terrance McKenna took a more avant-garde approach and only experimented on himself. He also reported encountering strange and interesting beings in what he sometimes referred to “elf-infested space.” He said that some of these beings were antagonistic toward him while most were apathetic, but some were helpful and seemed to want to relate some sort of message to him. What that information may have been doesn’t seem to have been clear, at least on a conscious level. Or maybe he just didn’t want to say.
On at least one occasion, he claims to have entered what he perceived to be the realm of the dead. Most of the people that he encountered there were surprised and disturbed to see him, although what they were seeing would have to have been something other than his physical body, which obviously never left the room that he started out in. Whatever facet of him these dead people saw, they were able to recognize that he was still alive on the physical plane and made it clear to him that he didn’t belong there. Make of this DMT tripping business what you will, but it is yet another example of the connection between the Otherworld of the daimons and its connection to the dead.
Strassman has theorized that since the brain naturally produces DMT in small amounts, elevated levels could lead to unsuspecting people suddenly finding themselves in the presence of otherworldly beings. Whether these elevated levels of DMT were induced by these beings or somehow occur naturally is unknown, but I have my suspicions. What the DMT hypothesis obviously can’t account for is the plethora of physical evidence that has been left behind right here on terra firma, even though the cynics are always fond of claiming that such evidence doesn’t exist. The most obvious answer to this dilemma is that this other intelligence is quite capable of entering our world in a much more tangible way, but DMT could play a significant role in how and to what degree we are aware of them.
And I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that the fairy lore is replete with stories of those who travelled (or were taken) to the Otherworld and tried to bring back some object to prove the reality of the experience. In every case, the person finds that their souvenir has vanished or turned to dust or some other worthless piece of junk upon their return home. The modern version of this story is the handful of UFO contactees who claim to have been taken on trips to the aliens’ home planet. In both cases of trips to the Otherworld and other planets, the human travelers frequently report being gone for substantial amounts of time, only to find upon their return that little or no time has passed at all. A DMT state of consciousness could certainly account for this time displacement, as well as why you can’t bring anything material back.
It should go without saying that shamans of many cultures have used various types of psychoactive substances to facilitate the altered state of consciousness necessary to achieve contact with the higher planes. Again, maybe the “primitives” know something that our technological, scientific culture has lost. In any case, experiment with these substances at your own risk. And if you feel that must play in these dangerous waters, stick to natural substances whose purity is known. Synthetic street drugs always contain a cocktail of potentially harmful chemicals used to artificially enhance the effects of their inferior active ingredient.
And before I wrap this up, I should point out an interesting detail which goes back centuries and still occurs in all manner of encounters with paranormal beasties, including and perhaps especially UFOs, is that they have a tendency to take place at or near borders and conjunctions – rivers that separate the two sides of the land, bridges which join those two sides, beaches where the sea meets the shore, crossroads, and especially cemeteries, which border on the lands of the living and the dead. Legends from various cultures claim that the most likely time to encounter supernatural beings is at dusk or dawn – where the night meets the day. Whether this is symbolic in a way that they hope we will pick up on or if there may be some unknown laws or forces at work that dictate this I have no clue. I suspect it’s the former, but for some reason I hope it’s the latter.†
See you next time.
* How all of this might be reconciled with animal mutilations is beyond the scope of this article, but it’s definitely an idea worth exploring at a later date.
†And mystics of all varieties have likewise been saying for centuries that the time in which we are closest to the spirit world is the hypnopompic state in which we border on being asleep and awake.