There’s something out there. It’s something that’s been with us throughout all human history, some other intelligence. Encounters with extraordinary beings (or supernatural, if you prefer) are part of the legend and mythology of every culture on Earth. At times they appear keenly interested in our affairs; other times they seem indifferent. They have been called gods, elementals, djinn, elves, or the grays of today’s UFOs, and have alternately been our guides, pranksters, and tormentors. In religious lore they were seen as angels or demons. To the rural folk of Europe, they were more like nature spirits; fairies, pixies, dwarfs, spriggans, and the like. Today, of course, they are extraterrestrials or ancient astronauts. It would appear that the cultural and historical context in which these beings are experienced has much to do with how they are perceived.
Old wives tales? Ancestral memories of things that go bump in the night? Tales told by parents to frighten children into obedience? Since there never seems to be any hard evidence left behind or gathered from these events, it’s tempting to think there’s always a scientific explanation, just the wind scraping a branch against the window. If only there wasn’t a mountain of well-documented cases going back a few thousand years. There’s just too much circumstantial evidence that something is going on, but what?
Socrates gained knowledge from a wise little man he called a ‘daemon.’ The 16th Century alchemist Paracelsus wrote of four groups, corresponding to the four basic elements of air, earth, water, and fire. One of the early comprehensive studies was made by the Reverend Robert Kirk, of Aberfoyle, Scotland, in 1691. In his book The Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns and Fairies, he writes “they have a nature that is intermediate between man and the angels . . . they have light, fluid bodies, and can appear or disappear at will”. Since his body was later found next to a fairy mound, many speculated that he may have gotten too close to the truth.
In Middle-Eastern mythology the djinn were an extremely powerful class of beings, who could alter their shape into that of animals. It’s sad that the modern version has been Disneyfied into a buffoonish cartoon character.
There’s plenty of linguistic evidence, too. The Old High German word for elf was ‘alp,’ as in The Alps. And the old name for England was Albion. Elf, alp, and alb are variants of the same word according to Grimm’s Law (look it up!), as the f, p, and b are all labials, produced by the lips. Pronounce them and you’ll see what I mean.
The variety of strange creatures seems endless, from Springheel Jack to Mothman to Rawhead-and-Bloody-Bones, and numerous assorted bodeymen. Add strange animals like Bigfoot, lake monsters and the Chupacabra, stir repeatedly, and what boils up? One salient fact — there is no solid evidence for any of it, and this may be an important clue. Every time we seem to get close to some kind of understanding, the phenomenon retreats, just out of reach. As to the question often asked, “Why don’t they just land on the White House lawn?” that assumption is based on how we would act; the supposition is groundless..
Then there were the great airship sightings of 1897, all across the American Midwest. These beings seemed fully human (or chose to appear that way). In one incident they were asked where they were from: “From anywhere, but we’ll be in Greece day after tomorrow.” It was six years before that first Wright Brothers flight, but at the time Jules Verne was writing Master of the World, which featured a nearly identical airship. What are we to make of this? Shared human consciousness, or an intelligence well acquainted with it?
Whether there are many different beings, or a single intelligence manifesting as all of them, is difficult to determine. One of the best and most open-minded of researchers into the paranormal is Jacques Vallee. In his book Passport to Magonia, he looks at these reports in their historical context, noting the similarities common to many of them. People claiming abduction by aliens frequently report the inability to move or think clearly, as if under some kind of control. Fairies used to throw the ‘glamour’ over the human senses, a spell, if you will. Both types of accounts often involve loss of time, up to several hours. There would seem to be a distortion of the victim’s normal reality. Neuro-scientists tell us that whenever humans experience something completely outside the normal, the brain will latch onto the nearest thing that seems logical, and that’s what we will perceive.
Has this intelligence studied us and our history, and deliberately insinuated itself into our very symbolic and mythological traditions? Is it — or are they — from a parallel dimension, just next door? And if so, how can we get a set of keys? I think the answer to that one is that we’re not ready yet. We can’t be trusted with knowledge of that kind, but meanwhile we’re being watched carefully. Or, if these things share our world, then don’t they also have a stake in what we are doing to it? Why couldn’t there be an entire animal kingdom that exists on this plane, along with us, but made of much less dense matter? Under certain conditions, people having the gift of ‘second sight’ have been able to see them.
Psychologist Carl Jung’s last book was Flying Saucers: a Modern Myth of Things Seen in the Sky. In it, he asks if these things could be our own psychic projections. I think that’s an idea worth consideration. We know that humans only use about 10-15% of their brain capacity (for most Republicans, subtract another 10%). We could be generating these phenomenae, perhaps guided by some aspect of our higher selves. Then again, we could be like the Crel in “Forbidden Planet,” giving physical form to our worst subconscious nightmares.
In both his books Messengers of Deception, and Dimensions: A Casebook of Alien Contact, Vallee examines the sometimes absurd actions of these beings as a kind of behavior modification called a schedule of reinforcement. In ordinary terms, they are bringing us along very gradually to an eventual acceptance of their presence among us. That may be so, but they could also just enjoy messing with us. Whatever all this is, it’s difficult to deny that something ancient and mysterious, even in our modern world, continues to strongly resonate with the human consciousness. Who knows? The truth may turn out to be that Earth is the galaxy’s biggest tourist attraction, and they all want to come here and see the stupid humans.