Alternate Perceptions Magazine, July 2016
REMEMBERING MICHAEL TALBOT’S THOUGHT-PROVOKING THEORY OF UFOs AS PROTEAN-PSYCHOID PHENOMENA
by: Brad and Sherry Steiger
Michael Talbot, author of such books as The Holographic Universe and Mysticism and The New Physics, died of lymphocytic leukemia on May 27, 1992. He was 38, far too young to have fulfilled anywhere near his potential as a briliant author and theorist.
In his thought-provoking book, A Mile to Midsummer, Michael referred to such phenomena as UFOs, appearances of the Virgin Mary, fairies, and so forth, as "protean-psychoid." They are "protean" because they are all part of the same chameleon-like phenomenon that changes to react to the belief structures of the time. They are "psychoid" in that they are a paraphysical phenomenon and are related to the psychological state of the observer.
Talbot proposed that it is the subjective and paraphysical aspect of UFOs that sheds most light on their nature. If UFOs appeared to be totally a physical phenomenon, Talbot pointed out, it would be easier to deal with them as extra¬terrestrial or even ultra terrestrial.
"In any case,” Talbot said, “three facts remain: (1) People are experiencing UFO phenom¬ena and contacts. (2) The phenomenon strongly suggests an 'objective' nature. (3) The phenomenon also strongly suggests a 'subjective' nature.
“The fact that we have not been able to resolve the conflict between their subjective and objective nature indicates that perhaps the only conflict is in our assumptions concerning experience. Not only must UFOs be considered in both their subjective and objective light; that is, as an 'omnijective' phenome¬non, but the categories of 'real' and 'unreal' become meaningless."
We asked Michael to prepare an essay, "UFOs: Beyond Real and Unreal," which outlined his theory of "protean-¬psychoid" phenomena and from which we now quote selected portions:
The subjective nature of protean-psychoid phenomenon and their "mythic origins" can be summed up in seven major points. They are as follows.
1. The "perpetrators" of protean-psychoid phenomena reveal many mytho¬logical characteristics. The Men in Black bear a marked resemblance to the Brothers of the Shadow in Eastern mysticism. The Virgin of Guadalupe, which miraculously appeared upon the tilma of Juan Diego, stands on the horns of a crescent moon, just as Isis was depicted by the ancient Egyptians as standing upon the horns of a crescent.
However, the most revealing "mythic" giveaway in UFO contactee cases is the delivering of the "cosmic gospel." Many UFO entity encounters (like ap¬pearances of the Virgin) have the characteristics of divine revelation. The enti¬ties' avowed purpose for appearing to the witness is to convey a sort of heavenly message or "orgalogue." In this sense, some protean-psychoid phenomena dif¬fer insignificantly, from the Pymander of Hermes to the Ahura Mazda of Zoroaster.
2. Protean-pyschoid phenomena have been with us throughout our written history, and most assuredly before. In essence, the phenomenon is changeless--the old gods reappearing in new clothing.
Although it has been suspected by some investigators that UFOs are carry¬ing on a secret war against humanity and that they are possibly after our "orgone" or life energy, this seems unlikely. The mere fact that the ''Trojan horse" of protean-psychoid phenomena appears to have been in our midst for centuries and still hasn't revealed its long-awaited coup d’etat indicates perhaps that no coup was ever planned.
In fact, this sort of heaven-hell conflict--the devil after our souls and the aliens after our orgone--has much subtler psychological implications. If we can no longer believe in heavenly hierarchies, extraterrestrial hierarchies will suffice.
3. Protean-psychoid phenomena reveal no over-all malevolence or benevolence.
Almost every investigator will agree that UFO entities do not behave in a predictable manner. At times they seem hostile towards humanity; at times they are filled with good will. They follow the rational of an entity in a dream, and at any moment their nature can fluctuate.
4. Protean-psychoid entities are concerned with sustaining our belief.
In Apparitions and Precognition, Aniela Jaffe states, "There is a widespread German legend expressing in an image the independence and dependence of ghosts in relation to humans. The legend says that ghosts have no breath of their own, but breathe and speak with the breath of man (breath = pneuma = spirit). Therefore man himself must have 'the first and the last word;' otherwise the ghost would talk him to death. "
This same sort of dependence upon the belief or breath of man can be found in various protean-psychoid phenomena. The entities involved in the great airships of the 1890s, for instance, invariably appeared to reputable witnesses such as well-known lawyers, judges, and senators. The fact that various cosmic gospels or orgalogues are amended or changed with the times also seems to reflect this dependence/independence. All sorts of stratagems and ploys are used-automatic writing… "spirit guides", "trance communications", "Virgins and Christ figures", and "evangelizing extraterrestrials."
Whether the Virgin of Fatima is imploring her witnesses to "Pray, Pray much and believe in me," or the UFO entity is preaching the cosmic gospel, the message remains the same. Our desire to find meaning in the universe is reflected in the protean-psychoid entities' concern with sustaining our belief. 5. Protean-psychoid occurrences are filled with archetypal contents. A close study of the phenomenon reveals many "psychological leitmotifs". For instance, in Tarot iconography the angel Temperance stands with one foot on land and one foot in the water. This is interpreted as a metaphoric bridging between the symbol for consciousness, the land, and the symbol for the unconscious, the water. Interestingly, just as Leonardo da Vinci painted his Madonna and Child with St. Anne, with one foot upon land and one foot in the water, the Virgin of LaSalette appeared to the two children Maximin and Melanie with one foot upon the land and one foot in the water.
Another archetype that occurs frequently in UFO contactee cases is the "androgyne." In many ancient traditions "angelic personages" are depicted as androgynous or bisexual. The Pymander of Hermes preached that a state of spiritual bisexuality (that is, the Hermetic androgyne of alchemical texts) was necessary for contacting higher powers. UFO contactees often describe the en¬tities as being androgynous in appearance.
6. Protean-psychoid occurences reveal collective anxieties.
For instance, the well-known "interrupted journey" of Betty and Barney Hill is one of the most convincing cases in favor of the "objective" nature of UFOs, except for the fact that the commander of the UFO was dressed like a Nazi. This and other "subjective" giveaways make little sense when the phe-nomenon is viewed in a strictly objective light.
Similarly, in the 1890's, the rash of Asians in airships was almost a precursor of the Buck Rogers comic strip projection of a world of the future in which the "Asians" and their airships take over the world. There are numerous cases of UFO contactees experiencing encounters that possess every hallmark of being extraterrestrial, except for the fact that the alleged extraterrestrials pose as Germans, Asians, Russians, and so forth. Such flaws in the totally objective explanation seem to indicate the presence of something col¬lectively psychological.
7. Protean-psychoid phenomena are dream-like.
In Steps to an Ecology of Mind, Gregory Bateson points out several aspects of dreams vs. animal behavior which bear a striking similarity to many UFO encounters. Briefly, they both deal in opposites; they both have no tenses; they both have no "not"; and they both work by metaphor.
Protean-psychoid phenomenon most strongly resembles dreams in its usage of metaphors and mythic imagery. When the Virgin of LaSalette sits with one foot on land and one foot in the water, the phenomenon is apparently dealing with a metaphor. When the Men in Black boast the insignia of the triangle with the eye (an almost universal symbol for the eye of god, the third eye, or second-sight), the phenomenon is again dealing with a metaphor.
Protean-psychoid occurences also have no tenses. They are suspended in time. much as dream reality is suspended in time… or what might be called the Rip Van Winkle effect, common in both encounters with fairies and UFO entities.
According to tradition, a few moments passed in "fairy land" might be equivalent to several hours of normal time. Betty and Barney Hill's loss of sev¬eral hours in their interrupted journey differs little from tales of a traveler faIl¬ing asleep on an elfin mound. In both visits to the fairy realm and visits aboard flying saucers, time takes on what can' only be called a dream-like sense of timelessness.
In summation, the panorama of protean-psychoid phenomena reveals a very "subjective" quality. A large portion of UFO encounters are distinctly paraphysical and related to the psychology of humanity in some strange and possibly collective sense. Many UFO orgalogues appear to be evolved by the same psychological motivations that create both myth and religion; indeed, as notables such as Carl Jung have suggested, UFOs are a modern-day myth in the making.
However, as I have indicated, UFOs also reveal a physical and "objective" aspect. This is the much-cherished structure that the UFOlogical establishment concentrates upon.
UFOs can be tracked on radar; Virgins give their witnesses "real" roses; the Men in Black make "real" telephone calls; and UFOs and their occupants leave footprints and burnt circles in deserted fields. As I have just shown, the "objective" explanation for UFOs does not explain their paraphysical nature. Similarly, the "folie d deux", or shared hallucination, simply does not explain their physical nature. A "new view" of UFOs must take both aspects into account.
Humanity's emotional need for a cohesive mythic structure, in one sense, generates the UFO phenomenon. The belief that we generate UFOs still entails the categories of real and unreal. In dealing with the concept of omnijectivity, the belief that reality is plastic or ideational must necessarily transcend this notion as well.
Beyond real and unreal, lies an absolute elsewhere that is presently being realized by the two branches of science most concerned with consciousness and reality. In the study of human behavior and quantum mechanics, three "new views" are materializing that will radically affect our position and role in the universe. These are:
*Consciousness and reality are continuum.
*UFOs are part of our "self-reference cosmology."
*All possible realities "exist" in an indefinite number of universes.
We highly respect the work that Michael Talbot contributed before he left for “all possibilities” in an “indefinite number of universes, and we are grateful for the thoughts and research that he bequeathed to all future pilgrims who choose to join his essence on the Great Quest awaiting all those on Schoolhouse Earth. We hope that the sharing of the essence that he prepared for us will inspire others as it has inspired us.