Evolutionary Metaphors: UFOs, New Existentialism and the Future Paradigm
David J Moore
O-Books (UK £10.95 / US $16.95, May 2019)
The skewed logic underlying the UFO phenomenon realigns approaches to meaning through what David J Moore calls the ‘evolutionary metaphor’ in his edifying and interdisciplinary investigation of one of the most perplexing mysteries of our time.
In a valiant and far-sighted attempt to get to grips with the phenomenon as ‘an archetypal challenge to our cultural limitations’, Moore draws on the optimistic ‘new existentialism’ of Colin Wilson (1931-2013), offering a spiritual and philosophical base for the ‘creative integration of our consciousness towards anomalous experience’.
In doing so, Moore – who says his outlook developed radically from gloomy existentialism to Wilson’s optimistic philosophy after seeing a UFO in 2008 – also explores the diverse occult, esoteric, imaginative and creative speculations that have arisen from ufolore. Attainment of a revitalised vision of human existence through a cogent understanding of the UFO experience and its bizarre abduction scenario, and what constitutes ‘reality’, he believes, could ‘integrate our evolutionary minds’.
Certainly, it’s my belief that the creative, or authentic, use of imagination is to work with intellect and intuition to form new consciousness in the evolution of mind.
To explore the possible esoteric, philosophical and cosmological frameworks with which one could begin to understand the mystery of the UFO, Moore decided to begin from the fundamental recognition of what he saw at the heart of Wilson’s new existentialism: that consciousness is intentional and can, willed or unwilled, reach out and grasp the essential meanings implicit in existence – in the contents of consciousness, I would add. At higher levels of individual consciousness one becomes aware of increasing meaningfulness.
In a penetrating analysis of the UFO enigma, through the esoteric and phenomenological lenses provided by Wilson and others, what emerges for Moore is a symbol and metaphor for a future paradigm in which the role of both human and non-human consciousness in evolution and reality is of crucial importance, and far exceeds its lowly position in our current materialistic climate.
By way of some background here, Colin Wilson, in his autobiography Dreaming to Some Purpose (2004), upon returning to discussion of Alien Dawn (1998), his own in-depth investigation of the UFO mystery, refers to Professor John Mack, the Harvard psychologist who believed there was no way of making sense of UFO reports ‘within the framework of our existing views of what is real or possible’.
Wilson wrote that since his first book The Outsider (1956) was about people who felt there was something ‘deeply wrong’ with consensus reality, and that we needed to broaden our views about what is real or possible, he found ‘instant rapport’ with Prof Mack.
‘I ended by coming to believe that although UFO phenomena seem to contradict consensus reality, they do not contradict the reality described by quantum physics,’ Wilson continued, ‘Or, for that matter, mystics. All the evidence seems to show that we should not regard UFOs as “spacecraft”, but as unknown energy forms.’
He concurred with the view of Prof Mack and of the French ufologist and astronomer Jacques Vallée – both of whom Moore discusses along with other well-known ufologists – that the purpose of UFO phenomena seemed to be heuristic – ‘that is, they are designed to teach us something, to change our attitude towards reality’. [Wilson’s italics].
Moore agrees with, and Evolutionary Metaphors brings a profound new dimension to, this theory. The essential overall effect of the UFO experience, he says, can be summed up by Wilson’s parallel remark, in Alien Dawn, that: ‘…if an important part of the purpose of these [UFO] phenomena is the effect on us, then that purpose would seem to be to decondition us from our unquestioning acceptance of consensus reality’. [Wilson’s italics].
Alien Dawn advances our deeper understanding into the unusual and powerful forces that urge us to bridge two worlds, says Moore. Wilson provided the intellectual and spiritual tools necessary to navigate these new territories ‘within the evolutionary mind’.
Wilson points to ways out of the UFO mystery’s ‘maze of absurdity’ and a more integrative understanding, both of the phenomenon itself and ourselves. Thus Moore says his book is an attempt to continue in the spirit of where Alien Dawn left off, and to throw ‘some auroral illumination into this phenomenological twilight zone’.
Long before, writing in Introduction to the New Existentialism (1966), Wilson said life works ‘in terms of symbols and language’ and when the ‘flame of consciousness is low, a symbol has no power to evoke reality, and intellect is helpless’. Thus Moore takes the symbol of the evolution of human consciousness as a possible solution to the enigmas that the UFO represents, fitting it into a general philosophical bracket of the ‘evolutionary metaphor’: ‘that playful extrapolation of something beyond the ken of ordinary perception’.
So if the UFO experience is an ‘evolutionary metaphor’ for a new understanding of reality, what would this new understanding actually involve? I suggest it would involve accepting the mental nature of reality, according to which self and the world are manifestations of a spatially unbound universal consciousness: apparently physical structures, including UFOs and their ‘extraterrestrial’ occupants, are circumscribed by consciousness, and not the other way round.
Moore seems to be open to such a conclusion when he writes that the UFO, like the occult, becomes a poignant symbol of inner transformation. Yet the UFO is an entirely seen phenomenon, pointing to another realm of being, and beings. In this sense, it is the occult world made manifest and, in a particularly notable phrase,‘a curious reminder of our state of spiritual neglect’.
Such forces of the occult seem to live through us, and their language is suited to wonder and the symbolic. And it is the evolutionary metaphor, ‘that symbol of potential from the inner worlds, that urges us to actualise it into reality’.
Significantly, Moore suggests that if UFO entities originate in between our inner and outer lives, then the often symbolic content and communications of encounters with them might presage a new relationship to consciousness. Indeed, although it could be that, ultimately, we’ll find there’s no distinction between our ‘inner and outer lives’, between inner and outer space, in that they’re aspects of a fundamental reality, a universal consciousness which anomalous data is helping us to appreciate through our self-reflexivity.
Consensus reality itself, as well as anomalous phenomena, can be construed as trying to persuade our intellects to ask key questions about their provenance, to jog the ‘unconscious’ mind into bringing to the surface truths which can enable direct experience of a transcendent reality.
We receive hints of these possibilities, as Moore seems to suggest, through the mythopoeic imagination – he uses the example of the Romantic visionary consciousness and Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s composition of ‘Kubla Khan’ – and Jung’s procedure of ‘active imagination’, a means of interrogating the unconscious by temporarily halting the thought-stream.
Apposite to these ideas, Moore says UFO phenomena can be ‘read’ as if it were an unfolding story, authored by someone or some ‘thing’, or that we’re ‘self-authoring’ it in some deep sense. He feels that instead of being adrift in a meaningless universe, we instead inhabit a reality with an emergent evolutionary context to which consciousness contributes.
In the very actions of the UFO phenomenon, its ‘theatrical and absurdist performance’, it might be a kind of initiation: ‘That is, representative of a challenge that is to be overcome – a kōan designed to integrate a deeper understanding into the nature of reality, and particularly consciousness’ role in the making of that reality’.
It’s of relevance to mention here comments made by the philosopher-scientist Bernardo Kastrup, from whom I believe Moore takes an insightful cue, that ‘calls of the absurd’ – anomalous phenomena, such as UFO encounters – can be physical and measurable in nature, even if elusive, and can also be objective in the sense that multiple and independent observers often report events in the same way. Thus they can leave ‘nuts and bolts’ evidence.
They can also trigger introspection and intuitive insights. Jacque Vallée concluded that 'calls of the absurd' were leading to a shift in human consciousness and our conception of reality, although, conceivably, it could be the other way round: that it is an accelerating shift in consciousness since the 1940s (when modern UFO flaps began) that accounts for the tremendous increase in reports of anomalous phenomena since that time.
In Meaning in Absurdity (Iff Books, 2011/2018), Kastrup suggests a world-view to which Moore’s is complementary: where logic is itself a construction of the mind and rationality a veneer over an 'unfathomable core of the unformed', the meaningful non-rational, the domain of the imagination.
Coming to terms with this might be the greatest existential challenge the human race has faced, but one that could represent the best opportunity ever to re-shape our existence with, as Moore says, a ‘much-need re-evaluation of our reductionist culture’.
Referring to Wilson’s essential ‘Outsider cycle’ of books (1956-66), Moore says: ‘In many of the Outsiders as well as [UFO] abductees, there is a vision of a new modality of being that infers meaning that is fundamentally practical and personal and, once actualised in the individual, becomes applicable to society at large.’
Such a vision could inculcate what I have termed elsewhere a transcendental pragmatism to aid the evolution of consciousness, entering into a region of experience in which the rational and the non-rational are unafraid to cohabit and can produce new sets of correspondences and connections leading to a deeper insight into the way of the universe.
The approach is transcendental in the sense of a philosophy that lays emphasis on intuition as a means of knowing an ultimate reality, and which embraces the belief that an order and purpose pervades nature and humanity; and pragmatic in the idea that a theory or concept should be evaluated in terms of how it works, what its consequences are, and what are its standards for action and thought – in Moore’s words‚ ‘practical and personal’.
Moore adds: ‘The evolutionary metaphor is the working hypothesis that navigates implicit realities into explicit ones…’, a conclusion complementary to Wilson’s in Alien Dawn, that both the UFO and occult phenomena are forcing us to accept a multidimensional understanding of reality, that they’re trying heuristically to alter and widen our concept of it.
Evolutionary Metaphors is Moore’s first book. One of a welcome new generation of Wilson commentators, it must be remarked, he writes distinctively with an unusual turn of phrase and a perspicacity that comes from being well read; thus he deserves to be encouraged in his researches. He gave talks at the first two international Colin Wilson conferences in 2016 and 2018, his work has been published by Cambridge Scholars, and he has a regular blog.