Well the answer is the same for all these things: look past duality, past the dichotomy of truth and fiction. The either/or is a trap set up by science and religion! Atheists all tend to be rebelling against some anthropomorphic conception of God instilled in them by a parent or Sunday School Teacher. Spiritual types like me rebel against those conceptions too, but we've experienced the pink light euphoria of spiritual awakening, a tapping into universal love and egoless consciousness. If you don't believe in that, you're not an atheist, just sad.
What does it say about atheists that they need to announce to the world they don't believe in God? Why bother? Do I go around announcing to the world know I don't watch football and that anyone who does is an idiot? Well, I do, but only when visiting my family for Thanksgiving.
What does it say about skeptics that they go out of their way to ridicule their fellow man's beliefs or experiences?
Are children really small... or just far away?
What proof really, aside from a few specimens, do we have that the coelacanth still exists?
Why would I bother to dispute it, now that we found one?
Myth addresses all this. It is a direct tunnel down into our collective unconscious, where logic and linear space-time cease to exist and the cold gorgon truth of life is displayed in the only way we can perceive it, via Perseus mirror refraction, wherein logic and the cold clarity of 'conscience' falls away like a sawed-off strait-jacket.
For most of us, Americans especially, that's a scary thought. We want to know: real or fake? Dream or 'waking reality'? Truth or illusion, as if the lines between them were knowable and by knowing these lines we could know whether or not to be scared 'for real.' But myth is where we intentionally erase these lines, allowing a freedom from having to 'know', from worrying whether religious, skeptic, or science zealots will shoot us withering glances if we step outside their intolerant dogma.
We who love myth know, however, that something is lost when science explains away the world. Once the monster is dragged into the light, the magic is over. The scientists label and name and relegate what was once a spectacular monster into just another eel, seal, or irrawaddy dolphin.
That's why a part of me secretly hopes we never find out the truth about Bigfoot. Imagine the dismal depression if he's caught and is just a big ape and scientists say "aww we knew it all the time, and now we can study, name, capture, torture it with medical experiments, kill it, and then stuff it for the Natural History museum."
And of course, until then, until scientists can dissect his carcass, anyone who dares dream Bigfoot exists must be ridiculed!
That's why I really responded to the film THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT. It understood myth and how to use it to create a buzz. I knew in advance when I saw it that the 'found videotape' angle was just a hoax, but a hoax meant to enhance enjoyment of the film. Just thinking this all might be real, feeling it in my gut, made the film a dozen times scarier, to the point I designed a whole website around it, Frightened Male Monthly. The filmmakers also understood that by showing the witch, by explaining things, it would no longer be 1/10 as scary. So we never see her, it, whatever... the film is about how the power of the video camera ultimately cannot protect us, them, that myth is even stronger than truth and illusion combined.
If you think you know the difference between myth and reality then let me ask you this: what are you using to think this with? Can you point to the spot in your brain that is sure it's got its finger on the pulse of all the world?
Now that's a myth, that there is a single 'you' making decisions.
"You" are a single organism on a single spinning rock spinning around a sun that's roaring through space and slowly preparing to explode. You're unable to 'exist' for more than 16 or so hours at a stretch before you fall asleep and 'go' somewhere else. When your eyes are closed, all is dark; when your ears are plugged, all is quiet. Yet you are willing to measure the amount of time an alien would need to travel from point a to point b based on your primitive conception of time/space and the universe, one totally anthropomorphized to fit your limited world view! You presume an alien can only be 'real' if you can sense it with at least three of your five senses, in your waking life, eyes open, but even then you still need it verified by the TV before it's really real, even if you trust the witnesses and see the evidence firsthand.
|My great great great great great great great great aunt on trial, Mary Easty of Salem|
On the other hand, fiction skates away free from that rigor, yet at the same time might contain just as much truth as the initial proposals that resulted in scientific 'fact.' Yet it remains free to travel far beyond fact, unbound by the dirty, tedious slog that is 'consensus.' If your fiction should 'come true' as it did for Phillip K. Dick and William Gibson, then you are a prophet, if not, a madman; if both, an author.
One of the big things that science doesn't ever fully admit or understand (outside the most radical psycho-pharmacological paradigms) is the way the mind can heal the body - and the way placebos work, where cancer just disappears overnight after the patient has a mystical encounter, or pregnancies vanish, or sudden psychic phenomena take place. There's enough evidence for all of this to make science uncomfortable.... like aliens and Bigfoots, for example. Science doesn't dare condone those beliefs, not just because there's no 'concrete' evidence that they can own and dissect (no body)--that normally wouldn't stop them from at least entertaining the idea-- but because aliens and Bigfoot are too associated with crackpots, with myth and fiction, tall tales. People sneer and ridicule those who believe or have seen them because if not they in turn will be ridiculed. But part of this involves a mistrust of myth. Science seeks to explain where myth seeks to confound. It's no coincidence then that 'reality' never feels as true as myth, and fiction can seem merely trivial unless it incorporates myth or reality.
Beyond being fact or fiction, myth finds larger truths hidden in the unknowable realms of our deepest consciousness which has no clear boundary, no inside/outside. The collective unconscious has no clear barrier which is why shamen can enter other people's dreams, and why indigenous tribes are smart enough to pay attention to each others' dreams and recognize signs and omens. When exploring the myths that captivate us, we can find a blueprint all laid out for our future, a guide to growth. When we ignore myth, we stagnate.
Here's one of my gurus, Joseph Campbell:
Whether they exist or not, the aliens smartly keep their existence a secret... sources from the insider table are pretty consistent in their reporting that being in the company of these aliens truly takes its toll on a human being's sanity. We've been dealt a solid, perhaps, by those humans who keep it enough of a secret to cast doubt over the alien presence, even while revealing most of the info through disinformation. As long as there's a grain of salt to help it go down, we can swallow just about anything.
It's the equivalent of taking a psychedelic drug for the very first time. If you've never done them, you shouldn't chime in on the matter. The terrified ego of the uninitiated trembles at the thought of losing control in the land of "acid" - their superego paints the experience in broad comic strokes, to mask the fear. The ego knows it will essentially cease to exist, or at least be seriously undermined, once this process of illumination is undergone. Naturally this spooked ego will do anything it can to stay cohered, from damning the drug outright, to persecuting those who have tried it, the same way science majors sneer at crazy psychics. It is the classifying of drugs like the naturally growing mushroom or hemp plant in the same league as schedule one narcotics that shows just how close we are to the same mentality that led the Puritans to hang witches (like my 8x great aunt Mary Easty, above). Ridicule, dismissal, contempt prior to investigation, and outright hostility and violence... it says more about the person condemning than it does about the issue. To a lesser degree (from imprisonment) ridicule achieves this too, but the more the uninitiated try to laugh it off, the more a savvy Jungian will know they're afraid of losing what little illusion of control over self already have. Any Coast Guard, SEAL, or rescue diver knows this all too well. The thrashing, panicked downer will often prefer drag you down with them rather than letting go so the rescuer can lift them into the light.
For the dry academes who cannot let go, there is SETI to dismiss the crop circle answer to their code as "mere chicanery," wondering why if aliens can beam crop circle patterns they don't just call us on the phone! That "why don't they just land at the White House" rationalization is fine for the doubters, but we who have come to believe the evidence should realize that argument is ridiculous. (The aliens tried to land at the White House once, and we shot at them - see here). It's like saying dreams can't be important since they're hard to remember.
Science must know this pain too because arguers against Darwin cite things like "why haven't giraffes learned to talk by now?" never imagining that language might not be an evolutionary trait, speech the be all and end all, that language might be actually a drawback, a recessive gene, a virus. Giraffes don't develop language, but you can be damn sure their necks weren't always that long, they got longer and longer as the trees around them grew, that's evolution.
But science is pretty bad, too, refusing to believe in things beyond what they can measure through their senses and abstraction, even while conceding their senses are limited, their abstractions based on the faulty limited POV of their perception.
Dogs, for example, have a vastly superior sense of smell to humans. Is the dog just faking to get attention? If we can't sniff out a trail, or measure with any accuracy the millionth part per parsec of smell or whatever then surely the trail doesn't exist! In other words, if we can't see the ghost, it's not there. Sometimes dogs and cats can see ghosts no problem, but we can't, but by some odd logic, the ghost still doesn't exist, even if the smell-trail does.
In order to grasp this fundamental problem, you must have some distance from your ego, via therapy, meditation, a spiritual practice, a heavy drug trip, mental illness, lack of sleep, medication, or just childhood. In more evolved countries like India this focus on the egoless is more pronounced, but their civilization is vastly older.
Imagine if you encountered reality and dreams at the same time, spilled over onto each other. You never needed to sleep because you were always asleep and always awake. You would be a schizophrenic, or Jesus, or an alien-human hybrid, or an acidhead. When we say "total consciousness" this is what we mean. People call this 'hallucinating' --but really, isn't the universe as we perceive it one big hallucination? Now that we have a telescope in space we can see more of the universe, but a) 'more' of the universe already existed before we could see it with the telescope and b) our eyes see the stars as little white dots, but that's not how they really look to someone with their eyes closed, or to someone right in front of one. So why are stars really 'dots' (answer: they're not, at least they're not to an astro-physicist, or an uneducated fundamentalist Christian).
We know from science that the perception of matter as 'permanent' is an illusion, everything is either growing our decomposing, nothing stands still, stillness is a myth. We know that plants just grow and breathe too slowly for our eyes to register the movement, but with time-lapse they become alien life forms, blooming out for sunshine, recoiling into themselves at night, opening for the rain, and if seen fast and long enough all this would look like breathing. Voices must fall within our frequency range to be heard, but if they were sped up fast enough they wouldn't sound like anything but a mosquito hum, slowed down enough nothing but a low drone. And yet we believe automatically the ego's decree that all that is known we know.
I once took a shaman class at the Open Center and the lady who taught it got us all ready for journeying by walking around the circle (about 30 of us) to blow a tiny little burning sage and teensy pile of American Spirit tobacco into our faces... the equivalent of a sample spray of perfume at Macy's, to prepare us for power animal meeting and journeying. This is what happens when the ego co-opts the tools of the unconscious; it strips it of all mystery and therefore of all magic and power. The Open Center wouldn't allow the room to fill up with sage and tobacco smoke, or to light candles, so with neon blazing overhead, and the faintest wisp of sage in our nostrils, the only power animal I, at least, could find, was the dog of get me the fuck outta here.
The concept of mystery I'm getting towards is more than just a "weakness for superstition" that rationalist psychiatry would tell you. The limited positivist scientific viewpoint of reality is something that works to shrink the aperture, like glasses that prevent a parent from seeing that their child is gay or alcoholic - it's by request. Empiricism, Descartes, it all boils down to the measurable and other consciousness-based balderdash.
The "literalization" of the bible's prime myths- Adam and Eve, Noah, etc. is what gets the Christians and the liberals fighting. Muslims too, for what the west doesn't quite get -- except amongst the urban tribal scene perhaps -- is the power of belief in supernatural forces. Just "believing" in anything gives power and meaning to one's life as shaped by that thing. The good parent or spouse knows that "effort" is needed to keep the family dynamic positive, to act 'as if' for the sake of the children, rather than lamenting and expressing worry in front of them. Each moment of a parent's life a child sees affects that child profoundly, this is myth in action - the parent is a living myth, a god, a role model one way or the other. The same way one meditates to help steer the compass towards a positive side after years of negativity, so too do we need miracles every day in the form of people "reawakening" out of old routines and self-centered grouchiness and into love and comprehension and compassion, in order to find the new living myths that fit our new older childhoods - from dad to Jim Morrison to Joseph Campbell to Krishna.
True compassion is very different from the maudlin co-dependence we see played across screens and headlines every day. There is a much ignored factor of compassion: that of death, of dying gracefully and with dignity - early, late, whenever. The western mind obsesses about time, about its short life, health, fitness, procreation; the superego ingeniously doles out dopamine only in "remembering" the happiness of past events. I'm really simplifying Lacan here, who speaks of the ego ideal and the objet petit a as a "trap of desire" -- where the desired object instantly loses value and meaning once it's attained -- a concept we can use to grapple with the truth about the existence of aliens and flying saucers.
Another good metaphor would be the situation where the wife is 100% sure her husband is cheating on her, but he won't admit it. The man is supposed to lie and the woman is supposed to KNOW he's lying but accept the lie. The thing is, will the woman be able to make decisions based on her knowledge of the truth irrespective of her husband's lie, or will she get all wrapped up in trying to get the "gory details" out of him? The spurned lover always has this masochistic obsession with the little details: "Tell me exactly what he did and where and for how long!" The UFOlogists and their skeptic remorae have this same masochistic obsession with the government --they want to hear from "the authority" that it was lying, to know what it was covering up. They can't just accept what's right there in front of them until they hear this from the big other.
Right there is the explanation of why this cover-up needed to happen and still does.
Authority, in its infinite wile, of course has never been really lying - the information is out there, just clouded in disinformation. Part of the job of authority is to spare us the terror of seeing it show genuine worry. For anyone ready to start to grapple with the existential HUGENESS of this issue though, the facts are there, as much as the government probably knows. Just as a child will pry at parental secrets but certainly not whine and stamp and demand the "real" answer (knowing unconsciously perhaps that the whole story all at once would be too much for them to bear) so too we pry at Area 51 for verification about the heavy dark secret, but we might think deep in our frightened hearts that what we don't know may be good for us. After all, when a president tells us the economy is doing bad but it's getting better, we know he's lying, but now we're mad at his lie not terrified of the truth. If we went on TV and started crying and raving that all was lost, that we were all doomed, then--and only then--would he be abusing his power.
Speculation is the shallow end of the deep, vast pool of the unknown truth. We indeed might panic, might stampede over the cliff were the whole vast, depressing truth be known without any recourse for the shelter of speculation. Is a sheep a happier sheep for knowing "the truth" about its slaughter house destiny?
From a Lacanian point of view, you can read the reason WHY all the US military agreed back in the atomic age to keep this stuff a secret in the dogmatically myopic letter from SETI, written in response to recent UFO and crop circle claims. Essentially, it's the same "if they're so smart, why don't they write us in English and come over and let us measure them," sort of thing that we hear from almost anyone dumb enough to believe What We Know So Far is the Be-All/End-All. These are the same people who jailed Galileo and Timothy Leary. They've made the mistake of identifying with their own frightened egos. Rather than being amorphous and open to the unknown they close up like turtles. These are the people who never remember their dreams, or else don't put any stock in them, and as a result, they end up in a car accident or some other last ditch attempt by the unconscious to get a word in edgewise. These are the people who teach our children and--unfortunately--these are our children. God knows I was like that for a long time. It takes a lot of weird experience in life--an experience that often results in low grades (because you're out tripping rather than studying)--to realize how little of the world you know. That's what a 19 year-old stoner brat and a 69 year-old professor have in common, neither will admit there's anything they don't already know, so there's nothing they can teach each other. Like two halves of a broken brain, they refuse to acknowledge the validity of each other's opinion. My joke about it in AA used to be, "Okay, I didn't before, but NOW I know everything...." and I'd learn something more.... "okay, NOW I know everything."
Last memory: on a family trip to some magical spot in Arizona, Sedona, a touristy town with nice vistas and allegedly nurturing magnetic frequencies. It was a two hour drive and by the time we got into the town we were hungry. All along main street were many interesting looking diners, less quirky than 'quirky' but independently charming, but then, at the end of the road, was a Burger King high on a hill. "Why this looks like just the place," noted my dad. I was too hungry to do my usual act of complaining. SETI is like my dad in this instance, going on a wild adventure only to wave its mathematic myopathy around as if it’s the last word in evolution. "If these are good restaurants, how come they don't have franchises!"
Don't believe me, just watch an alien show on 'Science' channel! They 'investigate' stuff that's been debunked years ago, never even considered seriously by anyone in the real alien conspiracy world, and then proudly and snidely debunk it at the last minute, over and over again. If that's not picking the Burger King, I don't know what is.