|Kela has mentioned Patrick Harpur here a couple of times in the past, and Susan and Heru mentioned him just recently. Harpur, like Carl Jung, Richard Tarnas, James Hillman, Arnold Mindell, et al, understands the psyche. Many people don’t.
Here is Harpur from his book Daimonic Reality:
St. Paul mentions an ecstatic experience in which he was “caught up even to the third heaven”, but, as he says, “whether in the body, I know not, or whether out of the body, I know not; God knoweth.” And this is the dilemma confronting many otherworld journeyers.
It is, I think, too easy to dismiss the conviction of many of them that they were physically lifted into another realm, such as an alien spacecraft. This, after all, is what it felt like; and it is a conviction shared by all members of traditional cultures – although, as we shall see, with an important difference in viewpoint. Thus, although I do not share the conviction, I want to stress that it is ancient and respectable and, I think, nearer to the truth of the matter than not to believe in any kind of otherworld journey at all. However, using the model of daimonic reality … it is possible to make otherworld journeys intelligible, without recourse to a belief in an actual, physical experience.
Here is Ken Wilber from One Taste:
When people have a memory or an experience of being “abducted,” I don’t doubt the experience seems absolutely real to them (most would pass a lie detector test). And it is real, as an experience, as phenomenology, but not as ontology, not as an objective reality. So there’s the phenomenology (or the experience itself), and there is how you interpret the experience. And for that interpretation – as will all interpretation – you need to draw on the total web of available evidence, which is exactly what the believers in these experiences are not doing.
Do any UFO experiences represent higher realities? It’s theoretically possible that some of these experiences are stemming from the psychic or subtle levels of consciousness, and that, precisely because these people do not grow and evolve into these levels, they experience them as an ‘other.’ Instead of their own higher and deeper luminous nature, they project it outwardly as an alien form. Even if that is the case, these people are still in the grips of a dissociative pathology. … The giveaway, as usual, is the narcissism.
What do people really want when they think of UFOs? What are they yearning for at the thought of something extraterrestrial? Why, they want something bigger than themselves. They want to know that, in the entire, wild, extraordinary Kosmos, there is something other than their meager egos.
What Harpur honors, Wilber tends to pathologize.
It seems to me that the rational, Freudian-flavored pathologizing approach that Wilber takes here doesn’t honor the way the psyche or soul actually works, plays, unfolds, grows, flows, meanders, soars, swims, lives, breathes, and develops.
When Wilber asks what people really want when they think of UFOs, he is talking about what the “meager ego” wants, but he neglects to note that the experiences in question (i.e., UFO abduction experiences) don’t stem from the ego but from the deeper psyche (there is no other place they can stem from, unless they are just willful fantasies, e.g., as if someone were to fantasize about winning the lottery, and reports of UFO abduction experiences indicate that they are not mere fantasies). So it’s not a matter of what the “meager ego” wants but of what the deeper psyche wants.
Speaking about the appearance of symbols of wholeness in the psyche, such as UFOs and mandalas, Jung says, “they do not invariably indicate a subliminal readiness on the part of the patient to realize that wholeness more consciously, at a later stage; often they mean no more than a temporary compensation of chaotic confusion.”
This is not something that someone who elevates pre” to “trans” would say.
…anything that happens in our state of mind, including emotions, is manure. Whatever comes up is a workable situation…
…we begin to realize that all kinds of chaotic situations that might occur in life are opportune situations. They are workable situations that we mustn’t reject, and mustn’t regard as purely a regression or going back to confusion at all. Instead, we must develop some kind of respect for those situations that happen in our state of mind.
This is why it simply isn’t skillful or useful to pathologize intrapsychic phenomena, such as UFO abduction experiences or those who have and interpret them. Such experiences are “workable situations that we mustn’t reject, and mustn’t regard as purely a regression or going back to confusion,” or as “dissociative pathology” and “narcissism.” “Instead, we must develop some kind of respect for those situations that happen in our state of mind.” Which is what Harpur, Jung, Hillman, Mindell, Tarnas, et al do. The issue here isn’t what is right or wrong or “politically correct” or incorrect. The issue is, what is most useful? What is most likely to benefit the individual who has and interprets the experience? If someone has a UFO abduction experience and they interpret it to mean that “they were physically lifted into another realm, such as an alien spacecraft,” as Harpur puts it, that’s the manure we have to work with. Calling it shit isn’t going to help anyone, is it? Saying that such people are in the grips of a dissociative pathology and are narcissistic isn’t going to help anyone, is it? There is psychic energy and psychic potential to work with here. Dismissing it by pathologizing it is like throwing manure away instead of working it into the garden and then tending and nurturing the garden and waiting to see what grows. Suzuki Roshi speaks of a similar process in terms of “mind weeds.” He says, “We must have the actual experience of how our weeds change into nourishment.” Or of how our lead changes into gold.
Jung and Trungpa compare the process of intrapsychic transmutation to alchemy. Trungpa says this is “like the alchemical practice of changing lead into gold.”
And what is this gold? The alchemist’s beginning goals will be like yours or mine: freedom from trouble, hope for nirvana, enlightenment, love, immortality or spontaneity. But what you actually receive may be something you were not even aware of missing, something so precious and vital that you might even forget your original goals.