Reply To: UFO: A Living Myth of Transformation,” with mythologist Norland Têllez”
Thank you Sunbug, I appreciate all you say.
Yes, what Stephen said (not actually my words) about about uncertainty and ambiguity of the UFO phenomena speaking to the mystery is an important point in connection to that “unusual emotion” that accompanies the numinous archetype. The ambiguity and ambivalence of the archetype, however, would not have deterred Campbell from exploring such phenomena. Quite the contrary, as Stephen suggested, that precisely such qualities might have enticed his philosophical and mythological curiosity. And I do think you’re right. Campbell would probably have pointed to the UFO phenomenon as a concretization of a metaphor of transcendent being.
In my opinion, the reason Campbell didn’t pick up the subject probably has more to do to with the lack of genius literary elaborations on the subject. If James Joyce had decided to write a novel about Alien visitors, then he surely would have followed suit! Campbell loved books above anything else and didn’t actually express great interest in pop culture, especially his contemporary movie and entertainment culture, which he viewed with detachment and at a distance. When you look at Creative Mythology, for example, you see nothing but a magnificent compendium of contemporary works of literary geniuses, in both literature and philosophy. He could have included, for example, a piece on the history of painting, music, or dance—and indeed film-making itself as the quintessential modern art—as powerful exponents of contemporary “creative mythology.” But no such luck. After all, as everyone knows, Campbell was a professor of literature at Sarah Lawrence College. His angle of entry into the mythic dimension is pre-eminently a literary one.
Another question you ask
“If UFOs are both out of the realm of religion/science (meaning no direct verification) Then where would they belong in the Psyche?”
I don’t think that UFOs are, phenomenologically speaking, outside the realm of religion and science. In a way, they represent the possibility of an absolute synthesis of the two. And there is a measure of verification involved in both spheres, as we know, one objective the other subjective. The pentagon videos along with witness accounts could be counted as a modicum of objective proof.And there is no doubt that something of a religious faith has taken root in it—especially in order to regard such videos as objective proof! You see, at every point, UFOs blur the dividing line between science and religion. The experience of seeing a UFO is qualitatively no different than seeing a God.
Although we’ve said that Campbell appears not to have expressed himself on the topic, one little fragment did emerge from our research at the Foundation. Here’s how Campbell saw it in a rare instant:
“In one of those cock-eyed theaters that are in New York, on 42nd and Broadway, I saw advertised Fire Women from Outer Space. That was a mythological idea. In Tibetan Buddhism these are called docheles—fire women from outer space! And in their spiritual powers they can excite you a little bit. And so I thought, Well, we’re getting back to the old days in a very funny way.” (The Hero’s Journey, p. 184)
“Whenever the human imagination gets going, it has to work in the fields that myths have already covered. And it renders them in new ways, that’s all.” (The Hero’s Journey, p. 212)