Contact Experience and Ancient Traditions
By Veronica Goodchild, PhD from John E. Mack Institute

One of the difficulties of the alien encounter experience is trying to convey to others the kind of “place” or “landscape” of these anomalous visitations. Because in the West we are so used to restricting our experience within an empirical scientific worldview, things either happen in a world outside, or we have thoughts or feelings in an interior world.

Repeatedly, however, experiencers struggle to convey the “realness” of encounters that they are absolutely sure are not taking place in either fantasy or dream states, yet may also lack the kind of material evidence that would suggest they are taking place in the world outside. Rather, some encounters seem to be taking place in a realm that is not clearly recognizable as either outside of ordinary reality or within one’s interior world. Dr. John Mack writes in Passport to the Cosmos that people have tried to describe this “outside of non-ordinary reality” in such terms as “third zone,” or “fourth dimension.”

Dr. Goodchild’s research has uncovered descriptions of this strange, “in-between” state in the mystical traditions of both Eastern and Western spirituality. In Sufi mysticism, for example, some visionary states were thought to be “really real”; these landscapes were called the mundus imaginalis, and were clearly distinguished from fantasy, meaning unreal, states. The mundus imaginalis was thought to begin where empirical geographies ended; it was a world of cities, inhabitants, and places, called “Emerald Cities,” all in a subtle state; it was thought to be the world of the soul, where spirit and body were one. Experience in this intermediary world was heightened and intense, having both a physical and spiritual reality.

Alchemists, too, described this subtle world, describing it as a mixture of visionary and physical elements, accessed by what was called the imaginatio vera (to distinguish it from fantasy that was thought of belonging to the lower desires and power drives of what we would call the ego), and belonging to experiences that were intensely transformational and healing, both physically and spiritually.

In our world we have lost a relation to these subtle realms of being in which we might meet our angel or daimon, and experience altered states of consciousness related to the journey of our souls. In our view, some alien encounters may be helping us recover deeply transformational dimensions of being.

It is possible, therefore, that the encounter experience is a contemporary form of an ancient mystical knowledge or gnosis, that is, knowledge that comes from the reality of visionary or revelatory states, that are also taking place in an actual “space” of the soul, or subtle vehicle. Such experiences also make it imperative that we expand our dichotomous worldview to include once again these other levels of reality, that in fact are by no means new, but recover an ancient multidimensionality.

Listen to a related presentation (mp3)

Veronica Goodchild, Ph.D. is an Associate Core Faculty Member at Pacifica Graduate Institute in Carpinteria, California. She teaches doctoral students in the Clinical and Depth Psychology Programs, and serves on dissertation committees both as Advisor and Coordinator. Veronica has been a Jungian psychotherapist (she prefers the original name “alienist”) and teacher for twenty years, and has explored the confluence of Jung’s work and quantum physics. Veronica’s first book is Eros and Chaos: The Sacred Mysteries and Dark Shadows of Love. She also contributed a chapter to Pathways into the Jungian World: Phenomenology and Analytical Psychology.
© 2000 Veronica Goodchild, Ph.D.
Originally written as a synopsis for an event at which Dr. Mack and Dr. Goodchild spoke. (?)

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