The Thanatological-Ufological Continuum: Are the questions of ‘are we alone’ or ‘is there an afterlife’ not so different after all?

Workshop with

Dr. Pascal Michael

Friday, May 31, 2024
Location: Endeavor Room

The relationship between the psychedelic DMT and the alien encounter is, for many, well-known. The connection between near-death experiences (NDEs) and psychedelics is accruing more and more attention. For most, however, the resonance between NDEs and alien abduction… is wholly anathema. What could be the possible interlacing between the extra-terrestrial and the preternatural? Some may be surprised – if one has a predilection for peering through the so-called ‘nuts & bolts’ lens – to hear of a phenomenological sharing of state-space between death & dying and alien abduction or other Ufological motifs, or of the palpably spiritual nature of reportedly “alien” beings. While a strictly physicalist model of ‘the phenomenon’ and recent official acceptance of extant UAPs bolster a likelihood of ancient visitation – this paradigm, which gestures beyond, inverts such controversial topics as ancient astronaut theory, a more reductive approach to God being ET (‘Angels as Aliens’), toward the divinisation of these ‘star beings’ (‘Aliens as Angels’). The approach similarly does so for attempts to model elves/faeries as archaic interpretations of aliens, instead becoming more complex world-straddling beings still. It also echoes the shamanic, entheogen-occasioned communing with such, even UFO-commanding, entities by being communicable via consciousness. In latter periods, Arnold, who witnessed a flurry of ‘flying saucers’ before the Roswell incident believed their provenance was the self-same place we are destined for when we die. Anne Strieber asked if the phenomenon “has something to do with what we call death?” I suggest Mack unwittingly responded to this, with some testimonies of abductees – including shamans – beguilingly gesturing at these beings’ implication in our dying experience. Hancock, drawing on Vallee, has assiduously co-identified folkloric & abduction narratives, appending them with shamanic travel. Most recently, Cutchin has coalesced the ubiquitous archetype of death with a tapestry of a myriad paranormal phenomena. Kripal has argued for a perspectival shift from one of technology to eschatology (cue A. C. Clarke quote on technology and magic), and Pasulka has similarly been struck by the abduction narrative and that of religious ascension. Maden has subverted the UFO as an ‘unidentified flying hyper-object’, of which we observe an obfuscated facet, like the fingertip of God, being epistemically beyond our ken. But in Ken Ringian terms, NDEs & abductions may be conceived as evolutionary opportunities (and thus as bardos), such axiomatic breaking may have teleological implications for consciousness. NDE features have been Ven-diagrammed with those of abductions, the presence of the deceased (Strieber) and plentiful staples of the ‘paranormal’ (Cutchin) have been listed during such ET encounter events, idiosyncratic NDEs with components far more expectable in UFO accounts have also sometimes been mentioned (Michael). All of which thoroughly fray the compartmentalising edges of these ostensibly distinct domains. Patently, altered states are almost prerequisite for such experiences. Psychedelics, reliable and profound brain-state switchers into novel world models, may build a formidable bridge; an aperture to meet convincingly ‘alien’ beings within what was traditionally held as the ‘spirit world’. The UFO phenomenon is now gaining traction at light-speed in mainstream circles, even governmental echelons. As such, not only is the matter garnering legitimacy, but the fact we can ask ourselves, sans ridicule, if we are being visited by such ‘others’ (who may not be so alien) has reeling implications for our own theologies, and irrepressibly asks us to reconsider our relationship to a transcendent God (& any hereafter) in the light of immanent god-like agencies. While this subject is firmly within the realms of high weirdness and is of ontological implications – the interpersonal experience of grief after a loved one dies is firmly in the frame of unavoidable, yet uncanny ordinariness. In this way, it simultaneously becomes a subject of the most intimate nature one can explore, complementing the far out with the fundamentally deeply within. This workshop will comprise an initial talk and will then open for a lively discussion with the whole group, for researchers, experiencers and the curious alike to co-discover together the possible parameters for this paradigm of the other. This session is also deliberately & starkly contrasted with a free lecture by the same speaker, in which a purely biopsychosocial framework will be offered to the delegates.