Mandalas and Tricksters

Gregory Little. The Archetype Experience. Rainbow Books, 1984.

Ufologists often express a wish that more professional psychologists would interest themselves in the UFO phenomenon; then when they do (e.g, Billig's Flying Saucers; Magic in the Skies) we rather wish they hadn't. Gregory Little's ideas, however, are fresh and stimulating. While I suspect that not many of us are going to be immediately persuaded that he has, to quote the cover, resolved the UFO mystery, he has certainly offered a way of approaching it which is coherent and comprehensive. It is also challenging, for he claims that his theory is fully testable.
 
Little proposes that UFO sightings occur as a consequence of interaction between the individuals internal archetypal system (which is related to Jung!s collective unconscious) and the external archetypal system, which comprises autonomous objects which are able, by synchronicity, to manifest in an appropriate form. For percipients living in this present age UFOs are an appropriate form. What happens then is that the external archetypes energise the percipients internal archetypes. This can lead to good consequences if a whole (mandala type) archetype is involved, not-so-good if a splintered (e.g, a trickster) archetype is involved. As a result, the personality can be either benefited or harmed, even disintegrated.

This brief outline hardly does justice to Little's theory, but indicates the general lines. I should add that the external archetypes may as well be IFOs as UFOs, that some percipients may be in a more fit state to respond to the external stimulus than others, that external archetypes, though manifesting in synchronicity with a 'need' on the part of the percipient are definitely not merely projections from his mind, nor are they in any way subject to his will, conscious or unconscious. These and other factors help to make each experience unique and complex, depending as it does on factors personal, cultural and cosmic, all interacting.

What Little has done has been to reformulate, in terms of the seminal ideas of Jung, suggestions as to the psychological process involved in seeing a UFO which have been proposed by such speculators as Guerin, Monnerie, Clark, Coleman, Keel and Vallee, to say nothing of the present reviewer. As such, it has the benefit of a coherent theoretical structure; but it has the drawback of requiring some unwarranted assumptions, such as the existence in the first place of 'splintered archetypes'. There is also too much speculation about the connection with spiritualism and psychic phenomena, the place of Israel in world history, Armageddon and other elements of Bible prophecy, and New Age nonsense in general. His arguments lose some of their force too, by reason of his selective and simplistic presentation of his base material, though it is reassuring to see how widely he has read and how thoughtfully he has appraised the ideas of others. It would have helped if his command of language had been surer, and if he had proof-read his book more carefully. But such minor defects should not discourage the open-minded ufologist from opening his mind yet further, to Dr Little's stimulating thesis. -- Hilary Evans, Magonia 17, October 1984.


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