The Super Natural: A New Vision of the Unexplained by Whitley Strieber and Jeffrey Kripal --- A Review by Alan Steinfeld
Whitley Strieber has been called a lot of things - fraud, insane, fabricator, hoaxer, but all that he has ever claimed were experiences with beings that seemed to be beyond our cultural mode of understanding. I think it was a daring act to write Communion, his first revelation of “visitors” from elsewhere. It sent a shock wave through the collective mind of our western culture. It woke me, and many others, up to the possibilities that there is more to our reality than what we have been told. Now thirty years later Whitley has done it again. With The Super Natural, he and his collaborator professor Jeffrey Kripal, have pierced the veil of our illusionary minds with a re-evaluation of the close encounter scenario. The Whitley we come to know in this book is far more a mystic than abductee; a contemplator of the mysteries not its victim. With three decades of introspection Strieber confesses to the most common of human frailties: “We are constantly equating what we believe or perceive for what is.”[i] He feels that what he had thought were aliens might actually be a glimpse of something vaster and far less tangible. He speculates that perhaps these beings have haunted human consciousness since the beginning of time. What they actually are we don’t know and may never know. Perhaps that altered statesman Terrence McKenna said it most perfectly.
Strieber in concert with Kripal, the religious scholar from Rice University, perform a lovely duet of sobriety and reason in trying to understand the elusive riddle of “contact” that has plagued hundreds of thousands of people worldwide for the last half century. It is not really a duet, the authors take a tag team approach in alternating monologues that center around such vital issues as: who are we, what are we and what do we really know about the nature of the universe that encapsulates us.
Overall this is an enjoyable retelling of what has thought to have been the alien abduction phenomena. This writing is so smooth and gracefully written that its easy style is in itself - super natural. Because of this the words penetrate into the psyche of the reader and become intellectually satisfying, emotionally stimulating and spiritually rewarding. This book is for anyone who has seriously thought about or have encountered other worldly beings, but have not had the mindset to understand their experiences. With Whitley unabashed confession of his deepest most intimate feelings and Kripal rich treasure of intellectual tools of analysis, we see that the UFO/ET phenomena might be much more than nuts and bolts. The text is both prosaic and pragmatic. Kripal’s codified terminology balances Strieber’s soul baring confessions. There are paragraphs by Whitley that are so personal that the reader feels like voyeur peering into the writer’s extremely private life. The professor’s formulations for interpreting those shocking experiences makes an excellent counterpoint to the intensity and veracity of Strieber’s paranormal intimacies. I hate to be a spoiler, but it all seems to come down to what the scientist Arthur Eddington described in the summing up the intricacies of quantum physics: “Something unknown is doing we don't know what.”
Real or Not
The authors are not saying that encounters are fabrications. Both agree that there is something that has been interacting with human consciousness, probably since the
begging of human history. However at this point in our evolutionary development we do not seem to have the capacity to understand what it could be. Kripal sights the famous William James line in his attempts to comprehend a unfathomable cosmos in The Variety of Religious Experiences: “We may be in the Universe as dogs and cats are in our libraries, seeing the books and hearing the conversation, but having no inkling of the meaning of it all.”
The Super Natural is not the first time the public has been asked to consider the idea of UFOs and ETs as a merging between consciousness and reality. Carl Jung took great pains to explain that we need to develop more tools in order to understand the psyche’s impact on the physical world. He felt that before we can understand what these mysterious flying saucers are about, we must first clarify our relationship to the unconscious. [ii]
Another person who spoke about UFOs being more than we can imagined was the French American writer, Jacques Valle. Vallee believed that we should acknowledge our inability, within our current worldview, to make sense of all these so-called unidentified objects in the sky. “Taken as a whole, the data suggest that we are in the presence of a phenomenon deeper than the reaches of modern science, and perhaps even beyond human comprehension… and in some way affects or shapes human consciousness.” [iii]
That altered statesman, Terrence McKenna also talked about the UFO mythos in a similar but more intellectual fashion. He felt that the visible symbol of the flying saucer had become the guiding image of our cultural evolution. Even with his own UFO sighting he put a mytho-poetic spin on it. Witnessing a mist of clouds morph into a hard material spaceship in the skies over the Amazon rain forest - McKenna said: “The whole of historical possibilities was compressed into a mercurial holographic disc; part bios, part machine, part syntax, part mind. The categories dissolved. The world was not what it appeared to be. An observer needs to exist for reality to be observed at all. It is all psychological. Was it real? [iv]
Whitley also questions the validity of personal experience in the beginning of the book asking: “Is it real in the same way we are real?”[v] But it is obvious to anyone that has seen these object and felt the peculiar alien presence that this cannot be all “mind”. Unless of course the mind is more than we think it is. Whitley relays the hard core reality of a tangible physical presence of the phenomena with a detailed description of the alien probe that he can still feel in his ear lobe. Another influential figure in trying to explain the bridge the gap between UFOs and consciousness was Harvard professor John Mack. He wrote in his landmark book Abductions: Our mentality is an either- or mentality. It's either, literally physical; or it's in the spiritual other realm, the unseen realm. What we seem to have no place for—or we have lost the place for—are phenomena that can begin in the unseen realm, and cross over and manifest and show up in our literal physical world… The phenomenon stretches us. It asks us to open to realities that are not simply the literal physical world, but to extend to the possibility that there are other unseen realities from which our consciousness over the past several hundred years have closed us off.
All of these people address the larger concern of our relationship to the larger cosmos. One of the first people to go in this direction was the renegade psychotherapist, RD Laing talked about in the 1960s with his re-evaluation of mental illness: “We are far more out of touch with even the nearest approaches of the infinite reaches of inner space than we now are with the reaches of outer space… It makes far more sense… to explore the inner space and time of consciousness.[vi]
The Disclosure Movement
The importance of all this is not just for understanding ourselves as contactees, but what this means for a coming “Disclosure.” It seems that the official sanction of life from other worlds will not be an overnight sensation. “They,” (who ever they are) will not land on the White House lawn. In what felt to be me to be one of the book’s most important passages Whitley gives a fresh approach for the Disclosure agenda: "Even if the reality of aliens is announced to the world by credible authorities, a new way of addressing the matter is still essential to any successful understanding. Right now "contact" would be taken as the beginning of interaction with another society something like our own. From all the evidence, this approach would be a failure... To make real contact work we must not forget what is actually the central reality of the whole matter: not only that we don't know who and what they are, but that we also don't know who and what we are.” I underlined this section three times, because we need this sort of clarity in with a government Disclosure, before there is open contact. The disclosure first must be who and what we are before we can define “the Other.”
Another main point that I came away with from this 300 plus pages of acute observations is the challenge we have now to allow ourselves to float with an undefined apprehension of what these, so called ETs are. We cannot let our fear of the unknown force us into a false comprehension. We must remain open to the obvious fact that we have not, despite what our scientists and religious leaders tell us, figured it all out. Kripal quotes John Keel’s UFOs: Operation Trojan Horse which suggests that it is foolish to talk to scientists in order to get validation that alien ships are increasing being seen in the sky. “The real validation must be made in the consciousness of the people. This is the only way that something can become real in the reality of the planet is through experience.”[vii]
It was with this sort of reasoning throughout the book that I came to realize the deeper truth that the authors were trying to convey. By saying that we know these things are UFOs or ETs or aliens, puts them firmly in our reality. But it is obvious, from their incomprehensible behaviors that they are not of our reality. In other words, to think of this as only a physical manifestation of spaceships with little “grey” astronauts flying around, puts it all into our concrete world. This way we can label it and feel safe about what it is. However the truth, from everything that we have learned about the subject, is that it is not definable by any measure of what is known. We need to stretch beyond the limits of our imposed cultural perceptions in order to discover a greater truth. Only this way can we learn a new language for a greater consciousness. Taking another cue from Professor Mack, he acknowledged that: “We're dealing with a phenomenon which violates our sense of reality, and which operates in this gray area between the physical world and the subjective or mythic or other-realm world. We're being asked to prove this by the methods of the physical sciences alone. But those methods, in my view, will not yield its secrets, until we discover other ways of knowing. [viii]
UFOs are like an outreach program from the universe for the consciously impaired. –Dr. John Mack
What we come away with at the end of the book is that there are no cognitive footholds at this point in our evolution in which to understand this greater reality. We have yet to develop the facilities of knowing who these beings are or what they may want from us. The conclusion I make is that we must be born anew, that perhaps we are embryo aliens gestating for a coming world. And “a new vision of the unexplained” is beckoning us out of the birth canal. The first thing newborn babies do upon entering this world is scream, shocked by the strange forms it sees as people. Eventually it matures to realize that it is one of those forms. We are larval consciousness in our undeveloped notion of the larger cosmos or as Aldous Huxley called “the Mind at Large”. We must grow up first in order to be on even ground wit our visitors. This way we gain solemnity in overcoming the petty warlike dramas that have infected mankind in its battle with itself. Part of our maturation is in realizing, as Whitley theorizes, that we might need to believe in the visitors before they can fully enter our reality.
How will this happen? Maybe in the way it is happening. Could it be that the UFO sightings are a strategic well planned by a higher consciousness to plant seeds of awareness in the population? Former air force officer and UFO observer Richard Hastings feels that only a slow revelation of the phenomena will give it an acceptable for our fragile human perceptions. At a press conference for military officers and UFOs in 2010 he concluded: “I am of the opinion that whoever they are. They have enough sense to know that if they interject themselves into our reality in one fell swoop, there could be very dire repercussions. Whereas, on the other hand, if they engage in an on again off again, cat and mouse behavior, that allows a slow psychological conditioning of humankind to their reality and to the presence of themselves. Then, when open contact, if that indeed is in the cards, occurs, there will be far less trauma.”[ix] There does seem to be a lot of coming and going not just in the sky, but in the media. Perhaps television commercial, movies, print ads, like this one on the NYC subway from Manhattan mini storage… - all preparing us for a “culture of contract.” Furthermore anyone, who is even semi-awake, knows something strange and unprecedented is happening on planet Earth. We are changing. Summing it up Kripal makes this declaration towards the end of the book: “It is time to tell a better story about the whole pantheon of the unknown, their gods, miracles, angels, demons, aliens and mysterious objects in the sky.[x]
Even before the day of what is now regarded as the UFOs or even flying saucer Noble prize in literautre winner Maurice Maeterlinck peered into the unknown in 1915 in a way that both Strieber and Kripal would seem to agree with :
Those super natural manifestation...which emerge triumphant from the test and defy our less credulous and more penetrating vision are all the more worthy of holding our attention. They are not the last survivals
of the riddle, for this continues to exist in its entirety and grows greater in proportion as we throw light upon it; …we can perhaps see in them the supreme or else the first efforts of a force which does not appear to reside wholly in our sphere. They suggest blows struck from without by an Unknown even more unknown than that which we think we know, an Unknown which is not that of the universe, not that which we have gradually made into an inoffensive and amiable Unknown, even as we have made the universe a son of province of the earth, but a stranger arriving from another world, an unexpected visitor who comes in a rather sinister way to trouble the comfortable quiet in which we were slumbering, rocked by the firm and watchful hand of orthodox science." Project Gutenberg Etext The Unknown Guest, by Maurice Maeterlinck
Revelation of Truth
Yet there seems to be a plan of revelation involving three sides working in triangulation. The first side is the increased of UFO sightings worldwide, the ‘coming and going’ as Hastings puts it. The second is that the (shadow) government is slowly leaking secrets of classified documents already stating an ET presence, from 1947 onwards. Both of these forces, either at odds or in collusion with each other, appear to have a similar strategy. It can be surmised with Emily Dickerson’s classic verses:
Tell all the truth but tell it slant —
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth's superb surprise
As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind —