Last month I announced the coming release of The John Michell Reader, Inner Traditions’ collection of essays by the late English counterculture icon. Well, the book is now available through all the major bookstores [Amazon US & UK] and it would definitely make a fine addition to any Fortean’s library. “Radical traditionalist” is a spot-on way to describe Michell, who used his witty prose on his column at The Oldie –a humorous monthly magazine aimed for senior readership– both to complaint about the loss of the traditional lifestyle in British rural areas, condemn modern Agriculture, rant about Darwinism, support the Monarchy system, as well as extolling the use of psychedelics to promote thought-provoking conversations at suitable parties. You can’t get more “radical center” than that!
At the same time, Michell also directed his attention to a plethora of Fortean topics, including Sacred Geometry, Stonehenge, the Grail lore, Fairy legends and UFOs. It is on this last subject that I find Michell’s ideas resonating heavily with my own, which is why with Inner Traditions’ permission, I’m posting one of his essays concerning the most controversial aspect of the UFO phenomenon: Alien abductions.
UFO Abductions and the End of Innocence
The first UFO contactee I met was a young lad from a poor Protestant family in Northern
Ireland, named Ivor Brown. One evening he was walking along a dark country road toward a dance hall when he saw in front of him an ovalshaped object. Some creatures came out of it and took him inside, where he was seduced or whatever you call it by two strange but attractive females. Somehow Ivor got in touch with Desmond Leslie, the author of the very first UFO book, who took me to meet him.
We were inexperienced at that time, so were rather disconcerted by Ivor Brown. Our main concern was whether or not he was lying, and our ideas on how to tell a liar from an honest man were unimaginatively conventional. We had hoped to find the type of reliable witness who appeals to lawyers, firmeyed and rationalminded. That was not Ivor Brown. He was nervous, impressionable, uneducated, and prone to symptoms that are familiar to psychiatrists. Ever since his experience he had maintained psychic contact with his abductors and knew when they were near his house. His sensitivity spread to the rest of the family. Their minds and habits were changed and they left their home to go on psychically guided travels. The last I saw of Ivor was when he passed through London with old Mr. Brown and a younger brother, on their way to visit the grave of Matthew Hopkins, the fanatical witchfinder of seventeenthcentury Suffolk.
There is now a vast literature on the subject of “UFO abductions”— the modern folklore term for the kind of experience described by Ivor Brown. A large and growing number of similar encounters are reported all over the world, particularly in America. Opinions are divided about their meaning. Some say that they are to do with extra-terrestrial beings, while others believe they have a psychological origin. My own persuasion is that the sensible approach to the phenomenon of UFO abductees is by comparing it with past records—the records of folklore.
In any regional account of British folklore one can find stories about people who have been abducted by unworldly creatures, conventionally identified as fairies. The details in such cases are infinitely varied, but one detail is always the same. In every account of an abduction, whether by fairies, demons, or UFOcreatures, the abductee is mentally changed and acquires a new, spiritual perception. The results are not always of obvious benefit—abductees are likely to become lonely, melancholy, introspective. Some are persuaded that they have gone mad and there are always a few who think that God or the Venusians have chosen them to reform mankind.
In certain cases, however, a person who has undergone the abduction experience is awakened to life and gains the level of understanding, which, in ancient and tribal societies, was induced by a ritual initiation.
I now know that Ivor Brown was telling the truth, that he had a genuine, traumatic experience and that he naturally described it in modern, spaceage imagery rather than, as he would have done a generation or so earlier, in terms of demons and fairies. The actual cause of that experience is a mystery, which, I feel sure, will never finally be explained. Yet is has to be accepted as a real, effective phenomenon. To any sympathetic reader who has the slightest idea what I am driving at, I offer for contemplation the following suggested connections: violation of innocence by “UFO abductors”; by rumoured covens of “cult ritualists”; by tribal elders in the course of their initiation of adolescents. These are terrible things to undergo, but the victim may find certain compensations, such as maturity and a finer sensibility.