Matthew J. Graeber
Magonia 52, May 1995

Although we might expect to make little headway towards resolving today’s UFO enigma by comparing it to past mysteries, we may, nevertheless, examine both present and past UFO events as being comprised of optically perceived images or imagery that occasionally have an extraordinary effect upon the individual(s) who either observe or come into close proximity with them.

Such effects may be emotional, physical, psycho-physiological, or psychological in nature; and the mechanisms by which they are produced upon the observers by the UFOs are unknown, as is the composition, origin and intent (if any?) of the Unidentified Flying Objects themselves.

Several ufologists have described the UFO experience as a form of “display” (Jung, Alnor, Evans, Sprinkle, Salisbury, Graeber, et al.). Theoretically speaking, this display may be directed at an individual observer or a particular group of individuals, or it may even have collective significance. The effect of observing a UFO display may be likened to the intrapsychical process involved during the perception of a Rorschach plate (ink blot), with the exception being that the UFO experience is not contemplative and passive. Rather, it is sudden, shocking, and often overwhelming to the observer’s senses.

Primitive man feared, revered or was awestruck by things that came from the sky – probably because he had little or no power over such things as lightning, tornadoes, thunder, whirlwinds, etc., and did not understand what these natural phenomena really were. In fact, many people of ancient cultures even believed that gods and a host of demons also inhabited the skies and that they could swoop down upon them at any moment. So, it is not uncommon to learn of cross-cultural legends and myths about sky people who rustled livestock, abducted humans, mated with earth women, and even switched their offspring for human infants. Today’s UFO abduction reports may be a technologically accented version of this ancient myth;, but, instead of the aliens snatching babies from their cradles, they now surgically remove the unborn foetus from the abductee’s womb. Obviously, today’s social experimentation, unrest, and near obsession with the abortion issue has activated an unconscious or perhaps instinctual response to the “split-mindedness” of our society concerning this issue. Perhaps that is why the “new age” variety of sky people (i.e. the little grey aliens) are reported to look very similar to a human foetus.

Modern day ufologists, especially those of the hypno-abductionist persuasion, would do well to keep these things in mind as they plumb the depths of the human unconscious for proof of alien interactions with humans. For mythological ideas and beliefs such as the above mentioned are, in fact, the end products of unconscious psychic processes that autonomously appear when there is a great emotional need present. So, simply because UFO abduction stories sound very much alike, we shouldn’t believe that indicates that they are “real experiences”, that is, “real” beyond the realms of the human psyche and its fantastic power and effect upon the individual.

Since we are primarily discussing the optically perceived “display factor” of the UFO encounter, we would probably do well to select a specific UFO configuration to examine for its potential archetypal character and symbolic meaningfulness to modern man. The UFO I have selected for this cursory probe is the gigantic cylindrical craft which are commonly called “motherships” by UFO researchers. I have chosen this particular UFO with the hopes that its size and unusual performance will afford us some insights regarding its origin.
Artist's impression of a 'mothership' launching UFOs
Although motherships have been rarely observed in the last couple of decades, they represent an important facet of the UFO legend’s ongoing development because they were considered by many ufologists to be the vessels that the aliens use to traverse the stars; while the smaller discoidal craft that they carried were thought to be excursion vehicles primarily used to survey the Earth or to collect terrestrial soil, flora and fauna samples. In this case, it is obvious that man’s own space-conquering aspirations and techniques have been directly projected upon an assumed alien technological presence in our environment.

In the early days of UFO activity, these transporters were rather rapidly moving craft and were occasionally involved in the highly publicised airliner pursuit cases of the 1950s and 1960s. But, in more recent times, not only have they slowed down considerably, they also have become rather unstable aerostats frequently said to be observed bobbing, about in the sky because of the buffeting effect of high winds.

The descriptions of these sky-tubes tend to vary a great deal, and there seems to be some confusion amongst the UFO groups regarding how they should be categorised. For some of the great ships are said to be rigid forms (metallic looking) and hollow like a conduit of some sort. These UFOs are usually reported to be silvery or quite dark in colour, while others appear to be translucent or luminous objects that closely resemble a red-hot poker that is occasionally sheathed in a veil of white light or smoke.

Then, of course, there are the “cloud ships” or “cloud cigars”. These are often said to be detected by the witnesses because they move against the prevailing winds and do not tend to dissipate like the regular clouds in which they take refuge. Interestingly, these carriers also display the ability to land, which is an extremely rare occurrence for the other type and, although they appear to lack any sort of metallic structure, they still manage to maintain a particular shape, such as a loaf of French bread or an enormous cigar.

If we search the ancient writings of man and examine a few of his mythological concepts, we will discover that these motherships probably should be called the god ships. (1) For, certainly these carriers are easily associated with Biblical epiphanies of fire and light, pillars of fire, whirlwinds, and other miraculous manifestations such as the great luminous cloud which was said to have led and nourished Moses and his followers during the time of their flight from Egypt.

We might also find interest in the fact that these cylinders as “a symbolic phallic form” compare quite nicely with the ancient worship of the generative power of nature (and God), which was depicted as a phallus. (2) Such religious rites were practised in several ancient cultures (especially in the Orient), and also appeared in the Dionysiac festivals of ancient Greece. (3)

Symbolically speaking, one might say that the god ship is a colossus (pregnant) and is said to launch (give birth to) many zip-zapping smaller craft (spheres or discs; i.e., female symbols) which wildly scoot about the troposphere like sperm cells in search of an egg to fertilise. Even more interestingly (according to the reports), the cylinders tend to assume a provocatively youthful erection attitude when the ejaculation of the smaller craft takes place (roughly 40 to 45 degrees off the horizontal plane); and to further compound their male sexuality, they quite often take on a reddish glow that quickly engulfs the entire interior of the cylinder (as if to suggest that blood was surging through the tube).

As an androgynous (phallic-uterine) symbol, the god ship is then a sort of “dual-singularity”, or, what Jung might have called “a union of opposites”, which has the ability to carry/eject and absorb smaller UFOs. It is at once a sort of visual aid, projected upon the atmosphere, which symbolically explains, according to the level of man’s thinking or belief, that:
1 - That God has the power to create and reclaim
2 - That the natural pulse of life (nature) is a cyclic phenomenon eternally replenishing itself;
3 - That energy is conserved.
Curiously, the followers of the ancient Hindu faith will tell you that Matha-Vishnu (second person of the Hindu trinity) can, by merely breathing in and out, create or destroy entire spiritual universes, and we know that this thought closely parallels the remark made by a little sylph to Facius Cardan, [4] which asserted that God’s creation was not a singular event but rather an ongoing, from moment to moment, occurrence, and that if God should desist for even a moment, all would end.

These notions seem to have anticipated quantum theory, just as surely as the phallic forms appeared in the skies long before the 20th century. What’s more, the phallic also influenced the artists of antiquity, for such forms frequently appear in drawings and carvings which were not only intended to symbolise nature but were also believed to invoke the fructifying powers of the gods at the time of planting. The phallic symbol also appears to have had directional meaning (5) and was possibly believed to have had threatening powers over one’s enemies.

Besides being threateningly penetrating, it can also single one out or offer direction to us in the form of a very penetrating dream or dream message. Interestingly, Dr Jung noted that many of his patients encountered this archetypal symbol in their slumber and it was obvious these dreams had very diverse meanings; but, generally, they come through in what he called “big dreams” – that is, dreams of tremendous power and influence. The kind of dream one thinks about a great deal upon awakening, wondering what in the world it might have meant.
Dr. Jung's Patient's Dream

One such commentary appeared in Jung’s landmark book on UFOs and I would like to elaborate on it here because it illustrates how the phallic UFO is perceived in the unconscious mind which is, of course, extremely important to any serious study of the UFO enigma; simply because we are not certain how many of these mysterious objects hail from man’s inner space, that is, his unconscious:
I was out walking, at night, in the streets of a city. ‘Interplanetary machines’ appeared in the sky and everyone fled. The machines looked like steel cigars. I did not flee, one of the ‘machines’ spotted me and came straight toward me at the oblique angle. I think Professor Jung says that one should not run away, so I stand still and look at the machine. From the front, seen close to, it looked like a circular eye, half blue, half white.

A room in a hospital: My two chiefs came in, very worried and asked my sister how it was going. My sister replied that the mere sight of the machine had burnt my whole face. (6) Only then did I realise that they were talking about me, and that my whole head was bandaged, although I could not see it.”
I have selected this dream for study for a couple of reasons. First of all, it touches upon the process of selectivity frequently attributed to the phallic symbol and UFOs, and, secondly, because it had the remarkable burning characteristics found in quite a number of UFO cases, in particular, a case on file at UFORIC, (7) which was investigated by Mr Michael McClellan, formerly of APRO.

Mike’s report on that experience starts off with the witness’s (Mrs Flagg’s) letter to him relating her sighting particulars and reads as follows:
Dear Mr McClellan, Having read an article in the Times News about the UFO sightings in Mahoning Valley that took place – I thought perhaps it might be a good idea to tell you what I have seen Friday A.M. on October 26. I saw something very unusual in the sky. It wasn’t anything like a flying saucer but rather three large silver planes that looked like jets and they sparkled like three large diamonds in the sky. They also had a flickering light that kept blinking at a speed which I have never seen in all my life.

The three flickering lights kept blinking so fast and each one had a rod attached to it. In other words, from down here, to me, they looked like three wands with a large star at the tip of each rod. The three planes (as I call them) were huddled so close together and I thought for a minute they would crash if they bumped into one another.

The objects were all lit up and could be seen from all parts of the world. One couldn’t miss them. It seemed to me as if they were being held in the air by magnets. They weren’t moving there. All of a sudden, the UFO in the centre made a quick turn just as a fish would swish its tail (8) and headed towards the opposite direction from the others. This scared me, as I thought for a minute it was going to zoom down here at me. I ran in the house so fast that I almost fell, I turned out all the lights and I went for my binoculars but when I looked up into the sky they had disappeared. I have seen other things (other times) with rays or beams of light emanating from them but it would take a book to write all these and furthermore I always kept this to myself because there are people who think one is a nut. But I was always in fear of these UFOs because I found the tips of my dog’s ears all burned as though someone burnt them with a match. I’m just beginning to wonder if the UFOs are doing it?

Oh yes, on another occasion one came very close to my home when I happened to be looking out of the window, and this thing from the sky kept coming closer and closer. Well, I got inquisitive and watched. All of a sudden it came real close to my window, gave a turn and a beam went out. It was dark and I didn’t see anything more that evening but as the ray of light hit my windows I heard them crack. The next morning I looked at the windows and, sure enough, they were cracked. I have three windows and they are still cracked from that time.
Psychophysiological aspects of a close encounter

According to Michael McClellan’s investigative report, the witness became quite ill after the incident and she also suffered a cluster of reddish-coloured skin eruptions and some general discolouration on her entire face which was thought to be a direct result of being exposed to the UFO’s ray. The pimple-like cluster (9) was treated medically as was the illness (nausea) and their sudden emergence remains as much a mystery to Mrs Flagg as it does to the UFO investigator. (10) It should be mentioned that Mr McClellan is a reliable and thorough researcher, who stressed that he had no doubt concerning the sincerity and mental stability of the witness. However, a clue to the origin of the witness’s UFO experience might be found in her rather cryptic references to the UFOs as the “big three” (11) which she thought were about to crash (i.e., clash) together and would be seen by or otherwise involve the whole world. For, the lady was obviously very concerned about mounting international tensions, and had even felt compelled to compose some patriotic music.

Quite interestingly, in cases of this type we must ponder the thought that a distinct psycho-physiological process may be affecting the observer. How this occurs remains unclear, but that does not deny the fact that marked physical effects upon the UFO experiencers and close encounters with UFOs (or their operators) do coincide. For evidence such as nausea, temporary paralysis, unusual skin discolourations and bouts of memory loss are quite often the only physical proof that the UFO investigator can point to to show that a genuine UFO experience has occurred.

Such evidence is, of course, well documented in the responsible saucer literature and can be verified by the physician’s records concerning the observers treatment(s) after the event. But, evidence of this kind should not be considered as some sort of proof-positive concerning an extraterrestrial visitation. However, it does offer the researcher an excellent opportunity to study the possible workings of psychophysical processes (12) in relationship to the perception of specific UFO-like imagery or psychic symbols.

Anyway, if we look at the motherships’ performance record in modern times – we find that they first appeared in the skies as “mystery rockets” over Scandinavia just at the close of World War II. Usually these rockets were heard as well as seen. Moreover, when they were witnessed (as objects with and without vapour trails) the reports indicated that they did not seem to zigzag or hover; rather, they coursed steadfastly through the skies much like the dreaded V-2 rockets and flying buzz bombs that the German military had developed.

Needless to say, many people suspected that these “ghost rockets” were actually Russian devices slapped together by some Nazi scientists who must have fallen into Stalin’s hands. So, quite naturally, the Allies (American and British) immediately dispatched military investigators to search for their launch sites, but the effort was in vain because the sightings suddenly dropped off.

So, it wasn’t until the Cold War year of 1952 that the 'motherships' really earned their status in UFO legend. For it was there, high above the French towns of Gaillac and Oleron, that the sky cylinders started dishing out little saucers all over the heavens while also spewing large clumps and fine strands of “angel hair” over power lines, trees, buildings and fence posts. This gossamer substance has rather fascinating characteristics of its own; for it is said that it quickly evaporates, especially when touched; and quite naturally, one is immediately reminded of the Biblical accounts concerning the heaven-sent manna; for this, too, had a protective coating with similar dissipating qualities. Moreover, the emission of the angel hair has also occurred over several cities of the United States in the late 1960s and early 1970s and it seems that the smaller disc-like objects can also produce similar effects.

UFO investigators specialising in “angel hair cases” advise that we should not think of this substance as hair lightning – nor are we to entertain the rather ludicrous notion that high-flying (wind borne) spiders were responsible for the strands as was asserted by several non-believers in the press. But, on the other hand, one must say that this sperm of the gods appears to be just as elusive as the chariots they drive. For, to date, no one has produced a sampling of either for scientific analysis.

Of course, any discussion of the “motherships” would be terribly incomplete without mention of the “great airship flap” that swept the USA just before the turn of the century (1895-97). Apparently, these “antique UFOs” also emitted bright light beams and were piloted by both normal-sized human-like entities and a smaller variety which are often called humanoids. Many saucer experts tend to lay a great deal of emphasis on these sightings; (13) and, although it seems perfectly obvious that such airships were almost exactly like the anticipated method of conquering the sky during the era some saucer enthusiasts tend to see them as a sort of alien introductory model.

The implication is, of course, that the extraterrestrials are so intelligent and considerate that they were conditioning us earthlings to their presence by promoting the shape of things to come. The problem with this line of thought is, quite naturally, that the aliens failed to anticipate that airships were not to be this planet’s sky kings in spite of their superior technology and intellect. In short, the ufonauts and most earthlings of that time period suffered from a very serious kind of techno-myopia and it was only a few far-sighted fellows like the Wright Brothers who were soon to develop and launch the better idea.

Ironically, if we search the 1890s airship flap data we will discover only one reported UFO configuration vaguely resembling a contemporary aircraft or an early glider-like contraption, even though much glider experimentation was occurring in the United States and Europe during that period.

Obviously, the human expectations of the times regarding manned flight involved the lighter-than-air airship simply because most people, including the leading writers and scientists of that era, tended to believe that anything heavier than air could not possibly fly. Apparently, this ancient desire to see the phallic airship in the skies was pushed well into the 20th century and even finds some very serious proponents today. (14)

One is compelled to think that it is not that the aeroplane isn’t a truly marvellous invention, for it most certainly is, but there is something awesome and captivating about the mere sight of great airships just as there is something truly unique about the sensation of soaring in a glider.

Dare we suggest that it feels more like the man himself is flying – rather than riding in an engine-powered machine which is being thrust about the sky. Moreover, can we seriously entertain the thought that this “soaring feeling” satisfies one at a much deeper level, possibly a level which we have somehow lost touch with, but still yearn to experience?

For we know that man’s ancient fascination with flight and his dreams of flying under his own power has not been entirely lost to today’s technological advancements; for even in this age of supersonics and space shuttles we still find individuals gleefully leaping off the edges of cliffs while dangling on the flimsy wings of gliders; and more recently, there comes the news of the successes of a few die-hards who have finally realised Leonardo’s dream of true man-powered flight.

One is compelled to think how wonderful this age truly is; the radio has fulfilled one of man’s oldest dreams (to send his voice across great distances); TV expands this dream come true and even allows him to see those distant places; while the telephone adds selectivity and privacy to the process. So, too, remarkable flying machines have shrunk the globe to a point where no place is very far away any more.

In addition to all of this, human organs are being transplanted, life spans prolonged, and several men have even walked upon the face of the moon. But, despite all these miracles and man-made wonders, we still wish to somehow escape this tiny planet with all its dreadful problems. On the conscious level, we seek tropical vacations to relieve the chilling effects of the stress loads we accumulate. Unconsciously, the “escape wish” takes on the fantasy of a flight from the oppressive weight of reality – and escape from the planet itself becomes desirable.

If the “escape/flight wish” should emerge in its “all-too-human form”, that is, as an archetypal symbol catapulted through the unconscious, the instincts and emotions, then man, the flyer (the phallic UFO), and not his contemporary aircraft would be the vision men see in the skies.

For the phallic UFO, which is the aerial extension of man’s inner being on the wing is what we mistakenly call the mother-ship. It is a primitive symbol in the technological guise of the times. This is as obvious a statement as that which is boldly proclaimed by the extended wheels which dart from between the legs of the motorcycle gang member, for his machine ‘comes off’ as being as much of an extension of his manhood as does the image he tries to project with his garb, body language and speech.

We also recognise that more sophisticated individuals express their manhood with far more socially acceptable symbols, such as the long hoods of expensive limousines and shiny sports cars. Yet, we fail to see that the phallic UFO is man, the dream flyer.

Undoubtedly, the sky cylinders are meaningful, for in ancient times they were thought of as gods. But we cannot prove that they mean exactly the same thing to men today. All we might cautiously consider about them is that this type of recurrently reported object may indicate that an archetypal symbol of cyclical, selective penetrating, threatening and/or directional potentiality is evident. (15) If we wanted to find a more familiar concept which touches on these potentialities, perhaps some of the characteristics attributed to the current Christian idea of God as the Third Person of the Trinity (the Holy Ghost) would fit quite well – especially since the Holy Ghost is said to be the conduit between heaven and Earth (or God and Man) and the method by which God implants His seed on Earth too. Something quite similar to the Roman god of healing, Mercury, or the Greeks’ messenger of the gods, Hermes.

We as people of this secular age fail to recognise this because we are not as tuned in to the archaic modes of mythological thought as our ancestors were. I think it would be reasonable to say that an ancient man of moderate intelligence and educational background would have had little or no difficulty in the assimilation of this type of vision, for visions of this sort were prayed for and fully anticipated in their times.

What’s more, if our minds were so conditioned through a kind of mental reverie built up over generations of relative unchange, as were our ancestors’, then the modern day visions would be read without much difficulty too. But today’s man is living in a time of tremendous uncertainty and fear caused by volatile social transition, mounting political, economic and intellectual turbulence, along with fantastic technological advancement. Indeed, in a generally “non-spiritual” but, nevertheless, so-called “enlightened age” when even the most brilliant of theologians tend to ignore and/or completely fail to interpret the signs that men are seeing in the skies.

To summarise, the god-ship UFO (a specific archetypal symbol) is reported to be the carrier, ejector and retriever of smaller UFOs. As if to suggest that, on the one hand, a complex nucleus is expelling some of its components (packets of power) or on the other, is absorbing additional energy.

Our search of the reports gathered and investigated by UFORIC probers and that of “the good UFO literature” indicates that, generally speaking, many smaller objects are expelled or disbursed; but only one or two seem to be recovered, if any at all. This may be an important psychodynamic display, for it illustrates that the energy levels are being spent, reduced, or divided as we have proposed by describing the Dynamic Display as psychically therapeutic.

The UFO sightings and the elation factor

UFOs perform all sorts of marvellously preposterous feats – they wobble, spin, glide, and flit about at blurring speeds. They perform bug-like aerobatics, hover, blink off, blink on, and then completely vanish before one’s eyes. They apparently do not behave in a logical manner while operating; but yet, they manage to elude capture, overt contact attempts and our most sophisticated aircraft.

Through a marvellous mixture of sensory stimulation and emotional responsiveness, they tend to excite and delight us because they routinely overcome the obviously threatening, and make a mockery of statistical probability. In short, they either beat or cheat the odds each and every time.

They are, quite simply, a joy to behold and provoke very powerful emotions in their observers; for, not only are they consciously perceived, but they are also “unconsciously recognised” as the observer’s fears problems on display. Most importantly, these problems (as symbols) are shown to be overcome, split up, or reduced in power, perhaps this is why some adult UFO witnesses proclaim that ‘their’ UFO sighting somehow changed their lives – although they haven’t the foggiest idea why they feel that way about it, while, on the other hand, some youthful witnesses often say that their sightings seemed too much like a fantasy (which is, of course, a process of active imagination that has not yet been educated out of them or lost to the advancement of the ageing process); and they, too, would really like to know exactly what they did observe.

And finally…

This cursory probe into the probable meaning behind the observation of the cylindrical type of UFO still falls far short of what is required, for it has only touched upon that fact that the symbol, whatever it finally represents in consciousness, is only one side of its potentiality, for all psychical symbols are two-sided and extraordinarily multi-faceted.

However, the symbol is not ‘complete’ at its source; in fact it is not an image at all, but rather only the potential of one that develops, much like a photo negative as it moves into the light of consciousness. And it is in consciousness that a person’s need to find some relief, a saviour or mentor – or conversely their fears of meeting with the very devils that are tormenting them – may become affixed to any kind of strange occurrence like rumours about the appearance of UFOs in the sky. It is because of this all-too-human factor that UFOs become endowed with all sorts of awesome, miraculous and magical powers.

Perhaps we have discovered enough about the mythical, sexual, and marked psychic background of the god-ships to determine that their origin is most likely the human unconscious, and not some alien planet situated at the edge of the cosmos. For it seems highly unlikely that a visiting alien intelligence would be so human-like as to possess similar intrapsychical processes regarding the development of their technology, their exploratory aspirations, and their myth-making tendencies.

It also appears that, while we may have been actively seeking a better understanding of some aspect of the UFO phenomenon’s interaction with humankind while examining the god ship legend, we probably have uncovered a great deal more about humankind’s projection upon the rumours of UFOs appearing in our skies.

This type of human interaction with the UFOs is ‘a reality’ – whether or not UFOs (i.e., extraterrestrial space craft) actually exist and are visiting our planet.

  1. Dr Carl C. Jung Informs us that the Berliners call the motherships “Holy Ghosts”, while the Swiss military have managed to came up with a much more earthy description for the spherical objects they emit]
  2. Early Christian carvings often portrayed the Trinity as a thrice-phallus
  3. The phallus is still an object of veneration in some areas of Japan.
  4. Faaius Cardan – father of mathematics and philosopher, Pierre Cardan, as reported by Dr Jacques Willis in his book on UFOs, Passport to Magonia
  5. In ancient Greece, a stone herm (or psycho-pomp) was often placed at crossroads symbolising the god’s role as a mediator between the spiritual and physical worlds.
  6. UFO light beam and propulsion emissions are often said to produce burning effects upon the faces, hands and arms of the observers. In some cases, the skin appears as if sunburned – while in other instances the skin just feels hot to the observer and no discolouration is apparent.
  7. The UFO Report and Information Center of Philadelphia founded by the author and his wife (operational from 1972 to 1980)
  8. A commonly reported characteristic of UFO flight behaviour.
  9. This may be similar to the ring of skin eruptions that formed in the general area of Barney Hill’s groin after he and his wife, Betty, had a close encounter with a UFO in 1981.
  10. Mrs Fiagg’s physician thought she had the Hong Kong flu, but Mrs Flagg dismissed his diagnosis entirely.
  11. The big three could be the USA, USSR and Red China.
  12. The author is currently probing this aspect of UFO experiences.
  13. There is a popular trend in ufological thought which embraces the notion that the UFO operators have had an active influence on the advancement of human spiritual and/or technological development.
  14. The Piasecki Aircraft Company of Philadelphia was developing a helistat for forestry use by the Department of the Navy in the mid-1970s. It consisted of a central gas bag and four modified helicopters for load lift and propulsion. The project was scrapped when the test vehicle crashed and its pilots were killed.
  15. Dr Sigmund Freud effectively demonstrated that any pointed object appearing in a dream may take on phallic significance. But it was Dr Carl C. Jung who first noted that the phallic symbol had significance beyond the sexual.


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