Flying Saucers: A Modern Myth of Things Seen in the Skies
Translation by R. C. F. Hull
1970 Princeton University Press (MJP Books publisher)
Jung tells us that modern reports of UFOs began during the final years of World War II with sightings in Sweden and Germany. They continued after the war with sightings chiefly in America, but also in Europe, Asia, the Sahara, and the Antarctic.
Jung believed that enough hard evidence wasn't’t available to form any conclusions regarding the physical reality of UFOs. However, enough evidence existed to examine their psychological significance. He does so by examining dreams and art objects in which UFOs occur.
Regardless of whether they exist physically, UFOs are psychologically significant and the increase in reports regarding them may be evidence that humanity is creating a new myth. Jung feels that in a progressively materialistic world, there’s a need to replace the function formerly served by religion with a new mythos, perhaps one involving UFOs.
I can’t say that I entirely agree with this conclusion. While it is certainly true that some people have adopted a scientific viewpoint that is skeptical of many traditional teachings, others have rejected outright such scientific theories as the evolution of species or the antiquity that science assigns to the earth.
Jung also believes that threats to individuality, such as communism or fascism are an additional factor causing people to develop a new mythos. UFOs, being round, are reminiscent of mandalas, which are archetypal expressions of the self. Mandalas often appear in dreams when individuals are struggling to unify the disparate aspects of personality which together constitute the self.
I’m not convinced that what’s behind the UFO mythos is a threat to individuality. Communism was not the only threat during the cold war. The possibility of nuclear oblivion was also considered very real at the time Jung wrote this essay. It makes sense that many UFOs were observed in the proximity of military installations. Perhaps people desired the intervention of a more advanced civilization to protect mankind from itself.
Symbols, in Jung’s view, can have multiple meanings. This certainly seems to apply to UFOs. When Jung was writing, UFOs presented a possible mechanism for mankind’s salvation. This was before the literature became crowded with accounts of alien abductions. Jung does not address those who claim to have been prodded and probed, not to mention, violated and raped by aliens. Those reports came later, and what they signify, I can only speculate. Perhaps it indicates a rejection of a redeeming alien civilization in favor of one which would manipulate us for its own ends.
In addition to their appearance in dreams and art, UFOs could also be psychic projections, according to Jung. “At various times all sorts of other projections have appeared in the heavens besides the saucers.” These include the visions seen by troops at Mons during World War I, by crusaders during a siege of Jerusalem, and the visions of three children at Fatima, Portugal.
Perhaps visions are not that unusual. Perhaps what is unusual is their frequent appearance in saucer form since World War II. Yet it is also possible that UFOs are both real and psychic phenomena. In this case, their appearance would often be what Jung considers synchronistic events, that is, coincidences that are psychically significant. Since UFOs sometimes show up on radar screens, Jung reasons they may sometimes be physical phenomena. Unless, of course, psychic phenomena also shows up on radar.
This slender volume was originally published in “Civilization in Transition” which is the 10th volume in Jung’s collected works. Jung wrote it in 1958. The first English translation appeared in 1959.