III. UFOs & the Numinous.
After a recent UFO dream, I reflected on the recurring dreams I’ve experienced:
As a kid, I had recurring dreams that were the same dream, though over time they revealed a bit more of the scenario they depicted. Since I was sixteen, however, I’ve had recurring dreams of a slightly different flavor: they all shared the same theme; they are all variations on the same scenario.
One of the two major themes is a UFO sighting. Frequently enough the UFO or UFOs are above the forest between my parent’s yard and the road. These dreams are always vivid and sensory-rich, as if I’m actually there, as if its entirely real. They always seem marinated in the same dark, vivid, clear and eerie kind of mood. It’s dark and intense yet somehow calm at the same time. I wish I could better articulate the mood so that I could more easily examine it. Following these dreams, this residual mood hangs with me for awhile, almost as if a part of me is still in the dream, emotionally-speaking. Its somehow a comforting, balancing, almost mystical feeling, like I’m fully awake in a way, like my brain got what it needed.
I’ve increasingly wondered over the years why these dreams emerge when they do. What triggers them? One thought is that recurring dreams, much like flashbacks, may recur again and again in an attempt to process or discharge the emotions produced by them (if they’re memories) or which they represent (if they’re dreams). But is that indeed the case, at least here?
In the 2014 article, “What’s Behind Your Recurring Dreams?” by Michelle Carr Ph.D., she presents another possible answer. Or an elaboration upon it, perhaps.
In college, for instance, perhaps you began having dreams of missing an exam due to the stress produced by an actual, upcoming exam. This dream, or variations on the theme, may recur throughout your college career for reasons that are rather clear: you’re stressing out over an exam. Once you are seeking an actual career, however, those recurrent dreams may be triggered again, as the stress produced by an upcoming job interview is remarkably similar to the exam anxiety you formerly experienced.
This, she explains, is a complex, or script, as they are sometimes called. A similar network of experienced emotions in your life may serve as a trigger for activating such a complex, at which time the entire script unfolds. In other words, it operates in a manner similar to psychological projection and transference: the brain interprets something similar to something in the past as identical to that something from the past. As a consequence, in a meaningful but perhaps consciously invisible way, the past becomes present.
Some of these scripts, one would imagine, are highly personalized, whereas others are more culturally-influenced or archetypal in nature. In either case, this is thought by some to account for recurrent dreams. It suggests that the dreamer has not acknowledged and dealt with something in their life that is producing the stress that triggers the dreams and that the dream will continue to recur until the conflict achieves resolution.
Given I’ve actually seen UFOs, do these dreams stem from some actual, original experience, one that then became the default representation in dreams for the emotions originally elicited by the experience? The day before this most recent dream wasn’t only my birthday but the first major snow of the season, and both my age and driving in the snow are sources of anxiety, so might it be that that triggered it?
The thing is, these dreams don’t terrify me. There is always an element of fear lingering, yes, but it’s always dwarfed by my curiosity and awe. Recurrent dreams typically constitute nightmares, too, from what I understand, so I’m rather confused.
It would appear that I am by no means alone, as I discovered on Reddit.
In a thread from 2018 entitled, “Anyone else have constant dreams of UFOS?” a user by the name of wright345 related the following:
I have dreams of UFOS pretty often. They don’t really happen around particular emotional or psychological states, and I’ve never had a close encounter so to speak with the ufo or any beings inside. They just stay in the air or fly around. Usually disc-shaped, though last night they were varied shapes and colorful this time.
Another user by the name of scrignutz responded with his own experiences:
I’ve had hyper-realistic UFO dreams during several periods of my life. The most memorable—and the ones very difficult to shake, as they felt like real experiences—happened over a few years early in this century. While different, they put me in the exact strange emotional state as a frequent dream I had as a child of 10 or so: bewilderment along with concern or fear.
The adult dreams involved a rural, natural park at the end of the suburb where I lived at the time. I knew the park well, and walked there daily. Hilly terrain, with a typical Western U.S. landscape of occasional conifers but mostly brushy hillsides. These dreams saw me returning to different hillsides in the park, at sundown in order to be at a location by nightfall. And then the sky would fill up with the most fantastic swirling multi-colored wheels and discs, which would hover in formation and then shoot off like meteorites. I would hide in fear amongst the brush, but watch in wonder. There were no aliens or landings or anything of the sort; just these fantastic wheels in the sky, neon coloring, and if I close my eyes I can see them today, decades later.
In response, wright345 added:
Mine often happen at (hilly) places I live(d) and sometimes elsewhere but still familiar. They aren’t usually at dusk though. That bewilderment/awestruck feeling mixed with fear is what I usually feel as well, every time I see them.
In another thread, also from 2018 and entitled, “Recurring dreams of UFOs”, erako writes:
I’ve been having the same dream for about 2 months? I’m in my front yard and I’m generally in the same place, give or take a few feet and I look up at the sky and see these ships. So far they’ve been needle pointed, spherical, blimp-like (but metal and plated), lights, dark triangles, black cubes, more sci fi style human made looking space ships, swarms of drones coming from ships and probably more that I can’t remember at the moment. It’s a lot.
A few dreams have been in other locations. Sometimes it’s night, but often it’s day. The only night dream was an invasion with several large lights in the sky and swarms of drone-like ships coming to take us, that dream was in a different location.
But the way it goes is, I’m doing something I walk through my front door, down the steps and look up at the sky and see them. It’s a feeling of fear and excitement, I’m happy, but I’m afraid. Sometimes they’re massive and no one will look up, sometimes they’re tiny and fast, so no one would catch it anyway. My most recent one my dad saw, which was fantastic.
I’m rarely lucid in these dreams, but sometimes I am. In one of the more prominent dreams, I was visited by god, who was a glowing golden Buddha statue and he told me I was meant to be a healer. Then I saw a row of them in the sky passing by, all different types. And as an areligious person, that was kind of weird.
Even from these three examples, there are clearly many correlations with my own recurring UFO dreams. For instance, wright345 described being unable to identify any psychological states that preceded these dreams and which might have triggered them, which has also been the case with me. He also recalled no incident in which the craft landed or any alien encounters occurred (though there is, in my case, a single exception).
Wright345, scrignutz and erako all described the settings of these dreams as taking place in areas where they either currently live or had formerly lived, much as has been the case in many of my dreams. This makes me wonder if these recurring dreams were perhaps born of actual experiences in those locations; memories that have remained inaccessible to consciousness but can sometimes bleed through into dream life.
The most striking similarity, however, which all three share with me, is their reaction to the UFO sightings. We aren’t alone in this reaction, either.
A user by the name of EliHood posted a thread entitled, “Recurring dreams about a Massive UFO event.” He writes that since the beginning of the year he had been having recurring dreams regarding UFOs. The dreams typically begin in a normal fashion, but then he looks into the sky and sees the UFO, which gets increasingly closer to him, prompting him to run and hide in fear. “Last night takes the cake,” he then writes, “which prompts this post.” As in the prior dreams, he was at first engaged in some mundane activity; in this particular case, he was in traffic. He then suddenly noticed a UFO in the sky, though the anxiety wasn’t as intense at first. Everyone began getting out of their vehicles, he explained, “to take a look at this gigantic white saucer shaped ufo,” but this time, there was nowhere for him to run and hide. Ultimately he explains seeing a bright, white light as he was being sucked into the UFO, but what really caught my attention was how he explained his reaction as it began to descend. He writes that he began to feel “this IMMENSE TERROR/ASTONISHMENT.”
A user by the name of Timeghost182 posted a thread entitled, “Recurring dreams about lights in the sky. UFOs”. Here he details dreams he had on 12/17/13, 2/18/14, 10/3/14, 10/23/14. 3/2/15, and 5/14/15. Each time he appears to be in a different location.
For his 10/3/14 dream, he writes:
I had been on the front porch of my mom’s house in Opelousas, concerned about something, i was loading a revolver. My friend had just come back from somewhere and he brought home many revolvers and different types of ammo. I recall choosing the gun that held 10 bullets as opposed to 6. I loaded it with hollow points and walked outside with 2 people. On the front porch, it had just gotten dark out. Something shimmered across the sky like a shooting star. It caught my attention but was fleeting and gone in a second. About 10 seconds later i see “it”. An ominously huge craft with lights adorned all over flying through the sky. I immediately scream “UFO, UFO” to my 2 friends as if to be like …”Boom, I told you so… People called me crazy but there it is.. I’ve been right all along.” Then there were others flying in very strange unpredictable patterns throughout the night sky. The bright lights flickering on and off in weird intervals. One common theme throughout all of these dreams is that when i see the craft(s) I am immediately met with a feeling of fascination and elation, like a kid catching Santa Clause, but then followed by the most extreme feeling of helplessness one can imagine. They make me very uncomfortable.
Looking upon these dreams as a whole himself, he noted recurring themes: he was always the one to spot UFOs in the sky and to turn the attention of others towards them, for instance, and he has never been inside the craft or seen their occupants. Most relevant is a rearticulation of what he commented on towards the end of his notes on the above-quoted dream, which is that he was mostly “fascinated, elated, and interested at first, followed by extreme apprehension and fear.” He again describes this reaction in his 3/2/15 dream, saying that, as usual, he is “fascinated but then immediately feel terror and uneasiness at the sight of these things. […] I remember my reaction upon proving myself right was a brief second of wonder and awe followed by immense fear and terror.”
A user by the name of melvvay posted a thread entitled, “Occurring dreams about UFOs,” with “occuring” clearly being a typo. The poster writes:
I’ve always had this dream where I keep teleporting to this rocky desert type of setting. and in front of me is [an] enormous ufo that’s been crashed diagonal. I get excited because Dream me has discovered a ufo and couldn’t wait to write a news paper. After that I wake up. What does this mean?
In response, the user levelologist wrote:
I have had this same dream since [I was] a kid. The dream is part dread and part immense fascination. There is also usually a massive sky battle happening with chrome crafts and terrestrial crafts. In my dream I pray for one to crash so I can go check it out. I’m 48 and have had this dream as long as I can remember dreaming. They are so vivid that I think about them almost daily.
When they actually note it when describing their recurring UFO dreams, everyone appears to have suspiciously similar reactions. Scrignutz described the feeling the UFO dreams elicited as one of “bewilderment along with concern or fear,” and wright345 agreed, stating that the “bewilderment/awestruck feeling mixed with fear” is true to his experience as well. This is also incredibly close to erako’s “feeling of fear and excitement” in which he was happy yet afraid; EliHood’s “immense terror” and “astonishment”; Timeghost182’s “fascination and elation” followed by “the most extreme feeling of helplessness one can imagine” and levelologist’s “part dread and part immense fascination.”
Interestingly, this reaction we all share also echoes the reactions I had during my actual, UFO encounters, and it would appear that here, too, I am not alone.
Written by Marc Moravec and published in the April, 1981 issue of The MUFON UFO Journal, the article “Psychological Reactions to UFO Events” centered on a study of 46 cases, from which it was determined that:
The most common psychological reaction to close encounter UFO events is fear. The next most common reaction is curiosity.
How many reported both reactions, however, and what might a larger study reveal? It’s clear that many who report UFOs do report either one emotion or the other, it should be noted, while others report the sort of mixed reactions I and others have experienced in dreams and in real life. Why is this the case?
With respect to the mixed reaction, I think I’ve determined what it is. I think I know what this feeling we share, and which our mutual recurring dreams elicited, really is — or at least what others have labeled it as and perhaps more accurately articulated it as being. It is what theologian Rudolf Otto called “the numinous.”
It was first expressed in his 1917 book, published in German and entitled Das Heilige – Über das Irrationale in der Idee des Göttlichen und sein Verhältnis zum Rationale. Yes, this is fucking Greek to me. It was subsequently published in English in 1923, where it was entitled The Idea of the Holy: An Inquiry into the Non-Rational Factor in the Idea of the Divine and its Relation to the Rational. To be clear, I haven’t read the book, but various internet sources seem to outline his general idea rather clearly — assuming their accuracy, of course.
In short, Otto described “the holy” as being comprised of two distinct elements, one of them being being moral perfection, the other which he called the numinous, based on the Latin numen, for “divine power,” and which he asserted “cannot, strictly speaking, be taught, it can only be evoked, awakened in the mind.”
The numinous experience was itself composed of three parts, all articulated in the Latin phrase “mysterium tremendum et fascinans.” In short, this roughly translates to English as “a fearful and fascinating mystery,” though in efforts to further to flesh out the concept, it seems best to break it down in more detail, namely word by word.
By “mysterium,” he means to convey the notion of what he refers to as “the wholly other.” This is something so utterly alien to our ordinary experience that it generates a state of astonishment or wonder in us — one that is so absolute it leaves us in a state of silence and stupor. Then there is the element of “tremendum” or “mysterium tremendum,” which leaves us feeling small, utterly insignificant, frustratingly inadequate and ultimately terrified before its awesome and overwhelming power. Last yet equally significant is the vital ingredient of “fascinans” or “mysterium fascinans,” which is to say a charm or attractive quality which inspires in us an allure or fascination despite the simultaneous, aforementioned terror.
And in the midst of these echoing dream themes or an actual sighting or encounter, being before these UFOs does indeed elicit the sense of being in the presence of something terrifyingly and fascinatingly alien — something I have formerly described as my “dark moods” and what the aforementioned Reddit users have attempted to articulate in their own, individual ways.
The question, of course, is why the UFO sightings in and outside of dreams elicit the numinous experience. If these recurring dreams stem from still more actual sightings of mine that I cannot recall, perhaps these dreams represent my mind’s attempts to process those blocked memories and the numinous emotions they elicited. And perhaps this is the case with the others as well.
As to why UFO sightings, regardless as to whether one is awake or dreaming, produces such numinous experiences is something I’ve previously explored. Perhaps this is simply the predictable reaction the life forms of a lesser-advanced civilization have to the technology of a more advanced one. If not, this effect on us may be intentional and may even help provide an explanation as to why we have sightings of them at all — as well as the recurring dreams they inspire.