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Real Aliens - The meaning of 2001

That is the unanimous advice from sages around the globe throughout history. Deep inside us, not far out in physical space, is the channel by which we can make the cosmic connection--the one that really counts. A powerful illustration of this is seen at the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey. The film is a classic for many reasons, but the chief one is its insightful treatment of the grandest theme of all history: the evolution of consciousness and the growth of humanity to a godlike state. 2001's "hero" is the astronaut Bowman. His technology-denoting name symbolizes an intermediate stage of human evolution that is still relatively crude but nevertheless well beyond the ape-man stage with which the film begins. At the end of the film, we see Bowman traveling on the (symbolically sperm-shaped) spaceship (symbolically) named Discovery through the atmosphere of Jupiter, preparing to land and begin searching for the advanced life forms who created the mysterious black obelisk. This is the famous psychedelic scene in which the audience goes through the streaming colors representing the atmosphere and surface of the planet. During the passage, an image of a human eye appears briefly now and then, filling the entire screen so that only the pupil and iris are seen. This is director-producer Stanley Kubrick's way of saying that the film's explicit journey to outer space is implicitly a journey to inner space, to the center of the mind. Because as the audience passes through Jupiter's atmosphere, it also passes through the giant eye into the brain-mind behind it.

And there, in the center of the mind, is an amazing discovery, a startling revelation: we ourselves are the real extraterrestrials for whom Bowman has been searching. Humanity has gotten so "spaced out," so far from home, so out of touch with the Earth that we have forgotten our origins and lost our roots. We've become alienated--real aliens--to ourselves and the planet. And because of that, we are in danger of destroying life on the planet, and perhaps even the planet itself, just as some purported messages from space beings warn us.

In that alienated state of consciousness, we are searching for advanced life in the universe--searching for higher consciousness--in outer space. Now, there undoubtedly are such life forms out there. But it is deep within ourselves, not out in astrophysical space, that the true cosmic connection exists. So long as we have not discovered our own potential for growth and further evolution, we have become terminal--the dying old man that Bowman is at the film's end. So long as we look for gods from outer space or any kind of saviors "out there," we are lost and alienated from Truth. But when we "look within" and find the power of consciousness directing our destiny and the destiny of all creatures, no matter how highly evolved, then we realize paradoxically that we are one with that consciousness, that cosmic intelligence, that transcendental reality.

The basic situation facing us today is a crisis of consciousness. Human consciousness is in a disturbed, unstable state and through what could be called "extraterrestrial materialism," many people are making idols of real aliens and extraterrestrial life--false gods from outer space. But if we are ever to build paradise here, we must first heal ourselves, not rely on surrogate parents from the sky or wish for saviors from beyond the planet.

Depth psychology has shown that a child's parents are his first gods. But growing up, maturing, requires relinquishing that illusion, along with hopes and dreams of invoking magical powers and omnipotent forces to give us our desires and answer all our questions. Instead, we must do the slow, difficult and often painful work of taking responsibility for our own actions and recognizing that if we are presently the real real aliens, we are also potentially the gods we seek.

As the author of 2001, Arthur Clarke, put it in his profound 1953 novel, humanity is near childhood's end. We stand ready to become what Carl Sagan calls starfolk. We stand ready to join galactic society--through the mature form of the human race, the higher humanity I've designated Homo noeticus. And that is the meaning of the Star Child floating in space at the end of 2001, silently contemplating the Earth. 2001 is a mighty cinematic saga of human evolution from an apelike condition to a new stage of transhuman development. Star Child is Kubrick's visual symbol of the emergence of a new state of evolution: the development of the coming race--or, as Jesus and the Judaic tradition put it, the Son of Man, the offspring of humanity. Star Child is a citizen of the cosmos, no longer ego-centered or even Earth-centered, but rather is universally centered and cosmically conscious.

That godlike state beckons to us through many manifestations today. Although the manifestations are most often occulted, vague and uncertain, the principal one has long been clearly recognized--and revered. I refer to the true spiritual teachers of history--Jesus, Buddha, Krishna, Lao Tse, Mohammed, Moses, Zoroaster, Guru Nanak, St. Teresa and other more recent figures such as Sri Aurobindo, The Mother and Da Love-Ananda. These illuminati, these godmen and godwomen are the people who most clearly demonstrate the future of human evolution. These enlightened ones are forerunners of the "new breed," specimens of an advanced humanity. Their lives have been dedicated to showing those lower on the ladder of evolution that they have within themselves the potential for self-directed growth to a higher state of being. And none of them have claimed to be extraterrestrial. They have, however, claimed to be universal, and have said that all others can be also. How? To quote the Buddha's dying words, ". . . by relying upon themselves only, and not relying upon any external help. . . not looking for assistance to anyone besides themselves." Or as Jesus put it, by seeking first the Kingdom of God.

That is why I caution against deluding ourselves with the glamour and mystery of real aliens contact us. The two principal reasons for this can be stated thus:
First, the promise of such contact is tantalizing yet beyond our control. We are wholly at the mercy of whoever or whatever is out there, subject to their whims, unable to communicate except when they want to allow it, and unable the verify the information they give us about themselves. We may theorize and hypothesize all we want, but until we have tangible, testable, sufficient data, it is all mere speculation. And when we do have such data, we may find that some of the nonhuman life forms are truly hostile to human well-being, rather than benevolent, just as many abductees' experiences already indicate. The guidance and warnings of sacred traditions and spiritual teachers about this matter should not be lightly disregarded. Remember that the Bible describes demons as fallen angels. We must beware of false gods.

The second reason is this: the greatest enemy and the greatest ally we have are still to be found in the depths of our own psyche. The proper attitude toward meetings with starfolk can only be that which we have for human teachers and helpers. We should not disregard whatever information, guidance and counsel seems to be offered by starfolk for our growth and well-being, but we should always test it carefully rather than accept it on blind faith or authoritarian command. When our attitude assumes the character of a master-servant relation or a deity-worshipper relation, our own evolutionary potential is discarded and our cosmic calling is unheard. Properly understood, however, ET/MT contact has value in the manner that the signs and wonders of Jesus had for the first Christians. They pointed to a still-higher source which is the creator of us all, and they demonstrated the reality of our own latent ability to become as Jesus was--and even more, as he himself acknowledged. The real aliens experience can do the same thing for our time.

We are rapidly entering the next phase of evolution. But evolution is essentially transcendence, and the source of all transcendence is the Transcendental. That is the source of our being, as well as our becoming. Whether our meetings with advanced life forms seem to come from outer space or inner space, we must recognize that they principally reflect to us that which we ourselves shall eventually become, and that all time and space, all worlds and their inhabitants arise from the Transcendental Source whose traditional name is God. Therefore, it is God alone to whom we should aspire in our search, recognizing that the distant goal of our evolutionary journey is also the fountainhead of our existence moment-to-moment along the path, and that what is working itself out in cosmic space and eonic time is, beyond space and time, already so right now. Paradoxically, our ultimate condition is a present fact: in Reality, there is only God. And rightly understood, EBE stands for "everybody become enlightened."

By John White

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