This piece is a followup to an earlier piece exploring the alien abduction phenomenon. In that piece I argued that the alien abduction phenomenon has never truly been taken seriously as a form of trauma and for that research to deepen and grow it needs to be more seriously study the nature of trauma resolution and apply those insights to the phenomena.
In the piece I want to explore the same topic from a slightly different angle.
The entry point for this investigation will come through the work of (the late) Dolores Cannon. Cannon wrote a book entitled The Custodians: Beyond Abduction that will be the key text to explore here. Cannon is a major (and often overlooked) figure in the contemporary New Age movement, particularly in the realm of specifically Ascension oriented teachings. Cannon is a firm believer in the ET hypothesis, particularly the ancient alien version of the ET hypothesis. (Both the ET hypothesis and ancient alien theory are frames of reference I have significant questions concerning it should be noted though that’s not the main focus of this piece).
Cannon originally came from the hypnotic regression school of practice. Hypnosis was an early practice and framework for experiencers to begin sharing their stories, not only about abduction experiences but contact experiences more broadly. Though over time hypnotic regressions arguably became more identified with the abduction phenomena.
Many questions (legitimately) have been raised concerning hypnosis as a means of receiving detailed and accurate information. I’ve written a separate piece exploring the use of hypnosis in the tradition of past life regression. I reviewed much of that terrain in the previous abduction piece as well. I’m not going to cover that ground again here but the short version is that I argued that regressions can bring forward genuine psychic experience but that it may not be what it is assumed to be—namely either a personal past life memory or alien abduction experience. This position moves beyond the false binary of either skepticism/debunking on the one hand or fully buying into the conventional views of past life regressions or alien abductions on the other.
As just mentioned, Cannon came from the traditional hypnotic regression school. She however went one step further arguing that the then common mode of hypnosis that she had been trained in only accessed a certain layer of the human subconscious. For Cannon the layer of the subconscious that conventional hypnotic regression accessed was not entirely trustworthy. Cannon claims she came up with a new regression method which was able to access a much deeper layer of information which she called (very unhelpfully in my mind) The Subconscious, capitals hers. She called her alternative hypnotic method quantum healing hypnosis technique (QHHT). She originally designed it in fact for the study of past lives. She then later applied this technique to abductees.
Cannon claimed that The Subconscious is a neutral, observant, omniscient voice within every person; essentially her Subconscious would be equivalent to The Witness from traditional spiritual teaching. According to Cannon, accessing this layer allows different and much deeper (and cleaner) information to come forward. When it comes to the alien abduction phenomena, her claim is that The Subconscious voice depicts an entirely different reality from the typical story told concerning the phenomena—inherent in the name abduction itself.
For Cannon all the major elements of the alien abduction narrative—e.g. memories of human genetic experimentation, sexual contact with aliens (including cases of assault and rape), hybrid alien/human babies, intentional traumatization, etc.—are the result of the mixed and confused nature of the middle layer of the human subconscious (not The Subconscious). In other words, for Cannon the human ego has a distorted experience of the phenomena and then replicates that distortion under the imagery of traumatic medical experimentation drawn from conventional material existence. Furthermore, she argues, since conventional hypnosis only reaches this intermediate level of human depth and since this form of hypnosis was the one used in almost all classic abduction interviews, the collective picture of the phenomena became massively distorted, particularly in a fear or trauma-based way.
Conversely, according to Cannon, when using her alternative hypnotic process, the deeper voice of The Subconscious is accessed which brings forward an entirely different perspective on the phenomena.
That perspectives is one in which The Custodians (as she calls them) are just that Custodians. Cannon wrote an earlier text called Keepers of the Garden. That book is essentially an ancient aliens text with The Keepers being equated with the gods of the Near East (Elohim or Annunaki) who in their modern incarnation are known as Aliens/ETs. The Custodians text argues that the so-called abduction phenomenon is not an abduction at all but rather a form of continued custodianship/guardianship. According to this model what we call abductions are actually “upgrades”, checkups, and “maintenance repair jobs”.
Interestingly there are pieces of evidence that can support aspects of Cannon’s framework—e.g. Preston Dennett’s research on healing through contact experiences as well as the FREE Research study on contact experiences leading to increased degrees of psychic capacities, spiritual commitment, and transpersonal states of consciousness. It doesn’t require an ancient alien hypothesis necessarily, as Cannon holds, to argue that much of the contact phenomenon has been distorted into an excessively negative or fear-based lens.
Now in this piece I’m not here to endorse Cannon’s views per se. I’m more interested in how they might operate from an ontologically flooded and weird naturalist point of view. In order to get there however there are some layers that need peeling back first.
One of which is that Cannon herself has the same problem that the conventional hypnotic regressionists of the alien abduction (or past life variety) hold as well as the debunker/skeptic types. Namely all of them continue to hold to an overly modernist epistemology and metaphysics. What that means is she only thinks in terms of subjects and objects, of an inner subjective world and an outer objective external world. Truth is understood in this model to be correspondence between the inner subject and the outer world. Moreover in modernist epistemology the inner subject was said to be like a camera that transparently received images and memories of the outside world. Hence the idea that if you do a regression you genuinely recover some repressed memory and that is truth. Or if you’re a skeptic that is false because the inner experience doesn’t accurately reflect an external reality (i.e. there are no abductions, aliens aren’t real, etc). Neither side considers the possibility that the inner experience can have it’s own interior phenomenological veracity regardless of its correspondence (or lack thereof) to external events. Like the way a camera actually works, it's a lens that frames reality, foregrounding certain aspects and background others (or keeping still others totally out of frame).
So even though Cannon posits a different (and deeper) level to her hypnosis practice the interpretation of it is still is bound by the same problems as the other camps. Philosophically I would argue her metaphysics is very unconscious and ideological. She never takes into account hermeneutics and language. Even if The Subconscious is some all knowing voice that can be accessed by a specific form of hypnosis (an enormous IF), that voice still has to speak through a human language (in this case English) complete with all its metaphors, grammatical structures, biases, and the like. In other words the process is far more co-constructed and interpretive with Cannon herself playing a much more crucial intermediary role. She is not simply a passive recipient of information from another (regressed) source which she neutrally transcribes. A hundred years of postmodern ethnography and linguistics study will very easily clear out such a naive viewpoint.
For the sake of argument though let’s say something like her view is correct. Tongue-in-cheek let’s call that Alien Cannon. In that case there would be three levels to the phenomena:
Level 1: Surface level. A highly strange encounter which may involve things like time loss, lights in the sky, screen memories, anomalous experience. At this level the contactee is often left wondering if they are mentally and emotionally well or maybe it was all just a weird nightmare or bad dream. They seek to put it out of their mind and move on with their life and/or are very likely afraid to share any details for fear of being seen as “crazy”.
Level 2: Intermediate level. Accessed by conventional hypnotic regression or similar type processes (e.g. dreamwork, shamanic journeying, or psychedelic experience). This is the layer of the classic abduction narrative: traumatization, forced experimentation against one’s will, and so on.
Level 3: Proposed by Cannon. Accessed via her specialized hypnotic technique of connecting with The Subconscious, bypassing Level 2. This layer offers the alternative more benevolent view of The Phenomenon as The Custodians.
What this means is that each form of practice generates its own worldview.** Level 1 generates a worldview of confusion and silence. Level 2 generates a worldview typically oriented to trauma, cycling between periods of rage (“fight”), terror (“flight”), or debilitating shame and depression (“freeze”). Level 3 being a state of deep peace and grace.
Again for the sake of the argument let’s say this model is accurate, including level 3 being the deepest layer of information—or, if not deeper, at least an alternative perspective and experience compared to level 2. A more comprehensive and ontologically flooded model of healing would need to include all three layers. In other words, even if Level 3 were true (and again enormous IF) the effects of Level 2 on the human nervous system would still be in place.
Cannon interestingly makes a point along this lines and then quickly goes away from it. She compares the Custodian relationship to the contactee as that of a parent to a child who must take the child in for some type of surgery or invasive medical intervention: shots/needles, dental work, resetting a broken bone, etc. In this case the child doesn’t understand the nature of the pain even if ultimately it’s in their best interest. The child’s nervous system registers the trauma regardless of the positive medical value of the intervention.
I’ll say that again and really let that sink in:
The child’s nervous system registers the trauma regardless of the positive medical value of the intervention.
The same would apply even if we believe (like Cannon) that the vast majority have a distorted view of the phenomenon. Namely even if one assumes Cannon’s view that the phenomenon is, on the whole, a benevolently spiritual one, the body can still register it as traumatic. Trauma is any experience that happens too quickly and intensely for the human nervous system to process at the moment. Even a positive view of the encounter experience can lead to trauma. Consequently, as I discussed in the prior piece the resolution there involves working with trauma practices in order to come back into proper nervous system regulation.
One of the most serious dangers with trauma is the tendency towards spiritual bypassing—that is using spiritual practice to “solve” trauma when in actuality it only drives the trauma further underground. It’s a very insidious process and Cannon’s work is explicitly bypassing in its orientation. She flatly states that her hypnotic practice involves bypassing the normal subconscious in order to reach The Subconscious. For Cannon the solution to the issue is simply to go a level deeper where there is no trauma but rather an ultimately benevolent experience. The danger with Cannon’s approach is that this supposed “deeper layer” and it’s framework of Custodianship is not a deeper layer at all but a subtler version of emotional dissociation. Even if Cannon’s approach does have partial validity it again could reveal further (and even different) psychic detail but it doesn’t invalidate or wipe away the traumatic impacts at level 2. Only a precise trauma practice aimed at precisely that level would (dis)solve that traumatic energy.
I do think Cannon turned out be strangely prescient in her sense that the alien abduction narrative was due, in part, to the memory of a traumatized subconscious. Where she was wrong was arguing for a bypassing of that trauma to another level of experience where the trauma didn’t occur.
So far I’ve covered the basic outlines of Cannon’s approach and perspective on the abduction (or she prefers it custodial) phenomenon. I’ve shown the flaws in her approach with her naive, pre-critical metaphysics as well as her trauma-bypassing tendencies.
Even with all those critiques what’s interesting to me about Cannon’s text is the possibility of a different experiential and narrative framing of the abduction phenomena. How might a weird naturalist and ontologically flooded lens help tease out some of the implications of this work and whether there’s anything viable in it?
From a weird naturalist perspective we look to differentiate highly strange experiences from the interpretive frameworks to understand and contextualize those experiences. In other words, keep it weird. So for Cannon everything fits into a neat box of an ancient alien narrative. A weird naturalist position would immediately call into question the all-too-easy framing of ancient aliens but want to leave the possibility of the “real enough-ness” nature of the experience.
Namely what if Cannon’s regression technique, just like those of traditional hypnotic regression, does function in a way to surface genuine psychic content/data even if it it not necessarily what it is interpreted or assumed to be, even and especially by Cannon herself? As I explored in the past life regression piece there’s not just past life regressions as experience but an entire built-in structure of interpreting them based on a 19th century movement known as Spiritualism. Spiritualism for example created the context in which there is the idea that past lives repeat because we have lessons to learn or that life is a school of karma with reincarnation. That perspective isn't inherent to the (so-called) past life memories themselves but rather is a spiritual framework imposed upon those memories in ways that I consider too often unhelpful.
The weird naturalist position looks to keep the (partial) truth of the experience while questioning much of the framework for interpreting it, e.g. Spiritualism with regards to past life regressions.
Ancient alien theory functions for Cannon in the same way that spiritualism functions as the unexamined ideology of past life regression.** That unexamined and assumed background worldview “primes the pump” within a regression experience itself—spiritualism in the case of past life regressions, trauma and abductions in the alien abductions, and ancient aliens in the case of Cannon.
So if we differentiate the experience from the interpretive framework what remains is a highly strange phenomena, in part, brought forward by a specific method or practice. In Cannon’s approach, just as in those of past life regressions or alien abduction hypnotists, the assumption is that the person is retrieving memories of their own personal nature. In this regard Cannon still adheres to the same viewpoint as that of the abduction advocates.
I’m suggesting that perhaps her process is real (enough) raising psychic content but not necessarily personal to the individual undergoing her regression technique. Namely in her regression process individuals may be encountering aspects of the human collective unconscious in its memory of encounter with these entities or it may be ancestral memories of that person’s specific lineage or a visionary construct meant to convey something of the psychic realm through symbolic means.
The upshot of this weird naturalist (re)interpretation is that it does not require holding that the psychic content raised by Cannon’s technique is automatically more authoritative than that of the classic abduction narrative. But it does raise the possibility of at least a different posture and experiential embodiment of the phenomena. If the specifically abduction experience is the contact phenomena routed through the reptilian survival instincts of a traumatized human nervous system, then it is possible that Cannon’s account is the phenomena as registered perhaps at the paleo-mammalian or neocortex level.***
Different practices bring forward different worldspaces of experience which then need to be interpreted. I suspect that Cannon was correct that her alternative regression technique surfaced a different worldspace concerning the contact phenomena than that of the abduction researchers. I think she was actually (in part) on to something with her argument that the abduction research had been seen through the lens of a specific aspect of the human psyche—what we now know as the flight/fight/freeze survival physiology. Her mistake was to lack any healthy critical lens towards her own interpretative lens, seeing it not as a lens, but rather simply a factual description of “The Truth”. She missed that the story that arose through her explorations with clients was just as much symbolic, imaginal, co-constructed, highly weird and mysterious as the abduction narrative. She was also wrong that her approach allowed people to bypass the traumatic layer.
In Fortean language we could approach Cannon’s work through the principle of intermediatism. That her process reveals a worldspace of psychic data that is both partly real and partly unreal ("intermediate") simultaneously, rather again than The Truth. In the same way that the abduction narrative is both partly real and partly unreal simultaneously. An ontological flood would in this case be open to the alternative form of regression as a process without necessarily buying into the whole metaphysical baggage associated with it—The Subconscious, The Ancient Alien overlay, the personalization and subjectivization of the experience, etc. It would be seen as one more perspective to bring in along with others—-including the abduction tradition—in an attempt to gain a wider and more comprehensive picture of this highly strange phenomena. And perhaps an alternative method of regression (or as I would prefer journeying with a different intention/focus) could be a part of a larger healing arc for experiencers.
In this regard, and by way of conclusion, I find it very curious that Cannon herself never really examines her central metaphor of custodianship. She assumes custodianship is essentially an entirely positive affair. Even if we approach this topic through the metaphor of custodianship, custodianship should raise questions in our mind I think. I’m not suggesting one need go full on Gnostic, though custodianship could very easily be a benevolent cover for covert/problematic activity. If a flag should be raised with the wholly negative “black hat” quality of the abduction literature as well as the argument by researchers of that ilk that we humans know each and every detail of what is occurring and why, then the same applies I believe to Cannon’s altogether “white hat” view of the Custodians. It’s too neatly described, fully understood, transparent, and overly “rational” and ordered.
Instead I would suggest more a weirding position. Why is there this continuing story of gods, angels, aliens, etc. mixing with humans and creating hybrids? What is with all the traditions of such entities performing various experiments and conjurations on the human being, particularly it’s essence, coding, and biology? What if these insights are pointing to something real (enough) in the intermediatism sense—real and unreal simultaneously? And what if it is somehow entirely weirder and wilder than anything conceived of to date? It is to that possibility I want to turn in a subsequent piece.
* I've done Hegel on aliens, this would be more Heidegger on aliens.
** Ancient alien theory fails on two fronts. First, it assumes the ancient peoples were all primitives with their superstitious beliefs which we (self-identified) “scientific” and “rational” moderns know for sure to be aliens. When in fact aliens as a construct is just as weird and mysterious and inexplicable as say that of fairy lore which as a phenomenon aligns perfectly with our sense of aliens. Second the ancient aliens aren’t very ancient in that the imagery surrounding them turn out to be that of sci-fi from the 1920s-1960s. When Zechariah Stichin talks about the Annunaki making humans a slave race to mine gold on earth they do so with technology from the 1960s, suggesting that human mindsets and metaphors and technology radically shape these concepts. The technical term for which is imaginal—the reality is real and partly constructed by human consciousness which undercuts Cannon’s entire philosophical premise.
*** Reptilian is used very intentional there as a way to indicate that perhaps, in part, the experience of “reptilian aliens” is a reflection of the reptilian dynamic of the human. It’s also symbolically and metaphorically a fascinating imaginal registration of amorality and predatory type dynamics.