Wisdom traditions throughout the world have often spoke of three great realms of experience. In the spiritual traditions of India (and Tibetan Buddhism) those three realms are known as the gross, subtle, and causal which roughly correspond to the states of waking, dreaming, and deep sleep. There are parallel ideas (with different terminology and slightly different emphasis) in Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and Taoism. The Greco-Egyptian Hermetical magical tradition, the Aztecs and Mayans, ancient Mesopotamian/Babylonian all (arguably) have essentially their own versions of this basic insight as well.

The path of spiritual awakening in these traditions is to make each of those three realms conscious states of being. As one does there are characteristic forms of the mystical encounter pertaining to each of the three. For the gross there is communion with Nature, often including in Christian terms the purgative path. For the subtle there are the ascents to the heavenly realms of light, sound, vibration, and energy. For the causal there is abiding in the deep formless unmoved Abyss of Being.*

Moreover, according to this tradition within each of these three realm-states exist various kinds of entities, entities that are specific to each of those worldspaces. There can (and often are) liminal spaces or overlapping (“crossover”) places on the borders between those worlds. Entities can often communicate across various thresholds yet they nevertheless primarily reside in one or another of the three realms/worldspaces.

Furthermore, one accesses the various realms-states by certain practices correlated to each of the three. To access the subtle realm requires practice in the ascending current of light that begins at the crown of the head and ascends upward from there to the Source of Light above. Conversely, to access the causal is an experience of entering completely and deeply within (and not up). While processes like psychedelics, breathwork, wilderness experiences, and shamanic journeying are the means traditionally employed to access the psychic disposition of earth/nature (aka the gross realm).

So to summarize:
Three realm-states of being: gross, subtle, and causal.
Three distinct types of mysticism one for each: psychic/nature, deity/light, and formless abiding
Each realm is a distinct worldspace with its own geography, entities, and experiences.
Different methods are required to access each realm as they are radically distinct
There are points of overlap and cross communication while nevertheless respecting the autonomy and uniqueness of each.

What this perspective offers is the ability to map the terrain and localize various kinds of entities to specific worldspaces. It also allows us to contextualize various kinds of transcendental phenomena into their proper categories.

Here are some examples of entities categorized by worldspace:

Gross/Psychic: Elementals, Nature Spirits, Fairy Folk, Devas, Ghosts, Earthbound Spirits
Subtle: Angels, Saints, Great Ancestors
Causal: God/the gods

It's also crucial to note that when one inhabits the gross realm in it’s mundane or non-mystical form then it is commonplace everyday world of subject-object distinction, solid objects, linear time described by conventional empirical science. (Non-conventional science however, as I've noted elsewhere, is very comfortable with this traditional three realm mapping system). This latter point about the difference between the high strange/mystical versus mundane versions of the gross realm is a really important one to keep in mind as we proceed.

So what happens then when we apply this model to the question of the UFO/“alien” contact experience? I put "alien" in quotation marks because I find much of the alien framework problematic but yet there's not generally a better word to get across what is intended. So I use it with major reservations (not the least of which being that I am an "alien" according to this model.)

But to get back to the main thread, what happens when we apply the gross-subtle-causal model to the UFO phenomena? Or more precisely with this model in mind we can now ask more relevant questions like:


Where are these “aliens” from? Where do they principally reside? Which of the three realms do these entities come from? What do the methods of access suggest as to which world (or worlds) they inhabit? If we are able to locate and contextualize these entities, what level of credence might be given to those experiences based on which world they come from/inhabit?

The argument I’ll make in this piece is that these entities (commonly known as aliens) principally, though perhaps not exclusively, reside from the psychic-gross realm of nature mysticism.

Readers with some background in this topic may notice right away this view goes against the grain of much alien/UFO spiritual literature. Fundamentalist evangelical Christians—who are a strong current within the paranormal landscape—view aliens as demons. In contrast, much of the  New Age Ascension ET channeled literature—think Pleiadians, Arcturians, Sirians, and the like—pitch the aliens as beings of higher dimensional light, basically as angels. Now of course demons are angels, fallen ones albeit, but angels nevertheless. Strangely then those two traditions which have so much animosity towards each other and seem to be totally divergent actually fully agree that these beings are from the subtle realm (angelic/demonic). I'm arguing instead most are likely psychic (not subtle).

In support of that view consider a notion from the Islamic tradition. The Qu’ran names three kinds (or classes) of rational creature created by Allah. 1: Humans 2. Angels (including fallen demonic ones) 3. Jinn

The Jinn are a third category of being that is neither human nor angelic. The jinn are said to be beings of smokeless fire. Consider the smokeless fiery nature of their reality to indicate they are of the air and both somehow physical and yet not so physically manifest simultaneously (not unlike say a certain kind of unidentified flying saucer-like formation).  

To that point, as Joshua Cutchin has shown the lore concerning the jinn (and fairies) coincides deeply with that of the UFO/alien phenomenon.  Again the jinn are not angels (subtle) nor are they human (non-mystical gross). They exist on the borderland between the gross material world and The Otherworld/spirit realm (subtle) which puts them directly at the psychic—that is the mystical ensouled dimension of gross nature realm. And if the jinn (and the fairy folk) overlap so heavily with “aliens”, then it would make sense that they do so because they come from the same worldspace. (Or depending on your view are in fact different cultural names/forms for the same entities. "Alien" = jinn = fairy)

The gross realm of mysticism is, as we said, the psychic domain. That doesn’t mean simply it is psychic as in predicting the future—though as I stress repeatedly—psi phenomena are perfectly natural and real. And in fact, as the Edgar Mitchell Foundation's FREE experiencer research revealed, greater contact with the Visitors correlates strongly with higher degrees of psi capacity and psychic phenomena in one’s life. So they are all tied to each other.

Nevertheless psychic in this case really means “soul” (psyche). Particularly it refers to the experience of encountering the World Soul (Anima Mundi) and the “ensouled” nature of created reality. Traditionally that is known as animism—encountering the anima/soul of trees, mountains, animals, the dead, as well as beings that are not human yet conscious and not quite angelic but are numinous and from the realm of the highly strange, like jinn and fairy folk.

Consider that the fairy folk and the jinn are deeply tied to the realm of the dead, something Whitley Strieber’s initial encounter with the Visitors (as he called them) showed him. In Strieber’s initial encounter—a classic abduction scene—he also saw a man he knew. He later inquired of the man and found out this individual had been dead for some period of time before the encounter. So not only was it an encounter with entities it was also simultaneously an encounter with a ghost/soul of a departed being.

It was Whitley’s wife Ann who was the first to really note this crucial insight: namely that experiences like Near Death Experiences (NDEs) and mediums conversing with the dead are of a piece with the contactee phenomenon. Again the FREE Research has validated this point as well. What we have tended to treat as separate phenomena—close encounters, encounters with the dead, psi phenomena, NDEs, astral traveling/remote viewing—are all branches of one tree.

Here we can see why. Because all of those phenomena all arise from a shared worldspace: the gross-psychic one. Remember that certain kinds of experiences as well as certain kinds of entities exist within specific worldspaces. Hence those that come from the same worldspace tend to share similar qualities in common.

One of the most consistent themes through contact literature is that of telepathic communication. Each worldspace, in addition to having it’s specific kinds of experiences and entities, has it’s signature form of communication. So if The Visitors really are from the psychic-realm/state it would make perfect sense that their communication style is telepathic, given that this is a psychic form of communication.

The evidence continues to point, on the whole, towards the psychic-gross realm. Approaching the close encounter phenomenon as a psychic-nature mysticism-high strange gross realm encounter illuminates a series of aspects of the contact phenomenon.

Initiatory Encounter: Aliens as Guides of Souls (Psychopomps)

I mentioned Whitley Strieber a moment ago and a whole separate piece could really be devoted to his reflection on his own experience. But sufficed it to say for now Strieber understood his contact experiences—which lasted over a significant period of time—as a form of spiritual initiation. Strieber famously mused that perhaps the UFO/contact phenomenon is “the force of evolution working on a conscious mind.” Or in the language we’re using here the force of awakening (evolution) on the mental-rational-non-mystical gross linear mind. In other words, the impact of the psychic realm/state on the mundane gross realm human mind and identity. I’ve written about initiations within social movements elsewhere on the site so please refer to that for more detail on that precise point. Initiations work in three stages, if they are successful that is.

  1. Disorientation/Removal from common life
  2. Re-orientation within the newly realized world through and beyond death
  3. Return to the world as a transformed being

As it so happens, Strieber wrote a trilogy of books exploring his experience: Communion, Transformation, and Breakthrough. Those three books correspond perfectly to the three stage model of initiation. Strieber later wrote a book called The Secret School arguing even more deeply that the entire contact experience is a secret school of inner transformation (or initiation).

Approaching the UFO/contact phenomenon as an initiatory process opens that domain to the wider world of spiritual transformation. Evelyn Underhill in her magisterial text Mysticism articulated a stage specific path of the mystical encounter. While she wrote primarily from her own Christian tradition her work included that of mystics from multiple traditions. Underhill stated that one often enters the mystical path through an initial encounter with the Force or Presence of the Holy/The Numinous/The Other, usually refracted through Nature. In other words, as we’ve been exploring, the first step is an encounter taking one from the mundane gross realm to it’s psychic and highly strange depths.

That experience is deeply disorienting (initiation phase #1) which then takes one on a quest to gain comprehension and understanding of the experience. In order to do so, as it is an initiatory process, one must be transformed, just as Strieber correctly noted with the title of his book. Given that Strieber sees the process as initiatory it then makes sense that the experience is one of Communion. Communion is a mystical encounter between two distinct yet somehow mysteriously intimately related entities. In Strieber’s case between The Visitors and himself. This type of encounter is noted throughout mystical literature with all manner of various mystical entities. As a person learns to inhabit the psychic realm they are transformed into their own psychic disposition. Strieber’s work confirms this as does the FREE research on contact.

According to Underhill, after the initial encounter with The Great Presence(s) then one undertakes a path of deep purification. Outdated egoic patterns, old traumatic wounds, problematic behavioral patterns, all of these surface at this point under the searing heat of the psychic realm in order to be cleansed. This phase of the journey is often very painful but ultimately can be very healing and is crucial to eventually be put back together (phases 2 and 3) after having been undone (phase 1).

This evidence suggests yet again that the so-called alien encounter is primarily, at least at it’s beginning, a psychic level manifestation.

It’s worth noting however that initiations can fail. That is a person gets fundamentally disoriented either through trauma of the mundane world or through traumatic experience induced by the spiritual world and never eventually finds a way forward to become whole again and re-orient to a new, more truthful reality. In the contact/alien literature this would be cases where individuals isolate due to fear of social judgment, becoming weirdly “alienated” or worse experience serious setbacks or decline if emotional, physical, spiritual, and or mental health. Being able to correctly locate the experience and understand it’s logic and rhythms and processes is crucial to healing and supporting persons along this path.

The initiation framework loops back to the earlier point of the deep overlap and resonance between close encounters and the realm of the dead (fairies, jinn, aliens, NDEs, etc). Encounters with death (and thereby the mystery of Life) are perennial versions of shocking encounters that activate phase 1 of the initiation process. Brushes with mortality bring one out of the safe comforting illusion of safety and control characteristic of mundane gross realm existence and plunge one directly into the psychic core of nature. They are not, however, without their potential dangerous sides as one contacts reality, in all it's high strangeness, much more directly.

Craft, Implants & Conscious Technology

Another area of the contact phenomenon that the psychic realm framework could illuminate is the strange (hyper)physical nature of the phenomenon. Jacques Vallee famously postulated that we should think of the UFO as a conscious technology. Prior to Vallee (and in many cases still to this day) UFOlogy was split into two camps: 1. “the nuts and bolts” school seeking out craft as well as physical material evidence of encounters; 2. the consciousness school.

C.G. Jung began the research into the psychic aspect of the UFO phenomenon (see my earlier piece exploring the positives as well as some of the limits of Jung’s approach here). Consciousness approaches would later include the work of researchers like Budd Hopkins, John Mack, and others exploring the abduction phenomena. Whitley Strieber would also be included in this camp. Richard Dolan’s groundbreaking work on the national security state and military encounters with UFOs is particularly noteworthy within (largely) the nuts and bolts approach.

The binary division has hampered UFology. The consciousness school has tended to downplay the material embodiment component of the phenomenon, while the nuts and bolts approach has tended to downplay the psychic manifestations of the phenomenon.

Vallee’s hypothesis of the UFO as a conscious technology intriguingly offered a third or synthetic approach that included aspects of each camp: conscious (psychic) + technology (“nuts and bolts”). Peter Levenda’s recent work on Sekret Machines follows Vallee’s path as the word sekret can be mean mystical, hence mystical machines (Vallee wrote the forward for the book).

If we bring the psychic realm framework to bear here something very intriguing emerges. The encounter phenomenon has always included material elements: lights in the sky, craft making impossible anti-gravity maneuvers in mid-air, scars and sometimes physical implants on individuals claiming abduction experiences, high pitched buzzing and humming noises, EMP-type phenomena turning off cars, etc. Those material elements however are all highly strange and anomalous.

Craft dart in and out of military radar capability. Entities seem to walk through walls or appear and disappear out of sight. These entities are somehow partially embodied but also not bound by classical three-dimensional physics. Or like the jinn mentioned earlier that are fire beings yet give off no smoke. They are both material (fire) and yet not gross mundane material (fire but no smoke) at the same time which is really intriguing when we consider the radiation-like symptoms or strange heat signatures that craft have given off.  

The psychic realm recall is on the borderland between the material gross realm and the much less densely incarnated subtle heavenly realm. If this theory holds true then it predicts that the form of material embodiment characteristic of the psychic realm/state is a liminal variety: it’s more materially embodied then the subtle but less densely so than the mundane gross.*

Vallee’s conscious technology angle fits that description perfectly. Perhaps the reason that UFOs blink in and out of existence is that they are at one moment more on the side of the gross mundane side of the street but in the next veer more towards the subtle and therefore “exit” the worldspace of individuals more oriented toward the gross-only realm.** The possible implication there being that all the attempts to photograph or capture in non-blurry, perfectly transparent ways, UFOs through conventional gross-realm technology often fail because the equipment is not properly calibrated to the psychic realm.

When it comes to scars, implants, intense heat & buzzing sounds, and other corporeal markings those too could be seen in light of the psychic worldspace. Kundalini awakenings release massive amounts of heat within the human body (kundalini energy largely being of the psychic variety, particularly when it’s located from the base of the spine to the top of the head). The Sikh tradition speaks of an inner sound current (known as the nada) which is a buzzing or cosmic vibratory hum. A meditator can hear the current whereas someone not in the meditative state cannot because again the sound exists only in that worldspace.

Consider also in this light the highly strange case of the stigmata, the physical marks of Christ’s crucifixion appearing spontaneously on the body of a mystic. This phenomenon is unique to Roman Catholicism. Neither Protestant nor Eastern Orthodox Christian mystics show signs of the stigmata (nor certainly any non-Christian mystics). The reason for that is it’s Catholicism that created a specific devotional tradition of meditating on the wounds of Christ’s body. Hence the stigmata are in part a consequence of a specific devotional and meditative practice. The scholarly term for this is imaginal—the phenomenon is co-constructed by the practitioner as much as it is by the spiritual realm itself. Stigmata being very much a response of the psychic domain.

What if so-called implants, scars, and other markings characteristic of the UFO encounter are like the stigmata? These bodily marks occur among some contactees, certainly not all, just as with stigmata affecting only certain Catholic mystics because they are, in effect, participating in a certain strain of mystical encounter that has it's own specific (literal) markings. The psychic is at the crossroads of the spiritual and the physical and as such when it manifests in the physical it does under anomalous forms: non ordinary auditory or visual phenomena, strange physical manifestations, “supernatural” sensory perception & expression (psi), and the like.

Close Encounters of The Fifth Kind: Human Initiated Contact

If, as previously mentioned, the gross (mundane) realm correlates to the waking state while the subtle goes with the dream state and the causal parallels deep sleep, then where does the psychic (mystical gross) fit in? The answer is precisely in the hypnagogic “twilight” state between wakefulness (mundane gross) and full on dreaming (subtle). It is worth noting that so many of the classic close encounters, particularly of individuals asleep or just falling asleep in their beds take place in that twilight state. They are not fully dreaming but they aren’t wide awake either. They are in the liminal twilight state which is most conducive to the exploration of the psychic and hence any psychic-level entities.

This point gains further traction when we realize that most traditional forms of contact with the psychic, as compared to either the subtle or the causal, involve consciously utilizing the hypnagogic twilight state. Shamanic journeying, breath work practices like Stan Grof’s, and psychedelics are classic means of entering the psychic realm and thereby encountering the kinds of entities and experiences typically associated with that realm.***

Steven Greer extended J. Allen Hynek’s famous Close Encounters model to include a 5th kind of encounter: human initiated contact. Greer believes that humans should initiate contact with these intelligences/entities. Greer teaches a very specific method of doing so. It involves meditation (causal state), toning sounds (subtle), and remote viewing procedure (psychic). The remote viewing procedure Greer calls Coherent Thought Sequencing (CTS) but in essence it’s a shamanic journeying process starting from earth and traveling out into the cosmos (and back). The meditation and the toning are preliminary processes to enter a receptive state. It is the CTS process that is the most directly relevant in his methodology to seeking to initiate contact with these entities.

Recall the earlier point that different spiritual processes tend to evoke different worldspaces. The CTS process is (I would argue) a principally psychic nature mysticism process, yet again reinforcing the basic presupposition that these entities (whoever and whatever they are) are primarily located in the psychic domain.

This latter point supports the notion of these entities as “Star Beings” or “Star People.” In animism everything is ensouled, including stars and planets which become the basis of astrology. In animism, the star is the entity. In more Neoplatonic terms, the star is the medium to access the consciousness physically embodied in the star. Just as the Earth has its own ensouled expression (The World Soul) so too do stellar, planetary, and galactic phenomena. The process of shamanic journeying (or remote viewing) is a way of connecting with–or as Strieber would say communing with—the consciousness of that cosmic reality. Again all pointing back to the psychic level nature of the phenomena.

Conclusion and Possible Implications for Discernment

This piece is by it’s nature a provisional exploration. There are so many avenues and angles that could be deepened but hopefully it’s been sufficient to establish that there is considerable evidence pointing to the psychic-nature realm as the principle location of the alien/UFO encounter.

What then are the implications for spiritual discernment of this insight?

As I’ve been saying the psychic is the first truly trans-rational state of consciousness. One encounters the spiritual first through the medium of nature/the physical. Therefore when compared to the subtle and the causal, the psychic is the most “mixed” of domains. This is why most spiritual traditions offer warnings about getting stuck in this domain and not continuing onward (to the subtle and the causal).

Whitley Strieber said that when the Visitors were abducting him that they were at least as scared of him as he was of them. That is an example of what “mixed” means. There are many many examples of people being deeply in awe/holy fear of encountering an angel (of the subtle). I don’t recall ever hearing of angel scared to encounter a human.

George Hansen in his classic study The Trickster and the Paranormal argued that the paranormal (read: psychic) was trickster-y by nature. Hansen brilliantly established that the paranormal/psychic realm has always preferred people on the margins, in liminal social and psychological settings. Like Vallee, Hansen takes very seriously that the weird, strange, and often times downright incomprehensible nature of these encounters is intrinsic to the communication itself. The medium is the message. As I’ve said before, like Portland, keep the paranormal weird.

Hansen explores the classic archetype of the trickster as paradigmatic of the nature of this realm of experience. Or as Charles Fort would say it’s both real and not real simultaneously. Tricksters are liminal figures that cross between worlds, the worlds in this case being the spirit realm and the physical. They exist principally on the borderland of the two, that is, the psychic realm of nature mysticism.

What this means is whoever The Visitors/The Others/Aliens are they need to be treated as one would Coyote. They can be entities of peculiarly crucial insight but also extreme cunning, play, mischief, and paradox. They are also not necessarily “nice” which is not to say they are inherently “evil" either but rather are trickster-y. UFO contact literature has too often been one sided. Either the phenomenon is viewed as inherently all love and light with ETs as space brothers/sisters come to bring galactic love and peace OR as demons hell bent on stealing souls, abducting people in the middle of the night, forcing them to undergo horrific medical and/or sexual experiments likely seeking to plan a secret invasion of Earth.

The trickster-y nature of the psychic realm suggests there’s significant room in between that binary. It’s not to deny possibilities of either (or both) of those extremes but to have more street smarts about this entire topic. Strieber’s account, and those like it, that emphasize the strangeness, the ambivalence and ambiguous nature of the experiences strike me as more grounded, realistic, and insightful.

To review: I’ve argued that by employing the traditional three worlds cosmology we gain an important insight into the “location” and thereby something of the nature of the ones called variously Visitors, Others, Aliens, ETs. In particular my argument is the the psychic (gross nature mysticism) offers the clearest explanatory framework for the phenomenon.

I marshaled a number of pieces of evidence in support of that assertion: e.g., the initiatory nature of much contact literature as classically associated with the first stage of mysticism (Strieber and Underhill); the psychic-level methodology of human initiated contact (Greer); the overlap between the lore concerning the jinn, fairy, and aliens and jinn & fairies being psychic-realm entities (Cutchin); the trickster nature of the paranormal as characteristic of psychic-nature mysticism (Hansen); the resonance of UFO/contact with other psychic-level phenomena like Near Death Experiences, psi capacities, and remote viewing (FREE research); the weird physics and intentionality of the phenomenon (Vallee).

I pointed out that this framework runs counter to many segments of the UFO/contact literature. This would include those camps which would tend to situate the phenomenon in the subtle realm—either of an overly positive love and light variety (New Age Ascension/50s Contactees) or as an entirely demonic threatening nefarious parasitic attack (evangelical Christianity/abduction lore). It also runs counter to the “nuts and bolts” school of UFO interpretation insofar as it does indicate that the nature of the materiality and physicality in question needs to be rethought given it’s psychic disposition. In other words, whatever it's materiality it's not material in the same way as is conventional gross materiality.

In the classical mystical literature the psychic principally is an experience of power and of the conscious nature of life. In the psychic, Life itself is understood to be a conscious process. This experience lies at the root of animistic understanding where trees, animals, the earth, the dead are alive--all these (and more) are ensouled beings (psyche). The UFO/contact phenomenon is precisely of that ilk. It is a direct expression of a universe filled with consciousness and power. Consciousness and power are not always experienced as 100% positive things. It can induce holy fear (awe) of the numinous. But it is a more direct encounter with Life as such.

Whatever else may be the message of these entities perhaps it is that: the Universe is a conscious psychic process, better deal with it as such.

*The Enlightenment traditions also teach a 4th, namely the Nondual, which is not a separate state-realm but rather the Essence or Substrate of all Reality, i.e The Condition of all those conditions.

** This by the way would line up with John Keel’s notion that UFOs overlaps with the cryptid phenomena (see his work on "Ultraterrestials"). Cyptids like The Mothman that Keel investigated similarly phased in and out of denser material embodiment.

*** While I don't have the space to go into it here this could also help shed some light on the highly strange correlation between sleep paralysis and the abduction phenomenon.