A new post from Alan Mason on extra-terrestrial communication.

This topic has been a source of speculation for many years, but just recently the electronic voice of Stephen Hawking has been added to the clamour to find, and communicate with intelligent extra-terrestrial life. I don’t pretend to have any better information than that possessed by the most up-to-date astronomers, but I put forward three ideas about such extra- terrestrial contacts.


It is perfectly possible that highly-intelligent life, elsewhere in the universe has been observing us for millennia. Instead of travelling millions of miles to visit us and make contact, they preferred to observe us from a distance through the medium of “Moniteurs”, spies or agents of some kind, whether through some inanimate object, such as the puppet clown (1) in the hands of the boy, or in the shape of a familiar domestic animal (2, 3), like the ever-mysterious cat.

Maybe more likely is the “taking over” a real human being, with (5) or without (4) their knowledge and consent, to carry out observations for extra- terrestrials who can see no good reason why they should try to communicate directly with us.


In complete contrast, instead of observing us closely, it might well be that intelligent extra- terrestrials have not the remotest interest in the Earth and its inhabitants. Perhaps they have been picking up our radio broadcasts since the first decade of the twentieth century, as well as television and astronomical signals, and are wholly uninterested in us, rather in the way that a President (6) might view a statement that, “A dog turd on the President’s lawn of the White House, has been trying to communicate with us by varying the levels of odorous vapours released into the atmosphere.”

An advanced civilisation might be comfortable, indolent, wholly satisfied with itself, and would regard our current attempts to communicate as impertinent or laughable. “What have the Earth people to teach us?”


A third possibility is that intelligent extra- terrestrials have been trying, largely un-successfully, to communicate with human beings for centuries, but most of us were unable or unwilling to listen. Did we expect that we should get a visit from a spacecraft that would fly round the Kremlin/White House/Buckingham Palace and land on the lawn? Maybe we expected to be sent a video or movie of “Life in the Region of Alpha Centauri”.

A Mysterious Form of Communication

Conceivably, they were using a form of effective communication which works instantaneously over billions of miles, but which requires the human listener to be in the right frame of mind. The person needed to temporarily set aside the cares and distractions of a busy life, seek solitude, silence, and wait attentively.

The American writer, Robert Pirsig described the pleasure he got from travelling by back country roads rather than urbanised freeways or motorways. Pirsig had reached a philosophical truth by simply comparing two sets of road systems.

“I’ve wondered why it took us so long to catch on. We saw it and yet we didn’t see it. Or rather we were trained not to see it. Conned, perhaps, into thinking that the real action was metropolitan and all this was just boring hinterland. It was a puzzling thing. The truth knocks on the door and you say, ‘Go away, I’m looking for the truth,’ and so it goes away. Puzzling.” (References B)

A Timeless Moment

Another writer discovered a truth at breakfast time. John Buchan, the author of “The Thirty-nine Steps” and other thrillers, had qualified as a lawyer at the end of the nineteenth century, When the “Boer War or South African War (1899-1902) was over, Buchan went to South Africa to help with the legal and constitutional side of the process of reconstruction. He did a lot of travelling by horseback in the countryside. When he says “ploughing” here he means riding through thick dusty roads.

“I had been ploughing all day in the black dust of the Lichtenburg roads, and had come very late to a place called ‘The Eye of Malmani’ or in Dutch Afrikaans – Malmani Oog – the spring of a river which presently loses itself in the Kalahari. We watered our horses and went supperless to bed.

Next morning I bathed in one of the Malmani pools – and icy cold it was – and then basked in the early sunshine while breakfast was cooking. The water made a pleasant music, and near by was a covert of willows filled with singing birds. Then and- there came on me the hour of revelation, when, though savagely hungry, I forgot about breakfast. Scents, sights, and sounds blended into a harmony so perfect that it transcended human expression, even human thought. It was like a glimpse of the peace of eternity” (8).

A Remarkably Widespread Phenomenon

This experience of a “timeless moment” and a “glimpse of eternity”, though relatively rare in the average person’s life, is a remarkably widespread human phenomenon. We know it occurs in all cultures, throughout the world, and across many centuries, because many people have written down their impressions. This phenomenon has been given a theological explanation by a number of different religions, like Christianity, Islam, Judaism and Hinduism, who claim it is the experience of an almighty God.

By contrast, these experiences have been described as, “Cosmic Consciousness” by a Canadian psychologist who investigated the phenomena. (“Cosmic Consciousness: A Study in the Evolution of the Human Mind” by Dr R M Bucke)

It is also possible that this is some kind of thought transference between an extra-terrestrial intelligence and ourselves. Could this intelligence be trying to make contact with the people of Earth?

What is the Nature of this Extra-Terrestrial Communication?

Answers may be provided by books on the subject. One of the best accounts of the nature and history of this unusual phenomenon was written by Aldous Huxley (9) in 1945, (References D). Penguin Books published a shorter, less academic, and more accessible book in the 1960s, (References E), but although its title was perfectly accurate, (“Mysticism”) it tends to be misunderstood by modern readers who think it is about magic, occult practices and “New Ageism” which is very far from the truth.

A brief summary of human responses include:

(i) Time appears to stand still; hence the phrase, “The Timeless Moment” (10). Afterwards the person is often clearly aware of how much real time has elapsed. Sometimes the experience has lasted a couple of hours, (Blaise Pascal, 1623 – 1662, French mathematician), while in other cases it may have been only a couple of seconds, identifiable by a particular movement of a classical symphony.

(ii) There is a feeling of complete peace and relaxation.

(iii) Despite the unusual experience, there is no fear or apprehension, but rather a feeling of being quite safe, and confident. (11)

(iv) For some people, they experience a feeling of intense joy, like the naked child on the grass, playing beside his mother (12).

(v) Often there is a heightened sense of awareness of the real world around the person (8), as John Buchan relates at the Malmani oasis, near the Kalahari Desert.

(vi) There are no images or hallucinations, but often people report the feeling of a “benign presence” (13).

(vii) The person wants to retain the experience and hold on to it, rather than to move on.

(viii) Generally, people feel at the time, that they are experiencing something profound and important,

For some people the experience of “the timeless moment” was life-changing, but for others it had little impact and was eventually forgotten. “The event made a deep impression me at the time; but, because it did not fit into any of the thought patterns – religious, philosophical, scientific – with which as a boy of fifteen, I was familiar, it came to seem more and more anomalous, more and more irrelevant to ‘real life’ and was finally forgotten” (from page 130, Ref E).

What might the Extra-terrestrials be saying to us?

None of what has been described here constitutes a definite “message” or information. Should we expect that an advanced extra-terrestrial civilisation would tell us about themselves, or give a message or some advice? We might, but perhaps what they are saying is, “This is what we are like, and this is what you could be like as well, if you want to.”

One aspect of the experiences described is how people deal with major crises in life. The story told below is all too common nowadays when cancer is the major killer of people of young or middle age. Winifred, a successful and promising novelist, aged thirty-three, had been told by her medical specialist that she had only about two years to live. Increasing physical weakness compelled her to give up her work. Tired and dispirited, she went for a country walk in the Chiltern Hills, near her Buckinghamshire home in Monks Risborough (13). She came to a trough outside a farmhouse. Its surface was frozen over and some lambs were gathered round it.

“She broke the ice for them with her stick, and as she did so heard a voice within her saying ‘Having nothing, yet possessing all things’. It was so distinct that she looked round startled, but she was alone with the lambs on the top of the hill. Suddenly, in a flash, the
grief, the bitterness, the sense of frustration disappeared; a desire to possess power and glory for herself vanished away, and never came back…. The moment of ‘conversion’ on the hill of Monks Risborough, she said with tears in her eyes, was the supreme spiritual experience of her life” (from pages 130 – 131 Ref E).

The specialist was correct in his diagnosis, but Winifred lived on for another four years before her death in 1937. The point is not that her “spiritual experience” helped her avoid suffering, but rather that she coped with it more successfully.

Any Further Suggestions?

The foregoing essay on communication by extra-terrestrial civilisations could be quite wrong, and alternative suggestions are very welcome to this debate.

(FOOTNOTE: Why the fancy French titles for the three categories, MONITEURS, FLANEURS, and the ICONNU? It is simply because the equivalent English words carry too much baggage. A monitor is either a bossy schoolchild, or a screen to stare at. The French terms are largely value-free for English speakers.)


A. “Tomorrow and Beyond” edited by Ian Summers,

B. “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”, 1974

C. “Memory Hold-the-Door”, autobiography by John Buchan, Hodder and Stoughton

D. “The Perennial Philosophy” by Aldous Huxley (published in 1945).

E. “Mysticism” by F C Happold, Penguin, 1963,

F. “Symbolism” by Michael Gibson, Taschen, 1999


1. A painting by Rowena Morrill, “The Dreaming Jewels”, (References A)

2. A painting by Brad Holland, (“The Ace”, 1977, Ref A)

3. A painting by Brad Holland, (“Eldorado”, 1977, Ref A)

4. A painting by Vincent DiFate, (“Broke Down Engine”, 1970, Ref A)

5. A painting by Alan McGee, (“Roadside Picnic”, Ref A)

6. An illustration for the “New Times” magazine, by Carlos Ochagavia, (Ref A)

7. Country road in Billings, Montana (google)

8. An oasis in the Namib Desert in Southern Africa (google)

9. Aldous Huxley, writer, 1894 – 1963 (google)

10. A Timeless Moment (A painting by Jerome Podwil, “Here and Hereafter”, Ref A)

11. Confident (A painting by Steve Hickman, “Untitled”, Ref A

12. The experience of joy (Detail of a painting by Jozef Mehoffer, “The Strange Garden” 1903, Ref F)

13. A Benign Presence (A painting by Don Maitz, 1977, Ref A)

14. The Vale of Aylesbury, near Monks Risborough, Buckinghamshire (google)

15. “Agent of Chaos” a painting by Dean Ellis (Ref A)

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