Pt. Four –Encountering “The Other”: Becoming the Other
A greater unknown in the form of what we have yet to
become has cast it's shadow over a the face of human possibilities. -AS
The evolution of consciousness is “conscious evolution”, which
involves the integration of what we are not. The awareness
that there are “more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt
of in your philosophy”[i] points us in a direction of incorporating
a grander potential. That which is like us but different, known
as “the other can be re-cognition as an aspect of ourselves.
Yet “otherness” as it was first conceived of primarily in the
Middle Ages of Christianized European, was fabricated to keep
the pure from the impure. This imperialistic attitude sought to
demonized those that were marked first as heretics and then as
scapegoats. This dogmatism resulted in racism, nationalism,
religious fundamentalism - creating ghettos and genocides leading
to Inquisitions and Nazis.
However in many non- European cultures, “the different one,” the
stranger, is often welcomed as guest, friend and sometimes prophet
from other worlds.
Today aliens are now the quintessential other. They are like us and
so horrifyingly different. But because of their level of sentience, as
discussed in part 2, they reflect an aspect of consciousness, which
is who we are in another form. Whether we like it or not – these
stories of alien civilizations are already changing the collective
understanding -- creating a psychological intimacy to the other.
The alien “other” is an important step in evaluating the collective
understanding of our humanness. . It is from this place where we
can see ourselves in another that will give us a solid framework for
“Contact”. Embracing or rejecting our visitors will depend on whether
we look at them from either the viewpoint of consciousness or gross matter
Post-Colonial theorist, Abdul R. Jan Mohamed says that “the comprehension
of Otherness is possible, only if the self can somehow negate or at least
severely bracket the values, assumptions and ideologies of his culture…
This distance provides the necessary free space from which to
interrogate philosophy ‘anew’. ” [ii] This is an important step in
being more psychologically and sociologically ready to embrace the
reality of the others existence.
Culturally these particular films represent a subtle turning point in human
consciousness as regards to this Other. Embedded within each story there
is a new resolution. There is a merging with the very thing that has been
abhorred, where humans become the aliens. This is the type of integration
that suggests that the time is not far off for a mass psychological
acceptance of their existence.
For instance in D9, the ETs segregated, in an apartheid style ghetto
makes them the new lower class lackeys of planet Earth. When the main
character accidentally injects himself with alien secretions, he starts morphing
into one of those dreadful Prawns; hunted by his once human allies.
In 4K, the sense of otherness is so overwhelming that it invades our minds
so we can no longer exist as functional human beings. And in Avatar the
whole idea of survival and communication on the hostile planet means
changing our genetics to take on an alien form.
How revolting, yet psychologically nurturing, are these new myths
“to be turned into the Other”, the way Kafka’s alien-ated character
Gregor Samsa woke up as a cockroach in Metamorphosis.
A merging with the other represents a metamorphosis of cultural values.
This fresh orientation in the mind of the collective demonstrates
that we are at a nexus point in regard to our present intellectual
awakening to something more. With the receptivity of our non- human
association new potentials for transformation arise in us.
The presence of aliens would most likely bring out a celebrated
commonness of our collective humanity. Meaning that a redefinition
in terms of who we are in relationship to our cosmic environment
will bring a coherency of human activity that could pull the planet
together in an evolutionary way.
The French philosopher, Emmanuel Levinas, argues that “the self
cannot have a concept of itself as self, without the other.“[iii]
This is integral to the comprehending the self. Levinas also says: “I am defined as an ‘I’, precisely because I am exposed to the other. It is my inescapable
and incontrovertible answerability to the other that make me an
individual ‘I’”. [iv] We cannot exist without seeing something
we are not.
Being the Other
Being “the Other”, called Alterity (alter -Latin for “two”) or “Otherness”
was proposed by Lévinas as an idea of exchanging one's own perspective
for that of the ‘other’… [which] can be seen as aspects of that which
constitutes the self. [v] Levinas says in his original essay on the
topic: “…the revelation of the face makes a demand, this demand is
before one can express, or know one's freedom, to affirm or deny.
One instantly recognizes the transcendence and heteronomy of the Other. [vi]
Here again the question of sentience comes into play because there
must be an equal level of consciousness present in order to be aware
of otherness. It is only because of “sentience” that recognition is made
thereby seeing in the aliens that which is at the very core of ourselves.
As the bad boy of European Symbolist movement, Arthur Rimbaud said:
"Je est un autre" [I is another]. Meaning: only the we can only see what
we are - in whatever guise we put on it. Consciousness is the universal
language of being, as we merge and become aware pf one another.
We are the other!
All films and television programs dealing with aliens are attempts to
grapple with possibilities greater than our imagination.
Strieber says that they “are just radically different from us. I
mean, incredibly different. Unimaginably different. It's not that
they are more intelligent, I don't think, but that they have had the
level of mind that we are just beginning to touch on for a very long
time, as a result of which they see reality quite differently.”[vii]
Films present new myths that modern society chooses to integrate
into the collective unconsciousness. To quote Daniel Pinchbeck:
“Myth resolves oppositions through symbol and image, without the
need of rational explanation. A society that reintegrates mythic
thought at a deeper level of awareness will be able to handle
seemingly contradictory perspectives without breaking down.”[viii]
What these movies tell us - are about our own subconscious concepts.
So who really are the aliens:
1) We can only see them in terms of who we think we are not.
2) What we think they are an aspect of our own psychological dark side.
3) We really have no idea who or what an alien actually is, because it is
all based on our limited subjectu-logical perspective.
Lisa Onbelet in her analysis Imagining the Other: The Use of Narrative
as an Empowering Practice makes a significant point: “While stories
have the capacity through their use of imagination to move their audience
toward seeing and empathizing with the other, they may not always be
successful. Some will “get it”, some will not.” Some will not want to get
it because in seeing the other they may feel like they are being compelled to give up too much.”
Whatever and whoever the aliens really are – by the very fact of their
presence will have a quality of sentience that will demand a re-cognition
of ourselves in them. The film narratives sighted here, and others,
have already helped in a partial realization of the Other in terms of
human consciousness. Perhaps, if and when they make their formal
arrival, it will be - ah well, less traumatic, for some….anyway.
“However” Onbelet goes on to say, “though narratives may not change
how we see others, they can at least ensure that the other will not be
ignored. By creating tension between the self and other, stories draw
attention to the other’s existence, demanding a response, good or bad.
Stories are a way of keeping the other in our face and maintaining
‘the sense, the belief, and awareness that at some fundamental level,
everyone and everything is related to everyone and everything else.’[ix]
In other words we can’t embrace what we don’t acknowledge.
Therefore in light of our frenzied urge to witness dramas in the
form of popular cinema, a relationship to these beings, whoever they
will be, is already happening. It could be due to the other worldly
quality of the art itself, because over the past 100 years of filmmaking
we have been are collectively fascinated by aliens. Contact” continues
to be made on the projected screens of our psyche. The aliens have
landed … in our minds. They are here and they are us…for now.
We must however acknowledge the final sobering reality that Whitley
Strieber declares regarding a probblale first public admission of an
alien presence. “ This will change the human species in absolutely
fundamental ways, either driving us collectively mad or transforming
us in such a way that we can, at last, begin to understand who and
what we are and how we relate to other life in the universe… We will
begin what is the greatest of all journeys for any species, which is
the journey into a real relationship with the cosmos.”[x]