(This post originally appeared on my website last spring. Now that the site’s been redesigned, I’m using it to inaugurate my new blog. New posts will appear here each Tuesday from now on.)
Back during my teen-age UFO investigator days, Harvard astrophysicist Donald H. Menzel published a book entitled The World of Flying Saucers: A Scientific Examination of a Major Myth of the Space Age (Doubleday, 1963). By “myth,” Menzel meant: bunk. Something untrue, unreal. Something you don’t need to pay attention to. Just a myth.
(My fellow-UFOlogists and I put a lot of energy into trying to prove Menzel was wrong. How successful we were, is another matter.)
A few years earlier, the great psychologist Carl Jung had published a book with a very similar title: Flying Saucers: A Modern Myth of Things Seen in the Skies. But Jung’s use of “myth” was nearly the opposite of Menzel’s. For Jung, a “myth” was a matter of highest importance–a manifestation of archetypal reality, a royal road (to use Freud’s term) into the depths of the collective human soul. A myth was truer, could tell us more about the essence of our shared universe, than any science ever could. So by calling UFOs a “myth,” Jung meant: WOW, LOOK AT THIS–THEY’RE A MYTH!!!!
A genuine myth, for Jung, demands to be taken seriously.
I also believe that UFOs are a myth. For the record: I do not believe we are now, or ever have been (within historical times, at least) visited by spaceships from other planets.
But my use of “myth” is much closer to Jung’s than to Menzel’s.