Mike Clelland has forever changed how we think about owls, ET and extended consciousness.
photo by: Skeptiko
I have an interview coming up with Mike Clelland. If you don’t recognize the name, but you’ve heard about this thing with UFOs and owls – that’s Mike. He’s written a couple of great books on this topic (The Messengers, Stories from the Messengers) and it’s a fascinating little area to pull apart, in terms of understanding how this extended consciousness stuff merges with this UFO alien abduction stuff.
So, we talk all about that and we also talk about the connection between that experience and the near-death experience and other extended consciousness experiences and it was great. I really enjoyed having Mike on the show and I hope you enjoy this interview.
Alex Tsakiris: Why do you suppose you were the one chosen to tap into it, or do you believe that you were the one chosen to tap into it? What are your thoughts around that? I mean, Google, ‘owls – UFO’, bam, there’s one guy, you’re the guy.
Mike Clelland: Yes. I have pondered, I have no proof of this. So, I have a missing time event in 1974. I don’t have any memories of being onboard a UFO, but, all the stuff around it sure seems like that. Did they like zap me, did they like sit me down in some sort of altered state and say, “In 45 years you will be the guy who answers five emails a day about owls.”
So, I’ve wondered that, and it feels like that. I have no proof of it but it kind of feels like that. My life was going one way, boom, it just shot off in a different direction and now I am stuck with this, and I have to say, it is so wildly rewarding. It is so fun to have this small little niche. I keep on thinking, like the high school history teacher, if the student came up and said, “I’m going to write a report on World War II,” the history teacher would say, “Oh, let’s rein that in a little bit.” So, you would kind of go from being in the Pacific, to an island, to one guy, to one boat, to one [unclear 00:03:03], to one afternoon and then you write your report. That’s what it feels like to me. It’s like, “Well, golly, I can write a book about UFOs,” and it’s like, “Don’t go down that road.” But, this tiny little freckle has been so rewarding, and it was out there, and I looked, and I found a lot of them. In a lot of books there’s a paragraph or two about owls.
Alex Tsakiris: Well, that’s kind of the point. It was out there, but it wasn’t out there.
Mike Clelland: It was whispered, and it had a small… and it was mostly, what would be referred to as the screen memory aspect of the owls, which is a part of the UFO abduction research. It is a small part of it but the more interesting thing to me is people are seeing real owls in these moments. That, to me, is remarkable.
Alex Tsakiris: So, Mike, let’s jump into that in a different way. You, in addition to publishing these excellent books, have also published an audible, audio version of stories from The Messengers, and it’s very well done, it’s just great, and it’s your voice, which I think is always so cool when an author records their own book, because it brings so, so much more to it, and I wanted to play people a clip from your excellent sample for two reasons. One, so that they can see how cool it is, but number two, it really gets at this larger question, the question that really, I care about and I think you care about deeply is, what are owls, how are we supposed to understand them? You talk about them being a totem, you talk about them being a screen memory that’s just a UFO disguised as an owl. There’s so many ways to pull that apart.
Let me play this part into the show so people can hear it, and then let’s talk about it.
This is a book of remarkable real-life experiences. This is also a book about owls. Owls seems to play a shadowy role in the UFO contact experience. They also show up in relation to highly charged events, like synchronicities, ancient archetypes, dreams, shamanic initiation, magic, psychedelic hallucinations, spiritual transformation and death.
I explored the owl and its connection with these divergent ideas in The Messengers, my first book on UFOs. That book was also my own story of how owls played a role in my life. It was an exploration into the deeply personal questions that arose from my contact experiences. The process of creation was a journey of transformation and I was a different person when the book was completed. Within the nearly 400 pages of The Messengers, I repeatedly asked, “Why owls?” The question is simple, the answer is not. The owl is a symbol, it’s much more than just a bird with big eyes. It represents something in the darkness, just beyond what we know in our conscious minds. It’s a red flag forcing me to pay attention, a clue to look deeper.
Many people have told me that they’ve had an owl experience that is somehow tied into a spiritual awakening, it’s a call to wake up, to pay attention and to look within. The owl is telling us to confront the deepest part of ourselves. It’s a summons to transform our soul.
After immersing myself so deep in this subject, I am now at the point where I see owls and UFOs as the same thing. Both are eerily silent in flight and both have the power to change people’s lives.
The act of writing The Messengers was monumental. At its core, that book was just a collection of stories. The challenge was how to convey the illusive quality of what people had shared with me. I am proud of the ideas that unfolded in that book, yet, at the same time, it was heart breaking to have to edit down so many amazing stories in a way that would serve the reader. There were accounts that had such a powerful scope, but it was impossible to fit those in the manuscript.
This follow-up book is meant to be a companion, a place that allows for these important stories to be told more completely. Each chapter in this book focuses on a personal experience and these accounts have two things in common; an owl and a UFO.
Alex Tsakiris: Talk to the clip, in terms of the different… I love the way you break it down. “Owls is a totem, owls is an archetype, owls is a…” How did you come that? That is the overall message. Just speak to that a little bit, because it’s really deep, it’s really deep in a lot of ways.
Mike Clelland: Rich Dolan gave me a hard time because he was like, “You need to be able to answer that.” People ask, “What do owls mean?” The honest answer is, “I don’t know,” but he was like, “No, no, no, you’ve got to be able to answer that.”
So, the implication is that there is a psychic projection that is, that the observer is seeing an owl, and that’s what they remember, and that has been, somehow put in through some sort of hypnosis, who know why, some technology, whether it’s psychic energy or technology, I don’t know, but people are left remembering it’s an owl.
Now, it’s not just owls. There’s deer and racoons and clowns and big squirrels and stuff like that. So, there’s a lot of things that show up in the screen memory aspect but by far, the number one on the list is owls, and right behind that is deer. Both of these are highly charged symbolic animals of mythology too. So, that’s the screen memory, that’s off to one side.
Alex Tsakiris: The other thing, like we were just eluding to, to not go too far inside baseball without bringing people along is, this slippery slope on screen memories. I mean, the whole thing, like you said, is slippery because as soon as you start talking about hypnotic regression, “Oh now I remember,” people are jumping off and going, “Well, you can’t trust hypnosis,” and all the rest of that, which you can and of course we can and it’s used forensically in reports and that and in some place it’s admissible.
So, take all of that and put that in a box over on the side, since you’re using the box thing. But the other thing that makes it slippery is, now we start interpreting other people’s accounts and overlaying that, right? Correct me if I’m wrong, but the problem gets to be that people go, “Oh, well, that’s a screen memory.” But, “I don’t know that it’s a screen memory. I just had this experience.”
So, one guys says, “Yeah, I had a hypnotic regression and I’ve come to understand it as a screen memory,” but someone else just has a memory and they don’t know, they’re not at the point of saying it’s a screen memory and a lot of times researchers or other folks want to jump in there and say, “Oh, that’s a screen memory.” Well, we don’t know that it’s a screen memory because then we’re going to go further along this continuum, you’re going to talk about “real owls”, whatever the hell that means, then we’re going to talk about owls in some kind of dream state. So, the whole thing is just very, very hard to pin down but rather than just throw up our hands and say, “Oh yeah, it’s impossible to understand and it’s all…”
I want to try and nail it down a little bit, like you just did, so I will bring you back to this very fine point but it’s maybe something we can contribute to this overall conversation and that’s, what do you think about people who are quick to judge other people’s experience as being this screen memory?
Mike Clelland: Well, I’m certain there are screen memories. Some play out as screen memories. There’s a four-foot tall owl in the middle of the road and driving at night and missing time. You can put all of those puzzle pieces together and it implies something. Who knows what the deeper reality underlying all of that is, and I had the conversation with Dave Jacobs, I called him up on the phone and you could just hear him, you could hear him back-peddling and you could hear his toes curling in his shoes as I gave my rendition of all of this. He was basically, “Oh, they’re all screen memories. If someone sees an owl, it’s a screen memory.” I was like, “In many cases, I’ll give you that, but not in all of them.”
So, on the other side are these real owls and people are seeing real owls. I had someone contact me and they said, “Well, how come people don’t take pictures of these real owls?” and I’m like, “Actually they do. The problem is they’re cell phone pictures and they’re crappy and there’s some little owl off in a branch or there’s not much to see and you can kind of, if you really get to… So, I don’t post them because they’re lousy pictures. There’s a couple in the book of people who saw real owls, right in the moment.
Alex Tsakiris: You could really turn it around and say you’re doing something closer to science research that is going to move the ball forward than somebody who’s data mining a MUFON database about the size of craft or how many prongs on the bottom of it, or something like that, which your investigation calls into question how we would even begin to understand the reality of that. So, what do you think about all of that?
Mike Clelland: Woody Guthrie rode the trains and he was a hobo and he wrote songs about hobos and now I think our entire mystic about hobos in the 1930s is all, like framed around the stories he told in that way. I feel more like Woody Guthrie than I do a scientist.
It’s funny, I’m getting ready to do a talk at a symposium, a scientific symposium called SCUT Science, right in the title, and all of these scientists are showing up and they want me to talk and I had to write the abstract. Basically, in the abstract I had to write, “I’m not really a scientist.”
So, I know what you’re saying and I’m very cautious to jump to any conclusions but as far as the research that I’m doing, I’m trying to be as honest as I can in the stories that I’m collecting. If people say something outrageously strange, all I can say is, “That’s what the person told me.” I had a woman say an owl landed outside of her window, a blue beam came down from outer space, hit the owl on top of the hot, it shot out of the owl’s eyes and into her third eye and she had this mystical experience because of it.
Alex Tsakiris: I guess what I’m saying is, you’re a cool guy so you’d never do this but what if you went to the science conference and said, “You guys aren’t close to doing science on any of this stuff, aren’t close. You’re the polar opposite of science. If you want to look at science, here’s your best chance. Go and dive into these experiences. Go take the shamanic approach, balanced with the screen memory approach.” What if you just went out there and said, “I’m the scientist, none of you guys are scientists”?
Mike Clelland: I wouldn’t say, “None of you guys are scientists,” what I would say is like, “This has to be explored in a completely different way.”
So, one of the things and I do this in my talk and I like doing it and people have gotten in my face about it and like, “What are you talking about?”
This happened, and this was a real thing, I’m not explaining something, it really happened, it happened to me. You can buy a UFO and you can get it on e-book, you get it on Kindle, right? So, right away I get on my iPad, I can search it. I can search for the single word and the word I want is ‘owl’. So, the word ‘owl’ shows up, but it’s in the middle of other words, in bold and stuff like that, but it’s also in ‘knowledge’, and you get a book by John Mack and it’s full of the word ‘knowledge’. So, I’ve got to get past ‘knowledge’, I want to get to ‘owl’. So, “Knowledge uh, knowledge uh, it’s getting in our way,” and that was like an epiphany for me. Knowledge was getting in my way. If I was going to proceed down this thing I had to just sweep aside knowledge and follow something very intuitive, because if I was stuck with logic, if I was stuck with pragmatic reasoning, I would say, “This owl thing is ridiculous.” I had to do that too for my own experience, right? I had to say, “Yes, I did see aliens in my backyard,” because I spent decades saying, “No, that was a dream.” All I could think was it was a dream and I had to get past that linear brick wall, literal brick wall of pragmatic thought and get into something more intuitive and more heart-based, as corny as that sounds.
So, these books, they’re kind of mushy. I get, kind of, touchy-feely in those books. I did not expect that as I pressed forward, but that was me releasing and shedding. Obviously, you’ve got to write a clean sentence, you’ve got to put the commas where they’re supposed to go, but, you also need to just dive in and trust that there’s a story there.
Alex Tsakiris: Well, I think your willingness to be vulnerable in that way is a real strength of the books and it connects with so many people, obviously.
So, my fourth [unclear 00:16:41] is this idea of un-siloed and I wanted to pull you in some directions that you kind of touch on but don’t maybe talk on all the time. I have a clip from your buddy, Rich Dolman talking with Gordon White, an excellent show that they recorded on what might be a replacement for the ETH, the Extra-Terrestrial Hypothesis. Let me play this clip and then see what you might think about it.
I don’t think the ultra-terrestrial just is an example of non-ETH perspective. I don’t think it’s aged that well, but I think an updated ETH needs to… and using some of their later stuff, because the other thing that frustrates me about the ETH non-ETH is people selectively read Vallée, like he does say, “We’re absolutely talking about a technology here”, like you can’t just say it’s all, I don’t know, it’s all fairies.
No, exactly, exactly, exactly. I would say a fresh ETH needs to incorporate a few things. So, you’d want to incorporate some of the sciences, like current knowledge in astronomy and let’s say exoplanetary studies, should incorporate under our current knowledge of energy and propulsion and automation and AI and computing. It also, I think, should incorporate the experiences of people who’ve encountered these intelligences including, what we call experiencers and abductions. But, my own take on it is that my extraterrestrial hypothesis is that whoever they are, they’ve come here, they’ve been here for a long time, they’re unbelievably advanced, beyond quantum computing, beyond what we would all the singularity in AI. I assume that they have total genetic mastering, some version of organic printing and virtual reality creation, and that’s just the beginning.
Alex Tsakiris: That’s just the beginning. That’s a lot to take in, let’s talk about that a little bit. In particular, I want to tie it back to what we were just talking about in terms of your book, in your work and your desire and willingness to go shamanic, if you can say that, and at the same time, our need to kind of pull it back. I like the way that Gordon and Richard are talking about it here as, “Hey, there is a technology component that’s undeniable here and it seems to have a lot of overlap with this shamanic extended consciousness stuff.” Let’s chat about that for a minute and how you’d pull that apart.
Mike Clelland: These experiences are so utterly bizarre. In one sense, are they bizarre on purpose, forcing us to pay attention? That they’re so weird… I mean, the pancake story, the fellow who had the pancakes back in Wisconsin, it doesn’t get any weirder than that.
Alex Tsakiris: So, he goes on the ship and they give him pancakes.
Mike Clelland: They make pancakes on a little griddle and then they actually… So, nobody’s going to make that up.
So, first of all, I don’t care. I don’t care whether they come from outer space, I don’t care whether they come from a different dimension, I don’t care if they’re part of our collective unconscious, but I do…
Alex Tsakiris: How can you not care?
Mike Clelland: Because, as soon as I hear about, as soon as I latch onto that, as soon as I latch onto one, then I ignore the other ones. I want it all to flood in. I want all of these reports to flood in. I want the crazy ones to flood in. I want the ones that are illogical, I want to wrestle with that stuff.
So, maybe there’s a component to it that comes from another planet. Maybe there’s a component that is a reflection of our own inner psyche. Maybe there’s a component that there’s a deeper layer of reality and they’re in another layer and they can peer into our reality. All I can do speculate, and I say it very early on in the first one, “I am a disciple of the story.” I love the stories.
So, if someone tells a story that just points to, “Oh, it’s a metal spaceship that landed in the road,” that’s how I tell the story. That’s how I retell the story. If someone tells a story that’s like, “Oh, I was transported into this mystical realm and I had this out-of-body experience where I communed with God,” then that’s how I tell the story. So, that’s the story they’ve told me and that’s how I…
So, I don’t want to get locked down into that, but yes, I can listen, I can pay attention, I can wrap my head around all of the different modalities of what it might be, and I just want to be cautious not to… There’s a lot of bathwater and there’s multiple babies in there.
Alex Tsakiris: I think that’s great and I think that’s somewhat of a lead into my fifth and final truth bump, if you will, that I wanted to kind of hit you with and it’s Ray Hernandez who, we were chatting a little bit before the show. I’ve known Ray for a long time, like you. He contacted me really early on in the Skeptiko thing, when he was first getting started. I was one of the first people he contacted and said, “Hey, I’ve had this really strange experience, where do I go?” kind of thing and I was like, “Wow! I don’t know. Not really my thing. Let me try and help you.” Then, I became involved in this FREE organization that he became a part of and then you contacted him and did some fantastic work with this. But the question that he draws, right to the center of the stage is this one that we were just wrestling with and that is, contacting what? What exactly are we contacting? And in this presentation Ray talks about the really dramatic parallels between UFO contact/alien contact experiences and this near-death experience contact experience that we are really comfortable with. At this point we’re saying, “Okay, that’s a medical reality. Heart surgeons see that, and patients recount that even if they’re under heavy anesthesia, even if they’re pronounced dead and are in the morgue or even if they’re blind from birth and then for the first and only time in their life are able to see during the near-death experience. So, Ray did awesome work of saying, “Okay, what do those two things look like? Are these two things similar in any way?” Here’s what he says:
The website is experiencer.org. The title of my presentation today is, A comparative analysis of UFO related contact with non-human intelligence, near-death experiences and out-of-body experiences, consciousness and contact towards the unification of the contact modalities.
Alex Tsakiris: We can stop it right there because the dialogue on it gives the whole story away. Let’s dive right back in to where we left off on the point before, what are we contacting here?
Mike Clelland: It’s funny, because the original title of the second book was going to be, Stories from Messengers, Owls, UFOs and Consciousness, and I read through the book and that was the title of it and I was like, “I don’t really mention consciousness, I don’t really use the term consciousness in the book. I use it a couple of times, but I don’t really say that, I don’t really explore consciousness. What I do explore, and I changed the title of the book, it’s now called, Owls, UFOs and a Deeper Reality, I do explore this realm of a deeper reality that surrounds us.
So, that’s what I’m concerned with, all of these things. So, people have these powerful experiences, a UFO experience can be powerful, it can be life changing. An owl sighting, I have people who have turned back from suicide because an owl presented itself to them. I have synchronicities, a powerful synchronicity can change someone’s life. These are transformative experiences. Death is the ultimate transformation, right? So, owls are the totem of death, all across the world, it doesn’t matter where you are. You go to Ireland, you go to Norway, you go to Tierra del Fuego, you go to Russia, the owl is symbolic of death.
So, loosen that back, take two steps back, to me the owl is this totem of the transformational process. So, people see a UFO, they are transformed. Someone sees a UFO, they’re never… but if you see one and then you see the scientist on the Point Counterpoint documentaries, “Well, there’s no such thing as UFOs.” You know that guy is wrong, because you’ve had, and I’ve had the direct experience of seeing flying craft in the sky that defies all boundaries. I know that guy is wrong, I know what I saw. So, all of a sudden, I’m outside of the boundaries of the norms, because my direct experience, I know that the skeptics drumbeat of, “There’s no such thing as UFOs,” is wrong.
But, that same thing can happen with an out-of-body experience, with a near-death experience, with a shamanic initiation, with a deep state of meditation. So, what I’m more concerned about and Ray Hernandez speaks to this beautifully, and he actually came out with his report, that’s the logo, it was that, there’s this wheel and all of these hubs are pointing to this core thing and I said, “Here’s all of these things,” I listed them and he came up with pretty much the exact same list and in the first book I listed these things, synchronicities, shamanic initiation, mediation, psychedelic… I can’t remember, he came up with about seven, I came up with about seven, and they match pretty well, and he took it one step further, he said that the center of this hub is consciousness.
Alex Tsakiris: But hold on, because that kind of loses its meaning, in a way, that consciousness is really at the whole thing of…
Mike Clelland: That’s a tough one to wrap your mind around.
Alex Tsakiris: Well, it’s so misunderstood, in terms of just back to the, kind of skeptical mainstream science as we know it. It’s a completely, off the rails with consciousness. I mean, they’re still in this, kind of, biological robot, meaningless universe epiphenomenon of the brain, kind of thing, which is a road completely to nowhere. So, it’s like, consciousness can get really confusing and then consciousness, from a deeply spiritual standpoint is, some people are saying, kind of an idealism, “There’s only consciousness,” and all of the stuff that you’re playing with right here and examining and mulling over is just another, kind of, instantiation of consciousness in a different form, and don’t get too hung about it, just like, don’t get too hung up about your past-life experience or any of the rest of that, it all flows back into one.
So, consciousness doesn’t get us any closer. What I wrestle with, from Ray’s work, is that we feel like, or maybe I feel like, we have our feet on the ground with near-death experience science, because we can go and look at the peer reviewed near-death experience science and we can say, “Gosh, that die was dead, by every means we can measure it. He was outside of his body looking down. There’s no way that can happen,” and now he starts having all of these experiences.
So then, for someone like Ray and the FREE organization to come along and say, “You know, here’s the problem guys, the near-death experience, when we start really asking people what it was like and we start asking people from the abductee experience what it was really like, and we start asking them, ‘Was there this spiritual component of it and did you feel a heightened sense of awareness? Did you feel an improved ability to…?’” All of these things start matching up in a way that challenges all our models. Actually, it doesn’t challenge too much the shamanic model, that kind of stays intact, but it does challenge the Rich Dolan, Gordon White interview, like, “Hey man, these guys have really got the technology down and they understand AI and they understand genetic printing and they understand the rest of this?” It kind of blows that away in a way that we can’t resolve it back to, if these people are having near-death experiences and meeting God, then I don’t think God cares too much, if there is such a thing, but we have to fill in that blank. I don’t think God cares about genetic printing and AI, unless you want to go the whole, that’s what God is, but it gets to the crux of that issue in a way that I really want to bring that to a point without jumping back to, “Well, it could be anything,” kind of thing.
Mike Clelland: You’ve asked the big question, right? They’ve stood around in togas and, “Why are we here? What’s the meaning of life? And debated these things back in Ancient Greece, and we’re still struggling with those same questions. That’s my sense, is that any thinking person, and I’m going to be bold here, there’s 700 pages of owl stuff, you put one book on top of another, it’s about 700 pages you’ve got to wade through and I still don’t have a good conclusion. But, what I can say is, these issues bring up the big question, they bring up, “Why are we here? What does it mean? Where are we going?” and I didn’t expect that going into this.
So, you asked the big, big, big question, “How does this relate to…?” I would take a step back and avoid the word ‘consciousness’ and say, “The human experience,” and I mean the essence of what it means to be like a noble human.
Alex Tsakiris: Thanks again to Mike Clelland for joining me today on Skeptiko. The one question I tee up from this interview has to do with the connection between the technology aspect of the UFO/alien abduction experience. I mean, these beings, this phenomena, I always hate calling it a phenomena, these beings, that’s how they’re presented to us, seem to have mastered technology in a way that we want to, kind of say, “Oh yeah, we get that, they’re just a little bit ahead,” or even if we think they’re a lot ahead of where we are, we pretend to understand what that means, from a technology standpoint
and yet it seems to me, when we jump over and look at it from a spiritual standpoint, which is all over this stuff, right? Like, we were talking about the near-death experience or even the spiritual component of the abduction experience, spirituality is all over this. So, why are we less comfortable with diving into that zone?
So, that’s my question. It’s a long one, but hopefully you can pull it apart and let me know what you think, let me know what your answer is to that question. Of course, the place to do it is any way you like, Skeptiko website, Skeptiko forum, email me, Facebook. I’ve been terrible with Facebook, but just track me down and I’d love to hear what you think about that.