I am standing in a cave. Sitting before me, on a throne fashioned out of the rock, is what I can only describe as a very large pansy flower. The kind of flower that looks like it has a face with large slanted eyes (I know, when I saw the Communion book cover 20 years ago I almost had a cow.)
Although the flower creature did not speak to me, I could feel that it was communicating to me somehow in a form of extreme condescension and intelligence. Like it was implying to me that it was in total command. Not necessarily in a malevolent way, but in a way of true authority.
I like the shamanistic sensibility of this encounter with the "Other." Ironically, while our conception of the alien has been subject to endless modification by a mass media eager to capitalize on our fascination with the nonhuman, we rarely encounter non-humanoid forms. Mike's description, suggesting nothing less than a sentient plant, recalls the beings encountered by ethnologists who experiment with naturally occurring hallucinogens. (The "large slanted eyes" are an interesting twist. Could the prominent eyes now readily associated with the "Grays" be hardwired in the human brain, destined to recur regardless of the appearance of the being looking out of them?)
Mike might be describing a brush with what psychologist Kenneth Ring has termed the "imaginal realm," a state suspended between waking consciousness and the enigmatic turf of dreams. William S. Burroughs, for instance, described seeing green reindeer and diminutive gray men in his childhood. He later emphasized his concern that the decimation of the ecosphere constituted a sort of lobotomization of the collective unconscious, strip-mining the fertile soil of Ring's world of the imaginal as surely as a fleet of bulldozers set loose in the Amazonian rain-forests.
The pronounced authoritarian demeanor of the flower-like entity offers some support for Burroughs' intuitive sense that nature is angry at humanity's transgressions and more than capable of letting its displeasure be known. It's worth remembering that a hallmark of the archetypal "alien abduction" is a graphic ecological warning, suggesting that perceived ETs harbor a stalwart interest in Earth's environmental sustainability.
Indeed, students of shamanism might argue that the Grays are thought-forms generated by the Earth itself as a means of communication. And at least a few UFO researchers have taken note of their apparent vegetable nature; as the memetic ancestors of the archetypal "little green men," the Grays can be viewed as chilly avatars of our fragile biosphere -- bent on revenge, enlightenment or perhaps a curious fusion of both.
Nor is Mike's memory of encountering a potent nonhuman intelligence within a cave without precedent. Contemporary "abductees" describe their nocturnal journeys to caverns with earthen walls, leading to the natural assumption that they've been transported to underground alien installations. But just as unannounced encounters with bizarre nonhuman beings are far from a modern phenomenon, rock-walled caverns populated by strange beings and bewildering technology enjoy a lively role in world mythology. For example, folklorists have pointed out suggestive parallels between "alien" dwellings and the subterranean domain said to await victims of lustful faeries (whose behavior, more often than not, mirrors that of today's ufonauts).
As Jacques Vallee has noted, we seem to be dealing with a phenomenon that adapts to the reigning symbolism of any given era. That said, perhaps the idea that we're dealing with something fundamentally "other" is a ploy enacted by a planetary mind of which we're inextricably entangled.