I am occasionally posting excerpts from my ongoing book project on owls and UFO abduction.
|Mary Beatrice Midgley, moral philosopher|
In her memoir, Owl of Minerva, British author and philosopher Mary Midgley wrote:
I have borrowed the owl for my title from Hegel, who is well known to have remarked that, ‘the owl of Minerva spreads its wings only with the falling of the dusk.’ This is a potent and mysterious symbol that might have various meanings. But the thought for which I want to use it as that of wisdom, and therefore philosophy, comes into its own when things become dark and difficult rather than clear and straightforward. That—it seems to me—is why it is so important…
Midgley goes on to lament that too many thinkers only want to attend to what is clear, and they turn their backs on things that are dark and doubtful. She is eager to look beyond the brightly lit successes of science, and instead explore the dark landscapes of meaning and thought.
It seems to me that we have here the old story of the man who keeps looking for his car keys under the same lamp-post. Someone asks him, ‘Is that where you dropped them?’ ‘No,’ he replies, ‘but it’s a much easier place to look.’
That analogy plays out in the realm of UFO research, with the pragmatic investigator staying only under the brightly lit lamp-post, while the core of the mystery is off in the darkness. Midgley looks to the owl as guide into this shadow realm.
Owls, being associated with the night, are used in many cultures as symbols for two things—first for death, and second, rather differently, for wisdom. Going into the dark brings danger. But, if you have to go out, then surely it is wise to have with you a creature that can penetrate the darkness.
The owl, by this interpretation, is a companion for any traveler stepping off the path and entering the darkest part of the forest. One should expect the owl to show up, either symbolically or literally, whenever a seeker digs into the deepest mysteries. If this plays out to it’s fullest, the screen memory of a four foot tall owl might mean the observer is being told that their journey is difficult rather than clear and straightforward.
Mary Beatrice Midgley is an English moral philosopher. She was a Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at Newcastle University and is known for her work on science, ethics and animal rights. She is 95 years old.