We noted in the last entry that both the Space Brothers of the 1950s and the grey aliens of 1990s abductions were, by and large, doom merchants, although their approaches to the horrors they foresaw for humanity were rather different. Like many people on Earth, the Space Brothers were concerned about the dire consequences of nuclear weapons. Forty-odd years later, like many people on Earth, the aliens were warning of environmental collapse and/or cataclysmic natural disasters; and as the year 2000 approached, the upheavals they appeared to predict became ever more severe. While the Space Brothers indicated ways we could avoid the collapse of civilisation as we knew it, the Greys simply seemed to be passing a note marked indifferently “FYI” and leaving it at that. Space Brothers, who carefully insisted on their religious credentials, were millenary prophets. Whereas, regardless of the expectations of Christian fundamentalists, the Greys were heralds of a singularly unattractive, secular apocalypse.
To clarify the distinction: an apocalyptic thinker is a gloom-monger, focusing on the tribulation, pain and destruction that precede the glories of the new millennium – which in any case, the legend went, would be entirely to the advantage of the Greys, who were going to interbreed with us and save their sickly race from extinction. A millenary overlooks the agonies of the cosmic rebirth, or omits it from his scheme of things, and simply looks forward optimistically to a new golden age of peace, joy, plenty, and glorious weather. Which sunny future, so like the kind of paradise described in Sunday schools, was ours for the having if we but listened to the Space Brothers. Like gods – or angels – the Space Brothers were watching us, and warning us, and would lock us out of Paradise if we didn’t behave. And if we didn’t behave we’d destroy the Earth.
The contactees were the most conspicuous manifestation up till then of an underlying religious potential in ufology and, more particularly, of the field’s incipient, secular paranoia. With the genius of hindsight, this oft-remarked religious tendency among contactees is no longer surprising, given the background of the granddaddy of them all, George Adamski (FT160:49). We are unlikely now to know the degree of sincerity with which in the 1930s ‘Professor’ Adamski printed a business card describing him as “Speaker and Teacher of Universal Laws and the Founder of Universal Progressive Christianity, Royal Order of Tibet and the monastery at Laguna Beach”. Gareth Medway writes:
From what is known of his teachings, they bore no resemblance to either Christianity or Tibetan religion, e.g. “Universe means not just our solar system but space without circumference in which dwell billions of our solar systems. The Royal Order of Tibet is interested only in revealing what is thought to be mysteries so that they may be used practically in the present field of life where man may understand his fellow man by understanding the laws which rule all creatures, thereby awakening from the dream-life to the reality which leads to Mastery. It is an Order based on the highest and the simplest teachings in the field of Mastery…” It is evident that, even if he himself had not quite Mastered English grammar, he had Mastery of the art of using many grand words without thereby conveying any meaning.
In such meaning as there was, the knowledgeable eye might have detected some debt to Theosophy, but easing the lot of mankind in this vale of tears seems to have involved other means besides “revealing mysteries”. Ray Stanford recalled how in 1958, as a devoted 15-year-old follower, he visited Adamski. Who, having drink taken, revealed: “The Prohibition was a good thing for me, boys. You’re too young to know about it, but hell, they outlawed the liquor all over the country. Hell, I got the Royal Order of Tibet – all incorporated and everything! I got the special license – for religious purposes I can make the wine. Gottdammit! Hell, I made enough wine for all of Southern California! I was making a fortune. Then that man Roosevelt, he knock out the Prohibition. Hell, if it hadn’t been for that gottdammed man Roosevelt – I wouldn’t had to get into this saucer crap.”
Naturally this does not cast any of Adamski’s later claims in a terribly good light, even if they weren’t absurd. Which is not to say that an embracing fondness for wine, profit and metaphysical exploration are either immoral or incompatible.
THE POWER OF PRAYER
It did not take long for others to see the chance for profit and at least the appearance of metaphysical exploration in contacteeism. One of the longest-lived sects to have seen the religious potential in UFOs is undoubtedly the Aetherius Society. Founded in 1955 by a (then) London taxi-driver, George King, it reportedly arose from an experience that would have had most people maintaining a lifelong nervous silence. In May 1954, King said, he was alone in his Maida Vale flat when he heard a voice in his ear proclaim: “Prepare yourself! You are to become the voice of Interplanetary Parliament.”
King took this startling news with commendable equanimity. Eight days later, “an Indian swami of world renown” (whom King declined to name) teleported himself to King’s flat and instructed him further in his mission, particularly in how to achieve telepathic contact with a being from Venus called Aetherius. Proclaiming that “[S]pace aliens hold the key to the salvation both of the planet as a whole and of every individual on Earth,” King set up his Society (a church in all but name) as interest grew in his accounts of subsequent telepathic contacts with Aetherius, whose wisdom was “relayed over millions of miles of etheric space”.
In an early book, King claimed to have made out-of-the-body journeys to Mars and Venus. On his very first trip, he managed to survive an encounter on Mars with a hostile dwarf armed with a ray-gun and, as in all good swords-sorcery-and-sandals tales, was promptly recruited by the Martians to combat a sentient asteroid “the size of the British Isles” that was attacking their space fleet. When the Martians’ best military efforts failed, King himself – who else – led a final ‘death or glory’ assault and vanquished the object with a “weapon of love”.
One of the Aetherius Society’s major projects was charging ‘prayer batteries’, which were placed on the tops of 19 very high mountains, mostly in remote parts of the world, and allegedly store up to 700 hours’ worth of spiritual energy for 10,000 years. To juice them up, Aetherians form a circle and chant mantras for hours on end. Various other operations involving amassing or beaming ‘spiritual energy’ were said to have averted wars, prevented catastrophic earthquakes, and so on.
This is all probably innocuous enough, but one wonders if King’s followers would have been quite so willing to struggle up mountains had they been aware of another version of how enlightenment came to him. In Flying Saucerers (Alternative Albion, 2007, p74), David Clarke and Andy Roberts relay a quaint eyewitness account from historian Laurens Otter. In early 1954, a drunken taxi driver entered a meeting at the anarchist Malatesta Club in Soho, and asked for Sam Cash, a fellow cabbie. Learning that Cash was expected later, “…the tired and emotional taxi driver lay down across some chairs and promptly fell asleep.” At the end of the guest speaker’s talk, the chairman asked if there were any questions. Whereupon,
…the taxi driver suddenly woke, asking, ‘How do I make a million pounds?’. Robinson [the chairman] took the question in good humour and speculated the best way to make a fortune was to found a fake religion. A discussion about how best to do this ensued with Otter opining that a much better idea would be to get in on the flying saucer craze. Robinson concurred, suggesting that the two ideas could be combined for best effect. […] A few years later, Cash told Otter that the drunken taxi driver, whose name was George King, had taken his advice about melding religion with flying saucers, and it had worked. The rest, as they say, is history.
Naturally, the Aetherius Society disputes this version of events.
CHANNELS OF REINCARNATION
Like Adamski, King claimed to have met, on occasion, the beings he channelled, but overtly prophetic-cum-religious UFO cults have tended to rely more on utterances received in trance than on taking minutes of meetings. Vying with the Aetherians for the title of world’s oldest millenary UFO sect is the Unarius Academy of Science, founded by Ruth Marian and Ernest L Norman in 1954 (see FT158:28–33). Both were devout believers in reincarnation. In previous existences, Ruth had been (among others) an extraterrestrial, the Egyptian slave girl who discovered baby Moses floating in his basket, Confucius, Socrates, Mona Lisa [sic], Henry VIII, and Mary Magdalene. Ernest, originally landing from outer space on Atlantis – in time to see it destroyed – had been Pharaoh Amenhotep IV and Jesus of Nazareth. Which pretty much settled their career in the 20th century, channelling the wisdom of the Space Brothers as well as such earthly luminaries as Mozart, Pavlov, Tesla and Robert Oppenheimer.
‘Unarius’ is an acronym for Universal Articulate Interdimensional Understanding of Science. To followers, Ruth (now Norman) was known as Uriel, or Universal Radiant Infinite Eternal Light. Over the years, she adopted such titles as the Universal Seeress, Healing Archangel, Spirit of Beauty, Goddess of Love, and Cosmic Generator. Her more prosaic neighbours in El Cajon, California, were unimpressed, and referred to her simply as ‘Spaceship Ruthie’.
Of the two, Ernest was the main channel until his death in 1971. As Jerome Clark describes it (UFO Encyclopedia, 2nd Edition 1998, p942) space people spoke through him “of their mission to redeem the Earth, a troubled planet in which those who have committed great wrongs on other worlds are dumped to work off their karmic debt. Unarius followers are encouraged… to prepare for imminent landings by space beings, at which time the Earth will become the 33rd planet in the Interplanetary Confederation.” Clark quotes a Unarius spokeswoman as saying in 1997: “Worldwide, there is substantial agreement that humankind is being prepared for a momentous change in consciousness, which will affect all institutions on Earth, as we come to the end of the sixth cycle of the precessional in the year 2000.” Sadly, Ruth Norman died in 1996 and did not live to see these things come to pass. But then those of us who survived the millennium did not see them reported in The Times either. Of course, the news may have been covered up by the Illuminati and their ubiquitous, omnipotent agents.
BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR
“Sincerely deluded but essentially harmless” seems a fair way to describe Unarius and its adherents, but not all millenary contactees have had happy endings. A case in point is Gloria Lee-Byrd, the founder of the Cosmon Research Foundation, which had 2,000 members at its peak. Previously a follower of Oahspe – “A New Bible in the Words of Jehovih and His Angel Ambassadors” transmitted via automatic writing to New York dentist John Bailou Newbrough and published in 1882 – Lee-Byrd made telepathic contact in 1953 with an ET known as ‘JW’, a resident of Jupiter. His teachings appeared in Why We Are Here, published in 1959, and Lee-Byrd became a regular on the contactee circuit. Under JW’s guidance, Lee-Byrd produced a design for a space ship. She attempted to present the blueprints to government officials in Washington DC in September 1962, along with a warning that the space people – concerned as ever about atomic weaponry – were about to land on Earth and impose their own plans for peace on the world. Turned away by the bureaucrats, Lee-Byrd declared a hunger strike until they agreed to meet her, but omitted to inform either the press or the officials, who failed to turn up. After 66 days without solid food, she was taken to hospital, where she died in early December.
The most notorious of grim endings for a millenary contactee group was the suicide of 39 members of Heaven’s Gate in San Diego, in 1997 (see FT99:4, 32; 100:4, 34–41). Founded in the mid 1970s as Human Individual Metamorphosis by Marshall Applewhite and Bonnie Lu Nettles, alias Bo and Peep, the cult promised that members would undergo a transition from this world to the “next level” by being beamed up to a flying saucer. The catch was that this involved first dying then being resurrected in a new body; the attraction, perhaps, was that those transformed would be an elect, a chosen few. Those left behind would be destroyed as the Earth was “recycled – ‘spaded under’”. A major part of the “overcoming process” or preparation for the transition was a fairly extreme asceticism; the group segregated itself from the world as much as possible. In 1997, it was put about by parties on the more unhinged fringe of ufology that a giant UFO was tracking Comet Hale-Bopp, itself an unexpected visitor to the Solar System. Applewhite (Nettles had died in 1985 of cancer) got news of this via the Internet and decided that this was the craft they had all been waiting for; and that suicide – actually carried out in three shifts – was the way to translate to it.
Ufological religions are associated with the 1950s, but the phenomenon is by no means dead. There is certainly a cult, if not a religion, surrounding the claims of Billy Meier and his contacts with ‘Pleiadeians’ and his connection to the Talmud Jmmanuel, a ‘gospel’ that supposedly predates the canonical synoptic ones; and many a prophecy is still to be had from Ashtar, first channelled by contactee George van Tassel in 1952. One of the odder, and creepier, of current groups is the neo-Nazi, Marcionist Tempelhofgesellschaft (THG), whose younger branch is based in Vienna. According to them, Jesus of Nazareth was not Jewish (surprise) but Aryan; and the Aryan ‘race’ came to Atlantis from a planet of Aldebaran. By some hidden logic, they maintain that because Aryans are extraterrestrial, they have divine licence to dominate the world. The THG credo includes the belief that a vast horde of spaceships from Aldebaran is on its way here and, on arrival, will join forces with Nazi flying saucers from bases in Antarctica to establish an Aryan empire in the West.
Where are you George King and Spaceship Ruthie, just when we need you?
1 Gareth J Medway: “Beyond the Reality Barrier”, Magonia 94, Jan 2007. The essay is an excellent introduction to the occult background of many contactees of a cultish/religiose persuasion.
2 Medway, loc. cit., quoting Adamski as reported by Douglas Curran, In Advance of the Landing: Folk Concepts of Outer Space, Abbeville Press, New York, 1985, p72.