Close Encounters Of the cult Kind

Arthur Chappell From The Skeptic November/December 1993

A look at the dangerous world of the `Flying Saucer' cults

In considering the nature of UFO cults it is first of all important to emphasize that most people claiming to have seen a UFO are not in any sense to be regarded as `cult recruits'. If you see something in the sky and don't know what it is, then you have seen an `Unidentified Flying Object'. lt.'s that simple. For many, however, if it's `unidentified', it's a spaceship. Even people making this assumption are not necessarily `cultist's. Many people believe we have been visited by aliens. 13 million UFO sightings have been reported in the last 25 years. This is clearly too many to be believed in. As Ian Ridpath has observed, `even if there are a million other civilizations in our galaxy, all launching one starship annually, we could expect to be visited only once every 10,000 years.' (John Allan, Mysteries, Lion 1981) It's very apparent that most sightings reported are misperceptions of terrestrial objects: planes, weather balloons, unusual cloud formations, and so on.

Commentators agree that most UFO spotters are not hoaxers or liars, though some people do fake photographic evidence by filming hubcaps and plastic models dangling from strings.

Many UFOlogist’s haven't seen UFO's themselves, but dearly wish they had. They took for tangible evidence of UFO visitations. Crop-circles, though now seen very openly to be made by men with string and creative wit, are still regarded by some to be flattened UFO landing sites. Many books reinterpret biblical visions as early UFO sightings. Erich von Daniken wrote a series of best-sellers claiming that the Egyptians (among others) were too primitive. and stupid to build their magnificent monuments, and so resorted to watching as alien spacemen built them, and then started praising the builders as gods. Pictures of men in fertility masks, thus became, for Daniken, extraterrestrial monsters. (Ronald Story, The Space Gods Revealed, 1973, NEL).

UFO sightings are a phenomenon that increases with progress in our own space race; each space shuttle/Soyuz launch leads to a spate of reports as does each popular science fiction film on the UFO subject. The film `The 'Thing' (1952) ends with a hysterical reporter screaming to the world, `Watch the skies, watch the skies'. We did just that. Stephen Spielberg's film `Close Encounters of the 'Third Kind' (1977), inspired by actual UFO sightings, had a similar effect. It fired imaginations to take unusual lights in the sky and make a saucer out of them, in the mind's eye.

For others, UFO sightings were never enough; some claim to have met the aliens, been abducted, experimented on and granted rides in the spacecraft, often to other planets. The first leader of a UFO cult (George Adamski) claimed in 1952 to have met a Venusian wearing ski-pants who educated him in `Cosmic Philosophy'. Adamski's book Flying Saucers Have Landed became a best-seller, although Venus as we now know is too hot to be inhabitable by any kind of life form with a biology even remotely similar to ours. Condemned as a charlatan (his photographs were certainly fakes) Adamski still has a following today.

Adamski set a trend for tying the saucer phenomenon to New Age beliefs in general; a sighting becomes a vision, the spotter becomes enlightened, changed and in some way `born again'. There is the same missionary zeal to convert and convince others. It is no accident that UFO books share the same shelves as books on alternative religions. UFO pilots have the same characteristics as messianic gods, the ability to see all, to judge, punish and reward human behaviour. In the event of a nuclear war, the UFO-cultists believe the aliens will save the chosen few (themselves). In short, these groups are to be regarded as no Less a cult than the major groups which ex-cultists have escaped from. The trappings and sense of technology is different, but for the often hierarchical, fanatical leaders, it's business as usual.

UFO spotters in cults are often encouraged to believe that they have psychic powers revealed to them by the UFOnauts. Some communicate telepathically with aliens across time and space, through seances and spiritualistic rituals, thus eliminating the need to actually see a space vehicle at all. In her book, Volcanic Visions (Arkana, 1991 ), Michelle Jamal, a reincarnated priestess from a lost civilisation is telepathically contacted by `Ashtar, of the Ashtar Command, The Universal Federation, the Universal Christ Force.'

UFO cults have many sources of origin; some spotters, like Adamski, or Jamal, may impose their own convictions on people in a sufficiently impressive way to gain themselves a following. Many UFO watching groups, where members swap personal experiences and exchange newspaper clippings can grow into cults too.

The most successful UFO cult, at present, is the Finchley based Aetherius society, started in 1954 by George King, who was washing the dishes in his bedsit when a voice told him that he was chosen to be the voice of a galactic parliament here on Earth. Like Adamski, King was listening to a man from Venus, where Jesus is also believed to reside, as a star man, and not as the Son of God. Members of the Aetherius cult hold spiritualist-style meetings where their psychic energy is taken and stored in batteries to be located at mystical sites around the world in the event of some crisis, this energy can be tapped, to refuel spacecraft passing through the galaxy. Only certain high priests actually contact these alien visitors; the rest of the group have to take their word for it. King was interested in Yoga and metaphysics in the years prior to his own claimed close encounter. Many people are concerned by King's growing number of chivalric/ Masonic titles, Knight Commander, Doctor of Divinity, and so on. (see Peter Brooksmith's The Age Of the UFO, Orbis 1984).

More sinister still is the UFO cult started by France's Claude Vorhilan who calls himself Rael, an abbreviated form of Gabriel, the Archangel). The International Raelian Society has turned the `Burning Bush in the wilderness' into a flying saucer. Rael wrote of his being bathed by five female robots, and has his own rather sinister insignia, a star of David pendant with a Swastika at its centre. He hopes to build a mansion for the old gods (the Elohim) to move into when they land again. Please send your donations to. . .(quite).

Until recently the main people likely to be recruited to a UFO cult were people who have had UFO encounters, or desired them. Nowadays there is a new trend: convincing people through hypnotic regression that they have had an encounter which is lost in their subconscious memories, whether they believe-or even think about UFO’s or not. This is a trend started by some pseudo-psychiatrists, who place too great a degree of faith in evidence acquired through hypnotising their patients. Hypnosis is far from totally reliable, as the suggestive state leads many clients to fantasise, and take suggestions from the hypnotist extremely literally. The good psychiatrist learns to differentiate fact and fantasy and not to lead hypnotised clients up the garden path.

Edith Fiore, on the other hand, in her sensationalist book, Abductions, Encounters with E Ts (Sidgwick &. Jackson, 1989) asks very leading questions. One client, called `Tom', merely asked her what the book she was writing was about; she told him it was on UFOs, and he spoke of a frightening UFO story he had read. On `a hunch' Fiore asks him why he was spooked by the book. The fact that it was written by an accomplished horror novelist being immaterial, and before long, she uncovered `Tom's forgotten UFO abduction'.

Fiore is unmoved by any evidence that her clients are following her leading questions or fantasizing. She writes: `Because my main concern is helping people, it is not important to me if the patients, /subjects report correctly the colour of the aliens' skin'. Alas, such contrary evidence is the very key to recognizing that the patient is not giving an entirely factual report.

I am not saying that UFOs exist or not; that is a matter for the individual to decide for himself. My concern here is the cults that grow from beliefs about UFOs. These cults show all the hallmarks of the recognized and established `religious cults', some of which also have an interest in UFOs and extraterrestrial life. A popular Krishna book is called Easy Journeys to Other Planets and claims that all worlds, including the Moon, are inhabited. To date, I have met no ex- Aetherian, ex-Raelian, etc. I feel that ex-UFO cultists should be encouraged and welcomed to join ex-cultist support groups, as their need, contribution, and participation in cult-counseling and support work is as valid, essential, and worthy as that of any ex member of any other cult.

Many ex-cultists are haunted after escaping from their respective cults, by the feeling that the initial experience that attracted them was genuine, but that the cult, and its leader somehow lost it. The UFO cultist will feel this just as strongly, and perhaps more so, as the initial UFO sighting that they had may have occurred years before they joined the cult they got involved in. They may want to reject the cult, but not the initial experience that inspired their involvement. That will have to be respected.

My own writing here is perhaps a shade sceptical for the comfort of some. This is perhaps a way of redressing the balance. There are plenty of pro-UFO books available (for example Mark Chapman's Flying Saucers Over Britain?', Mayflower 1978, and the Orbis part works issues and reissues of The Unexplained, most of which catalogue sightings of UFOs one after another. Study the case for and against and then make up your mind; but whether the aliens exist, and are friendly or not, you still don't need a cult; UFO-cult or otherwise.

Copyright. Arthur Chappell                                  










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