The Earth is a Dangerous Place --
The World View of the Aetherius Society
John A Saliba
University of Detroit Mercy
Religious Studies Department
Current UFO accounts display many of the themes that have been central in
most, if not all, of the world's religions (Saliba 1995). The widespread belief
in flying saucers and the religious connotations ascribed to their presence
have contributed to the emergence of several religious organizations based on
the existence and activities of extraterrestrial intelligences who are believed
to communicate with select human beings. Moreover, many UFO experiences have
been frightening and foreboding. Reports of abductions (cf. Jacobs 1993; Mack
1994) are noted also for stressing the dangers that aliens present to a
scientifically inferior human race and for the imminent apocalyptic scenario
they so often graphically depict (Whitmore 1993). The drastic demise of the
members of Heaven's Gate has lent support to the popular view that UFO
religions are dangerous apocalyptic cults and may lead their members to commit
suicide or other forms of violence.
It is doubtful, however, whether the depiction of all UFO religions as
dangerous groups can be corroborated by the currently available data. Of the
UFO organizations listed by Melton (1996) in his encyclopedia, the majority are
quite harmless and not prone to violence. While many look forward to an age
when human life will be improved through contact with aliens, only a few
maintain that the end of the world is imminent, or that the advent of the
flying saucers is about to happen, or that the aliens are nefarious and
dangerous entities intent of destroying humankind. This paper examines a
contemporary flying saucer religion, namely, the Aetherius Society, and
attempts to show, by an examination of its world view, that it does not fit
into the foreboding scenario found especially in the popular media. It will concentrate on providing
ethnographic materials on an UFO group which, though often referred to, has
never been described or studied in any depth in scholarly literature. Bearing
in mind the recent debates in anthropological literature (Barnard 1996;
Headland, Pike, and Harris 1990), it will take an emic, rather than an etic
viewpoint and aim at depicting the Society's world view from the "inside out"
rather than from the "outside in." It will reproduce, and reach conclusions
from, data provided by the Aetherius Society itself. Such an approach is
justified both from practical and theoretical point of views. From a practical
viewpoint, there is so little scholarly information on the Society that one has
no choice but to rely on its publications and on the researcher's interactions
with its members. From a theoretical viewpoint, it can be argued that, in
order to conclude whether a UFO group proposes an impending apocalyptic doom
and can be judged to be dangerous, one has to understand the role UFOs play in
the world view of believers themselves.
2) The Aetherius Society and its Founder
The Aetherius Society, one of the most well-known flying-saucer
religions, was founded in
the mid-1950s by the late George King (1919-1997) who claimed to have received
continual communications, through physical contact, trance, and telepathy, from
various extraterrestrial beings who stem mainly from different planets in our
solar system. His eminence Dr. George King, as the members of the Society
usually address him, has been lavished with innumerable titles, academic
degrees, and honors. He is
credited with countless skills, accomplishments, and missions (Cosmic
Voice, vol. 16, May 1977: 1-8). He is regarded as a charismatic leader by
the society's members and is referred to in its literature as an author,
inventor, metaphysician, occultist, prophet, psychic, spiritual healer,
spiritual leader, teacher, yogi, and Aquarian master. The following dedication
in tribute to George King at his death sums up the high esteem in which the
Society's members hold him (Cosmic Voice 1997):
To his eminence Sir George King, Beloved Master and Cosmic Avatar whose
long life of selfless Service and sacrifice is the example to all who would
dedicate their lives to God through practical Spiritual Action, and thus bring
a New Age of Peace and Enlightenment to the Earth for the benefit of their
fellow man [sic].
Roy Wallis (1974) describes King in classical Weberian terms, namely as a
mystagogue who "offers a largely magical means of salvation." The reason for
this is probably because King created and directed a number of spiritual and
occult techniques and invented artifacts which seem to have magical power. An
example of this is a "radionic pendulum," designed by King and intended to tap
the forces of human intuition and to be used for character analysis and psychic
experimentation. Moreover, the word "magic" is sometimes used by the Society to
refer to a supernatural, mystical, or extraterrestrial activity (King 1979;
Members of the society, however, tend to see King's inventions as
scientific, and not just magical. Further, they describe salvation in terms of
the laws of karma and understand and stress King's role also as that of a
teacher who conveys messages and instructions from extraterrestrial beings with
whom he collaborates in various projects. He is not only a miracle worker or a
dispenser of magical rites. In some ways he can be seen as a prophetic figure
in the original meaning of the term, namely, a person who conveys messages and
instructions from supernatural or supranormal beings. His meetings with
extraterrestrials have been described as "divine" encounters (King 1996: 31).
The Society's literature contains a dramatic description of how King
received his commission and his initial reaction to it; a description which
tends to support the view that his leadership is also prophetic. The meetings
between King and extraterrestrials began in May 1954 when, one day, he heard a
voice tell him: "Prepare yourself. You are to become the voice of
Interplanetary Parliament." King, who had not previously read any book on
flying saucers, experienced both loneliness and frustration. He retreated in
meditation and contemplation. Eight days later he was visited by a man dressed
in white robes whom he recognized as "a modern leader of spiritual thought in
India." Apparently aware that King was having doubts about his ability to carry
out the mission assigned to him, the visitor told him: "It is not for you to
judge whether you are worthy to be chosen, my son." The visitor then gave King
instructions regarding certain yogic practices and departed through the closed
The mission entrusted to King has not been without its dangers. It brought
him hardships and suffering. When he began publicizing the transmissions from
extraterrestrials he faced prejudice, opposition, and sometimes ridicule from
all sides. Even his friends drew his attention to the dangers of going into
trance before a general audience (Aetherius Society n.d., 3). It is not
surprising that one finds that King's accomplishments and dedication have been
approved of and complemented by those extraterrestrial whose messages he
channels (Cosmic Voice, issue 20, June/July 1959: 21; and issue 21,
December/January 1959-60: 5-6).
The Aetherius Society, which gets it name from the pseudonym of a being
from Planet Venus who first contacted George King, is probably the most
well-organized Flying-saucer religion. In the words of Ellwood and Parker
(1988:126), "it has by far the tightest organization, and the most explicitly
religious structure." It has been officially incorporated in several countries
as a charitable, educational, and/or religious organization. It is run by a board of
international directors who
have handled the daily affairs of the Society for some time. Its work is
closely linked to the directives of the Cosmic Masters who are believed to use
the Society as an essential tool for the purpose of achieving universal peace
and world enlightenment (Aetherius Society Newsletter, vol. 3, February
1964: 2). Its members participate in this noble task and become "builders of
the New Age" (Aetherius Society Newsletter, vol. 3, March 1964: 2). The
aims of the Aetherius Society are outlined in detail as follows:
(1) to spread the teachings of the Master Aetherius, Jesus, and other
(2) to administer spiritual healing;
(3) to prepare the way for the coming of the next Master;
(4) to organize the Society so as to create favorable conditions for closer
contact and ultimately meetings with people from other planets;
(5) to tune in and irradiate the Power transmitted during a Holy Time or
Spiritual Push, in order to balance all spiritual practices, irrespective of
(6) to form a brotherhood based on the teachings and knowledge of the
(7) to spread the spiritual operation known as Operation Starlight
throughout the world, as directed by the Space People.
There are two headquarters, one for North America, located in Los
Angeles, and one for Europe, located in London. Branches, groups, and
representatives can be found on several continents, including North America
(U.S.A. and Canada), Europe (England), Africa (Nigeria and Ghana), and
Australia. Its membership,
though not very large, is thus varied.
In the United States, members are more likely
to be adult, middle-class, and white. Its overall membership, however, is
multi-racial and multicultural. Men and women share leadership roles in the
Society both in its administrative and ritual functions. There is,
unfortunately, little sociological data on the Society's members. The main
reason for this is that the Society does not release membership statistics and
is not amenable to scholarly efforts to conduct surveys and reviews. Some internal hierarchy exists.
There are bishops and directors of local branches. Members can progress through
four degrees of initiation
and obtain Merit awards.
The Society does not accept members under 18 years old, unless they have their
The Society publishes King's books and taped lectures, a journal, The
Cosmic Voice, which has been in print since 1956, and The Aetherius
Society Newsletter. These publications cover many topics, including
transmissions from cosmic masters, items of information and news from the
Society's headquarters and various branches, reports on the activities of
members, and columns on the Cosmic Teachings.
The Aetherius Society harbors and encourages good relationships with other
religions from which it incorporates several religious themes and spiritual
goals. Unlike some of the new religious organizations, the Society does not
proselytize. It is not a "'converting' organization" (King 1996: 53). Its
members have never embarked on an evangelization campaign and, consequently,
the Society does not fit into the popular image of a new religion that indulges
in heavy-handed recruiting tactics. It rarely criticizes other belief systems.
Nor does it hold itself to be the only organization doing good for the human
Its members, however, believe that the Society has a function that is not
being fulfilled by the other faiths. In one transmission from one
extraterrestrial named Mars Sector 6, King maintains that it was revealed that
"the orthodox religions have been given every opportunity to make known the
great Truths. They have failed because they have chosen to exercise petty free
will. Now the great Truths are being released to Terra through metaphysical
means..." (Cosmic Voice, issue 24, April/May 1961: 23; cf. King 1975:
49-50). Similarly, King is not the only possible channel for extraterrestrials.
Yet, at the present time, extraterrestrial beings, particularly Mars Sector 6
and Master Aetherius, are communicating their messages only through
King. More recently,
Richard Lawrence (1997), reflecting on the future of the Society after King's
death, writes: "Over and over again, the plans and teachings of great Avatars
have not gone ahead correctly after their lifetime. Ours is greater than any
previous spiritual legacy, but it will work only if we make it work."
Sometimes, the traditional faiths are criticized. Thus, for example, in a
transmission from the Master Aetherius, it is said that the teachings of Jesus
were "cut to ribbons" by the Elders of Constantinople in 550 A.D., though they
have survived and become widespread throughout the world (Cosmic Voice,
vol. 1:15). Moreover, the work of the Society is given a preeminent role in
comparison to that of other religions. It is believed, for instance, that the
results of the performance of two of the Aetherius Society's major missions was
945 times more valuable than the combined activities of Buddhism and
Christianity (Aetherius Society Newsletter, vol. 19, March 1980: 3;
Aetherius Society 1992: 14).
4) Major Beliefs
The beliefs of the Aetherius Society are rather complex. As an organization
that promotes occult wisdom, it incorporates ideas from various religious
traditions. Reference to God is common in its prayers (King 1966), though the
planetary beings appear to occupy the central stage in the members' spiritual
lives. Its main beliefs are listed as follows:
Some of the major beliefs and goals of the Society are summarized in "nine
freedoms," which express its goals as well as the stages of spiritual
development open to all human beings (King 1963). These freedoms consist of (1)
bravery; (2) love; (3) service; (4) enlightenment; (5) cosmic consciousness;
(6) ascension (i.e., freedom from rebirth); (7) inter-planetary existence; (8)
Saturian existence; and (9) solar existence.
- Service to mankind is the most essential yoga or religion in these
- Jesus, Buddha, Krishna and other religious leaders were of extraterrestrial
origin and came to Earth to help mankind.
- The essential teachings of all major religions are similar in nature and
that all religious people should cooperate with each other.
- Karma and reincarnation are two natural, all pervasive laws of God.
There is advanced, intelligent life on other planets.
- Some UFOs are intelligently controlled extraterrestrial spacecraft visiting
this Earth. Unlike many UFO groups we believe that extraterrestrials are
friendly and are here to help mankind in our development.
- Man, as with all life, is a divine spark of the Creator, our God, and that
Earth is a classroom on the evolutionary ladder of life back to the source from
which we all came.
- The Mother Earth is a living breathing entity which is thousands of
lives more evolved than we are.
- Yoga and meditation are considered to be very important (cf. King 1955).
George King is also said to be a Master of Yoga, a well-advanced stage that he
achieved at an early age and later enhanced by practices given by a Master who
resides on Earth. Meditation or Samadhi is, according to the Society, the
experiential state of Adeptship "when the soul is bathed in the Light of pure
Spirit and one becomes a knower of truth." Mantras are also frequently repeated
One of these freedoms, namely, spiritual service, is a recurrent theme that
runs through all the teachings of the Aetherius Society (cf. Lawrence n.d.:
5-7). The greatest Yoga and the greatest religion is service to humankind. It
will lead to enlightenment and raise the power of kundalini within the
individual (King 1963: 50-51). Many of the operations and missions upon which
the Society has embarked should be understood primarily as intended acts of
service to the human race which has at times placed itself on the edge of
5) Interplanetary Beings
One of the Aetherius Society's main beliefs is the existence of a kind of
pantheon of beings, referred to as Interplanetary Intelligences, who form a
spiritual hierarchy concerned with the welfare of planet Earth. These beings,
unlike the aliens of abduction accounts, are for the most part benign, compassionate,
peace-loving, and dedicated to the service of others and, scientifically and
spiritually, millions of years ahead of the human race here on Earth. They live
in a paradisial state and place, where old age, disease, natural disasters, and
wars do not exist. In the Society's literature there is mention of four
Interplanetary Beings (Shri Krishna, the Lord Buddha, the Master Jesus, and Lao
Tsu) who descended to Earth as teachers. The Great White Brotherhood, made up
of Masters from all races, is, according to the Society, the spiritual
hierarchy on Earth and is made up of Adepts, Masters, and Ascended Masters
whose chief function is to preserve and develop spirituality upon Earth.
Among those from whom George King allegedly receives messages are Master
Aetherius, Master Jesus, and Mars Sectors 6 and 8. These messages contain
detailed descriptions of several "Cosmic Intelligences," of their planetary
habitats, and of the major types of space craft they use. Master Aetherius, for
example, was, like Jesus, born on Venus and has a physical body which is not
only adapted to the conditions of the planet but can also adapt to those on
Saturn. As a representative of the Interplanetary Governmental System he is
commissioned to help human beings realize that they are drifting away from
ancient Wisdom (Cosmic Voice, issue 14, February/May, 1958: 18).
Martians are described as having brown skin without any blemish or wrinkle.
They are of moderate height with wide shoulders and long dark hair. Their faces
are hairless and they look younger than they really are. They move with
controlled grace and have great physical strength and mental alertness (King
1961: 44ff.; 1963: 120ff.; cf., Cosmic Voice, issue 19, March/April,
1959: 4ff.). Beings from the various planets wear seamless one-piece garments
to protect themselves from bacteria. On their planets they have neither a
monetary system nor a political organization (King 1964a: 9-12). Large "Mother
ships," "Scout Patrol Vessels," and "Special-purpose Vessels" are among those
accounted for in the Aetherius Society's literature (King 1964a: 4-8). The
reason why these beings cannot land openly is because of the negative karmic
effects caused by human beings through their neglect of both God's laws and the
Teachings of the Masters.
Many details about life on the various planets can be found in the
transcribed communications to King. The canals of Mars are said to be strips of
vegetation. Its inhabitants have erected their buildings both on and under the
surface of the planet; while most of those who live on Jupiter, Venus, and
Saturn reside in cities and communities beneath the surface (King 1958: 5-6,
11, 18, & 22).
6) Apocalyptic Concerns
Some of the teachings of the Aetherius Society have led one scholar, Robert
Ellwood, to place the Society within the Theosophical tradition. The literature
of the Aetherius Society in the late 1950s and early 1960s exhibits both great
concern for the dangers of atomic warfare and fallout as well as excitement
about UFO sightings. Accounts that the planet Earth is under attack by evil
cosmic forces and references to the coming of the next cosmic Master, may have led Ellwood to interpret
the struggles with evil forces as apocalyptic in nature and to conclude that
"like the Adamski teachings, Aetherius can be thought of as apocalyptic
theosophy" (Ellwood 1993: 93; cf. Ellwood 1995: 396).
While one must admit that the Aetherius Society has been influenced by
theosophical thought, it is doubtful whether it can be called apocalyptic if
this includes an eschatological scenario that foretells the imminent end of the
world (Cf. Collins 1987: 334-36; Bull 1995). Nor can it be called apocalyptic
if this implies that a specific time for the landing of the aliens has been
foretold. Unlike leaders of some UFO religions, such as Ernest and Ruth Norman
of Unarius, Science of Life and Rael of the Raelian Movement, George King has
never announced a particular date for the arrival on earth of alien beings in
flying saucers. Much less has he attempted to prophesy the precise time for the
advent of a millennium or for the end of the world. Reacting to the news that
the members of Heaven's Gate had committed suicide, the Aetherius Society
immediately warns the readers of its Web Page: "Don't look for a space craft
following Hale-Bopp and don't expect the second coming or the end of the world
to follow either." It further explained such strange theories as those
propounded by Heaven's Gate as follows: "In these days of rapid technological
growth, especially in the West, we see technology advancing faster than
spiritual growth. This is creating a very dangerous imbalance. This has of
course been noticed and written about by many. The mass suicide in San Diego is
just another example of this trend."
In fact, some of the transmissions from the Masters suggest that the end is
far from near. Master Aetherius, for example, is recorded to have said that the
"Third satellite will continue to come into Orbit of your Earth for many
centuries to come" (King c1975: 6, 30). He has also given to King the dates for
the next 1,000 years during which Satellite No. 3 will be operating round the
Earth (King, c1975: 34ff.). The society believes that we are on the verge of a
great millennium, the Age of Aquarius, which is described as follows (King
In the Age of Aquarius we will see a merging of science and religion; a
breaking down of the barriers between different religions and cultural and
racial groups; the introduction of mysticism into orthodox thinking to bring a
deeper realization about the meaning of life in all aspects; and, above all, a
much clearer realization and recognition of the importance of Service to
Even though one of the goals of the Society is to prepare for the eventual
coming of the next Master, there has never been any attempt to specify the time
of his arrival. King has stated that when the next Master will arrive, he will
come as an adult in a spacecraft and present irrefutable credentials to the
Earth's leaders. Though it is said that he will come "shortly," his arrival
will depend on whether there are enough people prepared to receive him (King
1978; 1996: 141-44). Hence, the time of his appearance is somewhat of a
mystery. Judging from their literature, the Society's members believe that they
are doing their best to prepare for his advent, but appear unconcerned with the
exact time of his arrival or of the end of human history. Moreover, in their
regular prayer services, apocalyptic concerns are not present. In some respects
the attitude of the members of the Aetherius Society to the coming of the next
Master and the New Age is not unlike the mainline Christian belief in the
Second Coming of Christ or the Parousia. King (1996: 145) writes:
The work of the Aetherius Society is to bring as much positive change to
our world as possible before the coming of the Next Master, so when it does
take place, as many people as possible are prepared to respond to it. It may
happen tomorrow, it may happen in a hundred years, or it may happen after
Reflecting on the same issue, Richard Lawrence (1997) remarks:
You and I personally, I am sure, would like the next Master to land
tomorrow. But from the point of view of mankind as a whole it would not be so
good. When the next Master comes it is the end of the life-it is the time of
decision. What the missions have done, and will continue to do, is to alleviate
earthquakes, flood, and other catastrophes...So, ironically, what we are doing
may be putting back the date of the coming of the next Master to give mankind a
chance to change before He comes. It cannot be put back indefinitely but it
does show that the Plan is changing.
This is certainly not the apocalyptic frenzy of some Christian evangelists
who are preparing for the impending disasters prior to the reappearance of
Christ, or of UFO groups like Heaven's Gate who have taken steps to meet the
flying saucers. Recent short descriptions (Barrett 1996: 202-205; Perdue 1998)
of the Aetherius Society omit any reference to any impending apocalyptic
predictions. Even one anticult organization, while ridiculing the Aetherius
Society's beliefs, has admitted that there is "a benign anti-apocalyptic
humanity behind the Society's aims."
Members of the Aetherius Society are not preoccupied with an imminent
catastrophe that will mark the end of the world. Rather they believe that the
Earth faces periodic disasters of vast proportions. These calamities, which
may stem from both internal and external sources, can, and have been on several
occasions, averted. They are not inevitable or fatalistic. Thus, for example,
there was an urgency to the early messages King received from the Space
Intelligences. Some of these beings, referred to as the "Lords of the Ineffable
Flame of the Logos of the Earth," are endowed with unlimited power and could,
if necessary, prevent human beings from destroying the planet through atomic
warfare (Cosmic Voice, vol. 11, July 1972: 1-2.). Others visit the Earth
regularly to protect it from the wrong thoughts and actions of humankind and to
help humans to live according to God's laws so that dangerous situations may be
interrupted and prevented from harming the human race (Aetherius Society 1992:
Much of the work of the Society is dedicated to counter various forces of
destruction. The attitudes of the Society's members are rather similar to those
Christians who, while making a pessimistic analysis of the present situation,
which is judged to be heading towards the establishment of Satan's kingdom on
Earth, still see a ray of hope because human beings can save civilization by
returning to God's plan through repentance and/or ritual acts. Members of the Aetherius Society
believe that, in spite of the dangers that human beings encounter on Earth,
there is always help from higher intelligences who are willing to intervene on
behalf of the human race. A good instance of this is the work of the Three
Adepts who "are highly trained Individuals from another Planetary culture, much
more advanced than that of Earth, who have taken residence in Earth physical
bodies in order to help terrestrial man in times of dire need" (King c1975:
13). These Adepts go periodically to the lower astral regions of the Earth to
counteract and transform the evil brought about by human intelligences whose
deeds had led them to the lower astral planes. The cosmic battles with evil forces or
intelligences also bear some resemblance to the fundamentalist Christian
concept of "spiritual warfare," shorn of its imminent apocalyptic content (cf.
Murphy 1992; Passantino and Passantino 1991).
The Society's literature contains several records which corroborate their
belief that the Earth had been on the brink of annihilation. Two serious incidents, namely the
Alien Mission and Operation Karmalight, occurred after the Primary Initiation
of Earth. The Alien Mission
began in May, 1965. Intelligences outside our galaxy had fabricated a non-human
android and placed it in the lower astral regions of the Earth. Shaken by the
effects of the Primary Initiation of Earth, the android began its programmed
activities designed to take control over all life on Earth with the intention
of using this planet as a base to strike at other parts of the solar system.
The alien android was almost indestructible and, because of the deadly
thought-forms it could create, placed the Earth and its inhabitants in a
precarious situation. For eight months George King and the Three Adepts, aided
by other agencies including members of the Great White Brotherhood, engaged in
combat with the android and succeeded in extracting it from its location and
sending it out of the solar system.
Operation Karmalight, which began in October 1967 and lasted 16 months, was
directed against Satan who made an attempt to bring under his control the lower
astral realms as well as all other life forms on Earth. The Adepts, whose task
was to "transmute" the evil entity (Satan), encountered several difficulties
but successfully completed their mission in 24 phases. The success of this
operation, however, upset the balance of power in the lower astral realms. This
was also remedied by the Adepts in a number of phases which lasted until
Another danger from outside the solar system threatened the Earth in 1972.
Described as a "World Emergency," this threat came from an alien race which
attempted to draw off the Earth's spiritual energy it needed for survival.
These invaders are described as small beings (four to five inches long), with
ant-like features, and with the ability to move at great speed. Their actions
would have led to the eradication of all life on Earth. The Adepts once again
came to the rescue of the human race which wasn't even aware of the impending
disaster. By a show of force without exercising any violence, they convinced
the aliens to stop their activities and escorted them away from the planet.
Other intelligences then led them out of the solar system.
The Garouche incident is yet another instance of the dangers that the Earth
faces from outside evil forces. King relates how once he was called upon to
help the Intelligences of Mars fight off an evil planetoid that was bent on
destroying them. Scientists from Mars had landed on this meteorite to mine its
minerals by robots. The destruction of several Martian craft and their crew,
however, indicated that an evil intelligence inhabited the planetoid, had taken
control of the robots, and was manufacturing atomic weapons which, if used,
would damage Mars. After an intense struggle, with the help of intelligences
from Venus and Saturn, the evil entity split the planetoid in two and was
King explains how later on he learned that the planetoid was launched by
four evil beings who lived on a world known by the pseudonym "Garouche," which
is located at the end of the galaxy from our solar system. He was allowed to
intervene, not physically but in a super-conscious projected state, in the
counterattack because he lived on Earth himself. He writes (King 1961:
The evil entities who had made this weapon wanted to conquer Earth because,
as they were water dwellers themselves, the conditions here could be easily
adapted for their use. The idea of these monsters was to kill all humanoid life
on Earth and then inhabit the seas which cover a greater part of the
The Martians, knowing of this evil intention, actually intervened to save
the Earth which could not have defended itself against such overwhelming
To the outsider, such accounts are comparable to the intergalactic wars of
science fiction. To the members of the Aetherius Society, however, they are
real events which denote the human struggle both on a physical and spiritual
level. While these incidents forebode danger to life on Earth, none of them was
the harbinger of the imminent end of human history or of the world nor were
they the precursors of the advent of aliens in their flying saucers.
7) Main Operations and Missions
In practice, much of the work of members of the Society is dedicated to
conducting and/or maintaining several major operations and/or missions, some of
which confirm the members' preoccupation with the perils to which the Earth is
exposed. Among these missions are (cf. Aetherius Society 1992: 20ff.):
(1) Operation Starlight, a Mission which began in Holdstone Down in Devon,
England, in July 1958, and continued till August 1961. During this period 19
select mountains were charged with spiritual energy that can be radiated to
uplift our world by anyone who prays unselfishly on them. Located in different
parts of the world (9 in England, 4 in the USA, 2 in Australia, and one in each
of the following countries, Tanganyika, New Zealand, Switzerland, and France),
they can be used to send out spiritual energies to the world by anyone who,
with pure and selfless motives, climbs them and prays for peace and
enlightenment (King c1975: 55-56). These mountains are at times used in
Operation Power Light, a mission whose purpose "is to manipulate and radiate
powerful, highly beneficial Spiritual Energies for World Healing and
(2) Operation Space Power, a Mission which began in 1959 and continues till
the present time. The Mission involves the cooperation of the Aetherius Society
with Interplanetary Beings to radiate spiritual power to Earth during
"Spiritual Pushes." At certain times of the year, Satellite No. 3, which is
invisible to the naked eye and undetectable by radar, gathers spiritual
energies from the Sun and transmits them to specially-designed radiators
invented by King and housed in the Society's American and European headquarters
(3) Operation Bluewater, which alleviated the effects of a warp in the
earth's magnetic field, a warp produced by atomic experiments and the negative
thoughts and actions of human beings that interfere with the natural flow of
spiritual energies to Earth. It was "specially designed by the Cosmic masters
and executed by people on Earth to give back directly to the Earth some the
energy which had been taken unfeelingly from it." (King c1975: 66). The mission
had four phases, from July 1963 to November 1964, and took place over one of
the Earth's psychic centers in the Pacific Ocean off Newport Beach, Southern
California. A crew was trained to carry out the mission under the direction of
King who remained mentally in touch with the space intelligences during the
intricate boat maneuvers. Energy was gathered and intensified through specially
constructed equipment and transferred to the psychic center.
(4) Operation Sunbeam (King 1979), through which spiritual energy is
restored to the Earth as a token repayment for all the energy humanity has
taken from it. Credit to this Mission goes to King, who is its inventor,
organizer, and coordinator and who has received for his work several awards
from The Academy of Space Sciences. This mission, which was started in
September 1966 and which has gone through several hundred phases, continues
periodically. Batteries were carried up to Mount Baldy, charged with spiritual
energy, and later discharged into the psychic center off the California coast.
Operation Sunbeam has been extended over several phases to different psychic
centers. The importance of this mission was confirmed by the space
intelligences who revealed to King that it was the "greatest metaphysical
Mission being performed on Earth today by any organization or even country!"
(Aetherius Society 1992: 39).
(5) Operation Prayer Power is a mission that involves the storing of
spiritual energy through the prayers and mantras of members, an energy that can
be released to relieve suffering anywhere on Earth. Devised by King himself,
this Operation was accepted, in 1975, in the cosmic plan for the earth's
salvation and enlightenment. Prayer sessions are held once a week to generate
spiritual energy which is then transmitted and stored in power batteries
(Aetherius Society 1992: 60-64). In times of specific crises, prayers have been
released to avert conflicts and wars and to mitigate the dire effects of
natural disasters, such as earthquakes, tornadoes, and hurricanes, and of human
actions, such as wars and atomic fallout (King 1996: 106-11).
8) Ritual Practices
The rituals of the Aetherius Society, which can be rather
carried out on a weekly basis and on special commemorative occasions. The
temple (often a small room) where the services are held is usually decorated
with religious symbols that include a photograph of George King and a portrait
of the Master Jesus. Members sit either in a circle or in rows facing a
sanctuary area where religious objects are displayed and from where the
officiating ministers lead the congregation.
Every week the following services are held: (1) a prayer meeting that
includes a short meditation period, the recitation of some segments of the
Twelve Blessings of Jesus, and petitions for the healing at a distance for
anyone who has requested to be placed on the healing list; (2) a service
dedicated to Operation Prayer Power; (3) a private healing service; and (4) a
regular Sunday service, during which taped instructions or lectures of King and
messages from various planetary beings might be played.
On a yearly basis the start and/or completion of several of the Missions
and Operations are commemorated. Pilgrimages to the Holy Mountains, charged
with spiritual power during Operation Starlight, are periodically made by
devoted members of the Society (cf., Aetherius Society 1996).
Various other spiritual practices are also encouraged. Instructions for
spiritual healing, correct breathing exercises for promoting mental balance and
spiritual well-being, healthy drinking and eating habits, and aura cleansing
exercises can be found in the Society's literature (King n.d.). Yoga plays an
important part in the lives of the Society's members since it is the means by
which an individual comes into contact with his or her Higher Self and thus
acquires the knowledge and understanding of truth (King 1964b).
9) Future of the Society
The future of new religious movements has been one of the concerns of
scholars studying them (Bromley and Hammond 1987). Sociologists tend to look on
new religious groups as dynamic organizations subject to change. New movements
can remain marginal in the society in which they sprung; or they could simple
die out because of internal conflicts and/or outwards pressures. They could
alternatively grow into larger bodies and become established religious groups.
This, in the opinion of Stark and Bainbridge, is not very plausible. They think
that "all contemporary cult movements contain too much magic to become really
successful mass movements"(Stark and Bainbridge 1985: 456) and they expect no
single new religious movement to become a dominant force in Western culture.
The future of the Aetherius Society depends very much on what happens in
the aftermath of the demise of its leader. Even during the last few years prior
to King's death, there seems to have been very little speculation among members
of the Society on this issue. Some believe that George King will not be
succeeded by another Master as the Primary Mental Channel. One transmission
from the Master Aetherius states explicitly: "When George King--as you call
him--has to vacate the terrestrial body he now inhabits, he will not be
replaced" (King c1975: 7). Other maintain that in the unspecified future a
Cosmic Intelligence could come to Earth and be the next Master with a mandate
to act as the spokesman for the Interplanetary Intelligences.
What will happen to the Aetherius Society is open to several speculative
(1) After the death of it's founder, the members will disband and the
Society will cease to exist. This is unlikely to happen since, as Gordon Melton
has remarked, "the death of the founder rarely proves fatal or leads to drastic
alteration in the group's life" (Melton 1991: 7). It has, in fact, not
happened. Rather the Society, a year and half after King's death, is continuing
to operate with
no visible changes in the religious lives of its members.
(2) The Society will split into several branches as happened to other
religious movements. There is no indication, however, that any rifts between
members have occurred and there are no signs of factions within the Society.
The Board of Directors is carrying on business as usual and there is no
evidence of internal conflicts between individuals vying for control. The
relatively small size of its membership is likely to militate against divisions
(cf. Melton 1991: 7).
(3) The Society will become an institutionalized religious organization
with authority and charisma vested in itself. The succession of authority,
necessary if the organization is to survive, will pass from George King to the
membership or board of directors. This is what is apparently taking place. The
fact that the Society has been a well-structured organization with a
well-defined religious agenda favors such institutionalization. As Gordon
Melton (1991: 8) has pointed out "once the founder articulates the group's
teachings and practices, they exist independently of him/her and can and do
develop a life of their own."
To some extent the Aetherius Society had already begun the process of
institutionalization before King's death. Its leader made provision for the
continuation of the society's missions. He not only established the Board of
Directors which would provide a mechanism for governance, but also stated
explicitly (King 1989) that after he is gone, the members of the Society will
still be able to cooperate with the uplifting, healing, and inspiring spiritual
energies sent from Satellite 3.
Less than two years after King's death, the Aetherius Society has already
assumed the task of continuing King's work. Thus, for example one of the
missions of the Society, known as the Saturn Mission, was initiated by George
King in 1981 with the primary function of contributing to "World Peace and
Devic Stabilization." During its operation, special energies are discharged
over one of the Earth's psychic centers. George King had always taken the lead
in the many phases of this mission since its inception. But in 1994 the Saturn
Mission was offered to the Aetherius Society for the future. The first phase
after King's death took place in November, 1988 and was conducted by specially
trained members of the Society over Lake Powell, in Utah. Other Missions can continue without the
presence and direction of George King.
Another example of the move towards institutionalization is the exercise
known as a "Spiritual Push." Since the 1950s the Society's members have
believed that a massive spacecraft, known as Satellite No. 3 and manned by the
Cosmic Masters, came into the Earth's orbit to beam the correct energy to those
people, irrespective of their belief or nationality, involved in helping
humankind. The result has been that many human disasters, such as nuclear war,
have been averted and the spiritual evolution of the human race has been
enhanced. There are set times, four every year, when this satellite is believed
to come into orbit and radiate its energies. Consequently, the members of the
Aetherius Society can respond to the presence of and activity of the Cosmic
Masters without the aid and direction of George King. However, this Satellite
"often comes into Earth orbit for what are called Emergence Periods, which
change from year to year. The Aetherius Society is informed through Sir George
of these Emergency Periods just before they start." With the departure of King, the members of the
Society can follow the procedures during the set times, but they do not have a
way of being informed of emergence situations - unless they develop a mechanism
for divining when these periods occur.
It is, therefore, likely that the Aetherius Society will continue to
function as a small religious movement or organization where belief in flying
saucers is central and whose main mission is to protect the Earth from evil
forces and prepare it for the millennium.
1961. "Preface." You Are Responsible! In George King, pp.
n.d. The Story of the Aetherius Society. Hollywood, CA: Aetherius
The Aetherius Society Newsletter, 1962-1996.
1992. Temple Degree Study Courses. Hollywood, CA: The Aetherius
1996. The Aetherius Society Calendar: With the Annual Commemoration
Dates for 1996. Hollywood, CA: Aetherius Society.
1996. "Emic and Ethic." Encyclopedia of Social and Cultural
Anthropology. Ed. Alan Barnard and Jonathan Spencer. New York:
Barrett, David V.
1996. Sects, Cults, & Alternative Religions: A World Survey and
Sourcebook. London: Blandford.
Bromley, David G., and Phillips E. Hammond.
1987. The Future of New Religious Movements. Macon GA: Mercer
Bull, Malcolm, ed.
1995. Apocalypse Theory and the Ends of the World. Oxford, UK:
Collins, John J.
1987. "Apocalypse: An Overview," Encyclopedia of Religion, ed.
Mircea Eliade. New York: Macmillan, vol. 1: 334-36.
1955-1996. [Note: the first few years of this journal have been republished
in 2 volumes. Also, the numbering of this publication is not even. For the
first few years it was published as "issues" every few months (with some
exceptions). By the late 1970 it came out in volumes.]
Cosmic Voice, Special Memorial Tribute Edition.
1997. "A Cosmic Avatar Departs: George King 1919-1997."
Ellwood, Robert S.
1993. Islands of the Dawn: The Story of Alternative Spirituality in New
Zealand. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, pp. 92-94.
Ellwood, Robert S., and Harry B. Partin.
1995. "UFO Religious Movements." America's Alternative Religions.
Ed. Timothy Miller. Albany: State University of New York Press, pp.
1988. Religious and Spiritual Groups in Modern American. Englewood
Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2nd ed.
Ferreira, Cornelia R.
1991. "The New Age Movement: The Kingdom of Satan on Earth," Homiletic
and Pastoral Review 91: 10-23.
Headland, T., K. L. Pike, and M. Harris, eds.
1990. Emics and Ethics: The Insider/Outsider Debate. Newbury Park,
CA: Sage Publications.
Heard, Alex, and Peter Klebnikov.
1998. "Apocalypse Now. No, Really. Now!" The New York Times
Magazine, December 27, section 6, pp. 40-43.
Jacobs, David M.
1993. Secret Life: Firsthand Documented Accounts of UFO Abductions.
New York: Simon and Schuster.
Keneipp, Brian Christian.
1996. "Alien Abductions: Some Surprising Answers!" Cosmic Voice,
vol. 17 (June/July): 13-15.
1955. Contact Your Higher Self Through Yoga. Los Angeles: Aetherius
King, George, ed.
1958. Life on the Planets. Hollywood, CA: Aetherius Society.
1961. You Are Responsible! Hollywood, CA: Aetherius Society.
1962. The Twelve Blessings. Hollywood, CA: Aetherius Society.
1963. The Nine Freedoms. Hollywood, CA: Aetherius Society.
1964a. The Flying Saucers: A Report on the Flying Saucers, Their Crews
and Their Mission to Earth. Hollywood, CA: Aetherius Society.
1964b. Contact Your Higher Self Through Yoga. Hollywood, CA:
1966. A Book of Sacred Prayers. Hollywood, CA: Aetherius
c.1975. The Five Temples of God. Hollywood, CA: Aetherius
1978. "The Next Master is Coming." Cassette tape, C-13. Hollywood, CA:
1979. Operation Sunbeam: God's Magic in Action. Hollywood, CA:
Aetherius Society. [First published in 1958.]
1982. Operation Space Magic: The Cosmic Connection. Hollywood, CA:
1987. Operation Space Power: The Solution of the Spiritual Energy
Crisis. Hollywood, CA: Aetherius Society.
1988. Life on the Planets. Hollywood, CA: Aetherius Society. [First
published in 1958.]
1989. Contact with a Lord of Karma. Hollywood, CA: Aetherius
n.d. The Practices of Aetherius. Hollywood, CA: Aetherius
1996. With Richard Lawrence. Contacts with the Gods From Space: Pathway
to the New Millennium. Hollywood, CA: Aetherius Society.
1963. Wisdom of the Planets. Hollywood, CA: Aetherius
1996. "Wars in Heaven." Gnosis, No. 38 (Winter issue):
n.d. "The Theology of Aetherius." [Unpublished paper.]
1997. "The Future Depends on Us." The Aetherius Society Newsletter,
vol. 6, Issues 3 & 4 (October): 10.
1994. Abduction: Human Encounters with Aliens. New York: Balantine
Books, rev. ed.
Melton, J. Gordon.
1991. "Introduction: When Prophets Die: The Succession Crisis in New
Religions." When Prophets Die: The Postcharismatic Fate of New Religious
Movements. Ed. Timothy Miller. Albany: State University of New York Press,
1996. Encyclopedia of American Religions. Detroit: Gale Research,
1992. The Handbook for Spiritual Warfare. Nashville: Nelson.
Passantino, Robert, and Gretchen Passantino.
1991. "The Kingdom Strikes back," Christianity Today 35 (November
1998. "The Aetherius Society."
Saliba, John A.
1995. "Religious Dimensions of UFO Phenomena." The Gods Have Landed: New
Religions from Other Worlds. Ed. James R. Lewis. Albany: State University
of New York Press, pp. 15-64.
Stark, Rodney, and William Sims Bainbridge.
1985. The Future of Religion: Secularization, Revival, and Cult
Formation. Berkeley: University of California Press.
1974. "The Aetherius Society: A Case Study in the Formation of a Mystagogic
Congregation." Sociological Review 22: 27-44.
1993. "Religious Dimensions of the UFO Abductee Experience." Syzygy:
Journal of Alternative Religion and Culture 2: 313-324.
 I am indebted to Mr. David Capraro of
Branch of the Aetherius Society for his invaluable comments on the first draft
of this paper.
 See, for example Heard and Klebnikov
(1998) where 29 groups, including
some UFO cults, who belief that the apocalypse will arrive in the year 2000,
 Members of the Aetherius Society prefer
the designation "flying
saucers," rather than "UFOs" (Unidentified Flying Objects). For them, these
extraterrestrial objects have been clearly identified and their occupants have
been in contact with the human race through George King for several decades.
One should note, however, that in a recent publication (King 1996), references
to "UFOs" occur freely.
 Aetherius Society literature divides
these into (1) titles and honors
awarded by cosmic sources; (2) positions held in cosmic mission; (3) hereditary
titles and nobility; (4) ambassadorial titles and honors; (5) doctorates; (6)
awards; and (7) certificates of merit awarded by the Aetherius Society. Cf.
Aetherius Society Newsletter, vol. 18 (January/February 1989): 4-6; and
Cosmic Voice, vol. 1 (December 1980): 9-10. For more recent
"terrestrial" and "cosmic" awards given to King see Cosmic Voice, vol.
17 (January/ February 1996). Many of the certificates of these awards are
displayed in the Society's temple in Los Angeles.
 For a full account of how King received
his mission see Aetherius
Society n.d.: 1-3; Abrahamson, 1961; and Cosmic Voice, vol. 1 (1956):
 In the United States, for instance, the
Aetherius Society received its
exemption from federal taxes on October 30, 1963; cf. the Aetherius Society
Newsletter 2 (November 20 and December 21, 1963): 4. In the United Kingdom
the Society is not registered as a charity, though it has two churches
recognized as such.
 For the Constitutions of the Society
see, for example, Cosmic
Voice, issue 23 (1960): 27-29. For an update in the bylaws, cf. Cosmic
Voice, vol. 12 (December 1973): 3-6. There is also a team of so-called
"engineers" who oversee the Society's missions and a Synod which regulates its
religious practices and devotions (Aetherius Society Newsletter, vol. 5
(September 1996): 2.
 See Cosmic Voice, issue 16
(June/July 1958): 31. The Temple
Degrees Study Courses (Aetherius Society 1992: 7) adds five more aims,
three of which deal with the Missions of the Society, one with the observance
of special holidays, and one with the construction of Power Temples with
equipment to manipulate spiritual energies.
 The distinction between branches,
groups, and representatives is largely
a matter of size. In the most recent listing provided by the Society, there are
seven branches, twenty-eight groups, and twelve local representatives. Cf. the
Society's Web page at http://www.aetherius.org/centers.htm; [date
modified:12/30/98; date downloaded: 1/8/99].
 There are no accurate statistics of
the size of its membership. J.
Gordon Melton (1996: 676) writes that its membership is not reported, "but, in
1987, the Cosmic Voice newsletter reported a circulation of 650 copies."
Barrett (1996: 203) estimates that there are several thousand members
 Several years ago the author of this
paper had planned to carry our
such a survey of the Detroit branch, but his request was turned down by the
Board of Directors in Los Angles because it was judged to be too personal.
 These degrees are reflected in the
color of the robes worn during the
services. See, for instance, Aetherius Society Newsletter, vol. 5
(August/September 1966): 1-2; and vol. 7 (August 1968): 3-5.
 For descriptions of these merits and
awards cf. Aetherius Society
Newsletter 9 (April/May 1970): 7-11, and Cosmic Voice, vol. 19
(December 1980): 9-11.
 See, for example, Aetherius
Society Newsletter, vol. 3 (January
1964): 2; and vol. 3 (April 1964): 7-8, where it is made clear that these
extraterrestrial beings are using only George King as a channel for their
messages; cf. also Abrahamson 1961. For other channelers who claim they are
presently receiving messages from extraterrestrials, see Kinney1996.
 For an extensive Web site which
outlines the major beliefs and
practices of the Aetherius Society, see http://www.aetherius.org/
.See the Aetherius Society Web Page
http://ww.aetherius.org/faq.htm p.3; [date modified: 10/24/97; date
 For an interpretation of alien
abductions by a member of the Aetherius
Society, see Keneipp 1996.
 This Master is referred to as a great
adept. See Cosmic Voice,
issue 13 (December/January 1957-58): 10.
http://www.aetherius.org/hale.htm, p, 2; [date modified:
09/05/94; date downloaded: 10/24/97.]
 See, for example, "The Observer Life
Magazine Cult Internet Site,"
modified: 09/12/96; date downloaded: 11/21/97.]
 Cornelia R. Ferreira (1991: 18), for
instance, sees the rise and
success of the New Age Movement as an omen of impending doom, but states that
disaster can be avoided if Christians follow God's plans as set out by Our Lady
of Fatima, plans which also require "the Rosary and the scapular, the First
Saturday devotion, and sacrifice--especially that of one's daily duty."
 See King c1975: 14ff., where various
"sorties" by these Adepts into
these lower planes are described.
 See Aetherius Society 1992: 45ff.,
where short descriptions of the
missions are included in the materials aspirants to the Society are expected to
 This event refers to the day, July 8,
1964, when the Earth was given a
great amount of spiritual energy that was conveyed in space vehicles piloted by
Interplanetary Intelligences (King c1975: 26-27). It is commemorated yearly by
the Aetherius Society.
 Operation Karmalight was reported
extensively in Aetherius Society
Newsletter, vol. 7 (1968) and vol. 8 (1969).
 In one of his books King (1961:
42-67) dedicates a whole chapter to
describe "The Mars Story." See also Cosmic Voice, issue 14
(February/March 1958): 9ff., where the event is described in some detail, and
issue 25 (November/ December 1961): 22.
 Cosmic Voice, vol. 17
(June/July 1996): 3. A brief introduction
to the mission and a description of its recent phases, numbers 41-44, are also
 See Cosmic Voice, vol. 19,
Summer Issue, 1998, part of which is
dedicated to the resumption of the Saturn Mission.
http://www.aewtherius.org/sp.htm p. 3; [date modified: 09/04/97;
date downloaded: 1/10/99.]
Copyright © John A. Saliba 1999
First published in Marburg Journal of Religion