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"Signs from Heaven"

An Orthodox Christian Understanding of Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs)

This is taken from Chapter IV of Orthodoxy and the Religion of the Future, by Orthodox Bishop Seraphim Rose. The copyright information is unknown. This paper is for private research purposes only.

The post-World War II decades that have witnessed the astonishing increase of Eastern religious cults and influence in the West have also seen the beginning and spread of a parallel phenomenon which, although at first sight it seems totally unrelated to religion, on closer examination turns out to be just as much a sign of the "post-Christian" age and the "new religious consciousness" as the Eastern cults. (emphasis mine.) This phenomenon is that of the "unidentified flying objects" which have supposedly been seen in almost every part of the world since the first "flying saucer" was spotted in 1947.

Human credulity and superstition – which are no less present today than at any time in human history – have caused this phenomenon to be connected to some degree with the "crackpot fringe" of the cult world; but there has also been a sufficiently serious and responsible interest in it to produce several government investigations and a number of books by reputable scientists. These investigations have come to no positive result in identifying the objects as physical reality. However, the newest hypotheses made by several scientific investigators in order to explain the phenomena actually seem to come closer to a satisfactory explanation than other theories that have been proposed in the past; but at the same time, these newest hypotheses bring one to the "edge of reality" (as one of the new scientific books on them is called), to the boundaries of psychic and spiritual reality which these investigators are not equipped to handle. The richness of Scriptural and Patristic knowledge precisely of this latter reality places the Orthodox Christian observer in a uniquely advantageous position from which to evaluate these new hypotheses and the "UFO" phenomena in general.

The Orthodox Christian observer, however, is less interested in the phenomena themselves than he is the mentality associated with them: how are people commonly interpreting UFOs, and why? Among the first to approach the UFO question in this manner, in a serious study, was the renowned Swiss psychologist C.G. Jung. In his book of 1959, Flying Saucers: A Modern Myth of Things Seen in the Skies, he approached the phenomena as primarily something psychological and religious in meaning; and although he himself did not attempt to identify them as "objective reality," he nonetheless did grasp the realm of human knowledge to which they actually belong. Today’s investigators, while starting from the "objective" and not the psychological side of the question, have also found it necessary to put forth "psychic" hypotheses to explain the phenomena.

In approaching the religious and psychological side of UFO phenomena, it is important for us, first of all, to understand the background in terms of which "flying saucers" have generally been interpreted (by those who believe in their existence) from the time of their first appearance in the 1940s. What were men prepared to see in the sky? The answer to this question may be found in a brief look at the literature of popular "science fiction."

The Spirit of Science Fiction

Historians of science fiction usually trace the origins of this literary form back to the early 19th century. Some prefer to see its beginning in the short stories of Edgar Allen Poe, which combined a persuasive realism in style with a subject matter always tinged with the "mysterious" and occult. Others see the first science fiction writer in Poe’s English contemporary, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (wife of the famous poet); her Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus, combines fantastical science with occultism in a way characteristic of many science fiction stories since then.

The typical science fiction story, however, was to come with the late 19th and early 20th centuries, from Jules Verne and H.G. Wells to our own days. From a largely second rate form of literature in the American periodical "pulps" of the 1930s and 40s, science fiction has come of age and become a respectable international literary form in recent decades. In addition, a number of extremely popular motion pictures have shown how much the spirit of science fiction has captivated the popular imagination. The cheaper and more sensational science fiction movies of the 1950s have given way in the last decade or so to fashionable "idea" movies like 2001: A Space Odyssey, Star Wars, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, not to mention one of the most popular and long-lived American television series, Star Trek.

The spirit of science fiction is derived from an underlying philosophy or ideology, more often implied than expressed in so many words, which is shared by virtually all those who create in science fiction forms. This philosophy may be summed up in the following main points:

Religion, in the traditional sense, is absent, or else present in a very incidental or artificial way. The literary form itself is obviously a product of the "post-Christian" age (evident already in the stories of Poe and Shelley). The science fiction universe is a totally secular one, although often with "mystical" overtones of an occult or Eastern kind. "God," if mentioned at all, is a vague and impersonal power, not a personal being (for example, the "Force" of Star Wars, a cosmic energy that has its evil as well as good side). The increasing fascination of contemporary man with science fiction themes is a direct reflection of the loss of traditional religious values.

The center of the science fiction universe (in place of the absent God) is man – not usually man as he is now, but man as he will "become" in the future, in accordance with the modern mythology of evolution. Although the heroes of science fiction stories are usually recognizable humans, the story interest often centers about their encounters with various kinds of "supermen" from "highly-evolved" races of the future (or sometimes, the past), or from distant galaxies. The idea of the possibility of "highly-evolved" intelligent life on other planets has become so much a part of the contemporary mentality that even respectable scientific (and semi-scientific) speculations assume it as a matter of course. Thus, one popular series of books (Erich von Daniken, Chariots of the Gods?, Gods From Outer Space) finds supposed evidence of the presence of "extraterrestrial" beings or "gods" in ancient history, who are supposedly responsible for the sudden appearance of intelligence in man, difficult to account for by the usual evolutionary theory. Serious scientists in the Soviet Union speculate that the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah was due to a nuclear explosion, that "extraterrestrial" beings visited earth centuries ago, that Jesus Christ may have been a "cosmonaut," and that today "we may be on the threshold of a ‘second coming’ of intelligent beings from outer space." Equally serious scientists in the West think the existence of "extraterrestrial intelligences" likely enough that for at least 18 years they have been trying to establish contact with them by means of radio telescopes, and currently there are at least six searches being conducted by astronomers around the world for intelligent radio signals from space. Contemporary Protestant and Roman Catholic "theologians" – who have become accustomed to follow wherever "science" seems to be leading – speculate in turn in the new realm of "exotheology" (the "theology of outer space") concerning what nature the "extraterrestrial" races might have (see Time magazine, April 24, 1978). It can hardly be denied that the myth behind science fiction has a powerful fascination even among many learned men of our day.

The future "evolved beings in science fiction literature are invariable seen as having "outgrown" the limitations of present-day humanity, in particular the limitations of "personality." Like the "God" of science fiction, "man" also has become strangely impersonal. In Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End, the new race of humans has the appearance of children but faces devoid of personality; they are about to be guided into yet higher "evolutionary" transformations, on the way to becoming absorbed in the impersonal "Overmind." In general, the literature of science fiction – in direct contrast to Christianity, but exactly in accordance with some schools of Eastern thought – sees "evolutionary advancement" and "spirituality" in terms of increased impersonality.

The future world and humanity are seen by science fiction ostensibly in terms of "projections" from present-day scientific discoveries; in actuality, however, these "projections" correspond quite remarkably to the everyday reality of occult and overtly demonic experience throughout the ages. Among the characteristics of the "highly evolved" creatures of the future are: communication by mental telepathy, ability to fly, materialize and dematerialize, transform the appearances of things or create illusionary scenes and creatures by "pure thought," travel at speeds far beyond any modern technology, to take possession of the bodies of earthmen; and the expounding of a "spiritual" philosophy which is "beyond all religions" and holds promise of a state where "advanced intelligences" will no longer be dependent on matter. All these are the standard practices and claims of sorcerers and demons. A recent history of science fiction notes that "a persistent aspect of the vision of science fiction is the desire to transcend normal experience…through the presentation of characters and events that transgress the conditions of space and time as we know them." The scripts of "Star Trek" and other science fiction stories, with their futuristic "scientific" devices, read in parts like excerpts from the lives of ancient Orthodox Saints, where the actions of sorcerers are described at a time when sorcery was still a strong part of pagan life. Science fiction in general is usually not very scientific at all, and not really very "futuristic" either; if anything, it is a retreat to the "mystical" origins of modern science – the science before the age of the 17th and 18th century "Enlightenment" which was much closer to occultism. The same history of science fiction remarks that "the roots of science fiction, like the roots of science itself, are in magic and mythology" (Scholes and Rabkin, p. 183). Present-day research and experiments in "parapsychology" point also to a future connection of "science" with occultism – a development with which science fiction literature is in full harmony.

Science fiction in the Soviet Union (where it is just as popular as in the West, although its development has been a little different) has exactly the same themes as Western science fiction. In general, "metaphysical" themes in Soviet science fiction (which labors under the watchful eye of "materialist" censors) come from the influence of Western writers or from direct Hindu influence, as in the case of the writer Ivan Efremov. The reader of Soviet science fiction, according to one critic, "emerges with a vague ability to distinguish the critical demarcations between Science and Magic, between scientist and sorcerer, between future and fantasy." Science fiction both East and West, says the same writer, like other aspects of contemporary culture, "all confirm the fact that the higher stage of humanism is occultism."

Almost by its very nature as "futuristic," science fiction tends to be utopian; few novels or stories actually describe a future perfect society, but most of them deal with the "evolution" of today’s society into something higher, or the encounter with advanced civilization on another planet, with the hope or capability of overcoming today’s problems and mankind’s limitations in general. In Efremov’s and other Soviet science fiction, Communism itself becomes "cosmic" and "begins to acquire non-materialistic qualities," and "the post-industrial civilization will be Hindu-like" (Grebens, pp. 109-110). The "advanced beings" of outer space are often endowed with "savior"-like qualities, and the landings of spacecraft on earth often herald "apocalyptic" events – usually the arrival of benevolent beings to guide men in their "evolutionary advancement."

In a word, the science fiction literature of the 20th century is itself a clear sign of the loss of Christian values and the Christian interpretation of the world; it has become a powerful vehicle for the dissemination of a non-Christian philosophy of life and history, largely under open or concealed occult and Eastern influence; and in a crucial time of crisis and transition in human civilization it has been a prime force in creating the hope for and actual expectation of "visitors from outer space" who will solve mankind’s problems and conduct man to a new "cosmic" age of its history. While appearing to be a scientific and non-religious, science fiction literature is in actuality a leading propagator (in a secular form) of the "new religious consciousness" which is sweeping mankind as Christianity retreats.

All of this is a necessary background for discussing the actual manifestations of "unidentified flying objects," which strangely correspond to the pseudo-religious expectations which have been aroused in "post-Christian" man.


UFO Sightings and the Scientific Investigation of Them

Although fiction, one might say, has in a way prepared men for the appearance of UFOs, our understanding of their "objective" reality obviously cannot be derived from literature or human expectations and fantasies. Before we can understand what they might be, we must know something of the nature and reliability of the observations which have been made of them. Is there really something "out there" in the sky, or is the phenomenon entirely a matter of misperception on the one hand, and psychological and pseudo-religious wish fulfillment on the other?

A reliable outline of UFO phenomena has been given by Dr. Jacques Vallee, a French scientist now living in California who has advanced degrees in astrophysics and computer science and has been involved in the scientific analysis of UFO reports for a number of years. His testimony is all the more valuable to us in that he has studied closely UFO sightings outside of the United States, especially in France, and is thus able to give a fair international picture of their distribution.

Dr. Vallee finds that although strange flying objects have been observed at various times in past centuries, their "modern history" as a mass phenomenon begins in the years during and just after World War II. American interest began with the sightings in 1947, but there were a number of sightings before that in Europe. In World War II many pilots reported strange lights which seemed to be under intelligent control (p. 47), and in 1946, particularly in July, there were a whole series of sightings in Sweden and other northern European countries (pp. 47-53). Sightings in this "Scandinavian wave" were interpreted first as "meteors," then as "rockets" (or "ghost rockets") or "bombs," and finally as some "new type of aircraft" capable of extraordinary movements in the sky but leaving no trace on the ground even when they seemed to land. The European press was full of reports of this wave of sightings, and everyone in Sweden was talking of them; some thousands of sightings were reported, but not once was the hypothesis of "extraterrestrial" or "interplanetary" origin suggested. Dr. Vallee concludes that the "wave" was caused by actually existing but unidentified objects and not by any previously existing "UFO rumor" or expectation of "visitors from outer space" (p. 53). In this and succeeding "saucer waves" he finds a total absence of any correlation between widespread interest in science fiction and peaks of UFO activity; earlier, also, there had been no "saucer wave" at the time of the American panic over Orson Welles’ 1938 radio adaptation of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds. He concludes that "the birth, growth and expansion of a UFO wave is an objective phenomenon independent of the conscious or unconscious influence of the witnesses, and their reactions to it" (p. 31).

The first publicized sighting in the United States occurred in June, 1947, when Kenneth Arnold, a salesman flying his own plane, saw nine disc-like objects, looking something like "saucers," flying near Mt. Rainier in Washington state. The newspapers picked up the story, and the "flying saucer" era began. Interestingly , however, this was not actually the first American sighting at all; other unpublicized sightings had been made in the months before this. There was also a UFO wave (with fifty reports) in Hungary early in June. Therefore, the 1947 sightings cannot all be set down to hysteria over the Arnold incident. There were a number of other sightings in the American wave of 1947, chiefly in June, July, and August. Although some newspapers speculated on "interplanetary visitors," theses sightings were taken seriously by scientists, who assumed they were the result of advanced human technology, most likely American, or perhaps Russian (pp. 54-57).

A second wave occurred in July, 1948, with sightings in America and France. In the United States there was a spectacular night sighting made by the pilots of an Eastern Airlines DC-3 plane of a torpedo-shaped craft with two rows of "portholes," surrounded by a blue glow and with a tail of orange flames, which maneuvered to avoid collision and disappeared. In August of the same year there were many sightings in Saigon and other parts of Southeast Asia of a "long fish-like object" (pp. 57-59).

1949 saw reports of strange discs and spheres in Sweden and more UFOs in America, including two observations by trained astronomical observers (pp. 60-62). Small UFO waves, as well as isolated sightings, continued in 1950 and 1951, especially in the United States, but also in Europe (pp. 62-65).

In 1952 the first real international UFO wave occurred, with many sightings in the United States, France, and North Africa. At the peak of the wave, two sensational sightings were made above the Capitol and the White House in Washington, D.C. (an area under constant control by radar). In September there was a wave encompassing Denmark, Sweden, and northern Germany and Poland. At the same time in France the first UFO "landing" was reported, together with a description of "little men" (pp. 65-69).

1954 saw the largest international wave yet. France was literally inundated with sightings, with dozens of reports every day in September, October, and November. In the French wave the problems facing a serious scientific investigation of UFO phenomena are well demonstrated: "The phenomenon was so intense, the impact on public opinion so deep, the newspapers’ reaction so emotional that scientific reflexes were saturated long before a serious investigation could be organized. As a result, no scientist could risk his reputation by studying openly a phenomenon so emotionally distorted; French scientists remained silent until the wave passed and died" (p. 71).

During the French wave, the typical characteristics of later UFO encounters were often present: UFO "landings" (with at least some circumstantial evidence of them), beams of light issuing from the UFO to the witness, stoppage of motors in the vicinity of sightings, strange small beings in "diving suits," serious psychic and physical harm to witnesses.

Since 1954 many sightings have been made very year in various countries, with major international waves in 1965, 1967, and 1972-3; sightings have been especially numerous and profound in their effects in South American countries.

The best known government investigation of UFOs was that undertaken by the United States Air Force shortly after the first American sightings in 1947; this investigation, known from 1951 on as "Project Blue Book," lasted until 1969, when it was abandoned on the recommendation of the "Condon Report" of 1968 – the work of a scientific committee led by a noted physicist of the University of Colorado. Close observers both of "Blue Book" and the Condon Committee, however, have noted that neither of them took UFO phenomena seriously and that their main occupation was more the "public relations" task of explaining away mystifying aerial phenomena in order to calm public fears about them. Some "Flying Saucer" groups claimed that the United States government was using these investigations as a "cover-up" of its own knowledge of the "real nature" of UFOs; but all evidence points to the fact that the investigations themselves were simply careless because the phenomena were not taken seriously – especially after some of the stranger UFO stories had begun to make the subject distasteful to scientists. The first director of Blue Book, Captain Edward Ruppelt, admitted that "had the Air Force tried to throw up a screen of confusion, they couldn’t have done a better job…The problem was tackled with organized confusion…Everything was being evaluated on the premise that UFOs couldn’t exist." The Condon Report contains some classic "explanations" of UFOs; one, for example, states that "this unusual sighting should therefore be assigned to the category of some almost certainly natural phenomenon which is so rare that it apparently has never been reported before or since." The chief scientific consultant of Blue Book for most of its 22 years, Northwestern University astronomer J. Allen Hynek, openly calls the whole thing "a pseudo-scientific project."

In its 22 years of investigations, such as they were, "Project Blue Book" collected over 12,000 cases of puzzling aerial phenomena, 25% of which remained "unidentified" even after its often strained "explanations." Many thousands of other cases have been and are being collected and investigated by private organizations in the United States and in other countries, although almost all government organizations refrain from comment on them. In the Soviet Union the subject was first given public mention (which means government approval) in 1967, when Dr. Felix U. Ziegel of the Moscow Institute of Aviation, in an article in the Soviet magazine Smena, stated that "Soviet radar has picked up unidentified flying objects for twenty years." At the same time there was a Soviet scientific conference "On Space Civilizations," led by the Armenian astronomer Victor Ambartsumyam, which urged a preliminary study of the scientific and technical problems of communicating with such "civilizations," whose existence is taken for granted. The next year, however, the subject of UFOs became once more forbidden in the Soviet Union, and since then Soviet scientists have told of their researches and hypotheses only unofficially to Western scientists.

In the United States, the subject of UFOs remains somewhat "off-limits" for military and scientific men, but in recent years an increasing number especially among younger scientists have begun to take the subject seriously and come together to discuss it and suggest means of researching it. Drs. Hynek and Vallee speak of an "invisible college" of scientists who are now actively interested in UFO phenomena, although most of them do not wish their names publicly associated with the subject.

There are, of course, those who continue to deny the phenomenon altogether, explaining it as misperceptions of natural objects, balloons, airplanes, etc., not to mention hoaxes and psychological "projections." One of these, Philip Klass, takes delight in "debunking" UFOs, investigating some of the sightings and finding them to be either natural phenomena or frauds. His study has convinced him that "the idea of wondrous spaceships from a distant civilization really is a fairy story that is tailored to the adult mentality." Such hard-headed investigators, however, usually restrict themselves to cases where actual physical proof of a UFO has been left (the so-called "Close Encounters of the Second Kind," as we shall see below); and even staunch defenders of their reality are forced to admit that there is very little of this even in the most convincing UFO sightings. The one thing that has persuaded a number of scientists in recent years to take the phenomena seriously is not the physical proof of them, but the fact that many serious and reliable people have seen something which cannot be explained and which often has a powerful effect upon them. Dr. Hynek writes of his investigation: "invariably I have had the feeling that I was talking to someone who was describing a very real event. To him or her it represented an outstanding experience, vivid and not at all dreamlike, an event for which the observer was usually totally unprepared – something soon recognized as being beyond comprehension" (The UFO Experience, p. 14).

This combination of the often intense reality of the experience of encountering a UFO (especially in the "Close Encounters"), and the almost total lack of physical evidence of it – makes the investigation of UFOs by nature not chiefly an examination of physical phenomena but more an investigation of the human reports of it, their credibility, consistency, etc. Already this places the investigation somewhat in the realm of psychology, and is enough to tell us that the approach solely in search of "physical proof" is an inadequate one. However, Mr. Klass’ opinion that the "wondrous spaceships" are a "fairy story for adults" is perhaps also not far from the truth. One thing is the observations made of UFOs, and quite another is the interpretation which people give their (or others’) observations – the former could be real, and the latter a "fairy story" or a myth of our times.

Dr. Hynek has done much to remove some of the common misconceptions about UFO sightings. Thus, he makes it clear that most UFO sightings are not reported by cultists, unstable or uneducated people. The few reports made by such people are usually easily identified as unreliable and not further investigated. But the most coherent and articulate reports come from normal, responsible people (often with scientific training), who are genuinely surprised or shocked by their experience and simply don’t know how to explain it (The UFO Experience, pp. 10-11); the stronger the experience and the closer the UFO is seen, the less willing the witnesses are to report it at all. UFO records are a collection of "incredible tales told by credible persons," as one Air Force general has remarked. There can be no reasonable doubt that there is something behind the many thousands of serious UFO reports.

The Six Kinds of UFO Encounters

Dr. Hynek, who has studied the question more thoroughly than any other distinguished scientist, has conveniently divided UFO phenomena into six general categories. The first, "Nocturnal Lights," is the one most commonly reported and the least strange of all. Most such reports are easily explained as heavenly bodies, meteors, etc., and are not considered UFOs. Truly puzzling Nocturnal Lights (those that remain "unidentified"), which seem to display intelligent action but are not explainable as ordinary aircraft, are often seen by multiple witnesses, including police officers, airplane pilots, and airport tower operators.

The second category of UFOs is "Daylight Discs," whose behavior is close to that of Nocturnal Lights. These are the original "flying saucers," and in fact almost all of the unidentified sightings in this category are of discs which vary in shape from circular to cigar-shaped. They are often metallic in appearance, and are reported as capable of extremely rapid starts and stops and high speed, as well as maneuvers (such as sudden reversals of direction and motionless hovering) that are beyond the capacity of any present aircraft. There are many purported photographs of such discs, but none of them is very convincing owing to the distance involved and the possibility of trick photography. Like Nocturnal Lights, UFOs in this category are almost always reported as being totally noiseless, and sometimes two or more of them are seen.

The third category is that of "Radar-Visual" reports – that is, radar sightings that are confirmed by independent visual observation (radar by itself being subject to various kinds of misperceptions). Most of these cases occur at night, and the best cases involve simultaneous sightings by airplanes (sometimes purposely dispatched to follow the UFO) at fairly close range; in these cases the UFO always outmaneuvers the airplane, sometimes following it, and finally disappears in a burst of speed (up to 4000 miles and more per hour). Sometimes, as in categories 1 and 2 also, the object seems to divide and become two or more distinct objects; and sometimes clear visual sightings of such objects by pilots in the air are not picked up by radar at all. Sightings in this category, just as in the first two, last from between a few minutes to several hours.

A number of cases in the first three categories are well documented, with numerous reliable, experienced, and independent witnesses. Still, any one case, as Dr. Hynek notes, might be caused by some extremely unusual set of circumstances and not by some new and totally unknown phenomenon. But when many well-documented cases, all similar to each other, accumulate, the chances that they are all unusual misperceptions of familiar objects becomes very small (The UFO Experience, p. 92). This is why serious UFO investigators are now concentrating on the collection of a number of well-documented cases, and the comparison of numbers of reliable testimonies already begins to show definite patterns of UFO activity.

The emotional response of those who have witnessed UFOs of the first three categories is one of simple perplexity and puzzlement; they have seen something whose behavior seems totally unexplainable, and they are left with a tantalizing desire to see it "just a little closer." Only in a few cases – generally involving pilots who have tried to pursue the unidentified objects – has something like real fear been experienced at the encounters with something that seems intelligently directed and possessing a technology in advance of anything known today. In cases involving "Close Encounters," on the other hand, the human response becomes much deeper and the "psychic" side of the phenomena more pronounced.

"Close Encounters of the First Kind" (CE-I) are sightings of a luminous object at close range (about 500 feet or less), the light being sometimes very bright and casting luminescence on the ground below. When the shape of the object is described, it is generally stated to be oval, sometimes with a dome on top, and the lights are often described as rotating, usually in a counterclockwise direction. The objects often hover close to the ground, without sound or (occasionally) with a humming sound, sometimes moving close to the ground over considerable distances, and eventually taking off extremely rapidly, soundlessly, and usually straight up. There are numerous multiple witness accounts of such "Close Encounters;" these accounts are invariably quite similar to each other, as though it is indeed one and the same object (or similar objects) that is being observed in all well-documented cases. Typically, these cases occur at night in sparsely settled areas and there are a small number of witnesses for each sighting (an average of three to four in the cases examined by Dr. Hynek).

"Close Encounters of the First Kind" are always awesome and often frightening, but leave no visible marks; witnesses are usually so overwhelmed by the experience that they neglect to take photographs of the object even when a camera is nearby. Typical of the effect on witnesses is this comment in a 1955 UFO report: "I can assure you, once anyone has seen an object such as this so closely and for a period of even one minute, it would be etched in their memory for all time" (The Hynek Report, p. 145). The experience is so unusual that witnesses are often not believed when they report it – a fact that causes many to report it only confidentially, after many years, or not at all. The experience is intensely real to those who experience it – but largely unbelievable to others.

A typical "Close Encounter of the First Kind" involved tow Portage County, Ohio, deputy sheriffs in 1966. About 5 a.m. on the morning of April 16th, after stopping to investigate a parked car on a country road, they saw an object "as big as a house" ascending to tree-top level (about 100 feet). As it approached the deputies it became increasingly bright, illuminating the are all around, then stopped and hovered over them with a humming sound. When it moved away they pursued it for some 70 miles into Pennsylvania, at speeds of up to 105 miles per hour. Two other police officers saw the object clearly at a higher elevation before it went straight up and disappeared about dawn. Congressional pressure forced "Project Blue Book" to investigate this case; it was "explained" as an "observation of Venus," and the officers who saw it were subjected to considerable ridicule in the press, leading to the breakup of one officer’s family and the ruin of his health and career (The UFO Experience, pp. 114-124). Personal tragedies of this kind among people who have "Close Encounters" with UFOs are so common that they should definitely be included in the "typical characteristics" of this phenomenon.

"Close Encounters of the Second Kind" (CE-II) are essentially similar to CE-I experiences, with the one difference that they leave some striking physical and/or psychological effect of their presence. These effects include marks on the ground, the scorching or blighting of plants and trees, interference with electrical circuits causing radio static and the stoppage of automobile engines, discomfort to animals as evidenced by strange behavior, and effects on humans which include temporary paralysis or numbness, a feeling of heat, nausea, or other discomfort, temporary weightlessness (sometimes causing levitation), sudden healing of sores and pains, and various psychological and physical after-effects, including strange marks on the body. This kind of UFO encounter gives the greatest possibility for scientific investigation, since in addition to human testimony there is physical evidence that can be examined; but little investigation has actually been undertaken, both because most scientists are afraid to get involved in the whole question of UFOs, and because the evidence itself is usually inconclusive or partially subjective. One catalog has been compiled of over 800 cases of this type in 24 countries (The Hynek UFO Report, p. 30). No actual "piece" of a UFO has ever been authenticated, however, and the markings left on the ground are often as baffling as the sightings themselves. The most frequent marking left on the ground after a sighting (the UFO itself having been seen either on the ground or just above it) is a burned, dehydrated, or depressed area in the shape of a ring, usually 20 to 30 feet in diameter and 1 to 3 feet thick; these "rings" persist for weeks or months and the interior of the ring (and sometimes the whole circle) is reported to be barren for a season or two after the sighting. A few chemical analyses of the soil in such rings have produced no definite conclusions as to the possible origin of this condition.

"Close Encounters of the Second Kind" often happen to persons during the night in isolated sections of the road. In many similar cases a glowing object lands in a field nearby or on the road in front of an automobile or truck, the engine and headlights on the automobile fail, and the occupants become terrified until the UFO leaves, often shooting suddenly straight up without a sound; the engine of the vehicle then can operate again, and often comes on by itself.

The strangest of all UFO reports are those that deal with "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" (CE-III) – that is, UFO experiences involving "animated beings" ("occupants" or "humanoids"). The first thought of many people when hearing of such reports is to picture "little green men" and dismiss the whole phenomenon as unbelievable – a hoax or hallucination. However, the success of the recent American science fiction film, named precisely for this category of UFO phenomena Close Encounters of the Third Kind (for which Dr. Hynek served as technical consultant), together with evidence of the Gallup Poll in 1974 that 54% of those who are aware of UFOs believe that they are real, and 46% of all those interviewed believe in intelligent life on other planets (the percentage today would certainly be greater) – point to the rapidly increasing acceptance by contemporary men of the possibility of actual encounters with "non-human" intelligences. Science fiction has given the images, "evolution" has produced the philosophy, and the technology of the "space age" has supplied the plausibility for such encounters. (Emphasis mine).

Astonishingly, these encounters seem actually to be occurring today, as attested by the evidence of many believable witnesses. Of crucial importance, therefore, is the interpretation that must be made of these occurrences; is the reality behind them an actual contact with "visitors from outer space," or is this only an explanation provided by the "spirit of the times" for a contact of a different kind altogether? As we shall see below, today’s scientific investigators of UFOs have already asked these questions.

Dr. Hynek admits his own repugnance to face the possibility of CE-III experiences: "To be frank, I would gladly omit this part if I could without offense to scientific integrity" (The UFO Experience, p. 158). However, since his aim is scientific objectivity, he finds it impossible to ignore the well-documented cases, from believable witnesses, of this strange phenomenon. Of nearly 1250 "Close Encounters" reported in a catalog by Dr. Jacques Vallee, 750 report the landing of a craft, and more than 300 of these report "humanoids" in or about the craft; one-third of all these are multiple witness cases (Ibid., p. 161).

In one "humanoid" case, which occurred in November, 1961, in one of the northern plains’ states in the U.S., four men were returning from a hunting trip late at night, when one of the men noticed a flaming object coming down, as if it were an airplane crashing about a half mile up the road from them. When they reached the site of the "crash," all four men saw a silo-shaped craft in a field, sticking in the ground at an angle, with four seemingly human figures standing around it (this was at a distance of about 150 yards). They flashed a light on one of the figures, who was about 4 feet high and wearing what looked like white coveralls; he made a gesture to the men to stay back. After some hesitation (still thinking it was a plane crash), they went to a nearby town for a police officer, and when they returned they saw only some small red lights, something like automobile lights. They drove into the field with the officer and followed the lights, only to discover that they suddenly disappeared, leaving no tracks whatsoever, despite the muddiness of the field. After the puzzled police officer left, the men again saw the "silo" coming down out of the sky with a reddish glow. Instantly after the object "landed," two figures were visible next to it; a shot was fired (although none of the men admitted to firing it) and one of the figures was "hit" in the shoulder with a thud, and spun around and down to his knees; in panic the men ran to their car and raced off, agreeing among themselves not to mention the incident to anyone. They returned home with a strange feeling that there was some period of time "lost" during the night. The next day one of the men was visited at his work by several well-groomed "official looking" men, who asked him questions about the incident (but without mentioning the shooting) and then took him in their car to his home, where they questioned him about his clothes and boots and then left, telling him not to say anything about the incident to anyone. The hunter assumed these men were United States Air Force investigators trying to conceal some new "secret device," but the men never identified themselves and never contacted them again. All four men were extremely shaken up by the incident, and after six years one of them felt compelled to tell the whole story to a U.S. Treasury agent (Edge of Reality, pp. 129-141).

The main incidents in this story are typical of many "Close Encounters of the Third Kind." A little different case of this sort is the famous UFO "landing" at Kelly, a small town near Hopkinsville, Kentucky, which was investigated extensively by the police, Air Force, and independent researchers. In the evening and night of August 21, 1955, seven adults and four children in one farm household had a prolonged encounter with "humanoids." The incident began at seven o’clock, when the teenage son of the family saw a flying object "land" behind the farmhouse. No one believed him, but an hour later a "little man" emitting a "strange glow" came walking toward the house, out of fear, shot at the creature when it was 20 feet away; it somersaulted and disappeared in the dark. Soon another similar creature appeared at a window; they again fired at it, and again it disappeared. Going outside, the men shot at another creature with a claw-like hand which they saw on the roof; still another on a tree nearby floated to the ground when it was hit. Other creatures also were seen and hit (or perhaps the same creatures reappearing), but the men saw the bullets seem to ricochet off from them and have no real effect; the sound was like shooting into a bucket. After firing four boxes of shells with no effect, all eleven people, thoroughly terrified, drove to the Hopkinsville police station. The police arrived at the farmhouse after midnight and made a thorough search of the premises, finding a few unusual markings and seeing several strange "meteors" that came in the direction of the farmhouse, but discovering no "creatures." After the police left, the creatures reappeared, causing more consternation in the household.

The "humanoids" in this case were described as being about 3 to 4 feet tall, with huge hands and eyes (without pupils or eyelids), large pointed ears, and arms that hung to the ground. They seemed to have no clothing but to be "nickel-plated." They approached the house always from the darkest side and did not approach when the outside lights were turned on.

Dr. Hynek sharply distinguishes between "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" and "contactee" cases. "Contactees" have repeated encounters with UFO beings, often bringing pseudo-religious messages from them about "highly-evolved" beings on other planets who are about to come to bring "peace on earth," and are often connected with UFO religious cults. Ordinary CE-III experiences, on the other hand, are in general very similar to other "Close Encounters;" they occur to people of similar occupations and reliability, are just as unexpected, and produce the same kind of shock at the sight of something so unbelievable. The "occupants" who are seen (usually from a little distance) are often reported as picking up samples of earth and rocks, showing a seeming interest in human installations and vehicles, or "repairing" their own craft. The "humanoids" are described as having large heads with largely non-human features (no eyes or large eyes widely spaced, small or no nose, a bare slit for a mouth), spindly legs, no neck; some are reported to be of human size, others about 3 feet high, as in the Kelly-Hopkinsville incident. Recently a new catalog of over 1000 CE-III cases has been compiled (Hynek, The UFO Experience, p. 31).

There have been a number of cases, seriously reported by seemingly reliable people, of "abductions" by UFO occupants, usually for purposes of "testing." Almost all evidence of these cases (if we exclude "contactees") has been obtained by regressive hypnosis; the experience is so traumatic to the witnesses that the conscious mind does not remember it, and it is only some time later that such people agree to be hypnotized in order to explain some mysterious "time loss" in connection with their "Close Encounter" experience – the first part of which they do remember.

One of the best known "abduction" cases occurred at about midnight on September 19, 1961, near Whitfield, New Hampshire. It was made the subject of a book by John Fuller (The Interrupted Journey), which was printed in a condensed form in Look magazine. On this night Barney and Betty Hill were returning from a vacation trip when they saw a descending UFO which landed right in front of their car on a side road. Some "humanoids" approached them, and the next thing they remembered, it was two hours later and they were 35 miles farther down the road. This amnesia bothered them, leading to physical and mental disorders, and they finally went to a psychiatrist. Under hypnosis they both independently related what had happened during the missing time. Both stated that they had been taken aboard the "craft" by the "humanoids" and given physical examinations, with samples taken of fingernails and skin. They were released after being given the hypnotic suggestion that they would remember nothing of the experience. Under hypnosis they related the experience with great emotional disturbance (The UFO Experience, pp. 178-184).

In a similar case, at 2:30 a.m. on December 3, 1967, a policeman in Ashland, Nebraska, saw an object with a row of flickering lights in the road, which took off into the air when he approached it. He reported a "flying saucer" to his superiors and went home with a strong headache, a buzzing noise in his ears, and a red welt below the left ear. Later, it was discovered that there had been a period of twenty minutes that night of which he remembered nothing; under hypnosis he revealed that he had followed the UFO, which again landed. The occupants flashed a bright light at him, and then took him aboard their "craft," where he saw control panels and computer-like machines. (An engineer in France had seen something similar when he was "abducted" for 18 days.) The "humanoids," wearing coveralls with a winged-serpent emblem, told the policeman that they came from a nearby galaxy, had bases in the United States, and operated their craft by "reverse electromagnetism;" they contact people by chance and "want to puzzle people." They released the man, telling him "not to speak wisely about this night" (The Invisible College, pp. 57-59).

At first sight, such incidents seem simply unbelievable, like some strange cases of hallucination or disordered imagination. But there have been too many of them now to dismiss them quite so easily. As reports of encounters with actual physical aircraft, to be sure, they are not very convincing. Further, psychiatrists themselves caution that the results of "regressive hypnosis" are very uncertain the person being hypnotized is often not capable of distinguishing between actual experiences and "suggestions" planted in his mind, whether by the hypnotist or by someone else at the time of the supposed "Close Encounter." But even if these experiences are not fully "real" (as objective phenomena in space and time), the very fact that so many of them have been "implanted" in human minds in recent years is already significant enough. Without doubt there is something behind the "abduction" experiences also, and recently UFO investigators have begun to look in a different direction for an explanation of them.

Such experiences, and especially the "Close Encounters" of the 1970s, are noticeably bound up with "paranormal" or occult phenomena. People sometimes have strange dreams just before seeing UFOs, or hear knocks on the door when no one is there, or have strange visitors afterwards; some witnesses receive telepathic messages from UFO occupants; UFOs now sometimes simply materialize and dematerialize instead of coming and going at great speeds; sometimes "miraculous healings" occur in their presence or when one is exposed to their light. But "Close Encounters" with UFOs have also resulted in leukemia and radiation sickness; often there are tragic psychological effects: perosonality deterioration, insanity, suicide.

The increase of the "psychic component" in UFO sightings has led researchers to seek similarities between UFO experiences and occult phenomena, and to seek the key to understanding UFOs in the psychic effects they produce (The Invisible College, p. 29). Many researchers note the similarity between UFO phenomena and 19th century spiritism, which also combined psychic phenomena with strange physical effects, but with a more primitive "technology." In general, the 1970s have seen a narrowing of the gap between the "normal" UFO phenomena of the past and the UFO cults, in accordance with the increased receptivity of mankind in this decade to occult practices.

Dr. Jacques Vallee’s newest book on UFOs, The Invisible College, reveals what reputable scientific researchers are now thinking about them. He believes that we are now "very close" to understanding what they are. He notes that the idea of "extraterrestrial" intelligent life has in a few years become astonishingly fashionable, among scientists as well as fortune tellers, as a result of "a great thirst for contact with superior minds that will provide guidance for our poor, harassed, hectic planet" (p. 195). He significantly sees that the idea of visitors from outer space has become the great myth or "wonderful untruth" of our times: "It has become very important for large numbers of people to expect visitors from outer space" (p. 207, emphasis in the original).

Yet he finds it nave to believe in this myth: "This explanation is too simple-minded to account for the diversity of the reported behavior of the occupants and their perceived interaction with human beings" (p. 27). Dr. Hynek has noted that in order to explain the various effects produced by UFOs, we must assume that they are "a phenomenon that undoubtedly has physical effects but also has the attributes of the psychic world" (The Edge of Reality, p. 259). Dr. Vallee believes that "they are constructed both as physical craft (a fact which has long appeared to me undeniable) and as psychic devices, whose exact properties remain to be defined (The Invisible College, p. 202, emphasis in the original). Actually, the theory that UFOs are not physical craft at all, but some kind of "paraphysical" or psychic phenomenon, was suggested by a number of researchers in the early 1950s; but this opinion was largely submerged later, on the one hand by the cultists, with their insistence on the "extraterrestrial" origin of UFOs, and on the other hand by the official government explanations, which corresponded to the widespread popular view that the whole phenomenon was imaginary (Keel, UFOs: Operation Trojan Horse, pp. 38-41). Only lately have serious investigators begun to agree that UFOs, while having certain "physical" characteristics, cannot at all be explained as somebody’s "space ships," but are clearly something of the paraphysical or occult realm.

Why, indeed, are so many UFO "landings" precisely in the middle of roads? Why do such fantastically "advanced" craft so often need "repairs"? Why do the occupants so often need to pick up rocks and sticks (over and over again for 25 years!), and to "test" so many people – if they are actually reconnaissance vehicles from another planet, as the "humanoids" usually claim? Dr. Vallee well asks whether the "visitors from outer space" idea might not "serve precisely a diversionary role in masking the real, infinitely more complex nature of the technology that gives rise to the sightings?" (The Invisible College, p. 28). He believes "we are not dealing with successive waves of visitations from space. We are dealing with a control system" (p. 195). "What takes place through close encounters with UFOs is control of human beliefs" (p. 3). "With every new wave of UFOs, the social impact becomes greater. More young people become fascinated with space, with psychic phenomena, with new frontiers in consciousness. More books and articles appear, changing our culture" (pp. 197-8). In another book he notes that "it is possible to make large sections of any population believe in the existence of supernatural races, in the possibility of flying machines, in the plurality of inhabited worlds, by exposing them to a few carefully engineered scenes, the details of which are adapted to the culture and superstitions of a particular time and place."

An important clue to the meaning of these "engineered scenes" may be seen in an observation often made by careful observers of UFO phenomena, especially CE-III and "contactee" cases: that they are profoundly "absurd," or contain at least as much absurdity as rationality (Vallee, The Invisible College, p. 196. Individual "Close Encounters" have absurd details, like the four pancakes given by a UFO occupant to a Wisconsin chicken farmer in 1961; more significantly, the encounters themselves are strangely pointless, without clear purpose or meaning. A Pennsylvania psychiatrist has suggested that the absurdity present in almost all UFO close encounters is actually a hypnotic technique. "When the person is disturbed by the absurd or contradictory, and their mind is searching for meaning, they are extremely open to thought transference, to receiving psychic healing, etc." (The Invisible College, p. 115). Dr. Vallee compares this technique to the irrational koans of Zen Masters (p. 27), and notices the similarity between UFO encounters and occult initiation rituals which "open the mind" to a "new set of symbols" (p. 117). All this points to what he calls "the next form of religion" (p. 202).

Thus, UFO encounters are but a contemporary form of an occult phenomenon which has existed throughout the centuries. Men have abandoned Christianity and look for "saviors" from outer space, and therefore the phenomenon supplies images of spacecraft and space beings. But what is this phenomenon? Who is doing the "engineering," and to what purpose?

Today’s investigators have already supplied the answers to at least the first two questions, although, being without competence in the realm of religious phenomena, they do not fully understand the significance of what they have found. One investigator, Brad Steiger, an Iowa college professor who has written several books on the subject, after a recent detailed study of the Air Force "Blue Book" files, concluded: "We are dealing with a multi-dimensional paraphysical phenomenon, which is largely indigenous to planet earth" (Canadian UFO Report, Summer, 1977). Drs. Hynek and Vallee have advanced the hypothesis of "earth-bound aliens" to account for UFO phenomena, and speculate on "interlocking universes" right here on earth from which they might come, much as "poltergeists" produce physical effects while remaining themselves invisible. John Keel, who began his UFO investigation as a skeptic and is himself an agnostic in religion, writes: "The real UFO story…is one of ghosts and phantoms and strange mental aberrations; of an invisible world which surrounds us and occasionally engulfs us…It is a world of illusion…where reality itself is distorted by strange forces which can seemingly manipulate space, time, and physical matter – forces which are almost entirely beyond our powers of comprehension…The UFO manifestations seem to be, by and large, merely minor variations of the age-old demonological phenomenon" (UFOs: Operation Trojan Horse, pp. 46, 299). In a recent bibliography of UFO phenomena prepared by the Library of Congress for the United States Air Force Office of Scientific Research, the introduction states that "Many of the UFO reports now being published in the popular press recount alleged incidents that are strikingly similar to demonic possession and psychic phenomena which have long been known to theologians and parapsychologists." Most UFO researchers are now turning to the occult realm and to demonology for insight into the phenomena they are studying.

Several recent studies of UFOs, by evangelical Protestants, put all this evidence together and come to the conclusion that UFO phenomena are simply and precisely demonic in origin. The Orthodox Christian investigator can hardly come to a different conclusion. Some or many of the experiences, it may be, are the result of hoaxes or hallucinations; but it is simply impossible to dismiss all of the many thousands of UFO reports in this way. A great number of modern mediums and their spiritistic phenomena are also fraudulent; but mediumistic spiritsm itself, when it is genuine, undeniably produces real "paranormal" phenomena under the action of demons. UFO phenomena, having the same source, are no less real.

Case histories of people who have been drawn into contact with UFOs reveal the standard characteristics which go with involvement with demons in the occult realm. A police officer in southern California, for example, began to see UFOs in June, 1966, and thereafter saw them frequently, almost always at night. After one "landing" he and his wife saw distinct traces of the UFO on the ground. "During these weeks of tantalizing sightings, I became totally obsessed with the UFOs, convinced that something great was about to happen. I abandoned my daily Bible reading and turned my back on God as I began reading every UFO book I could lay my hands on…Many nights I watched in vain, trying to mentally communicate with what I then thought were extraterrestrial beings, almost praying to them to appear and establish some sort of contact with me." Finally he had a "Close Encounter" with a "craft" some 80 feet in diameter, with rotating white, red, and green lights. It sped off and left him still expecting something "great" to happen – but nothing ever did happen, the UFOs ceased appearing , and in his frustration he turned to alcohol, depression, and thoughts of suicide, until his conversion to Christ ended this period of his life. People who have actually contacted the UFO beings have much worse experiences; the beings some times literally "possess" them and try to kill them when they resist (UFOs: A Better Explanation, pp. 298-305). Such cases effectively remind us that, quite apart from the meaning of UFO phenomena as a whole, each UFO "Close Encounter" has the specific purpose of deceiving the individual who is contacted and leading him, if not to further "contacts" and spreading the UFO "message," then at least to personal spiritual confusion and disorientation.

The most puzzling aspect of UFO phenomena to most researchers – namely, the strange mingling of physical and psychic characteristics in them – is no puzzle at all to readers of Orthodox spiritual books, especially the lives of Saints. Demons also have "physical bodies," although the "matter" in them is of such subtlety that it cannot be perceived by men unless their spiritual "doors of perception" are opened, whether by God’s Will (as in the case of holy men) or against it (as in the case of sorcerers and mediums).

Orthodox literature has many examples of demonic manifestations which fit precisely the UFO pattern: apparitions of "solid" beings and objects (whether demons themselves or their illusionary creations) which suddenly "materialize" and "dematerialize," always with the aim of aweing and confusing people and ultimately leading them to perdition. The Lives of the 4th century St. Anthony the Great (Eastern Orthodox Books, 1976) and the 3rd century St. Cyprian the Former Sorcerer (The Orthodox Word, 1976, no. 5) are filled with such incidents.

The Life of St. Martin of Tours (+397) by his disciple, Sulpicius Severus, has an interesting example of demonic power in connection with a strange "physical" manifestation which closely parallels today’s UFO "Close Encounters." A certain youth named Anatolius became a monk near St. Martin’s monastery, but out of false humility he became the victim of demonic deception. He fancied that he conversed with "angels," and in order to persuade others of his sanctity, these "angels" agreed to give him a "shining robe from out of heaven" as a sign of the "Power of God" that dwelt in the youth. One night about midnight there was a tremendous thudding of dancing feet and a murmuring as of many voices in the hermitage, and Anatolius’ cell became ablaze with light. Then came silence, and the deceived one emerged from his cell with the "heavenly" garment. "A light was brought and all carefully inspected the garment. It was exceedingly soft, with a surpassing luster, and of a brilliant scarlet, but it was impossible to tell the nature of the material. At the same time, under the most exact scrutiny of eyes and fingers it seemed to be a garment and nothing else." The following morning, Anatolius’ spiritual father took him by the hand in order to lead him to St. Martin to discover whether this was actually a trick of the devil. In fear, the deceived one refused to go, "and when he was being forced to go against his will, between the hands of those who were dragging him the garment disappeared." The author of the account (who either witnessed the incident himself or had it from eyewitnesses) concludes that "the devil was unable to keep up his illusions or conceal their nature when they were to be submitted to Martin’s eyes." "It was so fully within his power to see the devil that he recognized him under any form, whether he kept to his own character or changed himself into any of the various shapes of ‘spiritual wickedness’" – including the forms of pagan gods and the appearance of Christ Himself, with royal robes and crown and enveloped in a bright red light.

It is clear that the manifestations of today’s "flying saucers" are quite within the "technology" of demons; indeed, nothing else can explain them as well. The multifarious demonic deceptions of Orthodox literature have been adapted to the mythology of outer space, nothing more; the Anatolius mentioned above would be known today simply as a "contactee." And the purpose of the "unidentified" object in such accounts is clear: to awe the beholders with a sense of the "mysterious," and to produce "proof" of the "higher intelligences" ("angels," if the victim believes in them, or "space visitors" for modern men), and thereby to gain trust for the message they wish to communicate. We shall look at this message below.

A demonic "kidnapping" quite close to UFO "abductions" is described in the Life of St. Nilus of Sora, the 15th century founder of Skete life in Russia. Some time after the Saint’s death there lived in his monastery a certain priest with his son. Once, when the boy was sent on some errand, "suddenly there came to him a certain strange man who seized him and carried him, as if on the wind, into an impenetrable forest, bringing him into a large room in his dwelling and placing him in the middle of this cabin, in front of the window." When the priest and the monks prayed for St. Nilus’ help in finding the lost boy, the Sain "came to the boy’s aid and stood before the room where the boy was standing, and when he struck the window frame with his staff the building was shaken and all the unclean spirits fell to the earth." The Saint told the demon to return the boy to the place from which he had taken him, and then became invisible. Then, after some howling among the demons, "the same strange one seized the boy and brought him to the Skete like the wind…and placing him on a haystack, he became invisible." After being seen by the monks, "the boy told them everything that happened to him, what he had seen and heard. And from that time this boy became very humble, as if he had been stupified. The priest out of terror left the Skete with his son." In a similar demonic "kidnapping" in 19th century Russia, a young man, after his mother cursed him, became the slave of a demon "grandfather" for 12 years and was capable of appearing invisibly among men in order to help the demon sow confusion in their midst.

Such true stories of demonic activity were commonplace in earlier centuries. It is a sign of the spiritual crisis of today that modern men, for all their proud "enlightenment" and "wisdom," are becoming once more aware of such experiences – but no longer have the Christian framework with which to explain them. Contemporary UFO researchers, seeking for an explanation of phenomena which have become too noticeable to overlook any longer, have joined today’s psychic researchers in an attempt to formulate a "unified field theory" that will encompass psychic as well as physical phenomena. But such researchers only continue the approach of "enlightened" modern men and trust their scientific observations to give answers in a spiritual realm that cannot be approached "objectively" at all, but only with faith. The physical world is morally neutral and may be known relatively well by an objective observer; but the invisible, spiritual realm comprises beings both good and evil, and the "objective" observer has no means of distinguishing one from the other unless he accepts the revelation which the invisible God has made to man. Thus, today’s UFO researchers place the Divine inspiration of the Bible on the same level as the satanically inspired automatic writing of spiritism, and they do not distinguish between the actions of angels and those of demons. They know now (after a long period when materialistic prejudices reigned among scientists) that there is a non-physical realm that is real, and they see its effects in UFO phenomena; but as long as they approach this realm "scientifically," they will be just as easily deceived by the unseen powers as the most nave "contactee." When they try to determine who or what is behind the UFO phenomena, and what the purpose of the phenomena might be, they are forced to indulge in the wildest speculations. Thus Dr. Vallee confesses himself baffled whether the source of UFO manifestations might be a morally neutral "unattended clockwork," a benevolent "solemn gathering of wise men" (as the "extraterrestrial" myth would have us believe), or "a terrible superhuman monstrosity the very contemplation of which would make a man insane," that is, the activity of demons (The Invisible College, p. 206).

A true evaluation of the UFO experience may be made only on the basis of Christian revelation and experience, and is accessible only to the humble Christian believer who trusts these sources. To be sure, it is not given to man entirely to "explain" the invisible world of angels and demons; but enough Christian knowledge has been given us to know how these beings act in our world and how we should respond to their actions, particularly in escaping the nets of the demons. UFO researchers have come to the conclusion that the phenomena they have studied are essentially identical with phenomena that used to be called "demonic;" but only the Christian – the Orthodox Christian, who is enlightened by the Patristic understanding of Scripture and the 2000 year experience of Saints’ encounters with invisible beings – is able to know the full meaning of this conclusion.

The Meaning of UFOs

What, then, is the meaning of the UFO phenomena of our time? Why have they appeared just at this time in history? What is their message? To what future do they point?

First, UFO phenomena are but one part of an astonishing outpouring of "paranormal" events – what just a few years ago most people would have considered as "miracles." Dr. Vallee, in The Invisible College, expresses the secular appreciation of this fact: "Observations of unusual events suddenly loom into our environment by the thousands" (p. 187), causing "a general shifting of man’s belief patterns, his entire relationship to the concept of the invisible" (p. 114). "Something is happening to human consciousness" (p. 34); the same "powerful force [that] has influenced the human race in the past is again influencing it now" (p. 14). In Christian language this means: a new demonic outpouring is being loosed upon mankind. In the Christian apocalyptic view (see the end of this book), we can see that the power which until now has restrained the final and most terrible manifestation of demonic activity on earth has been taken away (II Thes. 2:7), Orthodox Christian government and public order (whose chief representative on earth was the Orthodox emperor) and the Orthodox Christian world view no longer exist as a whole, and satan has been "loosed out of his prison," where he was kept by the grace of the Church of Christ, in order to "deceive the nations" (Apoc. 20:7-8) and prepare them to worship Antichrist at the end of the age. Perhaps never since the beginning of the Christian era have demons appeared so openly and extensively as today. The "visitors from outer space" theory is but one of the many pretexts they are using to gain acceptance for the idea that "higher beings" are now to take charge of the destiny of mankind.

Second, UFOs are but the newest of the mediumistic techniques by which the devil gains initiates into his occult realm. They are a terrible sign that man has become susceptible to demonic influence as never before in the Christian era. In the 19th century it was usually necessary to seek out dark seance rooms in order to enter into contact with demons, but now one need only look into the sky (usually at night, it is true). Mankind has lost what remained of basic Christian understanding up to now, and now passively places itself at the disposal of whatever "powers" may descend from the sky. The new film, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, is a shocking revelation of how superstitious "post-Christian" man has become – ready in an instant and unquestioningly to believe and follow hardly-disguised demons wherever they might lead.

Third, the "message" of the UFOs is: prepare for Antichrist; the "savior" of the apostate world is coming to rule it. Perhaps he himself will come in the air, in order to complete his impersonation of Christ (Matt. 24:30; Acts 1:11); perhaps only the "visitors from outer space" will land publicly in order to offer "cosmic" worship of their master; perhaps the "fire from heaven" (Apoc. 13:13) will be only a part of the great demonic spectacles of the last times. At any rate, the message for contemporary mankind is: expect deliverance, not from the Christian revelation and faith in an unseen God, but from vehicles in the sky.

It is one of the signs of the last times that there shall be terrors and great signs from heaven (Luke 21:11). Even a hundred years ago Bishop Ignatius Brianchaninov, in his book On Miracles and Signs (Yaroslavl, 1870, reprinted by Holy Trinity Monastery, Jordanville, N.Y., 1960), remarked on "the striving to be encountered in contemporary Christian society to see miracles and even perform miracles…Such a striving reveals the self-deception, founded on self-esteem and vainglory, that dwells in the soul and possesses it" (p. 32). True wonder workers have decreased and grown extinct, but people "thirst for miracles more than ever before…We are gradually coming near to the time when a vast arena is to be opened up for numerous and striking false miracles, to draw to perdition those unfortunate offspring of fleshly wisdom who will be seduced and deceived by these miracles" (pp. 48-49).

Of special interest to UFO investigators, "the miracles of Antichrist will be chiefly manifested in the aerial realm, where satan chiefly has his dominion. The signs will act most of all on the sense of sight, charming and deceiving it. St. John the Theologian, beholding in revelation the events that are to precede the end of the world, says that Antichrist will perform great signs, and will even make fire to come down out of heaven upon the earth in the sight of men (Apoc. 13:13). This is the sign indicated by Scripture as the highest of the signs of Antichrist, and the place of this sign is the air: it will be a splendid and terrible spectacle" (p. 13). St. Symeon the New Theologian for this reason remarks that "the struggler of prayer should quite rarely look into the sky out of fear of the evil spirits in the air who cause many and various deceptions in the air" (Philokalia, "The Three Forms of Heedfulness"). "Men will not understand that the miracles of Antichrist have no good, rational purpose, no definite meaning, that they are foreign to truth, filled with lies, that they are a monstrous, malicious, meaningless play-acting, which increases in order to astonish, to reduce to perplexity and oblivion, to deceive, to seduce, to attract by the fascination of a pompous, empty, stupid effect" (p. 11). "All demonic manifestations have the characteristic that even the slightest heed paid to them is dangerous; from such heedfulness alone, allowed even without any sympathy for the manifestation, one may be sealed with a most harmful impression and subjected to a serious temptation" (p. 50). Thousands of UFO "contactees" and even simple witnesses have experienced the dreadful truth of these words; few have escaped once they become deeply involved.

Even the secular investigators of UFO phenomena have seen fit to warn people against their dangers. John Keel, for example, writes: "Dabbling with UFOs can be as dangerous as dabbling with black magic. The phenomenon preys upon the neurotic, the gullible, and the immature. Paranoid-schizophrenia, demonomania, and even suicide can result – and has resulted in a number of cases. A mild curiosity about UFOs can turn into a destructive obsession. For this reason, I strongly recommend that parents forbid their children from becoming involved. Schoolteachers and other adults should not encourage teenagers to take an interest in this subject" (UFOs: Operation Trojan Horse, p. 220).

In a different place Bishop Ignatius Brianchaninov recorded with awe and foreboding the vision of a simple Russian blacksmith in a village near Petersburg at the dawn of our present age of unbelief and revolution (1817). In the middle of the day he suddenly saw a multitude of demons in human form, sitting in the branches of the forest trees, in strange garments and pointed caps, and singing, to the accompaniment of unbelievably weird musical instruments, an eerie and frightful song: "Our years have come, our will be done!"

We live near the end of this fearful age of demonic triumph and rejoicing, when the eerie "humanoids" (another of the masks of the demons) have become visible to thousands of people and by their absurd encounters take possession of the souls of those men from whom God’s grace has departed. The FUO phenomenon is a sign to Orthodox Christians to walk all the more cautiously and soberly on the path to salvation, knowing that we can be tempted and seduced not merely by false religions, but even by seemingly physical objects which just catch the eye. In earlier centuries Christians were very cautious about strange and new phenomena, knowing of the devil’s wiles; but after the modern age of "enlightenment" most people have become merely curious about such things and even pursue them, relegating the devil to a half-imaginary realm. Awareness of the nature of UFOs, then, can be a help in awakening Orthodox Christians to a conscious spiritual life and a conscious Orthodox world-view that does not easily follow after the fashionable ideas of the times.

The conscious Orthodox Christian lives in a world that is clearly fallen, both the earth below and the stars above, all being equally far from the lost paradise for which he is striving. He is part of a suffering mankind all descended from the one Adam, the first man, and all alike in need of the redemption offered freely by the Son of God by His saving Sacrifice on the Cross. He knows that man is not to "evolve" into something "higher," nor has he any reason to believe that there are "highly-evolved" beings on other planets; but he knows well that there are indeed "advanced intelligences" in the universe besides himself: these are of two kinds, and he strives to live so as to dwell with those who serve God (the angels) and avoid contact with the others who have rejected God and strive in their envy and malice to draw man into their misfortune (the demons). He knows that man, out of self-love and weakness, is easily inclined to follow error and believe in "fairy tales" that promise contact with a "higher state" or "higher beings" without the struggle of Christian life – in fact, precisely as an escape from the struggle of Christian life. He distrusts his own ability to see through the deceptions of the demons, and therefore clings all the more firmly to the Scriptural and Patristic guidelines which the Church of Christ provides for his life.

Such a one has the possibility to resist the religion of the future, the religion of Antichrist, in whatever form it may present itself; the rest of mankind, save by a miracle of God, is lost.


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Revised: April 29, 2002