An Orthodox Christian Understanding of Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs)
Explanation of the UFO Phenomena
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.” 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.”
Yet he finds it too naive 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.” 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.” 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.” 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 1950’s; 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. 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?” He believes “we are not dealing with successive waves of visitations from space. We are dealing with a control system.” “What takes place through close encounters with UFOs is control of human beliefs.” “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.” 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. Individual “Close Encounters” have absurd details, like the four pancakes given by a UFO occupant to a Wisconsin chicken-farmer in 1961; one of the pancakes was actually analyzed by the Food and Drug Laboratory of the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, and was found to be of terrestrial origin. 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.” Dr. Vallee compares this technique to the irrational koans of Zen masters, and notices the similarity between UFO encounters and occult initiation rituals which “open the mind” to a “new set of symbols.” All this points to what he calls “the next form of religion.”
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 “saviours” 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 pheno-menon, which is largely indigenous to planet Earth.” Drs. Hynek and Vallee have advanced the hypothesis of “earthbound 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 them-selves 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.”
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 the UFOs by evangelical Protestants put all this evidence together and came 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 spiritism itself, when it is genuine, undeniably produces real “paranormal” phenomena under the action of the 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 sometimes literally “possess” them and try to kill them when they resist. 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 of 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 with 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 awing and confusing people and ultimately leading them to perdition. The Lives of the 4th-century St. Anthony the Great and the 3rd-century St. Cyprian the Former Sorcerer 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 at 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 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 saint “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 stupefied. 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 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 accept the revelation which the invisible God has made of them 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 naive “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.
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.
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,” causing “a general shifting of man’s belief patterns, his entire relationship to the concept of the invisible.” “Something is happening to human consciousness”; the same “powerful force that has influenced the human race in the past is again influencing it now.” In Christian language this means: a new demonic outpouring is being loosed upon mankind. In the Christian apocalyptic view, 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 Thess. 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. (Many of the reports of “Bigfoot” and other “monsters” show the same occult characteristics as UFO sightings, and often they occur in connection with such sightings.)
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 s?ance 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 barely-disguised demons wherever they might lead.
Two other recently-discovered paranormal phenomena reveal how boldly the demons are now making use of physical means (in particular, modern technical devices) in order to enter into contact with men. One Latvian researcher (now followed by others) has discovered the phenomenon of mysterious voices which appear unexplainably on tape-recorders, even when the recording is done under clinical conditions in a totally soundless atmosphere, with results very similar to those of s?ances. The presence of a medium or psychic in the room seems to help the phenomenon. Metallic-voiced “space people” for some time have supposedly been using the telephone to communicate with both “contactees” and UFO researchers. The possibility of a hoax in such a phenomenon, of course, is high. But in recent years the voices of the dead, convincing to those who are contacted, have been heard in telephone conversations with their loved ones. It can hardly be denied, as the reporter of this phenomenon notes, that “the demons of old are marching among us again” – to a degree unheard of in the past.
Third, the message of the UFOs is: prepare for Antichrist; the “saviour” 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; 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 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 Bryanchaninov, in his book On Miracles and Signs, 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.” True wonderworkers 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.”
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.” St. Simeon 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.” “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 playacting, 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.” “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.” Thousands of UFO “contactees” and even simple witnesses have experienced the dreadful truth of these words; few have escaped once they became 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 the 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.”
In a different place Bishop Ignatius Bryanchaninov 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 (1917). In the midst 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 UFO 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 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.
- by Father Seraphim Rose
From the book Orthodoxy and the Religion of the Future