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Messengers from Heaven

Extraterrestrials, the Church, and the Fate of Humanity

Part II: Angels or Aliens?

From Biblical times, signs in the sky have played a large part in human religion. Are they supernatural or supertechnological? Does it matter?

Elias and the flaming chariotIt is certainly easy to see why signs in the heavens should be of such peculiar concern to the Roman Catholic Church, or indeed, any religious institution. For the link between divine presences and the skies above is deeply ingrained in human consciousness and language. The very word “heaven,” denoting God’s Kingdom with the vertical connotations of up = good, down = bad, not to mention the importance “signs from above” throughout recorded history argue that this connection is not accidental. It seems to be an intimate archetypal association that is reflected in whatever geocentric cosmologies we humans construct.

When Christ prayed, “Our Father, Who art in Heaven,” it is important to remember that in the Ptolemaic world-view of the time, “Heaven” was not the abstract, ethereal dimension of fluffy clouds and white light we think of now. Rather, God’s realm was a physical place above the outermost shell of stars surrounding the Earth. Just as nowadays, there is a growing temptation to wonder just what planet Jesus was referring to!

Much of this is due to the wholesale recasting of mythological themes by mass sci-fi, most notably by the Star Trek and Star Wars franchises. Such literalization itself reflects the mysterious connection between divinity and the dome of heaven that makes the questions posed by UFOs profoundly religious ones.

Close encounters of the Biblical kind

The Bible, both Old and New Testaments, is filled with accounts of encounters with divine beings that read uncomfortably to us moderns like tales of extraterrestrial contact out of a bad space opera. Barry H. Downing’s The Bible and Flying Saucers (1968) [1], for instance, contains a long litany of them. He bravely put forth the necessary questions Christianity must now ask when faced with signs from the heavens.

A few of his examples: Abraham and the “smoking firepot and a flaming torch” that appeared in the sky as a sign of acceptance of his sacrifice (Genesis 15:17), the “pillar of cloud” by day and the “pillar of fire” by night that led Moses and the Israelites (Exodus 13:22), God landing on Mount Sinai in smoke, with a sound of a trumpet before them (Exodus 19:18-19), Elijah being “carried up to heaven” in a “chariot of fire” which created a whirlwind (II Kings 2:11), and of course, Ezekiel’s famous psychedelic close encounter (Ezekiel 1:1-28).

Baptism of JesusThe New Testament likewise contains many familiar-sounding sightings. Foremost is the famous “Star of Bethlehem” which Matthew records that the “Wise Men” — probably Zoroastrian astronomer-priests — followed “till it came to rest over the place where the child was” (Matt. 2:9) — most unusual behavior for a supernova, comet, or planetary conjunction! The birth itself had been immediately announced by the appearance of a messenger shining with “the glory of the Lord” to shepherds in the fields at night. (Luke 2:9)

Downing, himself a minister, argues that many of the terms describing such glorious and shining lights could be descriptions of UFOs. Even the shape believed to be the Holy Spirit that was seen to “descend like a dove” at Christ’s baptism and the “bright cloud” at the Transfiguration, (Matt. 17:1-8) might have been extraterrestrial craft. The men in shining clothes, such as those the disciples believed were Moses and Elijah at the Transfiguration, would then have been their occupants.

After the Crucifixion, yet another of these fellows came out of the sky, rolled the stone away from the tomb and announced the Resurrection. And of course, at the end of Jesus mission on Earth, he rose into the air and “a cloud took him out of their sight” while two of those mysterious Men in White consoled the disciples (Acts 1:6-11).

Downing recently has taken issue with Balducci, objecting to the monsignor’s desire to have UFOs treated as natural physical objects that have no impact on the faith. His own approach “does not presume that we can be sure any insulation separates UFOs and the biblical faith. We cannot assume that the ”pillar of cloud and of fire“ that led Moses and Israel during the Exodus was supernatural. Nor can we assume it was not. We cannot assume that modern UFOs are supernatural, nor that they are not. We cannot assume modem UFOs were involved in developing biblical faith, nor can we assume they were not.”

I thoroughly agree with this position. There may be no difference between “the supernatural and the supertechnological.” We must be open to these possibilities, not “insulate” faith from reason, and question everything.

Is the Creator an alien? One could argue that the sacred Torah, the very Law of God given to the Jews, could have been established to provide conditions in which to breed healthy stock. The Levitical restrictions on marriage, the prohibitions on homosexuality, premature withdrawal (“onanism”), as much as the dietary laws, may all have this end of creating and causing a particular bloodline to flourish. Recent studies proving the widespread existence of an “Aaronic” gene among Jewish men would indicate it succeeded.

But why would God want to selectively breed humans as if they were cattle on his cosmic ranch? A Christian might speculate that it was to prepare the proper genetic context for his Son, but that only begs the question. Why would God need a certain genotype to incarnate? Just how close “an image and likeness” of God are we, anyway?

Indeed, the Virgin Birth itself, where Mary was “overshadowed by the power of God,” (Luke 1:35) has uncomfortable echoes of tales of the alien-breeding program. Such parallels go on and on and what is worse, the closer the tale is to the central mysteries of faith, the more extraterrestrial the encounter can appear.

The saint and the silver disc

In any case, not all such UFO-like visions came from God. Some were sent of the Devil. One such early example was a sighting by St. Antony of the Desert (died 356), the first Christian monk. He was famed for his “temptations;” that is, being frequently and violently assaulted by grotesque devils of all varieties. He became a much sought-after expert on demonic wiles and appearances. In the fourth chapter of his hagiography there is this remarkable incident:

St. Antony… but Antony at once set out for the mountain. Yet once more the enemy [the devil], seeing his zeal and wishing to check it, threw in his way a large disc of silver. Antony, understanding the deceit of the Evil One, stood and looked at the disc and confuted the demon in it, saying, “Whence a disc in the desert? This is not a trodden road, and there is no track of any faring this way. And it could not have fallen unnoticed, being of huge size. And even if it had been lost, the loser would certainly have found it had he turned back to look, because the place is a desert. This is a trick of the devil. You will not hinder my purpose by this, Satan; let this thing perish with thee.” And as Antony said this, it disappeared like smoke before the face of a fire.[2]

It is a rather amusing image, this fearless hermit, probably half-crazed by the sun, boldly berating a flying saucer, but it illustrates that the Church long thought high-strangeness apparitions were caused by devils if they resulted in negative experiences.

Throughout the Middle Ages this principle held. There were certain interesting elements of the witchcraft craze of the early modern era that resemble modern UFO and abductee reports. The Men in Black, for instance, believed by all to be Satan’s minions (or perhaps even Old Nick himself), were particularly active.

Strangely reminiscent of the alien hybrid-breeding program was the idea, as reported by the Inquisitor Guazzo in the sixteenth century, of succubae and incubi. These were evil spirits who could appear to men as beautiful women, procure their sperm, and transport the seed across great distances to women, whom they would manifest in the guise of handsome men to implant their demon spawn, which they had somehow infused with their own diabolical traits. This could still serve as a perfect explanation, perhaps, for the Grey’s sexual agenda, according to the demonic theory of UFOs.

Our Lady of the Whirling Disc

Our Lady of FatimaIf, on the other hand, the encounter was of a sublime and positive nature, it is inevitably ascribed to a divine contact. The most famous of these happened less than a century ago whose repercussions continue to this day. It was a series of incidents that has been carefully examined by both theologians and ufologists alike, and pronounced by learned authorities in each camp to be legitimate events within their own field. I refer, of course, to the visions at Fatima.

Our Lady of Fatima [3], to which the late Pope John Paul II attributed his survival of the assassination attempt by Mehmet Ali Agca, appeared to three young shepherds, Lucia, Francis, and Jacinta, in rural Portugal beginning on May 13, 1917. In due course, the Roman Catholic hierarchy authenticated these apparitions as being of the Mother of God, and the site has become a world-famous place of pilgrimage, complete with miraculous healings.

A sudden white flash in the heavens announced her first appearance. The entity appeared to the children as a veiled young woman in a golden-edged white gown, decorated with golden stars on the breast and hem. She appeared standing amid one of those glowing clouds over a small bush.

More visions followed on a monthly basis and others soon became interested, including suspicious and hostile secular authorities. No one other than the children ever clearly saw the Lady. However, during later apparitions, the sun dimmed noticeably, the branches of the tree bent as if supporting a weight, and a humming sound was heard. “A loud report like the explosion of a rocket was heard at the end of the apparition, and at the same time a beautiful white cloud was seen to rise from the tree and move towards the east.” (Emphasis added.)

The children were given other visions on these occasions and others, all thoroughly Catholic — the Sacred Heart, the baby Jesus. They were shown even hell itself and in July, the Lady predicted the end of the First World War and the beginning of the Second — the first two of the famous “secrets of Fatima.” The next war would be heralded by “a night illumined by an unknown light” which Lucy later thought referred to an extraordinary transcontinental display of the aurora borealis on the night of January 25-26, 1938.

Interestingly enough, a few months before the October Revolution brought the Bolsheviks to power, the Lady promised that if her requests for prayer and sacrifice were heard “Russia would be converted and there would be peace.”

The police locked the children up to prevent them from attending in August at the time set by the Virgin. She appeared to them at another place the next week when they were again alone with their flock but was apparently not happy about it.

Here is the account of the next encounter according to the great French UFO expert, Jacques Vallee:

The fifth meeting was September 13. There were a number of witnesses, and they could see the “sphere of fire” used by the entity to come to the place of the meeting. According to the very words of the Reverand [sic] General Vicar of Leiria, who was one of the witnesses the lady came in an “aeroplane of light,” an “immense globe, flying westwards, at moderate speed. It irradiated a very bright light.” Some other witnesses saw a white being coming out of the globe, which several minutes later took off, disappearing in the direction of the sun. [4]

Some said a shower of strange flakes, like snow or rose petals, which vanished before they reached the ground or could be caught, followed this. But the best was still yet to come.

The Lady had promised a grand miracle in October and she certainly delivered a spectacular show. Indeed, at the final encounter exactly one month later, a crowd of some 70,000 people, including both clergy and scientists, witnessed the famous “miracle of the sun.”

One of the latter, a Prof. Almeida Garrett of Coimbra University, later wrote:

It was raining hard, and the rain trickled down everyone’s clothes. Suddenly, the sun shone through the dense cloud which covered it: everybody looked in its direction. It looked like a disc, of a very definite contour. It was not dazzling. I don’t think that it could be compared to a dull silver disc, as someone said later in Fatima. No. It rather possessed a clear, changing, brightness, which one could compare to a pearl. This is not poetry. My eyes have seen it. This clear-shaped disc suddenly began turning. It rotated with increasing speed. Suddenly, the crowd began crying with anguish. The sun, revolving all the time, began falling towards the earth, reddish and bloody, threatening to crush everybody under its fiery weight. (Emphasis by Vallee.) [5]

The disk, described as spinning and shooting off colors “like a Catherine’s wheel” firework, plunged at the Earth three times according to some witnesses before retreating back behind the clouds. Newspaper photos of the crowd showed the mass of people cringing in fear and astonishment from something seemingly sunwards above them. The spectacle, seen by some miles away, completely validated the children’s claims. The Virgin’s wishes for specific prayers and devotions to her that she expressed to them were widely broadcast — and obeyed.

Lucy, the sole one of the trio to survive into adulthood (still alive at 93 at the time of this writing), became a cloistered nun and received many private revelations. During World War II, she wrote down the three secret messages from the Virgin and sent them to her local bishop, who passed them on to the pope to be revealed in 1960.

The mysterious Third Secret of Fatima, however, supposedly contained such awful revelations it was suppressed, making the popes who read it turn white. It has become the subject of much fierce speculation by the devout. During his pilgrimage in May 2000, Pope John Paul II promised to released it, and apparently has, although the Vatican was not slow to put its own spin on it.

The Lady, identifying herself as “Our Lady of the Rosary,” asked believers to pray for the conversion of Russia. A countless legion of little old ladies diligently took up their beads, even calling themselves the “Blue Army of Mary.” After several apparently unsuccessful attempts, the pope, (by this time John Paul II), finally completed the powerful magical act of consecrating Russia to the Sacred Heart of Mary in 1984, several reigns later than asked, and in due course Soviet Communism fell.

Whether co-incidence or not, the whole question of the Lady’s instructions and prophecies in this context is peculiar. If these were purely spiritual events, why did they look and sound so much like UFOs? If the entity were a masquerading alien trying to communicate to some primitives in the guise of a god, why would it be so concerned about prayer, self-sacrifice and Russia’s religion? Could that just be a cover for some other agenda?

Or was it truly providential? Could all those prayers for Russia have somehow prevented planetary nuclear immolation? Was it foreseen? Looking back on the Cold War and how close East and West came to mutually assured destruction at times, one can only wonder if the events at Fatima were carefully arranged to miraculously avert it.

(In all fairness, it should also be noted that the brutal Spanish conquistadors came as Catholics and fought under the Virgin’s banner. A decade after their triumph over the Aztecs, putting an end to their gory civilization based on human sacrifice and ritual cannibalism, she made a dramatic appearance to Juan Diego, an Indian (and recently, a saint), as the Virgin of Guadalupe. Her veneration quickly supplanted the now-discredited native religion and became the most widely-popular devotion in the New World. Mary, it seems, may have a more complicated agenda than just world peace.)

In any case, once again the combination of spirituality with what could be highly advanced technology at Fatima is baffling. As Sir Arthur Clarke is widely reported to have said, “Technology sufficiently developed is indistinguishable from magic.” Maybe he should have said religion.

Part of the problem, it seems, is that there cannot be a real distinction between ufology and theology, spirituality and technology, any more here at the dawn of the third millennium after Christ. Perhaps there never truly was, other than the arbitrary rift between faith and reason that was created by the Church to maintain her monopoly on a superior form of “truth” beyond mere scientific fact.

Unfortunately for us, the aliens seem to have no respect for this human pigeonholing of reality. The incomprehensible facts of divine and/or extraterrestrial visitation exceed our spirituality as much as they do our technology.


[1] Downing, Barry H., The Bible and Flying Saucers, Avon Books, New York, 1968. Back

[2] Athanasius, St. Antony of the Desert, trans. by J. B. McLaughlin, TAN Books and Publishers, Rockford, Ill., 1995, p. 16. Back

[3] Otherwise unattributed quotes in this section are from Our Lady of Fatima: Queen of the Most Holy Rosary, published by the Benedictine Convent of Perpetual Adoration, Clyde, Missouri, 1950. Back

[4] Vallee, Jacques, UFO’s in Space: Anatomy of a Phenomenon, Ballantine Books, New York, 1965, p. 205. Back

[5] Ibid., p.207. Back

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