extraterrestrials (Religious Movement)

Extraterrestrials are figures of religious significance in a number of new religious movements, including groups such as the Raelian Church, Unarius, the Aetherius Society, Kofuku-no-Kagaku (Institute for Research in Human Happiness) and Heaven’s Gate. Although specific beliefs regarding extraterestrials differ from group to group, there is also an underlying commonality to beliefs regarding extraterrestrials within these new religious movements.

Six factors drawn from the broader UFO movement (see UFOs) have influenced the perception of extraterrestrials among members of UFO groups and others. The first is the reported sighting of UFOs over Mt Rainer, Washington on 24 June 1947 that introduced the public to the term ‘flying saucer’, and the subsequent reported recovery of a crashed UFO on 3 July 1947 by the United States Military at Roswell, New Mexico. These events combined to produce the conviction among UFO believers that UFOs are the technologically sophisticated space craft of extraterrestrial visitors. The second is the emergence of the UFO contactee movement in the 1950s, characterized by claims to have met with and spoken to extraterrestrials. The contactees contributed an image of extraterrestrials as socially, morally and spiritually superior to human beings. The third factor is the emergence of the UFO abduction phenomenon in the 1960s, when stories of alien abduction and medical experimentation began to circulate. The UFO abduction phenomenon contributed two ideas: that extraterrestrials were interested in our genetic makeup; and that some extraterrestrials were not necessarily benevolent. The fourth factor is the widespread popularity of the ancient astronaut theory that emerged following the theatrical release of Erich von Daniken’s Chariots of the Gods? Unresolved Mysteries of the Past (1969). This topic popularized the thesis that religious texts and images record prehistoric contacts with extraterrestrials. The fifth factor is the return of the contactee phenomenon in the 1970s, with the added dimension of an ancient astronaut theme. Common to accounts of contactees in the 1970s are claims that extraterrestrials created human life from alien DNA. This conviction is prevalent in several organized UFO groups, including the Raelian Church. Finally, the sixth factor is the increased awareness in the 1980s of channeling as practiced within the New Age Movement. Channeling contributed the idea that extraterrestrials need not be physically present on earth to communicate with human beings.

Based on these factors, the image of extraterrestrials that has emerged within new religious movements is of beings scientifically, technologically, morally, and spiritually superior to human beings. They are scientifically superior because their science has overcome the obstacle of intergalactic travel, circumventing the speed of light; and has overcome the mystery of interspecies reproduction, allowing the creation of human beings and genetic hybrids. Their technology is superior because it has created propulsion systems for UFOs which defy the laws of gravity and inertia, and other technological marvels such as robots, teleportation devices, and artificial gestation apparatus currently beyond human technological abilities. Extraterrestrials are understood within organized UFO religious groups to be concerned with human abuse of science and technology, particularly with threats of nuclear war and environmental catastrophe. Members of Unarius, the Aetherius Society, and the Raelian Church have all claimed to to have received scientific and technological guidance from extraterrestrials.

In addition to scientific and technological superiority, extraterrestrials are also considered to be morally and spiritually superior to human beings. They are morally superior to human beings because they have overcome poverty, prejudice, and war, and their societies are based on love for their fellow galactic beings. Moral guidance from extraterrestrials within organized UFO religious groups consists of urging us to love one another and end our warlike ways. Extraterrestrials are also spiritually superior to human beings, because they are understood to have reached a realization of their spiritual unity with one another and with the universe, and to act as guides so that humans might attain this awareness also. The moral and spiritual guidance received from extraterrestrials forms the basis of the religious dimensions of organized UFO groups.

Extraterrestrials are figures of reverence within organized UFO religious groups, but they are not objects of worship. Extraterrestrials are understood within an evolutionary framework suggesting they are simply farther along the scientific, biological and spiritual path of evolution than human beings. Consequently, they are conceptualized with organized UFO religious groups as guides, parents, teachers, brothers and sisters, but not as gods. Most organized UFO spiritual groups also believe in the existence of less evolved ‘evil’ alien entities who work to oppose our continued learning and spiritual evolution. The spiritual task of believers is often therefore to overcome evil alien influence under the guidance of benevolent alien teachings.

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