Kenneth Arnold's sighting which reportedly occurred on June 24, 1947 marks the beginning of the modern UFO movement. However, UFO sightings and interplanetary travel were reported as early as the 1750's.
Birth Place of Movement: Cascade Mountains in western Washington.
Brief History: On June 24, 1947, pilot Kenneth Arnold was flying over the Cascades when he reported seeing "nine shiny objects in a chain-like formation speeding by at some 1600 miles per hour" (Ellwood 393). Arnold compared what he saw to a saucer skipping across water. This characterization led the media to adopt the concept of "flying saucer". Arnold's report was quickly followed by many other sightings reported from various places around the country.
The introduction of this phenomenon into society brought about rumors as to the meanings behind these unidentified flying objects. Soon, people began to believe that UFOs had made contact with humans. These humans came to be known as contactees. The first contactee was George Adamski, who claimed to have met a UFO traveler from Venus. Throughout the fifties, there were many other contactees who claimed interaction with interplanetary occupants.
Some of these contactees wrote books, gave lectures, and formed small groups of friends following them. These groups could be characterized as UFO audience cults. Like many audience cults, these groups serve as a form of social entertainment rather than a serious life commitment. Through the fifties and the sixties, UFO cults substantially remained at this level.
By the Seventies UFO audience cults began to take the shape of cult movements. A group known as Human Individual Metamorphosis (now known as Heaven's Gate) appeared in California in 1975. The two leaders of this group persuaded followers to follow them into the wilderness. They would be met by UFOs and carried to the "level above human."
In the Eighties and Nineties several cults emerged with a Christian system of beliefs. These groups considered UFO beings to be spiritual guides (even angels) who are assisting humans.
Sacred or Revered Texts: It is not possible to identify texts that would be sacred to all UFO groups, but some groups clearly have books or writings that have a sacred character. For instance, The Urantia Book is a massive two thousand page tome that tells the story of the people of our planet, Uranti, our destiny and relation to God, as well as detailed information of other universes. The Heaven's Gate cult, which committed mass suicide in March, 1997 had a volume entitled How and When Heaven's Gate May be Entered which could be considered sacred text. They also sited specific Bible texts, especially the eleventh Chaper of the Book of Revelations, that legitimate their mission.
Cult or Sect: Negative sentiments are typically implied when the concepts "cult" and "sect" are employed in popular discourse. Since the Religious Movements Homepage seeks to promote religious tolerance and appreciation of the positive benefits of pluralism and religious diversity in human cultures, we encourage the use of alternative concepts that do not carry implicit negative stereotypes. For a more detailed discussion of both scholarly and popular usage of the concepts "cult" and "sect," please visit our Conceptualizing "Cult" and "Sect" page, where you will find additional links to related issues.
Beliefs: Making sense of the UFO subculture, or more appropriately subcultures, is not easy. Most groups are small and function autonomously from all others. The only belief they share in common is the conviction that there are alien beings "out there". The nature of these beings, whether they are or have been present in our little corner of the universe, whether individuals have had contact with them, etc. are all points of differing beliefs.
Despite the differences among groups, several common beliefs can be found. A very common belief is the idea that only a select few (contactees) can communicate with UFOs. Since these contactees are the only way for others to receive the messages sent by UFO, followers must put full faith into what the contactees report.
Another common belief is the idea of evolution. Many groups believe that mankind evolves continuously from life time to life time. Of course, with each group, there are variations, but a common belief is that at the end of each life, a human being moves on to a new place to then further evolve.
Yet another belief is that everyone/everything is living and related. As a being moves on after life, there is a connection, and a closer relationship to becoming one with the Universe. After all things move on and evolve, all things will become one. What happens to this uniform being also varies from group to group.
Size of Group: Since there are numerous UFO Cults, no definite size can be determined. The majority of UFO cult movements rarely have more than fifty or sixty members at a given time, but UFO audience cults can have up to a couple thousand members. At a broader level, there are literally millions of persons with at least some casual interest in UFO.
II. Classification of UFO Watchers Interest in UFOs is understandably wide spread not only in North America, but virtually world-wide. Contemplation of the possibility that there might be life beyond the planet earth has existed for many centuries. This interest has accelerated tremendously in the twentieth century.
In less than a century humankind has advanced from the brief flight of the Wright brother's Kitty Hawk to manned space flights orbiting the earth, to landings on the moon, and space probes to the planets in our solar system which have sent back pictures with incredible detail.
Pulp science fiction writings early found their way to cinema. As the art and technology of cinematography have advanced during this century, these advances have quickly found their way into science fiction spectaculars. Both movies and television have showcased and popularized the idea of a world beyond out planet. In light of this, it should surprise no one that large proportions of people in the industrially developed world believe that there may be life beyond this planet.
And, furthermore, fairly large numbers of people are at least willing to entertain the possibility that our planet has been visited by extraterrestrials. So wide spread is the idea that our planet may have been visited by creatures of otter space, it would be hard to argue that this constitutes prima facie evidence of some kind of extraterrestrial spirituality. But there clearly is a rationale for arguing that there is a spiritual dimension involved in the regular consumption of UFO literature, participation in UFO conventions, and belonging to UFO groups.
But how are we to sort this all out? We suggest a simple five-fold typology that permits classification of most persons who have some interest in UFOs.
First, there are literally tens of millions of persons who might be classified as casual believers in extraterrestrial life. Within this category there exists a wide array of beliefs ranging from persons who accept what they believe to the likelihood that their is life "out there" to persons who take for granted that extraterrestrial life exists. Their level of interest in UFO related news stories is not paraticularly high. They might be may be compared to the person who often reads their horoscope but attributes no signifiant meaning to the content. A second group might be characterized as client believers. This group of persons ranges from individuals who frequently consume UFO magazines as a form of entertainment, to persons who take the whole UFO phenomenon pretty seriously. They watch the skies, attend UFO conventions, and some regularly participate in UFO audience cults.
A third group do indeed take the search of evidence of extraterestrial very seriously. These are people who are genuinely UFologists. The high status members of this category are those who can offer creditable accounts (in the eyes of their follow travelers) of contact with alien beings. They publish articles and books, lecture, organize conferences, and create web sites. Many among this category seek to legitimate their activity by claiming the mantle of science. Indeed, some follow methods of research they consider to be consistent with scientific methodology.
Whitley Strieber's is a good example of a person with exceptionally high status among UFologists. His book Communion became a best seller, and later was made into a movie, transforming him into an international Ufology icon. For the most part, those who have bonified academic scientific credentials do not accept this group as legitimate scholars. Scientists' skepticism regarding personal claims of UFologists is an important reason they do not generally accept the work of dedicated UFOlogists as legitimate research. For example, Strieber claims to have been abducted by aliens. This is not a claim that scientists are prepared to accept. At least not until a network television film crew captures an incident live. Even then, skepticism would likely remain until a blue ribbon commission had verified that authenticity of the filming.
A fourth group see themselves as co-participants with extraterrestrials in activities of cosmic significance. There special status may be the result of extraterrestrials having selected them to prepare earthlings for the arrival of these god-like creatures. Or, they may be agents to whom God has assigned responsibilities in the great cosmic scheme of things. These are the tiny bans of UFO cults. They do not all see themselves as "religious" groups. Indeed, some vigorously deny that they are religious in character. But they share a common perception of themselves as having a special role in human destiny on this planet.
We are talking here about a very small group of people. Gordon Melton's Encyclopedia of American Religions identifies twenty-six Flying Saucer Cults. Only a small proportion have developed a theology and/or escatology. Many lack a strong commitment to the proselytization of the "truth" of UFOs. Rather, they appear to be at best loosely organized audience cults.
The final group in our typology are the scientists who seek dispassionately seek to learn whether there is any evidence to support the hypothesis of life beyond earth. Like most groups of scientists, they are skeptical of anyone who may encroach upon their domain of inquiry and authority, especially those who make claims in the name of science. And, like other scientists, they would hope for the availability of greater resources to pursue their research agenda.
III. Contemporary Issues and Controversies
The subculture of persons interested in UFOs has been around since the 1950s. Mass media, television and tabloid journalism especially, have played upon the mysterious dimensions of UFOs for almost half-a-century. But for the most part, dedicated true believers have remained essentially invisible.
The mass suicide of the Heaven's Gate cult brought renewed public interest in UFO cults. How many groups exist? Are there others that stand on the brink of mass suicide? All UFO cults become suspect as potential candidates for another mass suicide. Anti-cults have joined tabloid journalism in fanning the flames of fear.
The Internet has added a new dimension to cult hysteria, namely the fear that web pages have become a new method to recruit persons to UFO groups. There seems to be wide spread belief that UFO cultist are engaged in stealth campaigns to recruit new members. We find no evidence to support this.
Lets talk common sense about UFO cults...
Gordon Melton, in his authoritative Encyclopedia of American Religions identifies a total of twenty-three UFO groups (some of which were defunct when he went to press). Assuming there are a few others he has missed, we are not talking big numbers in terms of organized activity.
The Christian Research Institute (a counter-cult organization) has claimed that: "The 'Higher Source' or 'Heaven's Gate' cult is only one of literally thousands of 'millennial madness' cults that are proliferating at breakneck speed as we approach the new millennium. They attract followers by proclaiming a coming catastrophe that can only be avoided through allegiance to the leader and his teachings." Upon examination of the facts, it is clear that the Christian Research Institute made an irresponsible statement beyond comprehension.
Heaven's Gate was unique among cults in general, and UFO cults in particular, in many important respects:
First, Heaven's Gate was the only group, to our knowledge, with a tightly organized communal living arrangement. This has important implications for collective decisions;
Second, not only did it have a substantially complex theology, it also had an elaborate escatology (a branch of theology concerned with the end-times) that pointed to their central role;
Third, with the benefit of hindsight, it might appear that the activities of this group had been pointing to its tragic conclusion for years. However, a diary of one of the members details discussions of terrestrial exits from Southern California before the appearance of the Hale Bopp comet. This suggests the attibution of extraordinary meaning to an event (the appearance of the comet) that is not so terriably common, but a natural reoccuring event. If their theology provided an interpretation of the appearance of Hale Bopp that lead them down the path toward mass suicide, the suicides were not an inevitable outsome of the theology. They might just as well have ended up taking terrestrial leave for another country, or different part of the country as they had done on so many occasions. There were other features that make Heaven's Gate unique. Urantia, another exterrestrial group (profiled on this site) released a statement to the press detailing the differences between themselves and the Heaven's Gate cult. Other groups did the same. In short, there were many aspects of Heaven's Gate that made them sufficiently different that the presumption of traits among cults is not warranted.
IV. Select UFO Groups We offer here thumbnail sketches of four UFO groups: Aetherius Society , Unarius Academy of Science , International Raelian Movement , and the Urantia Brotherhood . Full Profiles of these groups are available on this site. You may go directly to these pages by clicking on the group above, at the end of each thumbnail, or at the top of this page. Aetherius Society
This is an international UFO organization that claims to be dedicated to world peace and enlightenment. In 1954, Sir King George was choosen to found the Aetherius Society. Sir King George was a master at yoga, which allowed him to gain control of a mystical power called Kundalini. He was also taught how to gain telepathic communication with cosmic matter.
In order for telepathy to occur, he was required to enter a "Positive Yogic Samadhic Trance" condition. It was in this type of highly elevated state of consciousness that he received messages from cosmic materials. He became the "Primary Terrestrial Mental Channel for the Cosmic Masters." All of the messages recieved by Sir King George were meticulously recorded for spiritual use.
These Cosmic Masters help mankind in several ways. Cosmic Masters send cosmic teachings through Sir King George. These teachings are considered "profound revelations...on the path towards Enlightenment." At certain times, Cosmic Masters send immense "spiritual energy" to Earth. These bursts of radiation are referred to as Spiritual Pushes. Any spiritualy minded person can use this energy for spiritual purposes.
The Aetherius Society believes that the human race is at a crossroad. One path, self inflicted by his own science and materialism, leads to damnation. The other, through the development of mankind's higher self and abiding by the Law of God, leads to a "New Age". The focus of the cosmic masters' teachings is on service. Service is the path to the "New Age." The following is part of a recorded teaching from Mars Sector 6:
"Serve - and the mighty power of kundalini will rise in natural, unforced fashion and open the chakra jewels in your higher bodies. In will pour inspiration and you will be standing on the verge of the initiation into Adeptship." --Mars Sector 6 from The Nine Freedoms The group also has a Cosmic Concept which explains its view of the Universe and mankind's role in it. According to this concept, when we master our lessons on Earth, we don't merge back with God, we move on. We continue along our journey back to God. We evolve, becoming closer to the "Spark of God" inside us. We leave the cycle of rebirth. We construct a more subtle and lasting body. From this point, there is a choice to be made.
Some choose to remain on Earth to help their brothers. These make up the "Spiritual Hierarchy of Earth", also known as "The Great White Brotherhood", (the White meaning white magic). Others can choose to move on to other planets within this Solar System. Here they learn new lessons, and help the others inhabitants evolve. This cycle continues for millions of years. At some point (a significant distance away), we will all merge with other life forms (including all things in the Universe) to become moons and planets and even stars. This entire process occurs "while conscious, sentient, alive".
Knowing that one day, Sir King George will "move on", the Cosmic Masters have prophesized that the next Master is coming. The following is the Cosmic Prophecy that details when the next Master will arrive and how to identify him:
There will shortly come Another among you. He will stand tall among men with a shining countenance. This One will be attired in a single garment of the type now known to you. His shoes will be soft-topped, yet not made of the skin of animals. He will approach the Earth leaders. They will ask of Him, His credentials. He will produce these. His magic will be greater than any upon Earth - greater than the combined materialistic might of all the armies. And they who heed not His words, shall be removed from the Earth. This Rock is now Holy - and will remain so for as long as the World exists. Go ye forth and spread My Word throughout the World, so that all men of pure heart may prepare for His coming. --A Lord of Karma --November 23, 1958
To learn more about the Aetherius Society, visit the Aetherius Society Profile on this web site. You may also visit the Aetherius official homepage and/or their "Learning Links" page.
Unarius Academy of Science
The Unarius Academy of Science, was founded by Dr. Ernest L. and Ruth E. Norman in 1954. The group is a "nonprofit, educational and scientific institution and a membership organization". The word Unarius stands for UNiversal ARticulate Interdimensional Understanding of Science.
The group teachs a corrective and preventive psychotherapy based on reincarnation, a curriculum of self-mastery which explains the interactive, and regenerative function of the mind and brain-body system. Unarius also attempts to explain the origin of atomic life within new interdimensional science. The group participates in an "inner directed study of the mind." Its purpose is to awaken the individual to previous life encounters, and the reality of one's spiritual connection.
As cosmic visionaries, the Normans are pioneers of logic and reason, in order to bring man to an understanding of the principle of evolutionary physics. The Unarius Academy also provides realistic models which answer man's desire to know of himself.
The importance it to the individual progress in his evolution, because society has regressed greatly over many hundreds of thousands of years. The Unarius curriculum is a `Science of Life,' which when applied, places the individual on a higher position in his spiritual evolution. "A progressive evolution is a 'must' if one is to survive - Spiritually!"
The Unarius Academy of Science prophesized that in the year 2001 Earth will be visited by the Muons of Planet Myton from the Pleiades on a mission of peace.Others on extraterrestrial planets in our galaxy realize danger to the evolutionary continuity of not only earth, but other planets. Man is not alone in the Universe and the landing of this spaceship will not be the last. It is a preparatory development to bring the natural evidence of life on other planets and of other civilizations to mankind on Earth. This preparation is the first stage in the alignment of 33 planets, of which Earth is thirty-third and final member, "forming an Interplanetary Confederation for the Spiritual Renaissance of Humankind on Earth."
This prophecy raises the question: Who are the Pleiadeans? The Pleiadeans are individuals living on seven planets called the Pleiadean Cluster of planets within the constellation of Taurus. The Uranius Academy's history mentions the Pleiadeans as a positive force who are "cosmic visionaries with an understanding of their spiritual identity". The Pleiadeans are "Space Brothers" who work for the benefit of humankind, by preparing to leave their home and remain on Earth during the development that will initiate a spiritual renaissance. The Pleiadeans will gain spiritual acceptance through the introduction of advanced devices to correct disease of the mind and the body. They will also give us information that will raise the "consciousness of humankind and our connection to other planets forming the Interplanetary Confederation". Another prophecy: A Pleiadean starship will land on a rising portion of Atlantis in the area of the Bermuda Triangle in the Caribbean Sea in the year 2001.
The history of our planet describes the rise and fall of civilizations. Such history reflects the "war between darkness and light, between materialism and spirit posed against the backdrop of regressive and progressive evolution". Planets that were positively biased taught the principles that led to the development of the higher consciousness. Alternatively, the materially biased worlds emphasized the physical brain/body system. The purpose of life is to evolve all of its organisms. Therefore it is the responsibility and of each person to know of his cosmic structure. The Interplanetary Confederation is a larger wheel, a vortex of great power made up of 33 worlds and the billions of people who are attuned to a higher frequency. Such a consciousness extending the principle of love in action would mean the end of all war, poverty, and disease. All institutions that form the culture of society will reflect a new spiritual force in the realization that we are all brothers and sisters of the infinite under the guidance of advanced spiritual beings.
For a more detailed account of the Unarius Academy and its beliefs, we invite you to visit the Unarius Academy of Science Profile , on this site. You may also access their official homepage.
International Raelian Movement
The Raelian Movement claims that: it is highly beneficial to everyone, it stands for the most basic of human rights, and the values are essential for the survival of humanity. Annual two-week seminars teach these values, and a philosophy of life based on the latest developments in science and demystification of religion. The seminars are run by recognized scientists, doctors, theologians and psychologists and through techniques of meditation, enable the 300-700 participants to create a marked improvement in their mental, emotional and physical well being.
Raelian values include:
An awareness of the consequences of our actions. Absolute respect for life. Self-respect. Love for oneself. Respect for others. Non-violence. Democracy. World peace. Sharing.
The messages dictated to Rael explain how life on Earth is not the result of random evolution, nor the work of a supernatural "God". It is a deliberate creation, using DNA, by a scientifically advanced people who made human beings literally in their image. References to these scientists and their work, as well as to their symbol of infinity can be found in the ancient texts of many cultures. For example, in Genesis, the biblical account of creation, the word "Elohim" has been mistranslated as "God" in the singular, but it is a plural, which means "those who come from the sky".
Leaving our humanity to progress by itself, the Elohim maintained contact with us via prophets including Buddha, Moses, Jesus and Mohammed , all specially chosen and educated by them. The role of the prophets was to progressively educate humanity through the messages they taught, each time adapted to the culture and level of understanding at the time. They were also to leave traces of the Elohim so that we would be able to recognize them as our creators and fellow human beings when we had advanced enough scientifically to understand them.
In 1973, a journalist, Rael, was contacted by the Elohim, who asked him to make their final message known worldwide, and to prepare an Embassy where they can officially land among us, bringing them the prophets as predicted by most other religions.
(Click to see a picture of the image referred to.) In the Raelian symbol, the Star of David represents infinite space. The extraterrestrials who created mankind have scientifically proven that the infinitely small has the same structure as the infinitely large. The atoms in our hand, for instance, contain minute galaxies which themselves have planets with minute humanities living there. Similarly, our own galaxy is a tiny particle of a huge atom which itself is part of some immense world and so on and so on.
The symbol in the center resembling the shape of our galaxy, represents infinity in time. Everything in the universe is in transformation in the infinitely small and the infinitely large. Matter has no beginning and no end: everything is a cycle.
The symbol of infinity is the emblem of the Raelian Movement, which was founded by Rael, the last messenger of the Elohim. Elohim is a plural word, as found in the original Hebrew biblical texts and means "those who came from the sky". The Elohim are those extraterrestrials who, through the synthesis of DNA, scientifically created mankind "in their own image".
For more information on the Raelian Movement and its beliefs, please visit the International Raelian Movement . And, you may also visit the official homepage of Raelians.
This UFO organization was founded in the early 1950's by Dr. William S. Sadler. The group is commonly known for their Urantia Book, with over 2,000 pages of their history and beliefs.
To learn more about the Urantian Brotherhood, please visit the Urantian Profile on this web site. The most extensive on line resource for information on the Urantia Book my be found at the web site of the Fellowship for Readers of the Urantia Book.