The other night, I was fortunate enough to score a ticket to a sold-out screening of two classic-UFO-inspired short films at the Burbank Film Festival. The first was The Maury Island Incident, which tells the allegedly true story behind the long-dismissed UFO case from 1947. It was an entertaining film, though one more relevant to this blog was the second in the screening, Stranger at the Pentagon, directed by Craig Campobasso. A complete story in its own right, it’s also a sales piece for the eventual feature, and is based on the book of the same name by one of the classic Contactees, Dr. Frank E. Stranges.
|Dr. Frank to his friends.
Stranges, who passed away in 2008, was an evangelical minister who claimed to have met a man named Valiant Thor in 1959. Val, as he was commonly called, was from the interior of Venus and was a VIP guest of the US Government while he tried to offer assistance (in the form of new technologies to eliminate death and aging, among other things) to the people of Earth. This assistance was rejected by the President at the time, Dwight D. Eisenhower, on the grounds that it would destroy the economy.
Being that this was a short film, it necessarily breezed over many of the details of Dr. Frank’s story, but still managed to be thoroughly enjoyable. Both the narrative and visual styles were reminiscent of the ’60s, in all its Technicolor-hued, brightly lit glory. They visual effects were very advanced for a short film, capturing a happy place between a ’60s aesthetic and a modern, iPod-influenced high tech.
If you get the opportunity to see this film, or donate to its completion, please do so. But beyond the scope of the film (at least the short version) is what I find very interesting about this story…that of religion and the Contactees.
Many, such as Carl Sagan, have decried the Contactees as fanatics more akin to religious sects than to a scientific-minded group, despite their many scientific claims. And though it’s often relegated to the background of the Contactee stories, religion is an integral part of those same stories.
Much like the rest of the world when it comes to religion, however, there was a fair amount of dissent amongst the Contactees. The questions that come up are endless…how does salvation work on a universal scale? Is heaven peopled with nonhuman aliens? Did Buddha reincarnate on another planet? Are there other religions in space that we don’t have here? Was Ganesha’s odd appearance due to him being an alien? Did Jesus save the souls of the denizens of other planets?
To many of the Contactees, though not Dr. Stranges, the answer to that last question was yes. Val Thor spoke of how while the Space Brothers were not actually Christian, (as they were perfect beings unspoiled by sin and therefore found religion unnecessary), they were aware of Christianity, and even introduced himself as being from the planet “your Bible refers to as the morning and the evening star.” I think it’s interesting that a being from a society advanced enough to travel across millions of miles of empty space would describe his homeworld in poetic, rather than scientific terms. (Such as how Orthon told Adamski that he was from the second planet from the sun.)
|One of a handful of photos of Valiant Thor
That, to me, is the poetry of the Contactee stories. The most intriguing of the stories weren’t just straightforward, technical tales. In addition to being scientifically advanced, the Space Brothers were also spiritually advanced. Their art, philosophy, and religion was of a higher order. Perhaps their manner of thinking would be to put things in terms that we might understand. As Val was speaking to an evangelical minister, perhaps he deliberately chose to speak in theological terms.
As with any discussion of religion, this is filled with controversy. Some have criticized the idea of Christian aliens as being awfully convenient for the Christians. One wonders how a Contactee claiming Allah as the deity of choice on Venus would have fared.
Other Contactees were somewhat more pragmatic in their approach to organized religions and Space Brothers, choosing to say that religion actually originated from outer space. George King of the Aetherius Society, for example, claimed that Jesus, Buddha, and Krishna were all beings from other worlds who came down to earth to teach us the cosmic laws of outer space. Perhaps more controversially, he claimed that Krishna was the most advanced of them all, even more than Jesus. I suspect Dr. Frank would take objection to this characterization.
Still other Contactees took a broader perspective on the idea of religion. George Adamski promoted the principles of “Universal Law”, which were the guiding rules that govern all citizens of other planets. Most of these principles are fully compatible with Christianity, as well as with Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism and Islam, as they are the core principles of all major religions. Compatible, that is, provided one dispenses with the organizational and narrative structures of religion and focus instead on the messages being conveyed. Adamski advocated for the abolition of organized religion in favor of supporting the universal principles that they all shared, because those divisions only caused strife.
And then there are those who claim, even today, that any beings from outer space are damned, because they have not received the Gospels. Some go so far as to say that what we call extraterrestrials are in fact demons in disguise. Obviously, this subject is too big to tackle in any single blog post, so I may return to it at a later point. Or, you can stay tuned and watch the documentary They Rode the Flying Saucers.