Let no man deceive you by any means… (II Thess. 2:3)
It is no coincidence that the ancient pagan mystery religions as well as numerous mystical fraternities (such as the Theosophists and Rosicrucians) speak of an “elite” – sometimes called “the Great White Brotherhood,” the Ascended Master,” or the “Mahatmas” of Madame Blavatsky – a group of beings seeking to guide and control the destiny of mortal man. Sometimes this “elite” is seen as nonhuman, at other times as “highly evolved” or perfected humans.
The ancestor of this “elite” is the daimon of the ancient pagan Greeks – from which, in fact, we get the word “demon,” and which prompted the Holy Fathers to say that “the gods of the pagans are demons”. Thus, from the Christian point of view, there can be no doubt that such an invisible “elite” exits, and is known to the followers of Christ as the army of fallen angels, the demonic host. This host enters into our world through sin and heresy, as well as by occult practices of all kinds (from apparently “innocent” things such as ouija boards to the New Age practice of “channeling”). Now, however, fallen angels have found a new and particularly dazzling way to enter the world of men.
Whereas a generation ago only “cranks” and the mentally/emotionally distressed believed in UFO’s, today more than half the population of the United States, according to surveys, accepts the reality of alien visitors. In particular, “many New Agers believe in unidentified flying objects,” according to Time, “crewed by oddly shaped extraterrestrials who have long visited the earth from more advanced planets, spreading the wisdom that created, among other things, Stonehenge and the pyramids of Egypt.”
Although UFO literature is proliferous, the most respected and listened-to UFO “convert” is Whitley Strieber, who has written two recent books on his own experiences, Communion: A True Story (1987) and its sequel, Transformation: A Breakthrough (1988). Both books have been on the best seller list and the author has appeared in numerous television interviews, partly because he writes well and has consulted many members of the scientific community.
Although Strieber says that he was never before interested in UFO’s and had read practically nothing on the subject, “this is the story,” he writes in the first book, “of one man’s attempt to deal with a shattering assault from the unknown. It is a true story, as true as I know how to describe it. To all appearances I have had an elaborate personal encounter with intelligent nonhuman beings. But who could they be, and where have they come from? Are unidentified flying objects real? Are they goblins or demons…or visitors?”
Beginning in December, 1985, Strieber and his family experienced a whole series of dream-like lights, voices, touchings and “night visitors” with bug-like heads. “At first,” he said, “I thought I was losing my mind. But I was interviewed by three psychologists and three psychiatrists, given a battery of psychological tests and a neurological examination, and found to fall within the normal range in all respects. I was also given a polygraph…and I passed without qualification….The visitors marched right into the middle of the life of an indifferent skeptic without a moment’s hesitation.”
The fact that Streiber’s first book, Communion, also contains official medical statements as to his normalcy and sanity, as well as transcripts of hypnotic sessions (used to focus the details of his experiences) and that he acknowledges by name the help of prominent scientists in many fields, adds to the veracious tone of his frightening story.
Streiber speculates that his “visitors” could be:
1. “from another planet or planets;
2. “from earth, but so different from us that we have not hitherto understood that they were even real;
3. “from another aspect of space-time – another dimension;
4. “from this dimension in space but not in time” – in other words, time travel by our own descendants into their own past (our present);
5. “from within us;
6. “a certain hallucinatory wire in the mind, or
7. “an aspect of the human species” – perhaps ghosts or, better yet, “maybe you and I are larvae, and the ‘visitors’ are human beings in the mature form.”
What makes Streiber’s account so compelling is his apparent objectivity: he projects himself as an innocent bystander, in no way responsible for this bizarre encounter. Beyond the pages of these books, however, one discovers that Streiber is also the author of several horror stories, which contain similarities to his real-life experience. As one critic pointed out: “Communion seems like the end of a logical progression leading from the fiction side of the best-seller list to the non-fiction side” (Thomas Dirch in The Nation, March 14, 1987). What is even more revealing, Streiber studied for 15 years with the Gurdjieff Foundation, a cultish group whose teaching stresses “the development of powers latent in the human psyche,” and whose spiritual eclecticism is popular among today’s New Agers. Obviously, Streiber’s role was not as passive as he would lead his readers to believe; he had – unknowingly, no doubt – predisposed himself to cooperate with such an experience. And one can more readily understand why the ‘aliens’ told him: “You are our chosen one.”
Although he brings a diverse array of ideas and theories from world religion and philosophy to bear on his subject – everything from Hindu mythology to the warfare of St. Anthony the Great with demons – religion and God in any traditional sense are conspicuously absent from his thinking and he comes down in favor of the popular modern idea that science is the only “key” -- if still primitive -- to understanding these experiences. But, as Hieromonk Seraphim (Rose) wrote in his study of UFO’s: “Science fiction has given the images, ‘evolution’ has produced the philosophy, and the technology of the ‘space age’ has supplied the plausibility for such encounters” (Orthodoxy and the Religion of the Future, p. 120).
Rather than a boundless thirst for God, we have instead a “great thirst for contact with superior minds that will provide guidance for our poor, harrassed, hectic planet” (Jacques Vallee, quoted in ORF, p. 138). Indeed, Streiber is himself a fervent environmentalist with an apocalyptic sense of the destruction man is bringing upon his little earth-home.
What is clear in Streiber’s books is that mind or thought control is being exercised on the human race by these “visitors” in a way that can only be described in the classic sense as occult. The Orthodox reader is chilled when, at one point, the author discovers that he can “call up” these “visitors” at will and experience a kind of “communion with them (thus, the title of his first book) in a manner that is clearly mediumistic.
No Orthodox Christian even slightly versed in the lives of the saints and the writings of the Holy Fathers can fail to understand what is happening here. The similarities between Streiber’s experiences (and those of other UFO “contactees”) and the demonic warfare of the saints is compelling. The author himself even describes peculiar smells associated with his “visitors” – among them, a “sulfur-like” odor which he compares to the head of a matchstick. His “visitors” have frightening, insect-like heads with enormous eyes that he associates with statues of the pagan goddess Ishtar. In Transformation he writes:
“I felt an absolutely indescribable sense of menace. It was hell on earth to be there, and yet I couldn’t move, couldn’t cry out, and couldn’t get away. I lay as still as death, suffering inner agonies. Whatever was there seemed so monstrously ugly, so filthy and dark and sinister….I still remember that thing crouching there, so terribly ugly, its arms and legs like the limbs of a great insect, its eyes glaring at me.”
In his second book Streiber concludes that many of the “close encounters” he has had (and is still having) are for the purpose of “shattering my belief in the accepted paradigm of reality. And it succeeded very well … I suspect that experiences such as [these] are the outcomes of a fundamental shift of mind. They are what happens when people begin to abandon the old, false beliefs …” Truer words were never spoken.
Although Streiber now believes that his “visitors” are exraterrestrials and have a physical reality, he also calls them “goblins” and “soul-eaters,” who have the “ability to enter the mind and affect thought,” and much, much worse. He writes:
“Increasingly I felt as if I were entering a struggle for my soul, my essence, or whatever part of me might have reference to the eternal … It was clear that the soul was very much at issue. People [have] experienced feeling as if their souls were being dragged from their bodies. More than one person had seen the visitors in the context of a near-death experience.”
In spite of all this, Streiber’s delusion is so great that he can enthusiastically say that “it is up to each one of us to seek our own contact [with the ‘visitors’], develop it if it occurs, and challenge ourselves to use it for … spiritual growth …”
By contrast, Bishop Ignatius Brianchaninov wrote, a century ago: “The perception of spirits with the eyes of sense always brings harm, sometimes greater and sometimes less, to men who do not have spiritual perception ... He will unfailingly be deceived, he will unfailingly be attracted, he will unfailingly be sealed with the seal of deception … the seal of a frightful injury to his spirit; and further, the possibility of correction and salvation is often lost. This has happened with many, very many. It has happened not only with pagans, whose priests were for the most part in open communion with demons; it has happened not only with many Christians who do not know of the mysteries of Christianity… it has [also] happened with many strugglers and monks …” (quoted in The Soul After Death, p.68)
When he wasn’t “seeing” them, Streiber nonetheless frequently “heard” their voices, “as if from a small speaker just to the right of my head.” Without any difficulty at all he saw that this was similar to the pagan oracles of old: “The oracles at Delphi and many other places in the ancient world were channels answering questions in trance … With the rise of Christianity the voice died … So the voice I was hearing, as also the voices heard by modern channels, was possessed by an ancient and lofty human heritage … I was still well within the tradition of human experience.”
Streiber also speaks of psychic gifts that suddenly appear, unbidden, in people who have UFO experiences: “precognition, apparent telepathy, out-of-the-body perceptions, and even physical levitation. Such people often find street lights mysteriously shutting down as they walk down the street. (One wonders if he had ever seen the 1950’s film about modern-day witchcraft, “Bell, Book, and Candle, in which a novice warlock is able to turn out the street lights as he passes by.)
Streiber concludes benignly: “I do not think we have even begun to comprehend the visitors. I suspect that we are a lot farther from understanding them than we are from understanding, say, the songs of the whales ...”
But Fr. Seraphim wrote: “Such 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 … A true evaluation of UFO experiences 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” (ORF, pp. 137-138).
Ever since the phenomenally successful movies, “Close Encounters” and “E.T.” (just recently re-released), we have seen a resurgence of interest in UFO phenomena. It will doubtless continue to grow as Christianity wanes in the West and people instead tune their ears to very ancient “voices,” once stilled by the Son of God.
The Orthodox Christian, however, must hold on to the redemption offered by Christ, for, as Fr. Seraphim wrote, “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 (the demons) … 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 …” (ORF, pp. 144-145).
O Archangel of God, leave us not defenseless
against the spirits of evil in the
(from the Prayer to St. Michael the
Fr. Alexey Young[OA/_private/oabot.htm]