How you are fallen from heaven,
O Day Star…
In July 1947 press reports surfaced that a crashed ‘Flying Saucer’ had been captured at Roswell, New Mexico. Days later an official denial came from the same source that had initially confirmed the capture: the United States military.
In those few days the template was set for the modern Unidentified Flying Object (UFO) phenomenon: reports followed by counter reports, sightings followed by official explanations, cries of disinformation, talk of alleged cover-ups pitted against the insistence on various ‘proofs’ that ‘we are not alone.’
The thing is, we know we are not alone and never have been. Therefore, the question should be: what is it that now comes to meet us?
Recently, a New York Times article asked why UFO sightings were more prominent than ever and much more numerous across the United States than anywhere else. Pope Francis, when once asked about the possibility of alien life, replied that it was a subject that he knew little about, but then joked about baptizing ‘little green men.’ What, however, if the subject was far from a laughing matter? What if, behind it, lay something with which we are all too familiar in the spiritual realm? What if the UFO phenomenon was part of a wider deception that, for some at least, has blurred the lines between reality and fantasy, science and pseudoscience, confusing a vision of a God-created universe with one out of control—or, worse, in the hands of malignant forces?
What if those UFO enthusiasts who study the alleged sightings and actions of extraterrestrial visitors were to scan not night skies but look instead to the texts in the libraries of ancient monasteries and the mostly forgotten manuals of spiritual warfare? In these books, now too often covered in dust, they would find much that might surprise them. They might also find the answer to their question: whence do such beings come? The answer would appear to be a simple one: hell.
The Bible is not silent on the varieties of existence in the universe. Everything is to be understood in the light of the truth of the Incarnation; everything has to be judged against it. In short, therefore, the question must be asked: is this belief in alien life, of whatever hue, compatible with faith in the Lord of Lord, the King of Kings? Any belief in creatures outside the economy of salvation—or that is somehow neutral when it comes to the reality of the Christian’s spiritual battle—is not only nonsensical, but also dangerous.
Let me explain.
Some years back, I met a young man troubled by the idea of UFOs. He had read enough on the subject to start to doubt his once strongly held Christian beliefs. The idea of beings from another world, promulgated by television shows and other sources, made him question his faith. Eventually, the seeds sown grew into a lack of belief in Christianity. This was the rotten fruit of peering into the sky looking for light that never came. For those familiar with the text of C.S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters you may remember the passages where the demon Screwtape gives advice to his evil nephew. The instructions develop along the lines that it doesn’t matter what the nature of the temptation is, whether materialistic or fantastical, as long this belief drags the soul from the truth.
UFOs are one such phantasm. They waste time. They confuse. They undermine the reality of what is already presented to us in page after page of Holy Writ. Do they move us closer to the truth of our faith? Do they engender faith? Do they make us more charitable? I suspect not.
Earlier I mentioned that the UFO phenomenon would be best studied via the prism of the writings on spiritual warfare. That remains a real battle still. It has raged since the Fallen Angels crash-landed in hell. The myriad names that have been given to these angels should always include the epitaph: deceiver. Be not deceived, however, they have come among us to ensure one thing only, namely, that we do not find our way back to their former and our real home.
Study the saints in their battles with the forces of darkness. The wiles of these forces are easily discerned—confusion and counterfeit are their hallmarks. Think now of people like my young friend and his sad countenance marked by confusion and a mind ensnared in an alternative—and completely bogus—view of the universe. Such tangled emotions and disordered thinking does not come from the Holy Spirit. They do not lead to the Light, but further into the darkness from whence they came.
Lights in the sky, hidden voices talking of fresh revelations, alleged archaeological evidence—suddenly and mysteriously found—of alternate histories: these are nothing more than warmed-over Gnostic musings now 2000 years old, or, worse, part of a devilish plan to confuse further an already confused world. The roots of much of this modern craving for ‘contact with beings from another world’, in fact, comes not so much from the writings of ancient civilisations as from the over-excited imagination of writers such as H.P. Lovecraft. Lovecraft wrote purple prose on the theme of an ancient alien cosmos that in the 20th century returns to earth. He wrote solely for payment from pulp magazines. He wrote fiction. Unfortunately, some still receive his fancies as fact.
Forget UFOs and, instead, look for IFOs—Identified Flying Objects—namely, your Guardian Angels. They ‘fly’ to your aid when called; they are there to assist, guide and befriend—not sent by some indifferent or malign cosmic entity but by a loving Father. Like Tobias before us, we would do well to stay close to these angelic beings sent for our eternal benefit and who help shepherd us back to our true home.
In 1947, Roswell started a modern mania with its reports of crashed ‘aliens.’ One year later, with much less publicity but with much more significance, that same city welcomed its first contemplative community, namely, the Poor Clares. The famed UFO incident, and the endless books, movies and fevered speculation it spawned, have brought few closer to Christ. The Roswell Poor Clare monastery, by contrast, has founded or restored six daughter-houses: five in the United States—two in Virginia; one in Los Altos Hills, California; one in Belleville, Illinois; the latest in Chicago, Illinois—and the sixth in the Netherlands. In the 70 years since its arrival, the Roswell Poor Clare community, without fanfare, without media, has done more to bring souls to Christ than they, or we, shall know this side of eternity.
Be under no illusion: When the Poor Clares took up residence at their monastery in New Mexico that was the real Roswell incident.