Whereas traditional societies have viewed every aspect of the world as
sacred, the Judeo-Christian-Islamic family of religions divested much
of the natural world of religious meaning, leaving the sky as the locus
of sacrality. The Supreme Deity resides in a celestial abode according
to Judeo-Christian Scripture, from reference in the Exodus passage
about how “the Lord looked down on the Egyptian army” (14:24) to
Jesus’ mention of God as “Our Father who art in Heaven” (emphases
added). Angels, too, have traditionally been viewed as celestial beings
if only by virtue of their wings.
Decades ago the psychiatrist Carl Jung noted religious themes
in UFO discourse and dubbed flying saucers “technological angels”
(i.e., angels for an age that can no longer believe in the supernatural
but can believe in fantastic technological achievements).
UFOs or flying saucers have been invested with religious significance
almost from the time they became a public phenomenon in
the 1950s. This religious dimension of flying saucers is often
expressed unconsciously through certain themes in UFO literature.
Of these, the celestial origin of the “space brothers” is the most
obvious theme. Often stories of encounters with space beings feature
messages (e.g., warnings) to earthlings from advanced
extraterrestrial civilizations. In this message bearing role, they perform
the central defining function of angels. Particularly in the
fifties, when nuclear war seemed imminent, it was sometimes
thought that the space brothers might intervene in human history
to save us from our own self-destructive tendencies. In this
redemptive activity, they were again playing a role traditionally
reserved for angels.
Since the 1950s, an entirely different concern has arisen to supplant
the redemptive theme in ufological literature, namely, the
abduction theme. Beginning rather modestly, stories by individuals
who claimed to have been abducted by aliens grew steadily until the
publication of Whitley Strieber’s Communion in 1987. This fantastic,
novelized account of abduction by aliens caused interest in the phenomenon
By the early 1990s more books on the abduction phenomenon
were being published than books on all other ufological topics combined.
These narratives almost always feature emotionless aliens subjecting
abductees to some kind of painful operation. In these stories,
extraterrestrials play the role of fallen angels. Thus, if the earlier space
brothers were technological angels, the kidnapping type of more
recent decades are technological devils.
Another persistent topic in ufological literature has been the
theme that the human race is the product of genetic experimentation
by aliens millennia ago with an earlier race of humanoid monkeys.
This “ancient astronauts” view sometimes includes a sexual theme,
namely, that the aliens sexually abused our ancestors, or even that the
extraterrestrials (fallen angels) mated with earth women to produce a
superior race. As evidence for this peculiar view, advocates sometimes
cite the Genesis verses about the Nephilim:
The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward,
when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men,
and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men
that were of old, men of renown. (Gen. 6:4)
These “sons of God,” according to this line of interpretation, are
the aliens who—by means of genetic manipulation or sexual insemination—
produced the Nephilim, a superior terrestrial race.