The Conscious Life Expo is one of the leading gatherings New Agers in the United States. Earlier this month, 12,000 people came to listen to lectures on Reiki, tarot, astral projection and all manner of alternative spiritualities. It also draws a roster of cable TV conspiracy theorists, YouTube speculators, and professional New Age believers. Wandering the halls of the Los Angeles Airport Hilton, you will find members of the Ancient Aliens cast, Gaia TV personalities, etc. The Conscious Life Expo this year made quite clear that the UFO movement and its ancient astronaut appendage is inexorably intwined with a desperate search for God in a world where traditional religion has lost much of its power.
According to a report in Vice, Ancient Aliens star Linda Moulton Howe claimed that investigating UFOs basically gave her a spiritual orgasm, and she added that secret U.S. government filed filled her with religious awe when she discovered that a “being was created by extraterrestrial biological entities” as a teacher of peace and love. After reading this, Howe said she was unable to vocalize the name of Jesus during her prayers. Instead, a voice came from the heavens and proclaimed to Howe that it made no difference whether Jesus was human or space alien. How very much like God’s announcement in Matthew 17:5, Mark 9:7, etc. to the disciples during the Transfiguration! Howe implies that her own transformation is akin to this spiritual awakening in the Gospels.
This intimation of an alien space Jesus was a recurring theme at the expo. However, one of the most telling incidents came from Howe’s Ancient Aliens costar William Henry, who complained during a panel that the series did not sufficiently honor Jesus:
Things had quickly gotten a little chaotic, in a good-natured way, and stayed there, with Howe and the other panelists genially talking over each other about reptilian species, light beings, the significance of ancient artifacts, and, ultimately, Jesus. ("I'm a Jesus freak," William Henry told the room. He's an "investigative mythologist" who has been a producer on Ancient Aliens. He was critical of the show for not mentioning Jesus more, given that Henry sees Him as central to the extraterrestrial phenomenon).
The effort to bring Jesus into the fold as part of the space alien contingent is a departure from the traditional ancient astronaut theory. Though space Jesus was not unknown in the middle twentieth century, the leading lights of the first wave of ancient astronautics avoided touching the third rail of spirituality when crafting their theories. The once-Catholic Erich von Däniken, for example, explicitly exempted Jesus from the ancient astronaut theory and differentiated between the true God and God’s Son on the one hand and space aliens pretending to be gods or angels on the other.
For the first authors of the genre, the space aliens were something separate from spirituality, a sort of false paganism that threatened to blinker humanity. That was the case both for the conservative writers like von Däniken as well as many of the socialist and communist writers on the subject. But that’s not how audiences took it. Readers in the 1960s and 1970s began to see in the aliens a reason to believe in old faiths, old texts, and alleged miracles once again. Consequently, authors of ET books responded, and the ancient astronaut theory has only grown more spiritual over time. We have all seen how Ancient Aliens all but begs its viewers to turn to aliens for salvation both in this life and the next.
It is therefore with only a little irony that Howe also led a workshop at the Expo in which she repeated her frequent claim that space aliens have an ancient city buried under the ice of Antarctica and that a U.S. expedition explored its winding hallways, whose walls were covered in strange carvings. According to the promotional text:
Since the early 1970s and deep ice-penetrating radar investigations, there have been U. S. military operations to explore different, large alien sites hidden from human civilization by all the ice, but allegedly still operating with energy, light and bizarre holographic projections that emerge from some deep tunnel walls. The star maps on some large doors allegedly link to interstellar trade throughout and beyond the Milky Way Galaxy.
If all of this sounds familiar, well it’s because we’ve seen Howe discuss this on Ancient Aliens. But more to the point, as I have pointed out in the past, Howe’s alleged informants, “Spartan 1” and “Spartan 2,” are relating the plot of H. P. Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness, which has been imitated and remixed countless times since the 1930s when Lovecraft wrote it. The irony comes from the fact that Lovecraft drew on occultism and Theosophy to create a fictitious world where “spirituality” was merely cover for alien activities in an atheistic, materialist cosmos; and now UFO nuts are repurposing Lovecraft’s anti-spirituality as a new form of cosmic faith where the aliens aren’t just indifferent assholes mistaken for gods but actually serve as gods worthy of worship.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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