My friend Ambrose Andreano has published a difficult book called Angels, Archons, & Aliens: An Assessment of the Theological Implications and Psychological Impact of the Close Encounters Phenomenon that is now available as both a paperback and a Kindle ebook. I’ve enjoyed and appreciated Andreano’s thoughts on a wide variety of topics, mostly during conversations in person, so I’ve been eager to see what he would share in this book (which I have heard about him working at for the past year or more). I should be straightforward, however, and say that actually reading through Andreano’s book has proved challenging for me at several levels. Its content is extensive (Amazon lists the print length as 1047 pages while the index on my digital copy ends at page 820), and it covers a subject and culture that I know almost nothing about: ufology’s renaissance. (For a brief intro to this topic, I found “Intellectual Humility in the Face of the Unidentified: What Theology Can Learn From Ufology’s Renaissance” by David Armstrong from October 4, 2021 to be helpful.) Even more difficult, however, is the fact that Andreano raises the most intense epistemological dilemmas that can be raised with a long list of what he presents as possible but uncertain revelations that we might be receiving from alien contacts (both past and future). He notes this, for example, at the start of chapter 7 (“Esoteric History: The Secret Narratives”):
Whether or not the extraterrestrial sources are actually extraterrestrial sources is not important for my purposes. My intention is to provide a “what if” scenario for readers to contemplate. That is, what if extraterrestrials do reveal themselves and they say these things to us? What if they already have? What epistemological effect would this have on a humanity that seeks to understand its own origins? These are the kinds of questions I want readers to explore, rather than a hyper-fixation on whether any specific example is real. Assume it is real and contemplate the implications.
These “what if” scenarios get most intense for Christians in chapter 11 (“Extraterrestrial Jesus: Exotheological Christology”) where we read a wide variety of reports from those who have been told by aliens (or something like aliens) about who Jesus of Nazareth actually was and where he came from. Several of these accounts (including from people that Andreano has corresponded with substantially) relate that the Star of Bethlehem was an alien spacecraft and that Jesus was implanted as an alien embryo within Mary’s womb.
I’ll note at this point that I’ve only skimmed Andreano’s book so far, primarily during several late evenings over the course of this Christmas season. As already mentioned, Andreano and I are friends (despite my awkward use of the formal “Andreano” in my reflections here about his book), and we attend the same small church parish. We spent some delightful time together with our families on Christmas Eve, just the day after his book had first become available in the Kindle format. While I’ve looked over all of the book during some of my extra time over this Twelvetide, I’ve only slowed down to read carefully through about four of the chapters, including the last two.
That being said, I will also note that, although I know almost nothing about ufological culture, the broad subject of aliens is not entirely foreign to me. I grew up loving the many references to aliens (as well as living stars and whatnot) among the writings of C. S. Lewis (who Andreano takes to task in his book along with a thorough list of other Christian thinkers on the subject). Extending into my adult years, I’ve enjoyed reading Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card out loud several times (as well as reading Speaker for the Dead on my own). My wife and I also enjoyed reading The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber out loud together (a novel about a man who becomes a Christian missionary to aliens).
Beyond such readings in my own past, I’m deeply sympathetic to what I find most compelling about Andreano’s book: the need to listen carefully and seriously to the accounts of everyday people about what they have experienced. Human experience is a wide and troubling realm without simple answers or theories that can be applied when we take it seriously. Christianity, in particular, rests upon a deep and wide foundation of diverse witnesses to strange and unsettling events in the lives of those who spent time with Jesus Christ (either first or second hand accounts for almost all of what we have recorded in the New Testament). As a general rule, I take the accounts that poor and powerless people give of their experiences with the utmost seriousness, especially when such people have nothing to gain from their accounts. Something that I admire about Andreano’s book is that he does the same thing. His accounts of personal experiences from a vast number of people, past and present, form an incredible collection and are a clear testimony to Andreano’s own generosity and care for people.
To be clear, however, Andreano does not take all of these accounts of alien encounters to be reliable or verifiable. At a basic level, Andreano’s own assertions in the book are actually very broad and simple. While a reader could compile an extremely long list of possibilities that are asserted or suggested, Andreano doesn’t actually claim to know what is true or not in almost any specific case. Here is a longer passage from Andreano that not only demonstrates this but that also shares a little of what lies within his own heart and motivates him in all of this:
This global UFO “phenomenon” is almost certainly not a single phenomenon, but a multitude of phenomena. At the very least this amalgam of (perhaps in some cases, entirely separate) anomalies is acting as our apocalyptic pedagogue; humbling us; revealing to us how arrogant we have become; how brittle our dogmas; how little we truly know; how much we have squandered what we have been given. This phenomenon is a bipartisan problem which will cause intense religious division in the short term among dogmatic conservatives wanting to flee every nook and cranny of modernity, and it will politically unite the world in the long term once everyone realizes everyone else is a valuable piece of this mystery, and our missiles will not protect us against interdimensional custodians who can phase through solid walls and make us forget our experiences. However, global unity cannot be accomplished by simply finding a common enemy, because this simply creates the perpetual necessity of evil and violence as a human motivator to better treat one another. We must spiritually evolve to such a degree that we unite around love, which is not motivated by any outside force beyond its own pure divinity, and it is not the widespread individualistic toleration of implosive hedonism which masquerades as something erroneously called “love.” Genuine love takes no selfies. It is not self-satisfying, nor can it be contained within a TikTok video. We must reorient our understanding of these things.
When asked about my favorite movie, I typically respond with M. Night Shyamalan’s 2004 film The Village. I was always profoundly and inexplicably fascinated by the existential notion of being truly and completely ignorant of your own surroundings; the idea that you live in a secluded experimental society surrounded by civilizations far more advanced than your own, who live according to entirely different laws and customs. I think about our own relationship and proximity to some remote tribe in the Amazonian rainforest that lives entirely off the grid.
Despite the fact that Andreano makes very few specific claims of his own about anything in this massive book, the suggested possibilities and epistemic dilemmas are expansive. As just a couple more examples beyond those that I have already noted, Andreano builds a layered case for the ancient astronaut hypothesis (with regard to the origins of life on our planet) and suggests that there are many good reasons to consider that reincarnation is a basic feature of our world.
While I admire his openness and his respect for marginalized sources, I did wish that Andreano would have been more critical of his sources or clear about their nature at several points. For example, in section “11.1.4” on “Ra” where Andreano shares material collected during channeling sessions between a being named Ra and Carla Lisbeth Rueckert who “was a gifted cradle Episcopalian with various spiritual interests,” Andreano writes:
There is not too much to reasonably critique without engaging in polemics, aside from the eyebrow-raising suggestion that Carla engage in a “sexual energy transfer” beforehand to increase her vital energies and subsequently lengthen the channeling sessions, but this was entirely optional.
I’m not clear what “entirely optional” means here or what we are being told about the channeling practices involved. However, given that sexual involvement is one variable that typically influences the reliability of any testimony, this seems like a case where some more critical consideration or explanation would be helpful.
[Note here that Andreano provided me with some clarification on this point after reading over my reflections: “What I meant by ‘optional’ in the Ra Material was that Carla did not have to engage in sexual activity. The reason I was not overly critical of this was because I know most Christians will be, and immediately jump to demons, when in reality, in some African tribes in Nambia for example, it is a custom for men to give visitors their wives for sexual relations. We might consider this wrong, but it proves it to be, at the very least, a cultural difference in approach to sex (which an alien would also have).”]
With one other example of an entirely different nature, we learn in a footnote within section “11.1.3” on “The Apunians” that:
According to [Ricardo] Gonzalez, the White Brotherhood is an advanced mystical intra-terrestrial society with enigmatic emissaries. The historical tradition is that ancient priests with esoteric wisdom fled from extinction, written records in hand, into underground shelters. The “Great White Brotherhood” is a common theme in esoteric theosophical traditions regarding the belief in a hidden church of benevolent ascended masters who have great power of the planet. The description of this group is synonymous with the extraterrestrial Elder Race known as the “Tall Whites.”
This “White Brotherhood” is mentioned several more times within the section, and the assumption seems to be that it is just a descriptive name for a particular “hidden church of benevolent ascended masters” who have exercised great power over our planet. However, given the extensive history of white supremacy and abuses of power by various European cultures in so much of recent history and across a wide variety of cultures worldwide, many readers are going to find such language highly suspect. Given this reality, it would have been helpful to at least note this obvious question about possible connections to white supremacy and, if possible, to provide any answers to such a question from sources such as Ricardo Gonzalez (who is an active Hispanic voice within ufological culture).
However, as Andreano writes, he does not want any readers to get stuck in “a hyper-fixation on whether any specific example is real.” He is concerned, instead, with the epistemological challenges that any such possibilities might raise for us should any cases turn out to be true. I will conclude with some reflection of my own on these epistemological challenges, but I want to reiterate that the many possible examples themselves should not be presented without at least a little more critical appraisal of their provenance.
I would agree with Andreano’s overall assessment that “this global UFO ‘phenomenon’ is almost certainly not a single phenomenon, but a multitude of phenomena.” So would David Armstrong whose helpful article I linked in the opening paragraph above. However, it is worth repeating, as Armstrong shared in an online comment with me about a week ago, that we cannot yet “know with any sort of certainty anything about [aliens]” or if “the ufological culture has any kind of real access to knowledge about aliens.” Despite this clarification, Armstrong does affirm in response to recent interviews with Andreano posted online:
I think [Andreano’s] essential intuition that theology has to deal more seriously with questions of astrobiology is right. I’m even sympathetic to the idea that there are other Type I and II Civilizations in our galaxy, some of whom may well know about and have visited us or may be visiting us now.
That said, I will set aside any such assessments of ufological culture (which I don’t intend to undertake for my own part). Instead, I will attempt to finish these reflections occasioned by Andreano’s book with some response to Andreano’s primary intention “to provide a ‘what if’ scenario for readers to contemplate” (or a host of such scenarios to be more precise). Given the substantial number of such scenarios, I will simply consider three that I found to be personally most serious in their implications.
First, here is an example that Andreano only points out very briefly in passing:
Something to consider: is our understanding of resurrection bound to Paul’s (and subsequently, the Church Fathers’) potentially flawed understanding of metaphysics? In other words, if our advancements in quantum physics means Paul is wrong about the nature of the material world, where “matter” is not a thing of itself, and that the resurrection of the body is more akin to the “ascension” of the Aquarians—where the energetic body rises its particle vibratory frequencies to enter the Earth of a higher realm—does this mean Christianity must be altogether scrapped, or will a simple change of expectation suffice? I do not yet have sufficiently developed answers to these questions. (778)
Interestingly, on this hypothetical question, I think that Paul would actually understand and agree with much about the metaphysical implications of quantum physics. Paul almost certainly would have had much respect for the idea that “‘matter’ is not a thing of itself.” One of the points on which David Bentley Hart has been most critical of other New Testament scholars (including N. T. Wright) is over the question of what Paul believed about spiritual versus fleshly bodies and specifically with reference to our resurrected bodies. One place where Hart has written about this is in his article “The Spiritual Was More Substantial Than the Material for the Ancients” for Notre Dame’s Church Life Journal. In this piece, Hart expounds upon Paul’s clear statement that “flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God; neither does perishability inherit imperishability.”
Moving on, the last two examples should really be taken together:
- What if we learn from aliens that Jesus was implanted within Mary’s womb aboard a spacecraft that was mistaken for the Star of Bethlehem?
- What if (as the book cover depicts) Jesus returns to earth in the future at the head of a benevolent host of aliens? (See pages 678 to 679 for commentary related to this cover image within the book.)
These questions are, admittedly, hard to answer for a long list of reasons, many of which Andreano does go over within his book (often a couple of times and in various contexts). In navigating the various possibilities, I would, however, be unapologetic about the fact that my own response would assume our longing for union with the God who is the creator of all reality. This God of my assumptions is both hidden and manifested by creation and is the creator by virtue of an immanence so complete as to be transcendently beyond any one particular portion or aspect of creation. Union with such a God involves infinite growth even after the communion is made perfect (as I’ve mentioned very recently with regard to the doctrine of epektasis referenced in Philippians 3:13 and first developed extensively by Saint Gregory of Nyssa), and such a union with God is only possible if Mary gave her consent to become the mother of this timeless God so that we might all imitate her as a faithful mother to God.
Such an understanding on my part of what is needed by our cosmos implies a transfiguration of time and space as we currently experience these realities. Mary’s yes to a union between God and her flesh allowed just such a transfiguration to take place, and our only access to this transfigured time is through the union, in her son Jesus, between the timeless second person of the Godhead and a fully time-bound human. All of us are called to such a union, and it has been made possible for us by Mary’s provision of a divine child who secures every beginning and every ending within our cosmic history of almost endless abortive beginnings and tragic endings.
If Jesus Christ is the result of any other parentage beyond Mary and the only creator of all reality, then all of cosmic history will remain a story of almost endless abortive beginnings and tragic endings. Given these assumptions of mine about our actual needs as human beings, I would find any suggestion that Jesus was implanted in Mary’s womb (from whatever source it might come) to be either the end of all hope or an elaborate lie. Both are possible, I will fully grant. However, what I cannot grant is that I see any reasonable case for any third option (other than another, as yet unrecognized, contact point for the incarnation of God within our flattened out realm of death-bound time).
All of that being said, I suppose that I should separate out the question, after all, regarding the possibility of Jesus returning to earth in the future at the head of a benevolent host of aliens. That scenario could have all kinds of possible realities that would leave Jesus in place as the son of Mary and the creator of every discrete moment that ever has been or will be. Such an alien yet fully divine Christ could, obviously, still be one of us and could still be the one who has restored divine sonship to all within our collapsed domain of simple, sequential time. Therefore, such a revelation wouldn’t meet the same rejection or hopelessness from me as the notion of Jesus implanted in Mary’s womb by a fellow creature of some kind.
Perhaps it is just the fact that I skimmed through this book too hastily over the Twelve Days of Christmas, but my own openness to the revelations of angels, archons, and aliens remains distinctly limited at least when it comes to Mary’s motherhood. I would refer anyone interested to a beautiful poem about the Annunciation by David Bentley Hart. It is published near the end of the book Roland in Moonlight and is presented within the larger story as a composition by David’s fictional great uncle Aloysius Bentley. As Roland reports to David, this poem “is about a Byzantine icon of the Annunciation that [Aloysius] saw in a small church in Venice” (333).
Given the vast number of important and difficult as well as fascinating and delightful topics that Andreano considers in his book, I am sorely tempted to continue with my reflections. For example, I could commend hundreds of delightful accounts within his book of such remarkable human stories as the island of Hy-Brasil. I could embark upon the many serious considerations related to Yahweh’s history as a local deity or dive into considerations of divinity and gender with Andreano’s brief mentions of the divine feminine. However, each of these topics would risk becoming small books in and of themselves should I take them up, and I will rely instead on the advantage that I have of being Andreano’s neighbor and friend to continue my engagements with his fertile mind.
P.S. Books recommended by others that are related to this topic:
- Milan M. Cirkovic (The Astrobiological Landscape: Philosophical Foundations of the Study of Cosmic Life)
- Simon Conway Morris (Life’s Solution: Inevitable Humans in a Lonely Universe)
- Edited by Ted Peters et al (Astrotheology)