Even if one chooses to place the beginning of the modern UFO phenomenon at the point of pilot Kenneth Arnolds’s sighting in 1947 (which many researchers clearly prefer to do), there is nevertheless a direct relationship between UFOs, the aliens who pilot them, and stories of encounters with angels handed down through the scriptures of many religions. (This article will deal primarily with Biblical references, but similar descriptions of flying, fiery craft abound in nearly all religious cultures.)
One of the ongoing debates regarding the modern UFO phenomenon continues to be about whether we are seeing something brand new under the sun or simply seeing an ancient aspect of Creation through more technologically oriented 20th Century eyes. While we can offer no definitive answer here, we can at least attempt to summarize some of the arguments in favor of the angelic interpretation of ancient and modern UFO accounts.
What Is An Angel?
Perhaps we should begin with a history of the word “angel” and how our current understanding of the term originated. Keith Thompson, the author of “Angels and Aliens” (Addison Wesley, 1991) offers the following by way of definition.
“The term ‘angel,’” Thompson writes, “derives from a Greek translation of the original Hebrew ‘mal’akh,’ later malaika, which originally meant the ‘shadow side of God,’ but later came to mean messenger or herald. Both terms, interestingly enough, refer to a function or status rather than an essence. Yet questions of angelic substance have been debated for centuries.
“The ancient Greeks thought of angels as resembling humans,” he continues, “but also possessing the nature of a ‘geometric point-soul,’ or ‘pure thought.’ The Biblical view held that angels were ‘from above’ yet were essentially humanlike and not, as a rule, invisible. According to Saint Thomas Aquinas, angels were ‘pure soul,’ beings lacking the bodies of humans. Lacantius, a Christian apologist writing in the third and fourth centuries A.D., argued for a principle of relativity: compared to humans, angels are immaterial, but in relation to God, angels appeared embodied. Thus they might be said to possess ‘subtle bodies.’”
Are those “subtle bodies” being witnessed by abductees who frequently describe the abducting aliens as “ephemeral” creatures whose physical shape is often transient and shifts easily from material to immaterial? Is that how they walk through walls and float through windows, as reported in many abduction accounts? If so, then we have one easily observable correlation. But many others will come later.
Meanhwhile, there is still more historical background from Thompson.
“The image of angels as intermediaries between God and humanity,” Thompson wrote, “has its roots in pre-Christian ideas about ‘daemons’ and the ‘daemonic world.’ Plutarch, in his essay ‘On the Cessation of Oracles,’ speaks of ‘a family of Daemons, intermediate between gods and men, and after a certain fashion bringing thought together and uniting in one the society of both.’ In Plato’s ‘Symposium,’ Diotima describes Eros as ‘a great spirit [daemon] and like all spirits he is intermediate between the divine and the mortal.’ Eros ‘interprets between gods and men . . . he is the mediator who spans the chasm which divides them, and therefore in him all is bound together, and through him the arts of the prophet and the priest, their sacrifices and charms, and all prophecy and incantation, find their way.’ Diotima concluded: ‘These spirits or intermediate powers are many and diverse . . . .’”
According to Thompson, the understanding of “daemon” shifted to mean “evil spirit” after the advent of Christianity.
“It is crucial to note,” he adds, “that prior to Christianity’s ‘demonization’ of the daemonic world, daemons did not have an exclusive evil coloring. Writes Angus Fletcher: ‘Very early in history the term demon had a religious and spiritual signification, and referred to the other-world.’ In pagan antiquity, ‘demon’ (interchangeable with daemon or daimon) was used in a threefold sense: ‘for gods, for intermediaries, and for the souls of the dead without any direct connection with intermediaries,’ Fletcher notes. Thus we begin to glimpse common ground between the modern imagination of aliens and the traditional imagination of angels and daemons.”
And What Of Their Wings?
Researcher and author Zechariah Sitchin, whose five part series “The Earth Chronicles” is considered a classic of ancient astronauts-type research, also grapples with our traditional concepts of what angels are and how they appear. Writing in his recent book “Divine Encounters, A Guide to Visions, Angels, and Other Emissaries” (Avon, 1995), Sitchin tells us, “The popular notion of angels, an image sustained and bolstered by centuries of religious art, is that of fully anthropomorphic, humanlike beings who, unlike people, are equipped with wings. Indeed, were they to be stripped of their wings, they would be indistinguishable from humans.
“Brought over to Western iconography by early Christianity,” Sitchin continues, “the undoubted origin of such a representation of angels was the ancient Near East. We found them in Sumerian art-the winged emissary who led Enkidu [an ancient Sumerian deity] away, the guardians with the deadly beams. We find them in the religious art of Assyria and Egypt, Canaan and Phoenicia. Similar Hittite representations were even duplicated in South America, on the Gate of the Sun in Tiahuanacu-evidence of Hittite contacts with that distant place.
“Though modern scholars,” Sitchin goes on, “perhaps wishing to avoid religious connotations, refer to the depicted beings as ‘protective geniuses,’ the ancient peoples considered them to be a class of lesser gods, a kind of rank-and-file divine being that only carries out the orders of the ‘Great Lords’ who were ‘Gods of Heaven and Earth.’ Their representation as winged beings was clearly intended to indicate their ability to fly in Earth’s skies; and in that they emulated the gods themselves . . . . In this regard the Lord’s statement (Exodus 19:4) that he would carry the Children of Israel ‘on the wings of eagles’ might have been more than allegorical . . . .”
What Can An Angel Do?
Thus far we have examined the history of our word “angel” and dealt with how their mythological representation as winged creatures originated. We shall next turn to a discussion of what angels are historically deemed to be capable of in their interactions with mankind.
In “Alien Encounters, The Secret Behind The UFO Phenomenon” (Koinonia House, 1997), authors Chuck Missler and Mark Eastman give an overview of the powers attributed to angels in ancient scripture.
“We know very little about the nature, essence, powers and capabilities of angels,” the authors write. “We do know that they seem to have no problem materializing into our space-time. They spoke as men, ate meals, took people by the hand, and were capable of direct combat. One was responsible for the death of the firstborn in Egypt. Another killed 185,000 Assyrians. You don’t mess around with angels.
“They always seem to appear as men,” they continue. “The New Testament indicates that many of us have encountered angels without discerning any uniqueness: ‘Be not forgetful to entertain strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares’ (Hebrews 13:2). . . . What limits their technologies? Some ancient traditions attribute the various arts and sciences of the ancient world to the disclosures of angels.”
Do Angels Have Bodies At All?
Missler and Eastman then move on to discuss more directly the relationships and differences between aliens, angels and demons. Again, we quote from their excellent historical overview.
“In the last several decades,” they begin, “a number of experienced UFO researchers have drawn parallels between the nature of angels, demons and the UFO occupants. Indeed, some-including Jacques Vallee, John Keel, and others-have even suggested that our alien visitors may indeed by fallen angels or demons themselves. To determine whether aliens are part of the angelic or demonic realm, we must first examine some of the attributes of angels and demons.
“It is commonly believed,” they continue, “that fallen angels and demons are one and the same. In fact, they are frequently used as synonyms in the Judeo-Christian literature of the last several hundred years. However, it turns out that the ancient rabbis and the Early Church fathers believed that they were separate and distinct entities. When we examine the Biblical record, we see that the attributes and activities of angels and demons are different. Angels (literally ‘messengers’) are creations of God that have their own physical bodies. They are able to manifest in time and space, and when they do they are usually confused with men!
“For example, when God and the two angels appeared to Abraham in the ‘terebinths’ of Mamre in Genesis 18, they are described as having the appearance of men. In fact, they were so convincingly human that the homosexuals of Sodom and Gomorrah wanted to have intercourse with them. It is unlikely that that the men of Sodom would have been sexually interested in the angels had they been semi-transparent, glowing apparitions with wings and halos!
“In the New Testament, two angels who were confused with men were at the empty tomb of Jesus after the resurrection. Luke the Apostle stated, ‘And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments’ (Luke 24:4). After Jesus ascended into heaven, the disciples looked on. ‘And while they steadfastly looked toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel’ (Acts 1:10). These ‘two men’ were angels with physical bodies who advised the disciples that Jesus would return ‘in like manner.’”
What About Demons?
Missler and Eastman also offer a rather intriguing explanation for many of the differences between “physical” angels and “non-physical” demons.
“The nature of demons is entirely different,” they write. “They are disembodied spirits that seek embodiment. The origin of demons is not commonly known in our time. However, in ancient times it was well understood that demons are the disembodied spirits of the Nephilim. The reader will recall that the Nephilim (the earth-born giants of the days of Noah) were the offspring of fallen angels and the ‘daughters of men.’ According to numerous ancient rabbinic and Early Church texts, when the Nephilim died their spirits became disembodied and roamed the earth, harassing mankind and seeking embodiment! This is most evident in the ‘Book of Enoch.’
“’The Book of Enoch’ was considered by many ancient Christians and Jews to be an authoritative book of Jewish history. It was probably written in the middle of the second century B.C., but compiled from much earlier material. In the early chapters of ‘The Book of Enoch’ we are told a great deal about the early history of the earth, the days of Noah and the ‘Watchers.’ According to ‘The Book of Enoch’ and other ancient rabbinic writings, the ‘Watchers’ were a specific group of angels that God had placed to watch over the earth. Two hundred of these Watchers lusted and fell into sin when they married the ‘daughters of men.’ The result of this ungodly union was the birth of unnatural offspring, the Nephilim.
“The destiny of the spirits of the Nephilim is described in Chapter 15 of ‘The Book of Enoch’: ‘Now the giants [Nephilim], who have been born of spirit and flesh, shall be called upon earth evil spirits, and on earth shall be their habitation. Evil spirits shall proceed from their flesh, because they were created from above; from the holy Watchers was their beginning and primary foundation. Evil spirits shall they be upon the earth, and the spirits of the wicked shall they be called. The habitation of the spirits of heaven shall be in heaven, but upon earth shall be the habitation of terrestrial spirits, who are born on earth. The spirits of the giants shall be like clouds, which shall oppress, corrupt, fall, contend, and bruise those upon earth.’”
Modern Angelic Encounters
While Missler and Eastman ultimately argue for the interpretation of UFOs as something decidedly demonic, we can nevertheless continue to examine other arguments to the contrary. Malcom Godwin, in his widely hailed “Angels: An Endangered Species” (Simon and Schuster, 1990), offers ample material to relate the modern UFO phenomenon to things angelic.
Godwin even quotes popular evangelist Billy Graham, who, in his own book “Angels, God’s Secret Agents,” wrote, “Some Christian writers have speculated that UFOs could well be a part of God’s angelic host who preside over the physical affairs of universal creation . . . UFOs are astonishingly angel-like in some of their reported appearances.” (If you can’t trust Billy Graham, who can you trust?–Author’s note.)
Godwin then proceeds to give us the following list of correspondences between the angelic and the alien. (We quote the list here without interruption.)
Both angels and alien are “Other Wordly” beings, whether they exist in inner or outer space.
They are superior entities who are either at a higher stage of development, being morally, spiritually or technologically superior, or are simply closer to Deity.
The benevolent variety usually appear as the ultimate perfection of harmonious and youthful beauty. The vaguely androgynous nature of their appearance suggests a union of the male and female principles. However, it has to be admitted from the evidence of ET reports that North American male witnesses tend to see more clearly defined and ravishing female aliens than their Russian, European and South American counterparts.
Both ETs and angels are clearly formidable linguists, speaking perfect English, German, French, Spanish, Russian, Dutch or Italian whenever necessary.
They all have a message to deliver. If there is any particular tendency to be observed, then angels do seem more inclined to the individual transfer of information, while the ET has a more global message. However, both usually have specifically chosen the witness in order to impart the word.
Both have remarkable means of aerial transportation, although there are very few reports of ETs with wings and these have to be filed away amongst the more suspect of accounts. However, both are known to use disks, wheels or saucers of light as their major mode of transportation.
Both are beings of light. They seem to share a numinous, luminous essence which is most often pronounced in their eyes, which often glow with a brilliance that almost suggests rays; and in their faces which are said to shine.
They appear to radiate subtle auras of compassion, goodness, kindliness and a sense of peaceful harmony.
There is a remarkable similarity in their dress. Close fitting tunics or long flowing robes with a predominance of blue and white. Usually there is either a girdle of gold or bracelets, wristbands and rings of the same precious metals. It is actually a little curious that these beings always appear to the witness fully clothed. Surely only man, having sinned, found his nakedness evil. In this respect, only the fallen angels would feel the need to wear clothes at all. Surely some ETs might find their nakedness beautiful in the sight of whichever Almighty they believed in.
Their height is usually given as human-sized, although there are a few cases which give the height as much as 8 feet.
Both aliens and angels show considerable concern at the state of man and the planet upon which we live. Invariably, the general direction in which the peoples of earth are heading appears to cause alarm and concern. Oddly, this is often attributed, by ET and angel alike, to the devil’s work, which does suggest that the “Enemy” [A literal translation of “Satan”] has a long galactic arm. Otherwise, a New Age flavor creeps in, which lays the blame of our behavior on poor attunement to the subtle vibrations of natural harmony. Whatever the detail might be, humans are in great need of the message which the beings have brought.
Although ET and angel alike are impressively superior to any of us, they often talk as if we are equals, brothers or fellow travelers through space and time. However, they are seldom seen as free agents but rather as messengers bound by higher cosmic laws or, in the case of angels, by God.
The witness and the witnessed are intimately and inseparably bound together. The evidence is subjective and relies upon our acceptance or rejection of the sincerity and credibility of the beholder. Both the phenomena of angels and ETs rest upon trust, faith and belief.
Godwin concludes his list of comparisons by saying, “This list, although in no way comprehensive, gives more than a hint that angels and ETs have a lot in common. This suggests that we should be very wary of dismissing the possibility that present day sightings of UFOs or contacts with ETs might be similar phenomena.”
Godwin also tells us that the archetype we call “angel” has many other modern as well as ancient forms.
“The angel archetype is the messenger of the higher self,” Godwin wrote. “It is the wise being, the advanced soul, the Shaman, the Enlightened master, Superman, or the saint. Our present fascination with highly evolved extra-terrestrial beings who have come to guide humanity, or the galactic messengers of peace and love who contact the chosen few (who will form the new Ark of earth when we blow ourselves up), appears to rise from this extraordinarily potent interior archetype.”
This has been a brief overview of the relationship between man’s ancient belief in angels and its relationship to our 20th Century belief in UFOs and the aliens who occupy them. As Malcom Godwin points out in his list of comparisons between the two phenomena, both beliefs continue to exist in the subjective realm of our own personal faith and our admittedly limited understanding of the things that faith involves. Whether the UFO phenomenon finally reveals itself as either good or evil, angelic or demonic, or as something else entirely, we will ultimately find that truth in the deepest parts of our own souls and in the slowly awakening part of us that is even now reaching out to grasp the hand of something we already know is alien to ourselves. And may God be with us when that contact reaches its complete fruition.
By Sean Casteel