Preparation for the Landing
Preparation for the Landing
Abstract and Keywords
Unarius prepared for an extraterrestrial fleet of spaceships to land in 2001 as prophesied by Uriel. Contrary to the cult stereotype and the notion of mind-controlled members, interviews showed that not everyone expected the realization of the prophecy. After the September 11 attack on the World Trade Center, many thought the incident would prevent the Space Brothers from landing. Members who were disappointed coped by using past-life therapy and channeled messages to explain the reasons why prophecy went unfulfilled.
Throughout the 1990s, Unarius had experienced numerous changes and transitions. After Uriel and Antares died, the board of directors steered the organization, keeping the Science and the prophecy alive. Committed students matured, and they took on more responsibility. Some married each other, forming productive volunteer partnerships that helped supply the academy with a reliable source of charismatic labor. Certain students drifted away, while a few others passed away. A number of relatively newer students grew in their abilities to perform the tasks that carried on the Unarian Mission. Excitement built as the predicted spaceship landing date neared. Some people in the world worried about Y2K (the turning of the year 2000) and the millennium bug, while others predicted an apocalypse when the year 2000 arrived.
Unarians embraced the time as an increment closer to the promised coming of the Space Brothers, although if the convoy of ships did not land as planned, Unarius would have to explain why. Many levels of interpretation surfaced inside the group in the years before 2001. Not everyone believed the Brothers would physically touch down. Some thought the landing was conditional, whereas others believed they would finally be vindicated in that golden prophesied year.
Unarius and the Media
The spacefleet landing had always been promoted as a public event. The press often sought out Unarius. By the same token, Unarius frequently courted the press to advertise the advent of the Brothers. One important interpretive boundary existed, however, between Unarius and the media. (p.138) With the exception of a few writers who promoted paranormal subject matter, most authors reported on Unarius as a curiosity. Its costumes and art projects, not to mention Uriel's photogenic flamboyance, made Unarius the ideal photo opportunity. One example of this is Douglas Curran's In Advance of the Landing (1985), which showed Uriel's unfurled rainbow cape blowing in the breeze as the beaming Arieson attended his cosmic space goddess. The costumed family of Unarians who posed so proudly for Curran's camera remains frozen in time and in devotion.
Over the years, numerous television and magazine reporters visited the center, gathering notes and setting up photo sessions. Publicity came and went for Unarius, but most reporters and photographers approached it as an amusing novelty. One write-up did receive glowing approval from the academy. Brad Steiger's Gods of Aquarius (1976) conveyed what Uriel said without any equivocation. Within the group, Unarians perceived Steiger as having an advanced mind because of his respectful treatment of their scientific principles of interdimensional physics.
Good relations with the press wore off when in 1991 Adam Parfrey wrote “The Gods Must Be Crazy: The Latter Days of Unarius” for a local paper, the San Diego Reader (Parfrey 1995). Opting for sensationalism, Parfrey dished up a down-and-dirty interview with ex-member Arieson (Stephan Yancoskie). When Arieson left Unarius, he played up to any reporters who would listen. In the Parfrey article, he claimed that he helped Uriel become a pop phenomenon with his talent for makeup and costuming. He also jokingly compared her to a down-on-her-luck country-and-western singer who needed a wardrobe manager. Unarians bristled at this lack of deference, but Yancoskie's behavior made sense to them in view of his past-life karma of denouncing his spiritual teacher.
Although still filmed for various documentaries on UFOs, Unarius had its share of unfavorable publicity. The media sometimes labeled Unarius as weird or just plain ridiculous, but they never stopped doing stories on it. For example, Donna Kossy published Kooks: A Guide to the Outer Limits of Human Belief (2001) with Uriel's picture on the cover, and Kossy enshrined Unarius on her Web site, called the Kooks Museum. For a time, Unarius lost its eccentric charm with some reporters, who preferred to classify it as a strange and even dangerous cult, as did some Internet sites that leveled accusations against the organization.1
After the Heaven's Gate mass suicide, which occurred only forty miles away, Unarius was swamped with reporters from the local media, the CBS Evening News, and the Los Angeles Times. Unarians spent much of March and April 1997 explaining why they were so different from Heaven's Gate adherents. Reporters routinely asked, “Could Unarius be the next Heaven's Gate?” While in the media's spotlight, Antares took the opportunity to set the record straight, stating that Unarius would never advocate suicide, as it would divert a student from the higher teachings. The Space Brothers had assured Antares that Heaven's Gate members had been taken to the healing (p.139) wards on Venus to await their next reincarnation. Unarians described Heaven's Gate followers as tragically misguided cult members, who could have actually met the Brothers if they had only waited until 2001. To their way of thinking, Heaven's Gate qualified as a cult, unlike Unarius, which was scientific. Unarians relished the publicity that brought in new members and more film crews because they felt it was an important opportunity to edify the masses about the real teachings of the Space Brothers.
When the news of the Heaven's Gate suicide hit the streets of El Cajon, someone broke a window at the academy, stuffing in Christian literature. By that time, Unarius had shown up on the anti-cult movement's radar, leading to further stereotyping of the group's activities. Reporters called me to get corroboration of stories from unnamed ex-members who accused Unarius of mind control. While I interpreted Unarian practices as commonplace conformity and suggestibility or folk healing, that proved too tame an analysis for some reporters, who wanted an expert's name to use in condemning the organization.
Many reporters and freelance writers also passed through the academy in their quest to find millenarian groups in the pre-2000 enthusiasm. Perhaps the most insensitive portrayal of Unarius came from Alex Heard.2 Heard (1999: 49) repeated all of the cheap shots that Parfrey had taken, including a reference to Uriel as “an incontinent and ridiculous old bat” with a bladder bag. Heard by his own admission took advantage of Unarian hospitality by rifling through files and overloading its copier. His abuse of the center's office motivated Antares to have a talk with him.
According to the academy's interpretation, any positive action or even misconduct on the part of a writer was perceived as evidence of past lives with the Unarian leaders. Heard (1999) stated that Antares phoned, asking him to realize that his behavior was a part of reliving his past life. When I asked Carol about him, she remembered Heard, “Oh yes, he was an Orionite! He practically tore up the office.” Unarians overlooked his misconduct, but could not have him back unless he confessed his role as a puppet warrior serving Tyrantus in the Orion Empire. Here again lay a boundary of myth and belief. On one side lived the behavioral expectation of good manners and common courtesy; on the other side dwelt the Unarian explanation of reality rooted in karma.
After he passed away, Antares, the newest Space Brother, spoke to Unarius from the Higher Worlds, assuring everyone through channeled messages that the spacefleet arrival was just around the corner. In 2000, as the arrival date grew closer, Unarius stepped up its public relations efforts. Unarius reached out to national and local television, newspapers, and magazines. Unarius E-News, an e-mail newsletter, reported on how two San Diego stations, Fox and NBC, did a great job getting out the Unarian message. The reporters from the two stations won the academy's approval by presenting the story without any backhanded remarks. After attending a night class and interviewing a few students, they made the customary visit (p.140) to the landing site in Jamul, a short drive into the foothills. The news stories contained footage of students and Uriel predicting a positive future for Earth. According to Unarius E-News (2000):
Gene Cubbinson said he appreciated how the Academy is able to substantiate the information presented. They [reporters] both asked to be kept abreast of any new developments and to be sure to let them know ASAP when the Landing occurs. Of course, we'll let them know.
During 2000 and early 2001, Unarius never officially expressed any doubt that the landing would occur as scheduled. The members interpreted the instrumentality of reporters and camera crews looking for a human-interest story as cooperation with the transcendental plan for the Space Brothers' arrival.
To Believe or Not to Believe?
Outsiders might characterize Unarians as true believers who are unwilling to entertain any doubts or independent ideas. During my fieldwork, I saw and heard Unarians struggle with questions of belief and disbelief and use different methods to come to conclusions, including mundane reason (Pollner 1987). Like other human beings, they conformed to their group and its interpretive boundaries while also harboring doubts about their compliance.
Some people find the conformity of belief in Unarius too much for their psyches. Certain people left because they questioned their beliefs and made other choices. Tim and Kelly left Unarius in 1990 after long years of involvement.3 Oddly enough a dream influenced Tim to defect. The Moderator, Ernest Norman, stood in a boat on a dark lake gesturing for him to swim away from the island where he was stranded. Tim took this to mean that only the Moderator's books held the true Unarian science; Uriel had corrupted the principles by adding the improbable prophecy of a landing. When his chiropractor, who was also an ex-member, urged him to leave, he understood that the Moderator was trying to help him. Tim and Kelly thought Uriel was indeed a “beautiful spiritual person,” but not on the level of intelligence of Ernest Norman. Her prophecy did not live up to other parts of the Science. Tim and Kelly repeatedly called Unarius a cult, saying the group pressured them too much for money.
Kelly said that by joining Unarius she had lost her free will and that she was unable to live life on her own terms. According to Kelly, she once wrote Uriel a letter asking for her blessing to marry an outsider; when Uriel wrote back, she told her to stay away from Earth people (outsiders) and warned her to never have a child because it would be horribly deformed. Because of this letter, Kelly broke off her engagement and then hurriedly asked a doctor to sterilize her by tubal ligation. Living with other (p.141) Unarians in a shared house and finding comfort in their friendship, Kelly stayed, giving most of her income away to the group. She left at Tim's insistence after having spent ten years in Unarius, and now she tries to help others to leave.
Some students, like Sean, compartmentalized their beliefs by picking and choosing what to believe. Sean first contacted Unarius when he was sixteen by walking in to check out its library. Two years later he joined, taking liberal arts classes at San Diego State University by day and courses at the academy at night. Since he did not have much money, he attended the academy's classes on a scholarship. Sean preferred the scientific part of Unarius. He missed Rafael as a class facilitator because his sessions focused on sine waves and harmonic frequencies while Lianne's courses mostly looked for past lives. He had been part of a group of students who put Lianne on the “hot seat,” subjecting her to open criticism. Unarians see the hot-seat exercise as an act of “ego deflation” and as a spiritual action, a step toward enlightenment. This practice kept student leaders from getting too powerful by “deflating their egos.”
In an interview conducted in 1995, Sean revealed his views about the Unarian prophecy. When asked about the landing, he said he did not believe in it, preferring to honor some Unarian principles and disregard others. Sean recalled one night when Antares asked his class, “Who does not believe that the Space Brothers will land in 2001?” About a quarter of the students raised their hands, only to be told that attitudes like that would keep the frequency too low to materialize the Brothers. Still, Sean stuck to his own judgment about the matter, because he reasoned that the prophecy was not central to the Science.
He added that even if the Brothers did land, humans would have to work things out for themselves. If Earth people did acquire great technology, there always remained the problem of misusing it. It was best not to raise one's hopes because too much lay at stake. Sean made it clear that the Brothers had already helped him to improve his relationship with his mother. Sean believed that what the Brothers really promised was love in its highest form. Except for the landing, Sean did not question other Unarian beliefs, since in his mind they had been “scientifically proven” to him. Having tried channeling and having successfully written down messages from the Brothers, he had convinced himself that the Science came from a universal truth.
Some Unarians hedged their beliefs, harboring varied amounts of uncertainty. I listened to Unarians talk about their beliefs about the millennium landing when I returned to El Cajon's hot hazy valley in March 2000. From a real estate developer's point of view, the area had been greatly improved. The overabundance of thrift shops had been balanced with new strip malls and an enormous modern grocery store surrounded by a massive parking lot. Although more used-car lots and apartment houses had been built, El Cajon was clearly on the road to civic improvement. The homeless population had diminished, and the automobile traffic had increased.
(p.142) The Unarian Center had undergone a makeover and looked less cluttered and threadbare. Members had removed a wall of bookshelves and the dustier exhibits and built a formal stage. Margaret told me that they had recently sustained water damage from broken pipes, a clear indication that they were reexperiencing the sinking of Atlantis in preparation for the Brothers to come and raise that lost civilization from its watery grave. All in all, they hoped to spruce up the center in time for the big celebrations planned in anticipation of the spacefleet landings in 2001.
One afternoon, I met with two students, Margaret and Ana, who had come to wish Thomas a fond farewell at a local coffee shop. We all settled into a booth to catch up on each other's lives. Thomas planned to move to Ohio, where he hoped to place Unarius books in public libraries. So many members came to Unarius by finding the books that he thought of this as a hallowed mission. In preparation, he had written a form letter and a list of libraries to ask.
“I'm surprised to see you, Thomas. I thought you left Unarius,” I said.
“Oh, no. Not Unarius, but I did leave the building. During certain cycles, I just have to leave,” Thomas corrected me.
“I hear you had a falling out with Antares. Is that true?” I asked.
“Yes, he was up to his old tricks. Antares published one of the Moderator's old manuscripts, Atoms and Astronauts, but he left out two chapters. He corrupted the Moderator's teachings. I told him that I'm leaving, and I'm not coming back,” explained Thomas. “Crystal is also staying away.”
We all talked about the old days and the future as we nibbled our lunches. Thomas reminisced about Uriel, “Oh, she was such an advanced being. You'll never see anyone like that any more. She used to skinny dip in her pool. No sense of shame. Totally free with her spirit and her body.”
I asked Thomas about the old days when Uriel had predicted imminent landings. He remembered that they went up to the landing site several times; each time, although no spaceships landed, they experienced another reliving. In 1976, he recalled, Uriel phoned him and said, “The Brothers are going to land. Fix sandwiches.” That time, they set out thirteen special chairs and a red carpet lined with 300 blazing candles. They set out Hawaiian leis as they imagined putting them around the Brothers' necks to greet them when they disembarked. The students snacked and waited for hours as they searched the chilly night sky. About eleven o'clock, Uriel gathered them around her to say that it had all been a reliving set up for their benefit in order to learn from the past.
I asked them if they thought that the Brothers would actually physically land in 2001. Thomas hedged a bit as he remembered Antares' transmission from the Space Brother Alta in 1994, which explained that the landing remained far in the future. He thought it was better to consult the Preparation for the Landing (Norman and Spaegel 1987) than to speculate on the matter too much. To his way of thinking, the Space Brothers from the planet Myton usually gave good advice on that subject. In retrospect, Thomas described Uriel as “so much into time periods.” Uriel always wanted (p.143) to pinpoint the exact time. According to Thomas, we should not address the subject from the limited perspective of time as that stemmed from our human, earthbound dimension. The Space Brothers operate outside our dimension without the restriction of time and earthly bodies. For all of her advanced consciousness, Uriel did not express the Science as accurately as Ernest Norman did. Thomas said, “Uriel was not as clear as the Moderator.”
Margaret took a breath and paused before she spoke; she too felt that this type of thing remained difficult to predict precisely. She did not think they would come, but she was willing to be surprised. She explained:
You never know because Atlantis could suddenly rise without a warning. Look at so many events in recent times, like the Berlin Wall. No one predicted the Berlin Wall would fall, but it did. I don't know, but it seems to me that things could happen very fast. I listen to the talk shows on night radio. They talk about all these Earth changes, like global warming and all these government secrets, like Area 51 and Majestic 12 [two secret government projects believed to be connected to UFOs]. A sudden change could happen and shift everything.
Ana wondered about the landing, but offered no real answers. She had become a Unarian in 1989 when she found a book in the Long Beach library. She divorced her husband and moved closer to the academy. She suffered from migraines and depression that often prevented her from studying. Ana praised the Science, saying how wonderful it was to know the principles and hear about the Light Beings that watch over our planet. She struggled with her thoughts, offering that the ships were coming because the first contact had already been made. Dreamy-eyed, she imagined the beauty of the ships with their luminous hulls as they sped through the galaxies, but she did not think she would get a chance to see them. She added, “On the other hand, it is hard to know because these things are hard for humans to get clear pictures of.”
Sadly, I learned a few weeks later that Margaret had left the nucleus to go live with her daughter. Margaret had been diagnosed with breast cancer the year before, but she chose to handle the situation by avoiding conventional treatment. She relied on high doses of vitamins and, of course, the Science to uncover what past-life karma had manifested the disease. Eventually, she surrendered to the care of her daughter, who helped to arrange for chemotherapy. One Unarian sympathized with Margaret's condition, but she thought we should not question the fact that the Science produced no tangible results in healing Margaret. She interpreted Margaret's exit from the nucleus as “doing what she set up to do to learn a spiritual lesson from (p.144) personal experience.” Margaret succumbed to the disease a few months later.
Margaret's condition contrasted with that of Barbara, another Unarian, who had found a malignant mole on her skin. In that case, the Science worked because the student applied the principles properly. A doctor removed the mole to find that the cancer had not spread to Barbara's lymph nodes. After working on the problem with past-life therapy and “tracing back the energy,” Barbara attributed the melanoma to a past-life vaccination. Consequently, one Unarian enjoyed the healing benefits of the Science, while another coped with decoding the spiritual lesson of cancer and dying in the process. Both outcomes spoke to the great infallibility of the Science.
For many members, belief in the healing powers of the Science was not falsifiable. Both outcomes—death and a verifiable cure—produced the same conclusion about the efficacy of the Science. Similar to Evans-Pritchard's (1937; Pollner 1987) case study of the Azande, in which contradictory answers from the oracle were linked to errors in the enactment of the ritual, the member who made the comment did not find fault with the Science when citing the contradictory outcomes on the cancer cases. Rather, the inability to cure Margaret's cancer lay in Margaret herself, her misapplication of the principles or her karmic agreement to discover more spiritual lessons.
This type of interpretation appeared often in Unarian logic, although doubts and variations on belief did occur. Especially as 2001 neared, Unarians continued individually to vary their convictions on the certainty of a spacefleet landing. However, publicly, their discourse addressed the united front of preparation to be of service to their celestial visitors, who would touch down within a few months. If a physical landing did not occur, it would not be the fault of the Science.
Anticipating the Brothers
I reviewed Preparation for the Landing (Norman and Spaegel 1987) after my conversation with Thomas. Based on channeled messages from outer space, the book contains messages from Space Brother Alta of the planet Vixall in addition to a dialogue between Uriel and planetary leader Captain Stellon, a Muon from planet Myton of the Pleiades. Uriel urged Stellon and his starship to join the Interplanetary Confederation's mass landing. According to this cosmic revelation, the Muons would arrive before the other Brothers because they did not happen to be as advanced as those from Vixall; therefore, earthlings would accept them more easily than the higher Space Brothers.
From the channeled message, I learned that Stellon's ship would be first, paving the way for the others by landing in the Caribbean. The text declared that the first international government of Earth would manifest in (p.145) 2001, although it remained silent on how this would come about. The first world government of Earth would supposedly meet with the thousand scientists from planet Myton who would arrive on the spaceship. One chapter contained a recitation from Starlight, a senior member of the Myton crew, recalling their previous negative history when they colonized and subjugated lesser beings. In the book, President Godman, the new president of Earth and leader of the first international government, and Commander Star, the representative of two “earth worlds,” converse after the Starship Hope lands. Their dialogue remained nearly unintelligible to me, but Unarians cherish their words.
A later chapter explained that the Myton arrival would change the evolutionary development of Earth, setting into motion the beginning of the seventh root race of man, a spiritual species (Norman and Spaegel 1987: 171–172):
A new horizon is now opened up to man in which his Consciousness is now not dependent upon the Earth planet! In this manner, man's physical vehicle can be considered to have been developing through time and space, through hundreds of thousands of lifetimes whereby, having attained certain properties necessary for its lift-off, he would be able to fly free of his grosser and denser body. This physical anatomy then can be seen to have been purposely developed by the Infinite Creator as a means of furnishing a propulsion power. Of course, we speak in a parabalistic [sic] manner in that this development will be completed for each individual in different cycles of time according to the knowledge that he was able to incept [sic] and apply, to activate his mental consciousness!
For most of 2000 and 2001, with the exception of short visits to Unarius, I lived in Sacramento, playing the role of a home-study student. Although I could not exactly experience what they experienced, I did my best to keep track of the ways that they made sense out of those years. We corresponded by e-mails, and I received the e-mail newsletter, Unarius E-News. Transcripts of channeled messages kept me apprised of what the Brothers had to say. During that time, I visited the center a few times a year.
Unarians' many preparations for the landing included putting out more publicity, arranging gala events, organizing, and taking more classes. Unarius planned large-scale productions for its annual Interplanetary Conclave of Light in October, which in earlier times had been free but now cost more than $100 to attend. Unarius expanded the celebration to four days and designed several events with plenty of fanfare to honor the Brothers. The members planned films, speeches, channelings, skits, workshops, musical and choral recitals, a banquet, and a demonstration of a Tesla coil, a device that emits long electrical sparks. Some students readied costumes and props, while others rehearsed their musical and theatrical presentations. Unarians scheduled an open house with special VIP treatment for the media. Cere (p.146) monies at the landing site would feature the colorful banner procession of the confederation planets with the traditional release of doves of peace. For the most part, the academy contained an air of jubilance.
Long-time students, like Lani and Thelma, helped to guide the management of the center as members of the board of directors. They exemplified the typical students who prepared for the landing: solid, hard-working folk who happened to believe the Muons were coming.
An attractive ex-singer in her early forties, Lani showed her team spirit. Involved in the group for more than twenty years, Lani first encountered Unarius when she ordered a book at age fifteen after becoming interested in holistic living and New Age thought. Later, when she found out about classes in the Science, she drove from Los Angeles every week to attend. Lani said she joined Unarius for “personal growth and self-mastery.” She was once concerned with feminist and political issues, but now she thought it was more essential to work on personal growth. She said, “It's more important to fight the enemy within.” When she first became a member, Lani testified that she had a problem with promiscuity (Norman 1985a). She worked on that in the classes, where she came to know that the cause of her problem was being a pawn to her ego and material desires. Lani used the Science to overcome her difficulties with her mother's commitment to a nursing home, her father's suicide, and her own insecurities. Lani disclosed to me that she “still gets tuned into that” sometimes, but now she had the techniques to work on the problem through past-life therapy.
As the coordinator for the video collection at the time, Lani pushed to expand the acceptance of Unarian videos on public-access television stations. This free programming got the word out, bringing in curiosity seekers and new members from time to time. Unarius shows about ninety different videotapes on twenty-two cable channels around the country—from San Diego to Peekskill, New York. Sometimes the program required a local sponsor, but in some cases, Unarius just sent the videotapes by mail.
With miles of video footage of classes and other events, Unarius can produce many more films in years to come. In 2000, their video production crew released five films: Extraterrestrial History, In the Light of Uriel, Uriel Speaks on the Interplanetary Confederation, Welcome Space Brothers to Planet Earth, and Highlights of the Fourteenth Annual Interplanetary Conclave of Light. Several films explained the prophecy and how to get ready for the landing. By coordinating the video program, Lani felt she was doing her part to help others. Lani also choreographed the annual parade of the planets during the conclave celebrations. Her volunteerism reflected genuine commitment.
Bolstered by her years of success with the teachings, Lani described her preparation for the landing as twofold: first, continuing to study and to apply the scientific principles Unarius taught, and second, helping people to overcome their fears and ignorance concerning extraterrestrial intelligence. She served the Unarian Mission by getting out information through (p.147) the media, although she also considered her devotion to the center's physical and spiritual welfare to be connected to a successful landing.
When I corresponded with Lani by e-mail in 2000, I learned more about how she viewed the prophecy. Lani admitted that she would study the Science even if the landing had not been part of the Unarian teachings. For her, the Space Brothers' actual landing ranked second to what the landing represented. In her mind, the landing symbolized the arrival of spiritually and technologically advanced beings. They symbolized teachers who could resolve Earth's many problems. She did believe an actual landing would happen, although it might not occur in 2001. She asserted that the landing would definitely occur, but the Space Brothers would decide the exact timing. There would be a landing, if Earth did not wage war on the Brothers with missiles or other implements of destruction.
A member since 1973, Thelma had tirelessly volunteered for decades. A former midwesterner in her sixties, Thelma said in her published testimonial (Norman 1985a: 36), “I am able to tune into my past negative lives, to begin to free myself from the negative, hypnotic, controlled, robotic state.” Thelma received leaflets from many metaphysically oriented mailing lists, including information about Unarius. She studied at home in Kansas, where she worked as a registered nurse, for about five years before moving to be closer to the center. Thelma appears to be a model citizen, reliable, and level-headed. Something drew her to Unarius, where she says she worked out negative karma from past lives in the “medical field.” She attended to some of Uriel's medical needs at home before Uriel passed away.
Thelma exemplified for me the serious Unarius student—dedicated, committed to her personal growth, and always volunteering. She, like the others, prepared for the landing by attending classes and rededicating herself to the Science. I remember the many times I stood next her in class as we recited the Unarian pledge, “With my mind, with my heart, and with my lips, I rededicate myself to my progressive evolution and to our joint Mission of Universal Understanding of Life's Principles.”
These and other Unarian students prepared for the landing by acting on their dedication and volunteering; students kept the center running smoothly. Some students scoured the news services for any indication of Space Brother activity. Some dusted shelves, while others set up refreshments for periodic celebrations and open houses. Hoping to enlighten others, dutiful members stuffed envelopes for another in a series of endless mailings. They answered phones along with incessant questions about the landing or their past-life realizations. They arranged public events where reporters and the occasional sociologist stood in the wings to record Unarius's cultural significance.
Although festivities and classes were the public face of the organization, the sincerest form of readiness came by “preparing on the inner” through private learning. According to Unarians, the most important groundwork was spiritual preparation. During this time, it was even more important (p.148) than usual to “tune into the Brothers” by listening to the higher frequencies, keeping a mental channel open, and being receptive. A student's “frequency,” or level of spiritual advancement, determined what kind of participation the Space Brothers would offer. Many Unarians consulted their dreams for news of what role they would play in the landing. Students read profusely and attended classes regularly, because only by working the Science would they be transformed by the invigorating energy that would change their evolutionary “oscillation,” even at the molecular level.
On New Year's Day 2001, I received an e-mail from a Unarian about a dream she had. She had encountered Uriel resplendent in light. When Uriel opened her dark blue cape encrusted with stars, shimmering pink spaceships flew out of her heart. The prophesied year had begun.
More than in previous years, Unarians reported sightings of spaceships in the skies that were seemingly awaiting an all-clear notice to land. Numerous sightings occurred in dreams, while others originated from psychic perception. Certain members observed contrails, or the vapor trails of the high-speed craft. Because of their higher spiritual frequency, the Vehicles of Light could probably only be seen by people of advanced scientific understanding. Further complicating the situation was the fact that they could materialize or dematerialize at will. Since the less-maneuverable motherships spanned miles in circumference, the more plentiful mobile scout ships reconnoitered the landscape, communicating telepathically with those who expressed higher intelligence. Channeled messages from Captain Star of the Starship Hope kept the anticipation alive.
Having experienced disconfirmed prophecies before, Unarians possessed all of the interpretive tools to withstand another. They could push back the timeline, leaving it open-ended. Disappointment and disconfirmation could be translated into “having a reliving” of a past life. They could affirm that the ships were present, but invisible. They could also claim that the people of Earth were not ready for the Brothers and that their energies had interfered with the manifestation of the landing. Any student doubts could be allayed by channeled messages from the Brothers themselves. If outsiders found fault with Unarius, students could point out the errors in their logic.
As the year proceeded, a joyful, expectant attitude prevailed among the students. Unarians hosted a program in May on the Disclosure Project, an organization dedicated to educating the public about “real” UFO activity. Since others believed that spaceships had long been traversing the planet and that bona fide information had been covered up, this loaned credence to the fact that the ships were here. Although those in the Disclosure Project and other UFO investigation groups did not subscribe to the Unarian (p.149) vision, they all agreed that extraterrestrials were present, even though they appeared to be inaccessible.
Summer passed without a touchdown. As Unarius prepared for its annual Interplanetary Conclave of Light, some events that shocked the world became part of the Space Brother update. Early on the morning of September 11, 2001, I watched the news coverage from my home in Sacramento. Two planes had crashed into the World Trade Center towers in New York, and another had crashed into the Pentagon. When the towers collapsed, I gasped in horror, and like so many others, I continued to watch the replayed film footage for days afterward. Certain camera shots of the plumes of smoke rising over New York's skyline reminded me of the smoke from the Los Angeles riots. While I felt sympathy for the people involved in the tragedy, I was preoccupied with the mass psychological impact this would have on the American populace. In the midst of the furor, I checked on how Unarius was interpreting this earth-shaking event.
Unarius officially stated that its members felt shocked by the news. It sent out communiqués on the attacks, while also posting its official interpretation on its Web site. Apparently, this event had been foretold in Preparation for the Landing (Norman and Spaegel 1987): negative energies would be thrown up only to be dissolved by the positive energies of the Brothers. In a handout entitled “Unarius Perspective on the September 11 Terrorist Attack,” the organization stated its official position:
It is not happenstance that the Muons from planet Myton will soon land on Earth. Their arrival is part of a vast plan, a Grand Design for the spiritual advancement of mankind. The plan, masterminded by Advanced Intelligences, has not been setback by these acts of terrorism, for it has already set in motion the positive energies of the new cycle that are serving as a counterbalance to dissipate negative energies.
The handout further said that the Brothers of Light had sent high-frequency energy projections to the Earth to help with the healing process. It assured readers that those who died had been taken to spiritual healing wards on the “Inner Planes.”
When I talked to my former hostess, Anne, she had an interesting take on the situation. To her, the debris from the Twin Towers looked symbolic of the hypocrisy taught by religion; it fell to the ground in order to make way for the Science of the Brothers. She ventured to say that the towers themselves were phallic symbols and that she hoped the towers were never rebuilt. She added that they also signified the phallic symbols of the snake cults that destroyed Atlantis. Anne never worried about the Space Brothers appearing, because they were already in the atmosphere of Earth, guiding world affairs, even if we could not see them. She explained further, “The Brothers influenced people with advanced minds, like President Bush. You (p.150) can see the Brothers are working with him. I noticed how he hesitates before he speaks, a sign that the Space Brothers are guiding what he says and does.” To her mind, Bush won the 2000 presidential election because he was the reincarnation of George Washington.
On one level, Unarians informally admitted that this event would prevent the landing from happening that year, while on a formal, public level, they claimed that everything was happening on schedule. Referring to books and Unarian films, several students saw the connection between September 11 and the history of the planet Severus (also called Luminus). In depicting the planet Severus, Unarian filmmakers had used stock footage of the World Trade Center. According to the narrative, planet Severus structured itself as a highly modern, ultratechnological society full of skyscrapers, where people lived and worked in a joyless way. They spoke of it as a cold civilization, eventually warmed by Uriel's love. When the Unarius Brotherhood beamed high-frequency energy to it, the planet remodulated its mode of living. Some members speculated about who had past lives on Severus. Although most members unofficially thought that September 11 would postpone the landing indefinitely, they also thought it actually signified an energy release that had been long overdue. To some, it represented the low point in the oscillation of the sine wave of history; hence, the next phase would ascend upward.
As the year progressed, I attended the Eighteenth Interplanetary Conclave of Light in October. Instead of “Arrival 2001,” Unarius billed it as “Contact 2001,” a slight revision in the prophetic vision. The festivities went on as in previous years with an attitude of joyful celebration. Since many had waited a long time for the Brothers to arrive and had already considered the options, they already knew what they would do if the Brothers did not show up in 2001. They had thought about it before, and they had probably discussed it in private. Even so, the promise of the Space Brothers had to be preserved, because they would certainly bring peace and scientific advancement whenever they did arrive.
That year, Unarians celebrated with carefree pageantry, dining in style, and animatedly talking about the Science. We caravanned to the landing site to see some march in the Procession of the Planets with glad hearts. At that ceremony, the audience thrilled at the release of the thirty-three doves of peace from the miniature saucer-shaped Starship Hope. Unarians sang the praises of the Brothers, and they worked on psychological issues during the weekend workshops. Several people received psychic readings, including sociologist Robert Balch, who was one of five researchers observing. In one segment of the weekend, a panel of students answered questions about the future landing by clairvoyantly receiving answers from the Muons. A few Unarians wore the pieces of Uriel's jewelry they had been given after her passing. Certain students who had been away for a long time, like Denecius, returned for a visit, while others absented themselves because of the cost of the event or because of their disagreements with Unarius. Most (p.151) attendees at the conclave agreed that it did not look good for the arrival of the spacefleet, but they came to hear what the Space Brothers would say.
When the traditional contact from the Space Brothers through channeled mediumship began, the lights dimmed as we settled in our chairs to find out if the landing would really happen that year. Jack and David voiced the words of wisdom from the unseen Brothers. The Brothers explained that the September 11 attack had been a reliving of a space war on Orion. A large main ship and smaller scout crafts lingered in close proximity to Earth. According to the Brothers, we should not question the non-appearance of the ships (Appel and Reynolds 2001: 1): “You, here, have no need for the physical presence of others from another planet to know that this is true, but the vast majority of the earth people will have the undeniable proof in the arrival of a physical spaceship.”
The Space Brothers assured everyone that they would descend, but they did not name a date. Furthermore, they implied that past-life karma had to be worked out. Before closing, Uriel spoke through David (Appel and Reynolds 2001: 6):
I, Uriel, the Golden One, as called by some, hold out my cup, my golden chalice to each one of you in this inner temple, and you will drink deeply of these waters of Spirit. As we pass the cup to each one, I hold out my Love as so promised for you to drink deeply of the pure waters, the purest cleansing waters, so that you will be refreshed. I am appearing to you as the Healing Archangel, as I touch each one. Your future is positive! THE FUTURE OF THE EARTH WORLD IS POSITIVE!
Before people left, participants performed a closing exercise, called a Light Circle, in which everyone held hands. People closed their eyes and listened to guided imagery, a channeled message from Uriel. Paula described her experience in the Unarius E-News (November 2001):
In my mind's eye, I first saw a large crystalline ruby red rose that will forever be symbolic of Uriel's radiant, infinite beauty and love. Next, I viewed the physical form of Uriel transform into a spiraling golden universe that extended swirls of golden starlight from the center of our circle, through each student and out into space.
We adjourned as people consulted each other about what the Brothers had forecasted, the dominant interpretation being that we would have to wait a few more years. Many agreed that it lifted their spirits to hear from Uriel again. One Unarian said, “I saw her right there giving us the cup of love.” As I left the center, I glanced up at the night sky, which was devoid of stars for El Cajon's streetlights and smog obscured them. At that moment, the sky looked empty, like an unfulfilled promise, but I reasoned it (p.152) was not the stars' fault that I could not see them. I knew that smog and city lights hid the stars. The Unarian members knew that certain conditions kept the Space Brothers from being visible. We both made sense out of our own worlds.
In the remainder of the year, the students slipped into unofficial resignation, although Unarian volunteers kept up classes and planned events. The Space Cadillac drove in two local Christmas parades. I attended a night class before the year turned into 2002, when Unarians conducted a flame ceremony. No one spoke about spacefleet landings. By that point, everything had been said. We listened to music and taped messages from Uriel. On the stage, several stations constructed from reflective cardboard and other materials represented the Flames of the Inner Worlds. Emblematically, these flames of love again gave us contact with the Brothers, who were always with us if we only “tuned in” to their presence. In a darkened room, we each in turn silently walked through the “flames” while visualizing the Brothers guiding, cleansing, and healing us. As we left the stage, a Unarian presented us with a red rose, a symbol of Uriel herself. I found the ceremony relaxing and reassuring. It was clear that Unarius would continue.
When the year ended without a landing, only one student in the nucleus felt truly upset. However, as it was explained to me, she was in the midst of a reliving. She was at home, feeling sick, because she was working out her past. No one else seemed openly distressed about the lack of a physical landing. Their explanations rang true within their social construction of reality. The Brothers were willing, but humans were weak. Earth's warlike ways had kept the Space Brothers at bay, but everything would be worked out in its own timing.
When 2002 arrived, Unarius received many calls about the Space Brothers. Where were they? The volunteer staff answered questions as best they could, referring people to the transcripts of channeled messages on the subject and to their Web site. A transmission on January 6, 2002, explained to the students that their thoughts and emotions were affecting world leaders and that it was up to the students to emit loving frequencies, which would help change conditions for the Brothers.
Kevin wrote about his disappointment in the Unarius E-News (March 2002). He had heard that the Muons, the ambassadors of peace, were coming, and he had been anticipating them since the mid-1980s, when the first channeled messages came through. He wrote:
So when January 2002 came, and there was no landing, at least that we were aware of, I asked myself: “Is Unarius wrong? How could Uriel say something that didn't come true?” I became physically sick and felt let down. Over the last 10 years, a lot of my time had been spent explaining how and why this event could occur. I had created video programs and given lectures about the landing, standing up for this concept when others were critical of Unarius. Yet, I (p.153) had always known what the Space Brothers have stated for many years: “We cannot land if we are not wanted.” As I sat in quiet contemplation, I was prompted to read the Biography of Unarius book. Here is where I found the answers as to why I was sick and felt emotionally down. I was reliving my past involvement with the spiritual teachers, Isis and Osiris!
Kevin wrote extensively about his past-life memories. He recounted how he had waited to ambush Isis and Osiris, and how he reestablished the old priesthood by telling the people that the gods spoke through him. He stated that he fell ill for a week, but he emerged with a new awareness that the Space Brothers had already landed in the form of Ernest and Ruth Norman. He praised his teacher Uriel: “For if she hadn't loved me so, as she loves us all, she wouldn't have cared enough to tell me the truth about my mental sickness and shone unto me the Light of an Infinite day.” In January, Kevin and many other Unarians experienced “relivings” of the Isis-Osiris Cycle as a way to deal with their feelings as they continued to wait for the ships.
Since the next three years contained continual news of war, the students remembered (flashbacked) to various lifetimes in an attempt to further clear the way for the Vehicles of Light and the fulfillment of the prophecy. They recognized that war kept the Space Brothers away. They did not find fault with their teachings, but with the negative energies that humans continued to create from their lower selves. (p.154)
(1.) Unarians sometimes became upset by what people wrote on the Internet about them, which is why they warned each other not to take the situation too seriously. In addition to the occasional Web site that launched ridicule, some postings made serious charges against them of mind control and black magic. In 2000, I received a letter from Unarian Pat, who asked me why I had posted a vicious lie on the Internet that Ernest Norman was the reincarnation of Satan. She stated that she was completely distraught over what I had written. It turned out that Pat had read religion scholar Jeffrey Hadden's New Religious Movements Web site (Hoffman 2001) where that information had been erroneously reported. I interceded for the group by contacting Hadden, while Unarians slowly got the story straight that I had not physically done that in this lifetime. Nevertheless, from the Unarian mindset, we all had to realize that we had sent out misinformation about Ernest Norman in a past life. I granted that it could have happened in a past life, although I had no memory of it. Hadden never corrected the error before he died, and the error still stands as of this writing.
Periodically, I also listened to intermittent feedback about my published work on Unarius in an effort to portray their lifeworld better in my writing. (This process of listening to member feedback is called member validation in ethnography.) Unarians held to the consistent interpretation that I confused many facts about them because of my past lives, although they forgave me because of my willingness to study the Science.(p.197)
(2.) Heard (1999: 48) mischaracterized the work of Kirkpatrick and Tumminia, contending that we thought Unarians were “low-watt losers.” We never said that. We see them as human beings involved in complex social processes and representative of others who function in groups. Of course, themes of belief vary from group to group, so Unarius enjoys its unique place in history. Heard twisted our analysis to serve his interpretation.
(3.) Some information is based on two interviews conducted by SDSU student researcher Julia Matuszewicz.(p.198)