It’s been a while since I’ve posted on Msgr. Balducci’s conundrum. The rabbit trails have been good, though, and we’ll revisit some of them in more detail in the future. Those who didn’t catch the previous four posts on this can find them on the blog. Briefly, though, the conundrum is as follows. Many people who have experienced or now experience UFO sightings have processed the event in theological ways — specifically, UFOs and their presumed occupants have often been cast as messianic, divine, or “spiritually enlightened” figures. That is, the UFO subject is NOT a religiously neutral one. The same goes for abductions. (In this post we’ll get into “abduction spiritualities”). Now the problem for Msgr. Balducci who wants to claim that UFOs and ETs have *nothing* to do with what Christianity references as the demonic. It’s the “nothing” that creates the problem for Balducci, whether he or his followers realize it or not. One simply needs to ask what kind of spiritual message is conveyed by the presumed ETs, whether at contact or during abductions. Does what they say jive with (for Balducci’s sake) doctrinal teachings that are core to Catholic Christianity? It is easily demonstrated that ET messages contradict doctrinal teachings about human depravity, sin, salvation, the person of Christ, and the saving work of Christ. Typically, religious teachings that contradict these doctrines — which are the very defining points of Christianity — would be viewed as “anti-Christ” or “anti-Christian” and therefore associated with (at best) error and (at worst) evil or the demonic, since they would be viewed as affronts to the faith. For someone who isn’t catholic or Christian, these things of course don’t matter. But Balduccci is a priest with theological commitments (one would assume). Hence the conundrum. IF he doesn’t think the UFO and abduction stuff (he hangs with popular ufology) isn’t a theological problem for him (as presented in popular ufology), he’s disturbingly naive.
The second part of Partridge’s first chapter deals with “abduction spiritualities.” Were Msgr. Balducci aware of the scholarly research in this regard (or even the popular non-fiction works in the field), he would perhaps change his position.
Partridge overviews the work of scholars whose focus is the abduction experience. He cites the work of Brenda Denzler, author of The Lure of the Edge: Scientific Passions, Religious Beliefs, and the Pursuit of UFOs. Denzler’s book is based on her Ph.D. in Religious Studies from Duke University. She contributes a chapter to Partridge’s edited book; we’ll spend some time in that chapter in the future.
Partridge notes that Denzler’s work very capably demonstrates that although “there are those in the UFO community who consider themselves to be engaged in a purely scientific enterprise, eschewing religious interpretations, this is not the case for abductees.”1 Partridge adds that “there is a conspicuous emphasis in abduction narratives on personal spiritual experience.”2 David Jacobs, known more broadly in ufology than Denzler, reaches the same conclusion when he notes that abductees “found spiritual enlightenment and an expansion of their consciousness” via the experience.3 In Harvard psychiatrist John Mack’s first work on alien abductees, ABDUCTION: HUMAN ENCOUNTERS WITH ALIENS, Mack writes:
Many abduction experiences are unequivocally spiritual, which involves some sort of powerful encounter with, or immersion in, divine light . . . The alien beings, although resented for their intrusive activities, may also be seen as intermediaries, closer than we are to God or the source of being. Sometimes . . . they may even be seen as angels or analogous to God. A number of abductees with whom I have worked experience at certain points an openingup to the source of being in the cosmos.4
Partridge moves from this literature to make the observation that:
“[It] is hard to avoid the fact that the ‘enhanced spirituality’ (Mack) typical of abductees is consistent with the Eastern-influenced New Age spirituality that has emerged in the West, particularly since the 1960s, much of which can be traced back to theosophical thought. That is to say, whilst strictly speaking much of it is not theosophical, it is part of a stream of alternative spirituality which is indebted implicitly to Theosophy and explicitly to ideas found within the Indian religious tradition.5
Partridge goes on to cite a specific example. Quoting Professor Andrew Rawlinson’s work (University of Lancaster), Book of Enlightened Masters: Western Teachers in Eastern Traditions, Partridge identifies four principles of abduction spirituality that are essential to Eastern-based Western New Age spirituality:
1. Human beings are best understood in terms of consciousness and its modifications.
2. Consciousness can be transformed by spiritual practice.
3. There are gurus / masters / teachers who have done this.
4. They [the masters] can help others to do the same by some form of transmission . . . [which] ranges from formal initiation to a glance from the eye of the beloved.6
Partridge notes that all four of the elements above “can be found in UFO religions and abduction spiritualities, as can a host of other beliefs popular within the New Age network: e.g. reincarnation, chakras, past lives, future lives, psychic therapy, oneness with the Earth, channeling, astral travel, and so on.”7 The same conclusions, with abundant citation in the contactee literature, were drawn by journalism professor William Alnor in his book Ufo Cults and the New Millennium.
The point again for Msgr. Balducci is simple: Where in the belief systems put forth by ETs to their contactees or abductees do we see the core doctrines of your faith upheld, or at least not undermined? Who is Jesus, besides an alien creation or an alien emissary — merely one of the ascended masters, not virgin born, not uncreated, not the dead and risen Savior? Msgr. Balducci has yet to address or even recognize these issues. Naturally, he may not be in the least bit interested. But if that’s the case, he could at least be honest and divorce himself from catholicism and go his own spiritual way, rather than pretend he or his faith is something that it is not.