A lot of people believe in aliens—more than half of Americans, if some reports are to be believed.
Why UFOs? Well, the general psychological consensus is that as traditional religious beliefs decline, people will still be looking for meaning. Aliens and UFO lore are free from the dogmatic chains of typical organized, theistic religions, yet a belief in aliens is still a belief in a higher power and possibly a higher purpose to our inexplicable and difficult days.
People have always looked to the stars to find meaning, but some place more importance on aliens than others. Some even believe that aliens are seeking communion with the human race, looking to bring us into the next, rapturous phase of our evolution. Some say the aliens haven't made contact because they're waiting for us to evolve to their level, but we keep on destroying our planets or each other. Some say the aliens are out to get us; others say they're here to save us. The field of ufology goes deep and gets weird, but here are four UFO cults around the world to get your brain's gears whirling on the subject of our possible, silent extraterrestrial saviors.
Thailand: The UFO Kaokala Group
Thailand's reigning UFO cult has woven Buddhism's ancient traditions with very New Age beliefs in portals and alien saviors, and the fusion is the Kaokala (full title: Kaokala Coordination for Disasters Warning Group). The Kaokala group was founded by Ajarn Wassana Chuensumnaun, who says she's been talking directly to aliens for over two decades. The aliens hail from Pluto or a planet called Lokukatapakadikong, she says, and they resemble the "Grey" aliens you typically see in sci-fi films or in alien abductee reports.
Kaokala members often take off on mountainside retreats, where they meditate and commune with the aliens. Kaokala members believe that aliens are benevolent beings who are attempting to save us from annihilation. The extraterrestrials are constantly predicting World War III and nuclear apocalypse, and they'ree attempting to create a "new generation" of humans to spread their messages. Many of the group's members feel they've personally encountered aliens during meditations.
They have received some pushback from the Buddhist community, but the group's members firmly believe that their religion and their communion with extraterrestrials are compatible. "Some people think Buddhism doesn't have anything to do with other civilizations," said one member in (what else) a Vice exposé. "But Buddhism is about the universe, right? Some think it's only about praying and meditation, but it's more about outer space. I see comments, but I try to avoid them. I don't fight people."
"They'll visit us over different generations," another member predicted forebodingly. "Before the nuclear disaster, during the disaster, after the disaster and for a restoration period. When it will begin, we don't know."
80,000 people follow the religion known as "Vale do Amanhecer" ("Sunrise Valley"), a new faith that fuses Christianity, Islam, and Judaism with a resolute belief in extraterrestrials.
Members of Sunrise Valley, which is based in Brazil, believe that humans are all actually reincarnated aliens. According to the religion's doctrine, aliens first touched down on Earth 32,000 years ago and have been continuously reincarnated; they say we are all the latest incarnation, the Jaguars.
The religion was established in 1959, when a widowed truck driver named Aunt Neiva Zelaya experienced psychic visions that she believed were visitations from extraterrestrial spirits.
Followers believe in ritual and perform many of them. They have a multitude of dramatic holidays, and they often wear elaborate costumes and perform rites. The religion has sparked some tensions with more traditional faiths in Brazil, who call it a cult. But for believers, it's the only way forward.
Taiwan: Chen Tao (True Way Cult)
Taiwan's True Way Cult emerged when Hon-Ming Chen, a former professor, broke off from academia and joined a series of cults. Eventually he made his way to the US, homeland of alien cults, and created what became the Chen Tao, a cult that utilizes cosmology, Buddhism, Taoism, flying saucers, and Christian apocalyptic prophecy (among others).
Chen's cosmology proposed that the universe was born out of a nuclear war that happened 4.5 trillion years ago. It said that each person is part of the same magnetic field that forms the heavens and also God, and everyone has a "spiritual light energy" that they are intended to develop throughout their lives. He detailed these tenets in a book called God's Descending in Clouds (Flying Saucers) on Earth to Save People.
The cult fizzled out when a central prediction did not occur. Chen predicted that at 12:01 AM on March 31st, 1998, God would appear on a single TV channel across America. When no such thing happened, Chen disappeared from public view and the cult disbanded (or did they?).
The USA has no shortage of alien cults (and no shortage of cults in general), but one of its more famous UFO-worshiping cults, Heaven's Gate, all met their end in the 1970s. Still, cult belief in aliens has persisted, branching off into a labyrinthine garden of star-gazers.
The Aetherius Society was founded by George King in the 1950s. King claimed he had made contact with extraterrestrials who called themselves "Cosmic Masters" and said their main goal was to help humanity and advance them into the New Age. "The main purpose of this Society is to help as many people as possible to prepare themselves for the coming New Age. We do this by improving world karma and using spiritual energy to help others – often in direct cooperation with advanced alien intelligences," their website reads.
The group combines UFO stories, yoga, ideas from Hinduism, Buddhism, and Christianity; and much more. They believe that worldly destruction may be avoided when humans learn to cooperate with their alien masters, that spiritual energy can be used to heal the world, and that a new powerful messiah is on his way—a messiah who, like Jesus and Buddha, is also a Cosmic Master.