Angels and Aliens
Anybody who has seen E.T. or Close Encounters of the Third Kind, the film Signs, or any number of alien sci-fi movies will have wondered about alien encounters and the possible existence of extraterrestrial intelligence. And certainly last week’s speculation over those mysterious objects the U.S. military shot down raised the topic into the headlines. When the top NORAD general wouldn’t rule out aliens, who’s to blame the public for speculating?
One of the main difficulties in discussions of this subject is the pervasiveness of materialistic ways of thinking. The SETI project, for example, is the decades old Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence. The SETI project uses radio technology, internet computer, and space exploration technology to search the cosmos for signs of extraterrestrials who have advanced civilizations and technologies which would use electronic communications of some sort.
This approach assumes that all other forms of intelligence in the universe must interact with the material, physical realm as we do. If there is extraterrestrial intelligence, the creatures may be so advanced that our radio communications are irrelevant. Other intelligences may be so far superior to us that our attempts to communicate with radio waves would be like a housefly trying to communicate with us by rubbing his front feet together.
Aquinas on Angels
The term “extraterrestrial intelligence” is almost exactly what the medieval philosopher St. Thomas Aquinas might have used to describe angels. Aquinas explains that angels are completely non-physical intelligent beings. They have no bodies. They are not earth-bound. They are creatures of pure intelligence. However, St. Thomas says that angels can appear to assume physical bodies. They are able to “manipulate matter so as to assume a physical appearance that is visible yet consistent with angelic character.”
Angels, Thomas says, take physical form in order to communicate God’s message. They are also the main agents of God’s action in the world. St. Thomas also reminds us that not all angels are good, and that remarkable phenomena may also be produced by the action of bad angels.
Angels, Aliens and Augustine
St. Thomas says fallen angels, or demons, cannot do miracles, but they can produce phenomena that are real and astounding in order to destroy or deceive humans. He quotes the earlier writer St. Augustine who explains that the fallen angels can make things appear or change things in the physical world by using certain material elements to produce a real wonder. More often they manipulate what we perceive as material reality in order to deceive us. In City of God, he explains how this happens: Firstly the demon can work from within — working on a person’s imagination and physical senses so that something appears to be real, but the “reality” is only a product of manipulated senses of perception.
Furthermore, one person’s imagination can interact with another person’s so that the images formed in one person’s mind can be shared to another individual’s imagination.
In other words, demons can mess with your head. They can manipulate your sense perception to make you see and hear things which are not real. Furthermore, they can do interactions between your imagination and another person’s so that your mind is used to project imagery into the imagination of other people.
Aliens and Angels
The best explanation I have for alleged encounters with aliens is that fallen angels are at work in the world. They do all they can to deceive human beings and draw them into a belief system and way of life without God.
If they can get a people wrapped up in theories of alien visitations and extraterrestrial visitors to earth — if they can get them absorbed and fascinated by paranormal phenomena and distracted from God, they will have succeeded in their diabolical mission to deceive and destroy.
There is such a thing as extraterrestrial intelligence. These creatures really are from another world: the spiritual world. They’re what we call angels, and some of these angels are ministers of light. Others are ministers of deception and destruction.
Furthermore, these extraterrestrial forces are involved in a great cosmic war and human beings are part of the conflict.
Once that is understood, all that remains is for you to decide on which side you plan to do battle.
Fr. Dwight Longenecker is the pastor of Our Lady of the Rosary Church in Greenville, South Carolina. His latest book The Way of the Wilderness Warrior uses the classical hero’s quest to give a plan for spiritual growth.