So far, the concept of aliens in popular culture has largely been limited to little green, probing perverts from sci-fi movies and the rantings of conspiracy theorists. Which is why the conversation about extra-terrestrial life is for most people submerged in farce. However, there is a group of men and women in a renovated church in Parson's Green, who take the matter very, very seriously: They are The Aetherius Society and to them, aliens are gods.The society was founded in 1955, by a London cabbie called Dr. George King after he claimed to come into contact with aliens. According to him, speaking directly through their larynx, these "highly evolved intelligences from other planets" would communicate wisdom and guidance for mankind.
Today The Aetherius Society boasts thousands of members worldwide as well as headquarters in London, Los Angeles and Auckland. I went down to their European headquarters in West London to meet with the leading member Richard Lawrence; a man who, amongst other things, claims to have channelled the voice of Dante Alighieri and Sir Winston Churchill.
The Aetherius Society HQ in Parsons Green.
VICE: For those who don't know, could you summate what The Aetherius Society is?
Richard Lawrence: It is a society based on Dr. George King and his contacts with an extra-terrestrial intelligence known as "Aetherius". It is spiritual, religious, scientific and educational. It's spread around the world. It's not massive, but we have thousands of people who are members or support our activities, with tens of thousands of people enquiring over time.
How do other religions fit into your beliefs and can separate beliefs co-exist?
We have people who've come from Islamic, Jewish, Christian, Buddhist and atheistic backgrounds. We're not the one and only way, we just introduce a cosmic dimension to spirituality. So we believe that some of the great spiritual leaders such as Jesus, Buddha, Gandhi and Sophocles were all in fact aliens sent to help us. It's not everyone's cup of tea; it could be regarded as heretical by some religions.
Do you ever get anger from religious figures?
Well yes, I think Dr. King received anger from Christians when he first claimed that Jesus came from Venus. Born-again Christians have denounced me on the radio. On the other hand, I've been invited to speak at a Synagogue, at an Anglican event and I've spoken in two Buddhist temples at the invitation of the monks.
Richard Lawrence at his desk at The Aetherius Society
How did you first meet Dr. King and how did your faith change through this meeting?
That was at Hull University. When I went there a group of The Aetherius Society was enshrined in the union. The members of the union had had a vote and decided to accept the authority of inter-planetary parliament. It was through them, that I became aware of him. I got to know him personally by coming here to Parson's Green and volunteering. In the last 20 years of his life, we became close friends.
To be honest with you, I had never heard of your society before spotting your lecture in Time Out. However, reading up I've noticed Dr. George King has been documented in prominent publications for decades now, even having been featured live on the BBC. How did he first get into the public eye?
As you can imagine, he was ridiculed quite mercilessly by the media and the public in the 1950s. But he was a very strong person and this didn't put him off. There were many UFO contactee claims around the world at that time – as there are today – but his hallmark was his spirituality. This was a big part of his life – from childhood to the years leading up to The Command, which was the first alien contact he had.
Before this, he had become celibate and spent eight hours doing yoga every day. Have you ever met a man who does eight hours of yoga every day? I certainly haven't.
A portrait of Dr. George King.
One of the things you announced in the new edition of your book Contacts With The Gods From Space was that Dr George King was himself an alien.
Yes, he was one of those beings that have come from another world and lived among us, and was born through the womb of an earth woman. In fact his mother and grandmother also believed that. At his birth it is believed his grandmother even said, "Mary, this child is not of this Earth!"
Wait, so his mum was called Mary?
His mother was actually called Mary – but he never compared himself to Jesus at all and certainly wouldn't allow that. But, if you look at what he did and what we believe then it fits.
Have you ever seen or had an experience with an alien?
Well I've seen UFOs. I had a big sighting in Hull actually.
Can you tell me about it?
It was a cigar-shaped object – probably a mothership – that was moving very slowly in the sky, illuminating it. It was on the news that there was a UFO sighting so we drove out to this field to see it. The government used to wheel people out to explain these. I mean, a professor at our university said it was a barium cloud. Barium clouds don't behave in that way. In fact, the explanations for UFOs are a study in themselves. Hilarious, some of them.
Members and sympathisers taking part in Operation Prayer Power on Holdstone Down.
So you think there are wide scale government cover-ups?
Beyond any doubt. That's actually proven. There's been CIA cover-ups. In fact, I've brought CIA papers to this country that were released under the Freedom of Information Act. When Tony Blair's government brought this Act in, I was told that the top three asked questions by the British public were about UFOs. They used to have a UFO department in the Ministry of Defence, but because they were getting all these questions they closed it. This was on the grounds that it had no "defence value," saying that they had "no opinion of the existence of extra-terrestrial life". "No opinion" can you believe it? All rather convenient.
Are people who don't believe in aliens ultimately ignorant?
Um... well I don't want to avoid your question here, but I think we all suffer from ignorance. I don't want to condemn people but I think they're wrong. I can understand it if they've never investigated it. It depends whether they say, "they don't exist", or whether they say, "I don't know". If they say, "there's definitely no such thing as an alien anywhere", then that's pretty stupid. Especially since it's been announced that there's 40 billion planets in our galaxy that can sustain life as we know it.
A member of The Aetherius Society invoking spiritual energy for storage in an Operation Prayer Power battery on Holdstone Down, North Devon
Moving onto your activities, can you tell me about your Holy Mountain expeditions and how they fit into your beliefs?
Dr. George King actually climbed 18 of these mountains – not the 19th though, that's Kilimanjaro – and discovered that they are charged with energy by beings from other planets. We invite people to come to Devon with us and see if they can sense that. We go to the mountains to send energy out for peace.
And you have something called a Prayer Battery?
Yes, we work with that every Thursday. People who practice prayer will come up and put their hand in front of the battery, channelling energy, which you can feel through the arm and hand. In that way, we store energy in the battery and when we have a crisis that energy can be released.
This can be in conjunction with the extra-terrestrials who will send it wherever it is needed. The first big one we did was in the 1970s when we released 532 prayer hours to a war that was brewing in Cyprus and eight hours later the war stopped. [ed.note: Dr. King claims to have interfered with the Turkish Invasion of Cyprus]
Are we now under threat of our own destruction?
In a nutshell, what we think is that, after Maldek (which was destroyed by us and is now an asteroid belt), we came here and built up a civilisation called Amuria, which we all destroyed in a nuclear holocaust. Then we built up Atlantis and, again, that was destroyed.
We are now in a position where we could do the same but we don't think we will be allowed to destroy the planet; Mother Earth is more important to us than the people. She is the highest being that we can physically touch and is herself a goddess. If we want to stop this war and destruction, it can only be done through sending love energy. A treaty won't do it, money can't do it and politics certainly don't do it.
You have a perception of aliens being an inherently benevolent force. Do you therefore stand against the widespread image of evil, probing forces?
Well firstly, we do not say that they are all benign. What we say is that benign forces from those who are hostile protect us.
Richard Lawrence on The Great Change.
So there are evil aliens?
There are beings out there, not in our solar system that we have been protected from. If we hadn't been protected we wouldn't stand a chance.
Why are they hostile?
Well that's a good question for VICE, isn't it... why do people go to war?
Finally, if aliens do exist, why haven't they made themselves known to everyone?
They are far more aware than we are of the psychology of the terrestrial mind. Panic and hostility would be the result. I would say that for anybody who wanted to know, the evidence is there. If they don't choose to look into it, or to deny it because it's inconvenient to their belief system, then the beings haven't yet chosen to force them to change. There's a plan though, a long-term plan. They will prove themselves at the time that is in the best interest of the human race. There will be a Coming.
Okay, cheers for talking to me!
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