1919 (January 23) George King was born in Shropshire, England..
1954 The Aetherius Society was founded by King.
1959 BBC broadcast King, allowing a huge audience to witness his yogic skills.
1959 King expanded the Society to the U.S. where he established a center in Hollywood, CA.
1959 Operation Space Power began.
After 1960 The Society continued to expand and open other branches.
1963 The center in Hollywood was incorporated as a non-profit religious, scientific, and educational organization.
1966 Operation Sunbeam began.
1973 Operation Prayer Power began.
1997 (July 12) King passed away.
The Aetherius Society describes itself as “a worldwide spiritual organization comprised of people dedicated to help uplift humanitythrough spiritual action” (Aetherius Society. 2006m; cf. Saliba 2000a, 2000b, 2001). Its goal is to restore, by the aid of the Cosmic Masters, the human race to a state of balance, which is threatened by selfishness and hedonism and by pollution, violence, and the depletion of the earth’s resources. Among its aims are “spiritual healing,” preparing “the way for the coming of the new Master,” and forming “a brotherhood based on the Teachings and Knowledge of the Cosmic Masters” (Aetherius Society 2006t). Its founder, George King, introduced the idea of the “Cosmic Concept,” the wisdom that provides a “new view of the universe” that reveals the true nature of the world in which we live. The Society’s view of the universe is evolutionary, but its evolution requires guidance by the Cosmic Masters, with whom its dedicated members cooperate (Aetherius Society 2006m).
In the mid-1940s and early 1950s, George King became interested in psychic phenomena and in yoga, which he practiced for 10 years. In May, 1954, he claimed to have received a summons in a loud voice: "Prepare yourself! You are to become the voice of Interplanetary Parliament." “ A few days later he was visited by a world-renowned Yoga Master whom he knew to be alive and active in India at that time. This Master, in every way physical, entered and left through a locked door that he did not open. During the meeting, Dr. King was given a series of highly specialized exercises enabling him to bring about a state of consciousness necessary for the establishment of mental rapport with the Cosmic Masters who inhabit the higher planes of other planets” (Aetherius Society 2006b; cf. Melton 2009: 781). His mission had begun. During his lifetime, King cooperated with the Cosmic Masters (which include the Great White Brotherhood of Theosophy), among whom are some historical figures such as the Lord Buddha, Confucius, Jesus, and Count Saint-Germain (d. 1784), as well as extraterrestrials known as Master Aetherius, Goo-Ling, and Mars Sector 6. Members of the Society believe that George King was chosen by the Cosmic Masters to become the spiritual prophet or medium who transmits their messages to humankind. The command given to George King is central to the Aetherius Society, and its 50 th anniversary was commemorated throughout its centers and branches (Cosmic Voice 2004).
George King has been described both as a "mystagogue" (Wallis 1974), or as someone "who performs magical and/or sacramental actions to promote salvation" (Saliba 1995b: 223). He can also be described as a psychic, mystic, or spiritual healer. After receiving the command to become a channel for the Cosmic Masters, King claimed to have mastered many of the various techniques of Yoga, including Raja, Gnani, and Kundalini, all of which led him to consciously attain the state of Samadhi (Aetherius Society 2006b). He is held with high esteem by the members of the Aetherius Society. Chrissie Blaze (n.d.a), a well-known public lecturer on New Age topics and a member of the Michigan Branch of the Society, has described him as “a spiritual warrior” and as a spiritually gifted master of yoga who “lived and labored to bring peace and enlightenment to the world.”
His mastery of the various forms of Yoga enabled him to attain the elevated state of consciousness known as Samadhi which prepared him to be chosen as the "Primary Terrestrial Mental Channel" to deliver to the human race the messages of the Cosmic Masters. This allowed King to communicate with beings from other spiritual energy spheres. In this state of consciousness, he was able to receive teachings from the Cosmic Masters that the Aetherius Society believes will guide humanity as a whole to spiritual enlightenment. King is acknowledged as the "Primary Terrestrial Mental Channel for the Cosmic Masters." His full title in the Society is "Sir George King, OSP, PhD, ThD, DD, Metropolitan Archbishop of the Aetherius Churches, Founder President of the Aetherius Society." He also has other honorary titles, including Prince Grand Master of the Mystical Order of St. Peter, HRH Prince George King De Santori, and Knight of Malta. Certificates of these various degrees and titles are displayed at the Society’s Temple in Hollywood, California.
After receiving his call to channel, King gave up his research and materialistic pursuits in order to publish The Cosmic Voice, which included a transcript of his communications with the Cosmic Masters. He also began giving lectures around England describing his spiritual experiences (Melton 2009: 781). On May 21, 1959, BBC broadcast King while he was in a Samadhic trance, allowing a huge audience to witness his yogic skills (Aetherius Society n.d.b). In June, 1959, King expanded the Society to the U.S. and established a center in Hollywood, where, in 1963, The Aetherius Society was incorporated as a non-profit religious, scientific, and educational organization (Aetherius Society Newsletter 1963). Since the 1960s, the Society has opened other branches in Europe, Africa, and Australasia, all of which are listed on its Web page (Aetherius Society 2006s). It has also increased its membership over the last few decades.
The Society publishes The Aetherius Society Newsletter and Cosmic Voice: Cosmic Revelations for the New Age, which was later renamed Cosmic Voice: The Journal of the Aetherius Society. Earlier issues of these publications (from 1961-1980 and 1980-1997 respectively) have been archived online (Aetherius Society 2006u) and are available to members only. Friends of the Society can subscribe to the Journal which contains news about the Society’s activities, and its missions, as well as comments of various current issues. Members can also subscribe to the Newsletter, which has information on the various branches and operations.
The Aetherius Society describes itself as an international UFO organization dedicated to world peace and enlightenment. The society's religious belief system encompasses the root teachings of world religions, and relies heavily on the Theosophical tradition, scientific findings and developments, and a cosmic view of humanity, which its members claim to have received from the extraterrestrials who are referred to as Cosmic Masters. Ellwood (1995: 394) points out that UFO religions including the Aetherius Society believe in "an order of spiritually significant beings between the human and ultimate reality, with which one can have conversational and disciplic relations." Such interaction "opens up a sense of expanded consciousness and cosmic wonder."
The Aetherius Society teaches that each person exists within one’s consciousness and, therefore, that the individual will continue to exist even after one’s physical body is gone. Once the soul/consciousness leaves the body, its energy level intensifies and it is transported to the "astral plane" where it will remain until it is ready to be reincarnated in a new physical body. By tapping into what many believe is the "universal consciousness," George King was able to connect with this other level of existence, as had many other practitioners of yoga, meditation, and various exercises leading to an altered state of consciousness. Aetherius Society members believe that the Cosmic Masters on other planets are advanced beings that have learned to control the vibratory rate of their energy level and have chosen to exist permanently on a higher realm of consciousness (Aetherius Society 2006d).
The Cosmic Masters are believed to be far more technologically and spiritually advanced than human beings. They have, therefore, been able to build spacecraft that avoid detection by radar and telescopes until they choose to let their presence be known. According to the Society, this has happened repeatedly through recent history. Society members explain that extraterrestrials can decrease their vibratory rate at will and assume physical bodies as easily as they can increase their energy levels and dematerialize. When asked why the Masters choose to visit us, the Society responds that they are benevolent beings who wish to guide humankind in its evolution. They define the evolution process as the journey back to God the Creator. Once a soul masters its lessons on Earth, it leaves the cycle of rebirth and moves on to a more subtle and lasting body. This is described as an inward journey toward the "Spark of God" within us (Aetherius Society. 2006d). Not only do these extraterrestrials act as spiritual guides, they also protect the human race from both internal and external forces. Members of the Aetherius Society believe that the Cosmic Masters actively prevent ecological disasters, as well as cosmic warfare, and that there are flying saucers hovering constantly around the Earth guarding us from evil and warning us about imminent attacks (Saliba 1995a: 28). At one point, the Cosmic Masters went so far as to devise an invisible barrier around the planet to shield it from destructive forces (Saliba 1995a: 36). Despite their efforts, however, Earth is believed to be presently under attack by "The Black Magicians" who wish to enslave its inhabitants (Melton 2009: 781).
The Society teaches that those souls that achieve enlightenment but choose to stay to help humankind become members of "The Great White Brotherhood" in the spiritual hierarchy of Earth. On the other hand, those that leave Earth may choose to begin life on other planets within our solar system, both to learn new lessons and to help new civilizations. According to the Society’s teachings, all aspects of the universe, including Mother Earth, are sentient and alive, and at some point in our infinite existence we will merge with other life forms and become moons, planets, stars, and other celestial bodies. These great beings contain the deepest wisdom, are in closest unity with God, and they aid human beings in their path towards enlightenment.
One of the central beliefs of the Aetherius Society is the Law of Karma (Aetherius Society 2006k; cf. King 1962b), namely "the law of consequence with regard to action, which is the driving force behind the cycle of reincarnation or rebirth in Asian religions" (Bowker 1997: 535). Members of the Aetherius Society believe that humankind is severely out of karmic balance and, therefore, is teetering on the brink of total self-destruction, an event which they believe has taken place twice before on Earth. The first catastrophic fall occurred in what is known as Lemuria, or Mu, and was followed by the fall of Atlantis. Before our existence on Earth, members of the Society believe that humankind lived on a planet called Maldek, once found between Mars and Jupiter. The Aetherius Society teaches that this planet was destroyed in a global war which left only an asteroid belt in its wake (Aetherius Society 2006r; King 1962c)
Members of the Aetherius Society maintain that the end of humankind on Earth will come as a result of advanced technology and increased materialism. Our only hope is to begin focusing on the development of our higher selves and to learn how to practice science within the Law of God. In order to restore balance between technological and spiritual growth, the Cosmic Masters have been given permission to increase their help to humankind. They both guide us towards God with the teachings they have sent through George King and boost our spiritual energy by sending large amounts of positive, healing energy towards Earth at certain times of the year in what are called "Spiritual Pushes" (Aetherius Society n.d.e).
Between his first contact with extraterrestrials in 1954 and his death in 1997, George King received over 600 transmissions from the Cosmic Masters. Among the most important of these that are still available in book form are The Twelve Blessings (King 1962a;cf. Aetherius Society. 2006q) and The Nine Freedoms (King 1963; cf. Aetherius Society 2006r). Selections from these transmissions are sometimes played during the Sunday services. The Twelve Blessings were received on consecutive Sundays between July 27 and October 12, 1958. These teachings are believed to be sent by the Master Jesus who now resides on the planet Venus and appear to be an extension of the Beatitudes recorded in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Gospel of Matthew, ch. 5:3-10). They are part of the devotional practices of the Society’s members who recite selections of them during services held on Monday evenings. The Nine Freedoms were transmitted in 1961 by the Lord of Karma from Mars Sector Six. They detail the major steps one must take in the journey towards Cosmic Consciousness.
Now that George King has "moved on," the Cosmic Masters have prophesized that another Master will eventually come to replace him. On November 23, 1958, the Lord Karma sent a Cosmic Prophecy revealing the coming of the next Master and explaining how to identify him. “There will shortly come ‘Another’ among you. He will stand tall among men with a shining countenance. This One will be attired in a single garment of the type now known to you. His shoes will be soft-topped, yet not made of the skin of animals. He will approach the Earth leaders. They will ask of Him His credentials. He will produce these. His magic will be greater that any upon Earth - greater than the combined materialistic might of all the armies. And they, who heed not His words, shall be removed from the Earth. This Rock is now Holy - and will remain so for as long as the World exists. Go ye forth and spread My Word, so that all men of pure heart may prepare for His coming” (King, n.d., cf. Aetherius Society 2006l).
The Society has made no attempt to specify when exactly this prediction will be fulfilled. In fact, the advent of this Master is shrouded in mystery. In a recorded talk King stated that the “next Master will come to Earth only when the time is right, as decided by the Karmic Lords. It could be within ten years or it could be a hundred years or even longer. It depends on humanity's progress. When humanity evolves to a certain stage, and enough people are firmly on the ladder of spiritual growth, then the karma will be such that he can come.”
Members of the Aetherius Society believe that “service is the key to human salvation and that they have dedicated themselves to help heal and uplift humanity through spiritual action” (Aetherius Society. 2006m). In the desire to serve humankind, George King initiated several cosmic missions or operations (Aetherius Society 2006n; cf. Saliba 2003: 134-35); some, like Mission Prayer Power, Operation Sunbeam, and Operation Space Power continue today, others, like Operation Starlight and Operation Blue Water have been completed).
One of these ongoing missions is Operation Prayer Power began in 1973 (Aetherius Society 2006f). The purpose of this mission is tostore "prayer energy" created by dynamic prayer, the recital of Tibetan mantras, and the use of mudras in order that the prayer energy may be sent out in a highly concentrated form to areas that are in need. This healing energy is controlled by cooperating Cosmic Masters who use a device called the Spiritual Energy Radiator to redirect the prayers.
A second mission performed by the Society is Operation Sunbeam (Aetherius Society 2006g) which is directly concerned with the welfare of the planet Earth. Members of the society use energy that would otherwise have been employed for the good of humanity and send it directly to the Earth. It other words, it redirects spiritual energy meant for humankind to Mother Earth. The first transmission of energy to the Earth took place on September 24, 1966. Since then, over 600 transmissions have been completed. The Aetherius Society believes that each of these acts performed selflessly by its members helps to balance human Karma and, therefore, brings human beings closer to God. This spiritual energy is actually located on nineteen Holy Mountains (Ae therius Society. 2006j), and George King devised and built the equipment to make this transmission possible.
A third mission, called "Operation Space Power," (King 1987; cf. Aetherius Society 2006e), involves cooperation between Interplanetary Beings and the Aetherius Society in order to radiate spiritual power to Earth. Several times a year, a "large intergalactic spacecraft" called "Satellite No. 3" sends cosmic and solar energies which are beneficial to the human race and which are stored by the Aetherius Society in specially designed "Spiritual Energy Radiators."
Two other missions, called "Operation Starlight" (Aetherius Society 2006o) and "Operation Blue Water," (Aetherius Society 2006p) were started by King and completed, with the aid of the Cosmic Masters, between 1958-1961 and 1963-1964, respectively.
In Operation StarLight, King climbed to the tops of eighteen out of nineteen Holy Mountains (Aetherius Society 2006j) where he transmitted a charge of spiritual energy from the Cosmic Masters. These mountains are described as “spiritual energy batteries” that cannot be discharged or depleted and are, therefore, a continuous source of blessing to those who climb them. They are powerful psychic centers and the Aetherius Society organizes regular pilgrimages to them (Aetherius Society 2006i). King is credited with the success of the mission because he “ manipulated the karma of humanity through his physical effort of climbing the mountains and using his advanced abilities to achieve the elevated yogic trance-state that allowed the energy to flow through him” (Aetherius Society 2006o). According to Saint Goo-Ling, one of the Cosmic Masters, the most potent spiritual practice available to humans is to recite "The Twelve Blessings" on one of these sacred places during a Spiritual Push, also known as a "Magnetization Period" (Aetherius Society 2006h).
Operation Blue Water (cf. Blaze, n.d.b), which is said to have been a difficult mission carried out at psychic center off the California coast, corrected what Society members believe was a warp in the earth magnetic fields caused both by atomic experiments of the 1950s and by the negative thoughts and actions of human beings.
Besides a Sunday service, prayer and healing services are held on a weekly basis. Special services are held to commemorate important events in the history of the Society and its missions (Scribner and Wheeler 2003:160ff.)
The Aetherius Society is managed by three different boards: the board of International Directors, who make all legal and administrative decisions; a group of ten senior engineering officers, who oversee the technical aspects of the various missions and operations; and the Synod, consisting of bishops and priests, which is responsible for all the religious aspects of the society, such as temple services and pilgrimages (Aetherius Society 2006y; cf. Barrett, 2011:121-122; Clarke 2006:5). It offers three kinds of membership (Aetherius Society 2006v): (1) "full," which involves commitment and active participation in its activities, (2) "associate," for those who support the aims of the society but do not assume an active role, and (3) "friend," which refers to those who are sympathetic to the Society’s views. There are various groupings of members. "Branches" refers to a center where there are enough members to form a congregation. A "group" denotes the presence of the Society in much smaller numbers, while “representatives” indicate the presence of only one or a few members. Scribner and Wheeler (2003:16-168) observed that a distinction “between good and ‘absolutely first class, members” was made and that “the highest members were sworn to secrecy, and the vulnerable secrets of the organization were elaborately protected.” Such a distinction is not made in the Society’s Web page.
The Society does not provide any membership data. It is thus difficult to estimate how many people there are who fit into the three categories of membership mentioned above. Barrett (2001: 387; 2011: 122) states that according to Bishop Richard Lawrence, the executive secretary of the European Headquarters in London, the membership in the society is in the thousands. Smith (2003: 91) reports that the UFO News UK claimed that the Aetherius Society had "around 10,000 people on its mailing list in the UK alone." Clark (2006: 5; cf. Barrett 2012: 122) estimates that in the United Kingdom there are between six and seven hundred members and eight thousand on its mailing list while Melton (2009: 781) estimates that in the United States there are almost seven hundred on this list. These figures are somewhat dated and incomplete since they contain no reference to membership on other continents. A reasonable estimate would put its number of full and associate membership at around three thousand in 2010.
The Society’s Web Page (Aetherius Society 2006w) lists two Headquarters, one in London and the other in Hollywood, California. There are several branches, over thirty groups, and about a dozen or so other representatives. These are spread over several continents, including North America, Europe (mainly the United Kingdom), Australia, and Africa.
To date, the Aetherius Society has been a benign presence in the community of UFO-based new religions, and has not been involved in major controversy. This may be partly due to the fact that those who join the Society are adults and more likely to have been already involved in New Age practices before becoming members. Moreover, the organization does not proselytize, though its members have at times engaged in “promotional campaigns.” Miller (2008), after an interview with Richard Lawrence at the Society’s headquarters in London, remarked that it was “n ever one to push themselves forward and [have] virtually a negative recruitment policy .”Some Christians, however, remain suspicious and consider the Society a “cult” in the pejorative sense. One evangelical Web page (Anonymous 2009) reads: “Interestingly enough, there has been little to no criticism of the Aetherius Society. There have been no negative media stories with regard to this group but with the right conditions, such as millennialism or some kind of catastrophe, this could be a dangerous group.”
The beliefs and practices of the Society, however, have been heavily criticized and ridiculed (e.g. Mamer, 2012a, 2012b), though it is not been denounced as a fraudulent cult that manipulates its members. In fact, some have stated explicitly that it does not fit into the criteria of a “cult” (Radcliffe 2007). Several of the main anti-cult organizations omit mentioning it in their information on cults. Rick Ross, for example, does not mention the Aetherius Society or George King in his lengthy list of movements (Ross n.d.a), though he provides about half a dozen links to it, most of which are inaccessible (Ross n.d.b). Another anti-cult Internet resource, F.A.C.T.net (Fi ght Against Coercive Tactics Network), similarly leaves out any reference to the Society and its founder (F.A.C.T.net. n.d.).
There are some ex-members who criticize the Society because it “ no longer meets the standards of a True path to Enlightenment through Service” and because, since the death of George King, its members “are once more playing childish ego games which have the potential to harm others and are definitely NOT in any genuine way attributable to his original stated mission for the “salvation and enlightenment of humanity’” (Past Aetherius Society Members 2008). They have also accused the Society of being led by a few power-hungry individuals who marginalize the average member and of being racist. In spite of these criticisms, there seems to be little or no organized opposition.
The Society is aware of these continuing negative reactions and activities both from some members and ex-members. Richard Lawrence, in his report on a recent extraordinary general meeting held in London, stated that “for about five years, false allegations and malicious rumours have been circulated around the world by a handful of Members and former Members in England who have claimed to represent Membership opinion in this region. “ He adds “All the International Directors at the European Headquarters have stood firm despite the scurrilous attempts, sometimes from unexpected quarters, to undermine us” (Lawrence 2012: 1). A short formal response to criticism of the Society’s believes and activities has also been made by the Rev. Paul Nugent (2010), a director of the Society at its American headquarters, who brushes aside such criticism by stating that the members of The Aetherius Society have ”been going against the prevailing wind of terrestrial ignorance” since its foundation.
Abrahamson. Charles. 1994. The Holy Mountains of the World. Hollywood, CA: Aetherius Society.
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Rothstein, Mikael. 2009. “World Savior in Undergarment: The Palpable Jesus of The Aetherius Society.” Pp 256-74 in Alternative Christs, edited by Olav Hammer. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
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Rothstein, Mikael. 2003. “Hagiography and Text in The Aetherius Society: Aspects of the Social Construction of a Religious Leader.” Pp 165-93 in New Religions in a Postmodern World, edited by Mikael Rothstein and Reender Kranenborg. Aarhus, DM: Aarhus University; also Pp. 3-24 in Alien Worlds: Social and Religious Dimensions of Extraterrestrial Contact, edited by Diana G. Tumminia. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2007.
John A. Saliba
Amanda J. Tellefsen
4 April 2012