Darkside Demons

Christopher Partridge. Understanding the Dark Side: Western Demonology, Satanic Panics and Alien Abduction. Chester Academic Press, 2006. (An inaugural address delivered at Chester College on 24 June 2004)

Christopher Partridge is the Professor of Contemporary Religion at Chester College, and in this pamphlet he traces the roots of the modern alien abduction mythology back through popular culture to traditional Christian demonology. He argues that while much of the imagery of benevolent UFO contacts, such as that produced by the classic contactees comes from Theosophy and its offshoots, when it comes to envisaging hostile aliens, the imagery of classical Judaeo-Christian demonology is what first comes to mind.

This demonic imagery manifests itself through the notions of the vivisecting greys, and more recently through the imagery of the reptilians, and their appearance in the wild conspiracy theories of David Icke. Partridge traces back this imagery back to the obscure occultist Maurice Doreal who ran an organisation called the White Temple in the 1930s, though to the works of the fantasy writer Robert Howard and others in the Lovercraft circle. The more immediate source of reptilian imagery however was the science fiction TV series V in which an apparently benign humanoid race of aliens turn out to be people-eating reptiles in disguise. This series was deliberately intended as an allegory of totalitarianism in general and the Nazis in particular.

In some respects Partridge's concentration on the formal UFO cults means he looses quite a bit of historical perspective. Themes of demonic aliens long predate Budd Hopkins and David Jacobs, and go right back to the prehistory of ufology with Richard Shaver's deros, which as a fallen, malevolent, underground race, the cause of human sin and suffering, are clearly barely secularised demons. As Andy Roberts and David Clarke have shown, fundamentalist Christians had been attributing UFOs to demonic activity ever since the 1950s.

Prior to Budd Hopkins and David Jacobs, the most elaborate demonology within ufology was probably that of John Keel. Keel's writings have a distinctly gnostic tinge, in which human beings are seen as having fallen into the hands of the "ultaterrestrials" or elementals, whose tricks are responsible for all human belief systems and religions. It is never quite clear (not even to Keel I suspect) whether these ultraterrestrial tricksters are external forces, or are internal to the human imagination and perceptual processes.

We can also see subtleties in the imagery of the Grey. The Greys are not originally presumed to be malevolently evil; they are seen as pursuing their tasks regardless, The theme of much of the early Hopkins at least, is that the Grey's (who are of course a mirror of ourselves) lose their humanity through the pursuit of technocratic modernity, and through their retreat into social roles, "just doing their job". The equation between the facelessness of modern technological society and the faceless realm of the dead sets these themes apart. Of course later on, the cold greys mutate, particularly in the imagination of Jacobs, into the images of the "terrible others", and in his thesis, the abduction mythology merges into that of mainly right wing nativist and anti statist paranoia.  -- PR


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