Children of Ezekiel

Michael Lieb. Children of Ezekiel: Aliens, UFOs, The Crisis of Race and the Advent of End Time. Duke University Press, 1998.

In this difficult but, I suspect, important book, Michael Lieb traces the cultural heritage of the vision of Ezekiel, and the transmutation of that vision of the ineffable, into a revelation of technology; most particularly a sacred technology seen as an expression of the wrath of God. Whether envisioned as a chariot (as for example by John Milton who used the phrase Chariot of Paternal Deitie), as a man powered flying machine (as by the 18th century German inventor Melchior Bauer), a railway locomotive (as an anonymous pamphlet of 1843), or in terms of today's rockets and space ships, the vision is revisioned in terms of the powerful technology of the time, divine power thus being equated with technological power.

Lieb traces the rise of the ancient astronaut theories, and their apotheosis, at least in terms of Ezekiel, in Josef Blumrich's The Spaceships of Ezekiel, where the vision becomes wholly reduced to 'nothing but' a sort of rocket ship, or perhaps the rocket as manifestation of overwhelming otherness and power. Lieb places the general UFO mythology within this context, and one can think of parallels he does not draw: the Cash-Landrum story for example evokes the idea of the heavens opening and revealing an overwhelming brilliance, like the hashmal of Ezekiel, which the Rabbis argued was a terrible danger to the uninitiated (Lieb notes that this mysterious word suggesting brilliance, and translated as 'amber' in the Authorised Version, is used in modern Hebrew to mean electricity).

There are also echoes of Ezekiel in the hypnotic visions of Betty Andreasson. Lieb also notes the sceptical revisionings of Ezekiel's visions, either as a schizophrenic hallucination, or as suggested by Donald Menzel, a sun dog (other writers have interpreted it in terms of a tornado or of ball lightening).

The technologisation of the divine is also expressed in the development of atomic weapons, and the growth of atomic apocalypticsism in the United States, where it has merged with other passages in Ezekiel concerning the dark forces from the north, to become the central theme of modern dispensationalist fundamentalism. In the discussions of this we see how close Ronald Reagan was to 'mad' apocalyptic cult leaders, seeing himself as a prophet of the end times.

As the major case study of the use of UFO interpretations of Ezekiel's vision in an apocalyptic context, Lieb chooses the Nation of Islam, and their theology of the 'Mother Plane' openly linked in their writings to Ezekiel's vision, as the agent of destruction and redemption, and their incorporation of scientistic imagery in their theology (For example their Satan figure, Yakob, is a 'mad scientist' out of 1930's popular culture, with echoes of Well's Dr Moreau. This is the context in which Louis Farrakhan proclaims himself an abductee and contactee. -- Peter Rogerson, from Magonia 72, October 2000.

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