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Article published January 4, 2003
Astronomer links UFOs to occultism
Sightings are very real, but only in spiritual world, author says


Dr. Hugh Ross is an astronomer and a Christian who happens to believe in UFOs.

He can even lay claim to having been a guest on late-night radio�s Art Bell Show, where callers love to report on and speculate about unidentified flying object sightings, paranormal phenomena, and extraterrestrial life.

But Dr. Ross is no UFO chaser who attributes every sighting to a visit from another planet. In fact, he doesn�t happen to think that life exists on other planets. Even if it did, he posits, it would be physically impossible for it to reach Earth.

He does think UFOs can be real, however, and he is trying to bring a rational voice to the subject by blending his knowledge of astronomy with religious beliefs that acknowledge the existence of supernatural activity.

In Lights in the Sky and Little Green Men (NavPress), Dr. Ross, the director of Reasons to Believe, a Glendora, Calif., institute dedicated to developing scientific evidence for the Christian faith, shares his own research into UFO activity. Ninety-nine percent of what people have reported to him as UFOs, he said, were easily identifiable by an experienced astronomer as a star, cluster, or other object in the night sky.

It is the remaining 1 percent of sightings- so-called residual UFOs - that have attracted his interest. Most of them, he discovered, have been seen on lonely country roads around 3 in the morning, a time when astronomers also like to hang out on isolated rural roads.

Yet, he said, very few astronomers have seen residual UFOs.

In 1969, however, Dr. Ross met two astronomers who were having regular UFO encounters. Both also happened to be involved in occult activity.

Upon investigation, Dr. Ross consistently found a connection between occult involvement and residual UFO encounters. For example, he said, countries with a high degree of occult activity such as Russia during the Soviet era, France, and certain parts of Brazil also had high percentages of UFO encounters. During Russia�s Soviet period when every expression of religion except occult activity had been outlawed, he said, "Russians were seeing UFOs at five to eight times the rate Americans were."

Dr. Ross has made his claims about residual UFO encounters and their relationship to occult activity on television and radio over the last 20 years. "Every time I do, I get a lot of angry letters," he said. "When I do, I say let�s calm down here. I�ve got a checklist of what qualifies as identifiable UFOs. I take the experience and go down the list. It gets rid of 99 percent. For the 1 percent that don�t make it through, I have a second checklist."

That one lists occult activities. "Typically what I discover is if it�s a residual UFO encounter, the person will be checking off four or five things on the list. The more involved in occult activities they are, the more likely they are to have encounters and the more likely they are to have repeat encounters."

Unlike many scientists who believe that if something is nonphysical, it is not real, Dr. Ross believes such encounters are very much real, a view he said is informed by his Christian beliefs, which allow for the existence of nonphysical, but real entities.

Dr. Ross said that residual UFO encounters are consistently malicious, not benign experiences. "The most common impact is people have very disturbing, recurring nightmares that can lead to a deep psychosis." Sometimes, he said, people become injured in such encounters.

Born in Montreal and reared in British Columbia, Dr. Ross became interested in astronomy at the age of 7. By the time he was a teen, he was serving as director of observations for the Royal Astronomical Society in Vancouver, B.C., and had become practiced at exposing fraudulent UFO reports.

He begins Lights in the Sky and Little Green Men, which was co-written with Mark Clark and Kenneth Samples, with three chapters stating why he thinks hypotheses supporting extraterrestrial life are false and follows with his own UFO research.

Dr. Ross said it was difficult to find a publisher who would accept the book because "so much trash has been published on UFOs in the Christian community."

When he approached NavPress, "I said we want to do a book on extraterrestrial life and UFOs that�s got high credibility and that�s going to make the case with hard-nosed scientific skeptics."

The book includes a section on the Raelian movement, a UFO cult that has been in the news in recent days because of its claim that followers cloned a human being. According to Mr. Samples, who wrote the chapter on UFO cults, the Raelians hope to achieve immortality by cloning individual followers. Like those who have had UFO encounters, he writes, UFO cults typically are associated with occult influences.

Although Dr. Ross personally does not believe in extraterrestrial life, he thinks the question is open from a Christian perspective. "If I�m proved incorrect, it won�t bother me. We look at it as an entertaining debate point."