Ashtar (extraterrestrial being)
Ashtar (sometimes called Ashtar Sheran) is the name given to an extraterrestrial being or group of beings which some number of people claim to have channeled. UFO contactee George Van Tassel was the first to have claimed to have received a message, in 1952, from Ashtar. Since then many different claims about Ashtar have appeared in different contexts, and is studied by academics as a prominent form of UFO religion.
Denzler observes that "in the long run, probably the most important person for the propagation and perpetuation of the contactee movement was George Van Tassel". In 1947 Van Tassel moved to Giant Rock, near Landers in the Mojave Desert, California, where he established a large UFO Center. This became the most successful and well-known UFO meeting center of the time.
Van Tassel, as one of the founding "fathers" of the modern religious ufologies also created arguably the most prominent UFO group established in the US in the late 40s and early 50s, although not as influential or well-known today. This was the "Ministry of Universal Wisdom" begun in 1953, which evolved out of two previous groups he had organized at Giant Rock in the late 40s. The organization investigated and encouraged the healing arts, but its prime focus was to collect and analyse UFO phenomena and interview 'contactees'. Due to radio and television interest, Van Tassel became the most well-known promoter of contactee experiences and somewhat of a celebrity in the 1950s.
In 1952 Van Tassel himself claimed to receive messages via telepathic communication from an extraterrestrial and interdimensional being named "Ashtar". This source became the "first metaphysical superstar of the flying saucer age". Van Tassel also interpreted the Christian Bible in terms of extraterrestrial intervention in the evolution of the human race, and claimed that Jesus was a being from space. The Ministry of Universal Wisdom taught that all humans have the power to tap into the ‘Universal Mind of God’ and this facilitates evolutionary progress such as that exemplified by Jesus and Ashtar. Van Tassel also claimed that by accessing the Universal Mind he could receive messages not only from Ashtar but from humans who had died, such as Nikola Tesla. From Tesla he claimed to receive instructions to build the “Integratron” machine which could extend lifespan and access knowledge from the past and future.
Although his purported method of communication with extraterrestrial intelligences resembled what is commonly referred to as "channeling", Van Tassel claimed to have established a new form of telepathic communication with these 'sources', utilizing a method which included both natural human abilities and the use of an allegedly advanced form of alien technology, rather than the more traditionally religious, non-technological, spiritual medium based approach taken by many other early channelers of the era. Van Tassel maintained that the method he utilized was not a paranormal or metaphysical activity, but required being 'in resonance' with the messages being sent. It was an example of the application of an allegedly advanced extraterrestrial science, that anyone could implement with the proper training in meditation techniques.
Giant Rock Space Conventions
Van Tassel held weekly channeling sessions at Giant Rock at which people could ‘ask questions’ and ‘channel answers’ from extraterrestrials. According to Jerome Clark, these gatherings coalesced the scattered contactee subculture into a recognisable movement in January 1952. This led to the annual Giant Rock Spacecraft Convention organized by Van Tassel, which began in the spring of 1953 and continued for at least another 24 years. It marked Van Tassel’s most important role in UFO history In 1959 up to 11,000 people attended these conventions and heard channeled messages claiming to come from space. Most of the well-known UFO contactees attended these conventions as speakers and channelers. Melton states that almost all of the 50s contactees became involved in the two ecumenical structures founded by either Van Tassel or Gabriel Green. Most of the early messages Van Tassel claimed to have received from Ashtar were first presented to the public at these events.
Van Tassel's early purported messages from Ashtar contained a great deal of apocalyptic material, which focused on concerns regarding the development of the soon to be tested hydrogen bomb. It was claimed that on July 18, 1952, Ashtar entered the solar system as Commander in Chief of the Ashtar Galactic Command to warn humanity of the dangers of detonating the H-bomb, including the destruction of the planet. The messages stated the space command was determined that humans would not destroy the Earth through the wrong use of nuclear power and that the Command was helping the human race. Van Tassel also claimed that Ashtar had provided specific messages that he was expected to pass on to the U.S. federal government regarding the potential negative impacts of the proposed upcoming bomb tests. After the actual explosion of the H-bomb by the US and Russian governments, the channeling claimed that the space forces had assisted the planet to survive the bomb tests.
As the weekly channeling sessions at Giant Rock continued through the early 1950s, the concept of an "Ashtar Command" was appropriated for use by a number of prominent early contactees and channelers, based on the figure of Ashtar, originally promoted by Van Tassel. Robert Short (AKA Bill Rose), editor of the 1950s UFO magazine “Interplanetary News Digest”, was a member of Van Tassel’s group. He began to popularise the messages, but as Van Tassel did not agree that other Ashtar messages were authentic, Short broke away and began his own group called “Ashtar Command”.
By the mid-1950s, the concept of Ashtar and a galactic law enforcement agency preparing an imminent rescue of humanity had become well-established, and included various well-known, esoteric channelers of the era. For instance, Elouise Moeller predicted that a space fleet would arrive in the near future; and Adelaide J Brown claimed that flourishing civilisations existed on the other planets in the solar system.
However, as time and scientific knowledge progressed, the public failure of these predictions had an enormous negative impact on the expansion of the Ashtar Command movement due to the lack of a central authority that could undertake damage control. Although Robert Short had spent a lot of time promoting the Ashtar message, he was neither the leader nor the only interpreter, as by this time dozens of Ashtar channelers were presenting conflicting messages.
Derivation of the Ashtar Movement
With the advent of UFO religions, "Ascended Masters" from these esoteric teachings have been described as reappearing in space suits. The space concept was not entirely new however, as the more arcane teachings of Theosophy contained references to extraterrestrial masters. The concept of the Ascended Master is particularly clear in the Ashtar teachings. The very word "ashtar" appears in Helena Blavatsky’s The Secret Doctrine (1888).
According to Helland the initial account of the Ashtar message as channeled through Van Tassel was not a spiritual message as such but "an early contact account between extraterrestrials and humankind." It focused on intervention in human scientific development, and came from a real technological space being on an urgent interstellar undertaking. However, throughout the 1950s and 1960s, as many individuals in the spiritualist movement began to claim contact with Ashtar, the space being began to play more of an Ascended Master role in the narratives.
In 1971, a British radio talk show devoted to UFOs received a strange call-in claiming to originate from outer space, which some of the guests believed to be genuine. This turned out to be the prelude for the 1977 Southern Television broadcast interruption, when a voice calling itself "Vrillon" of the Ashtar Galactic Command temporarily took over a television receiver in southern England.
After decreasing in popularity within the New Age community for a period of roughly twenty years, the concept of an Ashtar Command was revitalized by a channeler named Thelma B. Terrill, (best known as "Tuella") who channeled messages and wrote a series of books on the subject in the 1970s and 1980s. Her work shifted the focus from Van Tassel's extraterrestrial technological model, to a more 'spiritualized' approach. Tuella's version of the Ashtar narrative tended to play down the necessity of the direct involvement of UFOs in human affairs, with the shift of importance being laid onto purely interior spiritual development as a means of reaching "higher dimensions" and receiving the assistance of Ashtar Command. Despite Tuella's influences, several channelers maintained a separate more UFO-based cosmology, which insisted on the importance of messages from Ashtar containing predictions of the imminent destruction of earth, and the need for a literal physical evacuation of the planet, with the assistance of the spacecraft of Ashtar Command. By the 1990s, the movement began to splinter into factions once again.
Yvonne Cole, who claimed to be channeling Ashtar messages from 1986, predicted the destruction of all Earth civilizations and the arrival on the planet of various alien cultures in 1994. Cole claimed that governments were working with extraterrestrials to prepare for contact. These prophecies furthered the continued fracturing and disappointment within the movement when they failed to occur.
Developments after the mid-1990s
Despite these failures, by the mid-1990s (and continuing to present several of these channeling groups began to utilize the Internet in order to promulgate their beliefs and to attempt to unify the movement and establishing a single 'authoritative' source for all Ashtar messages. Individual channelers espousing messages which differed and continued to focus on themes such as the destruction of Earth, were declared invalid. It was claimed that channelers who had avowed such messages in the past and continued to do so, had in fact been deceived by spiritual forces who opposed Ashtar's benevolent intentions. Most significantly of all, the new more unified movement declared that in future no new channeled messages from Ashtar would be accepted as valid unless they complied with criteria established by the recently formed and authoritative core group. The criteria consisted of a set of twelve "guidelines", which it was claimed established a baseline of 'orthodoxy' for the movement. After the Southern Television broadcast hoax in 1977, they also began using the term Ashtar Galactic Command as opposed to simply Ashtar Command. Ashtar came to be depicted as commanding a fleet of dozens to hundreds of flying saucers continually monitoring Earth, and the being Vrillon came to be depicted as Ashtar's communications director.
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