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.
The earliest messages Van Tassel claimed to have received from Ashtar were first presented to the public at an annual event called the Giant Rock Spacecraft Convention, which he himself organized. 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. 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.
As the weekly channeling sessions at Giant Rock continued through the early 1950s, the alleged Ashtar messages became much more elaborate and began to provide details of the purported existence of an extraterrestrial "government", which claimed to closely monitor activities on Earth and offered material and spiritual support to its citizens. This concept of an "Ashtar Command" was appropriated for use by a number of prominent early alleged channelers, both inside and outside the Giant Rock community, and was soon being utilized by several in the context of their own personal claimed messages from Ashtar, along with the use of the figure of Ashtar himself, originally developed by Van Tassel.
By 1955, a few well known channelers of the era, including Elouise Moeller, had incorporated the concept of an Ashtar Command and related ideas, as key components of their own developing systems. Several channelers, including Van Tassel himself, began publishing accounts which described predictions of the imminent arrival of an Ashtar-led UFO armada on Earth, in order to guide and protect mankind. The public failure of these predictions had an enormous negative effect on the expansion of the Ashtar Command 'movement'. Without Van Tassel's role as a single authority constituting the sole source of messages from Ashtar, the movement became less cohesive and began to splinter from internal pressures. Several dozen channelers were simultaneously claiming to be obtaining, in some cases, competing authoritative messages directly from Ashtar. The overall movement began to wane in relative popularity because of infighting.
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 presentseveral 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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