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Death of the You Foe Man

29 June 2010

It seems that I’m getting to the age when a lot of my blog posts are about people I have known who have died, and this is the second one within a week.

I am reminded of Tom Lehrer’s song:

When you attend a funeral
it is sad to think that sooner or
later those you love will do the same for you
and you may have thought it tragic
not to mention other adjec-
tives to think of all the weeping they will do.

So I wonder if anyone will blog about me when I’m gone? Probably not.

But today a posting in the alt.obituaries newsgroup alerted me to this: Father Paul – Telegraph

Father Paul, otherwise known as Lieutenant-Commander the Reverend Paul Inglesby, who has died aged 94, held unconventional views on the origin of Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs) and once tried to stop the Queen watching Steven Spielberg’s alien film Close Encounters of the Third Kind, claiming it was a satanic plot to seize control of her mind.

I first encountered Father Paul Inglesby about 25 years ago, when I was Anglican, but seriously thinking about becoming Orthodox. Someone sent me a copy of the journal of the Anglo-Orthodox Society, and Paul Inglesby was very much a part of it, having fairly recently become Orthodox himself.

I wrote to a couple of people on the committee, one of them being Paul Inglesby, and he wrote to me to warn me that one of the most important questions to settle, if not the most important, if one was becoming Orthodox, was the question of jurisdiction. He was a convinced Old Calendrist, and had himself become a member of a small Old Calendrist sect, which he tried to persuade me to join, or failing that, one of the other small Old Calendrist sects, of which there were several. He plied me with a lot of literature aimed to persuade me that the Old Calendar was the only true one, and that following the Gregorian Calendar would lead to eternal perdition.

I was not really susceptible to those arguments, however, because one of the reasons I was thinking of leaving the Anglican Church for Orthodoxy was precisely the question of jurisdiction. In 1968 I had attended a course on Orthodox Theology for non-Orthodox Theological Students at the World Council of Churches study centre at Bossey, Switzerland, and as a result had found Orthodox theology more attractive that Western theology, and continued to read about it. I discovered that the Orthodox Church in Africa was under the jurisdiction of the Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and all Africa, and that St Mark had established the church there in the first century.

An Anglican priest in the Transkei, Walter Goodall, had written an article saying that people who were concerned about the disintegration of Anglican theology and were looking for another spiritual home could take refuge under the Pope of Rome, “who is, after all, the Patriarch of the West”. I wrote to him to point out that we were not in the West, but in Africa, and that the Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria was therefore a more logical refuge. Father Goodall did not like this, and wrote back to ask if I had not heard of “universal ordinary jurisdication”. I hadn’t, but it didn’t sound like a very good thing. So when I wanted to join the Orthodox Church, one of the reasons was precisely because it had a history in Africa going back to the first century, and I wanted to be African, not Western. It seemed to me that Western theology was part of what I wanted to get away from.

Nevertheless, I continued to correspond with Father Paul Inglesby after we had become Orthodox, and he continued to send me his Old Calendrist newsletters, even though I couldn’t see much to get excited about. I didn’t have any strong objections to the Old Calendar, but I also couldn’t see why a calendar drawn up at the instigation of a pagan emperor should be intrinsically better than one drawn up by a heretical bishop.

I write about all this, and of course it is not so much about what Father Paul Inglesby believed as about what I believe, but that is OK, because what I know is how knowing him affected me, and though I didn’t agree with his conclusions about jurisdiction, he did make me think about it more deeply about it than I would otherwise have done, and in our correspondence to say why I thought it was important and right for Orthodox Christians in Africa to be under the jurisdiction of the Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria.

After we had been corresponding for some years Paul Inglesby moved to Glastonbury, and took up a new interest. The Old Calendrist cause was not forgotten, but was put on the back burner. He started a new occasional newletter, a bit like a hardcopy blog, because he published all the comments he received as well, but this time it was on King Alfred, whom he regarded as significant for our times.

Then some time later we received a new series of newsletters from him, this time on UFOs. It seemed that with each new enthusiasm, he forgot the old ones. He would get a bee in his bonnet, about the Old Calendar, King Alfred, or UFOs, and seemed to lose all interest in anything else, including his own previous enthusiasms. I asked him what he thought was important about UFOs, and he wrote back saying that he was interested in the view of the late Father Seraphim Rose that they were demonic manifestations. I had read Father Seraphim Rose’s book on the subject, and did not agree with him on many points

Orthodoxy and the Religion of the Future Orthodoxy and the Religion of the Future by Seraphim Rose

My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Father Seraphim Rose (1934-1982), an American Orthodox priest-monk, discusses spiritual and religious tendencies in Western, and especially American society. He saw these tendencies converging to form a single anti-Christian religion, and the book (written in the early 1970s) includes chapters on the ecumenical movement, Hinduism, Buddhism, UFOs, and the charismatic renewal movement within many Christian churches.

He regards the Charismatic renewal movement as “Christian mediumism” and a revival of pagan shamanism. He regards UFOs as demonic manifestations, specially tailored to appeal to modern Western culture’s fascination with “science”, and asserts that science fiction has prepared people in Western cultures to accept these demonic manifestations, and to explain them “scientifically”, while scientists themselves tend to see them as being as much psychic as real.

Where Father Seraphim writes on religions like Hinduism and Zen Buddhism, he writes from personal knowledge, for he had studied East Asian religions before he became an Orthodox Christian. But I have had some experience of the charismatic renewal movement, and a lot of what he wrote is very far removed from it. Quite soon after his death many of his followers where far more involved in the kind of “religion of the future” he warned against than most people involved in the charismatic renewal movement.

Concerning UFOs, I thought Father Seraphim Rose was way over the top. For him, it seemed, they were not Unidentified Flying Objects at all, because he claimed to have identified them — as demonic manifestations. But there are lots of things in the sky that one cannot identify at first, and to claim that they are all demonic manifestations goes much too far. Most of the UFOs that one sees tend to be identified sooner or later, and turn out to have quite prosaic explanations. I saw one a few years ago, a lighted object quite close to the southern horizon, moving slowly towards Johannesburg. It was a UFO because I couldn’t identify it, but I later learned that it was an airship being used in some advertising promotion, and it then ceased to be a UFO. But it wasn’t a demonic manifestation, or at least not directly, in the sense that Father Seraphim Rose implies, though one could say that some aspects of the advertising industry are probably demonic.

But I also saw a UFO that I have never been able to identify, and it remains a UFO to this day, to me at least. Here’s what I wrote in my diary on that day (19 May 1964), when I was staying in the residence of the University of Natal in Pietermaritzburg

In the evening I went over to the Union to phone Fr Hallowes. It was about 6:00 pm, and as I walked across the car park I saw a red object travel across the sky from south to north. It was almost due West of the Union, and then it looked like an artificial satellite, moving slowly across the sky, very much as I saw the first Sputnik moving, nearly seven years ago now. That was the only satellite I had ever seen before, and I almost stopped looking and went on to the Union, But then I stopped, because when it was almost due west it seemed to stop, and then moved in a series of jerks. Then it started to move round a star — at least that’s what it looked like to me, but parallax probably meant that it only looked like it. Neil Perrett came along then, and we both watched it. It was higher up in the sky moving back more or less the way it had come, still in jerks, and it seemed less bright. Obviously it was not an artificial satellite, but must be an aircraft of some kind. Too far away for a chopper, but it may be a fast plane, very far away, but somehow it didn’t look like it. Not a satellite, not a plane, what the hell can it be? A piece seemed to fall off it, and then it was travelling back, moving north to south, when it dropped a few more pieces, and finally disappeared — disintegrated altogether. I went on to the Union, and Neil went back to res.

Neil Perrett was an active member of the parachute club, and he did not think it was dropping skydivers. So it remains a UFO.

Thirty years later, in November 1994, Paul Inglesby came to visit us, with his son David, and they spent the night, and I hoped to find out more about some of the things we had written about, though I half expected him to have found a new absorbing interest, but no, it was still UFOs. He seemed to have lost all interest in King Alfred, and even (somewhat to my relief) the Old Calendar.

He said his views on UFOs were similar to those of Father Seraphim Rose, but not quite the same, and I wanted to know what the similarities and differences were, but he seemed reluctant to explain, and it threw me a bit when he started talking about “you foes”. It took a while to catch on. I get the same feeling when people suddenly start talking about “earls” when it appears to have no relation to the preceding conversation, and two sentences later I twig that they were actually referring to URLs, but by that time I’ve missed what they said when I was trying to work out what they were saying.

But Paul Inglesby was very conspiratorial and secretive, and wasn’t saying much. I remarked that if Father Seraphim Rose claimed to have identified flying saucers as demonic manifestations, then they couldn’t be UFOs because UFOs were, by definition, unidentified, and if you had identified them they must be IFOs. He quite clearly didn’t have a clue what I was talking about. But when I asked him what he thought constituted the chief danger of UFOs, he looked even more conspiratorial, and whispered darkly, “Abduction”, and would say no more.

So we didn’t communicate very well about UFOs, but it was a pleasant visit all the same, and we enjoyed meeting him and his son. Our children always referred to him after that as “the you foe man”.

A few years later I read The Chalice by Phil Rickman. It was set in Glastonbury, and it helped to explain why Paul Inglesby had become so obsessed with UFOs when he visited us a few years ago. I hadn’t realised the extent to which it had become a centre for flying saucer fanatics.

In 2005 we visited the UK, and drove past Glastonbury, but didn’t stop to look at it, and having not heard from Paul Inglesby for some time, we did not call in to try and see him. It looked rather dull and ordinary, and not as numinous as many people said it was. North Curry, where my great-great-great grandfather Simon Hayes was born, seemed far more numinous, positively spooky in fact.There were lots of flying objects too, but we identified them as crows.

But we were not to escape UFOs quite so easily. A few days later we went to Whitehaven, where Val’s ancestors had come from, and sent some of the photos we had taken to our daughter Bridget, in Greece. She asked if we had noticed that one of them had a UFO in it. We hadn’t. But we looked again, and there it was.

St Bees Church (actually St Begh or Bega), Cumbria, with UFO

People sometimes ask me if I “believe in UFOs”, and I’m at a loss to answer them. I believe in God. I believe in trolley buses (in the sense that I consider them a desirable form of public transport, and I wish that we still had them in Pretoria). But I don’t “believe in” UFOs any more than I “believe in” oil gushers at the bottom of the sea in the Gulf of Mexico, or vuvuzelas at football matches.  But if they ask if I believe there are objects that fly in the sky, yes, I do. And if they ask if I believe that some of those flying objects are not identified, yes I do. But if they ask if I believe that those unidentified flying objects are demonic manifestations, no I don’t. I can’t identify the one in the picture above, so it is a UFO until I can identify it. But when identified flying objects drop bombs on Belgrade, or Baghdad, or Basra, then I believe that they are demonic manifestations.

And there are some people who are obsessed with UFOs, and who make them the object of a cult, and then I think it can be a demonic manifestation — not the UFOs, but the obsession with them.

So I can’t say I knew Paul Inglesby well, as we only met once. And I was not aware, until I read his obituary, that his interest in UFOs was an old one, and preceded his interest in King Alfred and Old Calendrism. But he was certainly a memorable character, and he made me think about several things, even if my thoughts were different from his thoughts, and I would say that he enriched my life, in some ways known to me, and in other ways known only to God.

May his memory be eternal!

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Graham permalink
    30 June 2010 8:09 am

    Wow! What an amazing article. I am sorry to hear about the passing of your friend (Who you met only once, but I gather was still a friend by how fondly you speak of him); I had heard of him, long ago, but I can’t remember when or how or in what context. My memory is very foggy.

    Anyway, as I read this, I found myself laughing out loud at parts, and sitting absolutely dumbstruck at others, but never bored or battling to follow. You have an awesome sense of humour, and a wonderful memory for details that make the stories you relate come to life.

    So tell me, do you believe that any of these “unidentified” flying objects could possibly be identified one day as beings from other planets/galaxies/planes of existence? Surely most of them end up getting identified as either hoaxes or completely mundane phenomena, but there are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio…. 😉

  2. 30 June 2010 6:55 pm

    One of the things that puzzles me about Orthodoxy is that people who otherwise seem quite reasonable seem to have this great veneration for Fr Seraphim Rose. Last year, not knowing much about him, I started dipping into some of his books and had the feeling that I was back in some of worst manifestations of Protestant fundamentalism that I had known in my childhood. All it needed was the Groot Krokodil shaking his finger and talking about the total onslaught to have made the conspiracy theory ambiance more complete!

    To be a devil’s advocate, and despite the fact that I find what you say about the patriarchate of Alexandria appealing, one could point out that there are in fact two popes (not counting the Uniate upstart) and basing oneself on this argument one could argue that the Coptic one is more authentically African than the Greek!

    • 1 July 2010 6:23 am

      Yes, there have indeed been two popes since the middle of the 6th century, and it could be said that the Coptic Orthodox Church was the first African Independent Church. So it depends on whether you accept Seven Ecumenical Councils or only the first three, though the Copts are beginning to0 say that they accept the last three as well, and it is only the Council of Chalcedon, in 451, that they dispute.

      Concerning Father Seraphim Rose, an interesting book is: Lucas, Phillip Charles. 1995. The odyssey of a new religion: the Holy Order of MANS from New Age to Orthodoxy.

      The Holy Order of MANS was a New Age Christian group started by Earl Blighton in California in the 1960s. Blighton taught a form of esoteric Christianity to a group hippies who were searching for mystical enlightenment. This evolved into a monastic-style
      initiatory order, and spread throughout the USA between 1969 and 1974. Blighton died in 1974, and was eventually succeeded by one of his early disciples, Andrew Rossi. Rossi was attracted to Orthodoxy, and it became the Christ the Savior Brotherhood in 1988 under an episcopus vagans, Metropolitan Pangratious of Vassiloupolis (Queens), New York, in association with Fr Seraphim Rose’s associate, Gleb Podmoshensky (Fr Herman).

      For a while, soon after Seraphim Rose’s death, they looked far more like his “religion of the future” than any of the other groups he wrote about.

  3. 1 July 2010 11:26 pm

    Personally, given the peculiar paranormal
    stuff involved with some UFO sightings and
    definitely involved with a lot of the alien
    abduction stuff, I figure that some flying
    saucers or whatever are demons in disguise,
    some are nuts and bolts stuff (some from
    space and some from earth) and some are a
    mix, like, supposing you had a saucer run
    by a demon infested sorceror, what then?

  4. Michael Bauman permalink
    6 July 2010 8:02 pm

    Fr. Seraphim Rose of blessed memory is venerated by many because he provided a critique of the modern world that many had longed for and pointed in a direction of unquestioned holiness: St. John of San Francisco and the Orthodox Church. He showed by his life that struggle was important and necessary.

    To judge him by one book alone, Orthodoxy and the Religion of the Future, is not adequate. He grew, but, IMO, his best book by far is the little treatise: Nihilism which he wrote prior to becoming Orthodox.

    He had a great positive effect on many people who came into the Church in the 80’s and 90’s.

    He is not someone to look to as an astute theologian but he is someone to look to as one who was unquestionably dedicated to God in the midst of a modern world that denies His existence.

    He reached people, still reaches people whom many consider to be outside the bounds of respectable behavior–people who have been crushed by modernity and the idols of our time. He was an destroyer of idols. He broke the chains on many peoples minds and hearts to allow them to see more and to see more deeply. He would not approve of anyone making him an idol.

    Whatever his faults, excesses and mistakes, he led many folks to God and the Church. By and large those folks are serious, studious and steadfast. Not a bad testimony IMO. What was of God will remain, what was not will fade.

    • 7 July 2010 5:05 am


      Thank you for your comment, which I think is a very good summary of the positive contribution made by Father Seraphim Rose. I found his biography, Not of this world, far more edifying than books that he himself wrote, and it points out that his personal ministry to people who had encountered UFOs was somewhat different from what one might expect on reading his book.

      My post was not about Father Seraphim Rose, but rather about the influence of his views on UFOs on Paul Inglesby, and therefore dealt with only one apect of Father Seraphim Rose’s life and ministry.

      A few more obituaries of Paul Inglesby have appeared, and I was rather surprised to learn that his interest in UFOs was of such long standing. I thought it was a relatively late enthusiasm, following on his interest in the Julian Calendar and King Alfred, whereas it was actually the revival of an earlier interest. I also note that none of the obituary writers seemed to be aware of his Old Calendar or King Alfred phases, perhaps because the writers themselves were mainly interested in UFOs.

      One of the things he asked me when he visited was “Do you believe in UFOs?” and I was a loss to answer, and responded by asking “What do you mean by ‘believe in’?” It’s like asking “Do you believe in anonymous letters?” or “Do you believe in Mark Twain?” I’ve posted a picture that shows a UFO. It appears to be an object flying in the sky, and I don’t know what it is, so it is a UFO. But do I “believe in it”? I find the question meaningless.

      A few days earlier we were in Axbridge in Somerset (just before driving through Glastonbury on the way to North Curry). We looked out over a field of sheep and at the far end of the field was an animal that did not look like a sheep, but it was too far away to see what it was. It was an unidentified animal. We speculated about whether it might be a llama or similar animal, but could not be certain. So I believed that there was an animal there, and I could not identify what kind it was. But did I “believe in” unidentified animals? The question is meaningless to me. Perhaps Paul Inglesby would have said it was dropped there from a UFO! Perhaps if we’d walked across the field to take a closer look we would have been abducted.

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