Met an alien yet? Your
chances of encountering a real live Martian seem to have
improved dramatically since 1970, when a mere 300
encounters were reported around the world. Today, with
tens of thousands of alien encounters being reported
each year, itís hard not to feel overlooked if you
havenít yet heard a mutant message.
Never fear: Krista
Henriksen is here, and she has a pretty good grasp of
what the aliens are telling people. Henriksen, now
working in St. Johnís, Newfoundland, recently earned her
masters degree in anthropology from SFU. For her thesis,
Alien Encounters: A close analysis of personal accounts
of extraterrestrial experiences, Henrikson interpreted
the written stories of 60 men and women who claim to
have met with alien life forms.
Although Henriksen says she is "personally highly
skeptical" that aliens have been in touch with
earthlings, her research "suggested that aliens bring a
pretty standard message of hope and goodwill. There are
four key themes to their messages. The first is that the
person receiving the message is in some way chosen or
special - they have a purpose in life. Second is the
message that that person is not alone; someone cares for
them. Third is the idea that the world is at risk, but
the recipient has the power to affect change. And
finally, there are few aliens who bring malevolent
messages, but they are definitely in the minority."
As an undergraduate archaeology student at the
University of Alberta, Henriksen minored in religious
studies, and developed "an intense interest in faith and
belief systems." Her interest in aliens was sparked
during a summer road trip with a friend who was reading
about a particular group of highly sociable aliens known
"From an academic point of view, itís easy to dismiss
marginal or fringe groups like the people who believe
theyíve been abducted by aliens," says Henriksen. "Itís
much more work to try to understand where they are
coming from, what motivates them. But thatís what
anthropology is all about: studying those who arenít us
so that we are better able to understand ourselves."
Henriksen believes the "whole phenomenon is a direct
reflection of the search for meaning in western
society." She notes that along with the increase in
reported alien encounters, "there has been a
correspondent explosion in new religious movements in
North America." She sees a "direct link" between alien
believers and the followers of New Age and evangelical
Christians: "they are all vibrant communities, deeply
committed and vocal, with an active web presence, and
frequent opportunities for social get-togethers."
A member of the United Church of Canada herself,
Henriksen says she prefers her "religion old, tried and
true, with a solid theological foundation and a long
history." Still, she was impressed by the faith evident
in the stories of alien contact: "I think itís just
another way of making sense of pain and loneliness.
Everyone wants to find to the place where they belong."
Even if it is in outer space.