I’d never heard of starseeds before January 6 2021, when one of them stormed the Capitol building in DC. In the days after, I was researching Jake Angeli, the ‘Qanon shaman’, and discovered he ran something called the ‘Starseed Academy. Like other ‘starseeds’, Jake thinks he is a highly evolved soul from another planet. I wondered what a psychedelic hippy alien was doing mixed up in a quasi-fascist insurrection.
Since then, I’ve dived deeper into the phenomenon of starseeds, and realized the idea of ‘starseeds’ has deep historical links with fascism and white supremacy. In fact, one of the pioneers of the idea was imprisoned 60 years before Angeli, for plotting a fascist uprising in the US.
This weird history has four parts:
1) The origins of UFO mythology in the far-right occulture of 1880s-1930s
2) White supremacy and anti-semitism in UFO culture in the 1950s-1990s
3) The idea of Starseeds from the 1970s to the present day
4) Finally, I’ll ask ‘why is the idea of being a Starseed so appealing to young people now?’
1) The origins of UFO mythology in the far-right occulture of 1880s-1930s
At the end of the 19th century, the public imagination was filled with the idea of voyages to space and encounters with extra-terrestrial civilizations. Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli had observed what looked like water channels on Mars, leading to excited speculations the planet was filled with artificial canals. In 1902, George Méliès made the first science fiction movie, A Trip to the Moon.
These fantasies found their way into the occulture. In 1900, French psychologist Theodore Flournoy published From India to the Planet Mars, an account of his hypnotism sessions with a medium, Helene Smith. In trance states, Helene recounted past lives on Earth, and also on Mars and Uranus.
At the same time, members of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, a fin-de-siecle occult society whose members included WB Yeats and Aleister Crowley, practiced ‘astral travel’ to other planets. These were extended visualization exercises in which the magicians sent their spirits out into space, where they sometimes encountered planetary and astral spirits. This is Aleister Crowley’s drawing of one such interstellar spirit.
As previously discussed, the Golden Dawn saw themselves as an elite organization dedicated to helping humanity evolve into superhumans. Part of this involved ‘occult eugenics’ — the Golden Dawn thought you could draw down powers from the stars and the spirit world during procreation and pregnancy, thereby creating what Aleister Crowley called a ‘moon child’.
HG Wells, meanwhile, was imagining trips to space and alien invasions in his early science-fiction novels. In War of the Worlds (1898) he imagines blood-sucking octopi invading the Earth from Mars. But in most of his sci-fi works, he imagines humans encountering superhumans either from the future or from some parallel universe. These ‘Utopians’ — taller, smarter and more beautiful than humans — warn that humanity is heading for catastrophe, due to over-population, nuclear war and ecological collapse. We need to evolve to a higher level, through global government, population control, ecological planning and eugenics. Some humans are ascending into superhumans, but most are not. The backward masses may need to be managed, perhaps sterilized or somehow ‘cleared away’ to allow for the emergence of Utopia.
In one of his last novels, Star-Begotten (1937), a scientist starts to believe that an alien civilization is beaming rays onto Earth, to alter the genetics of humanity. Some humans (including the hero) are ‘star-begotten’ — a superior species spawned by these extra-terrestrial rays, who will save the planet from catastrophe. This explains why a few people are so much smarter and more visionary than the masses. The hero exclaims:
I hate common humanity. This oafish crowd which tramples the ground whence my cloud-capped pinnacles might rise. I am tired of humanity — beyond measure. Take it away…Clear the earth of them!
But the most important occult influence for UFO culture is Theosophy. This was a new religious movement that appeared in the 1870s, invented by a Russian émigré called Madame Helena Blavatsky. Theosophy emerged as a reaction to the triumph of Darwinism and scientific materialism in the 1860s and 1870s. Blavatsky offered her followers a synthesis of science and occult wisdom, which included her own spiritual version of evolution. She claimed that evolution was a progressive spiritual process, guided by a handful of superhuman beings called ‘The Masters’, some of whom lived on Earth, and some on other planets.
Humanity, she claimed, had evolved for millions of years through various ‘root-races’, including the Lemurians, the Atlanteans (from Atlantis), and the present dominant race, the Aryans. A new root-race is now emerging, allegedly, in California. There’s an element of spiritual racism to this theory. Some races are spiritually lower and more primitive than others, indeed, ‘the sacred spark is missing in them’. Other races are higher, such as the Aryans (although Blavatsky was quite scornful of Anglo-Saxons and her Masters tended to be Indian). Like Darwin, Blavatsky thought ‘lower’ races were destined to die out and be succeeded by ‘higher’ races.
Theosophy was taken up by various movements around the world, who imagined different versions of the coming super-race. In Mexico, for example, minister of education Jose Vasconcelos wrote a book called The Cosmic Race, in which he suggested that Latinos were the long prophesied super-race.
But in Germany, Theosophists insisted the super-race were Aryans. German Theosophy developed in the Volkisch occulture of the 19th century, which celebrated the superiority of the German soul, German kultur, the German volk, German paganism, and so on. Figures like Houston Chamberlain (a British writer who emigrated to Germany) wrote long treatises on the physical, cultural and spiritual superiority of the Teutonic / Nordic / Aryan race.
One finds this Aryan or white supremacy in German theosophy. Rudolf Steiner, leader of Anthroposophy, claimed that all cultural achievements came from the white race, who are more spiritual and ‘cosmic’ than other races. Jörg Lanz von Liebenfels, inventor of Ariosophy, claimed that ‘the Aryan hero is on this planet the most complete incarnation of God and of the Spirit’. In fact, Aryans have a different origin from other species:
The race of full-blooded and whole Aryan Man was not the result of natural selection alone. Instead, as the esoteric writings indicate, he was the result of a careful and conscious breeding process by higher and different kinds of being, such as the Theozoa, Elektrozoa, Angels, et sim., which once lived on this Earth.
Steiner and Lanz both thought the Aryan race needed to be kept pure, through measures such as segregation, miscegenation laws, and eugenics. Lanz advocated the mass castration of other races to protect the purity of Aryan women.
This sort of spiritual racism had a profound influence on the Nazis. Many leading Nazis, including Hitler, believed in the Hypoborean race theory, which suggested Aryans weren’t the same species as other races, but had emerged somewhere in the frozen north, possibly even in Atlantis. Hitler saw his spiritual mission as the purifying and perfecting of the blonde, blue-eyed Aryan race, and the subjugation or elimination of all inferior races, especially the snake-like Jews.
This dream survived beyond World War II.
2) White supremacy and anti-Semitism in UFO culture in the 1950s-1990s
The 1950s was another decade of excited sci-fi speculation. The Soviet space programme was launched, and reports of UFO sightings filled the press. In the early 1950s, people started to claim they’d had contact with extraterrestrials. A Californian called George Adamski reported that on the 20th November 1952, he and some friends had seen a UFO above the Colorado desert, and then he’d met a tall humanoid man, who had communicated with him through hand gestures, telepathy, and occult symbols on his footprints.
He wrote an account of his encounter which was published in the 1953 best-seller, Flying Saucers Have Landed. It was co-written with a British author, Desmond Leslie, who suggested religions and myths of the past actually referred to UFOs and alien visitations. Their book launched two incredibly popular genres — alien contact stories and the ‘ancient alien hypothesis’ (i.e religions are evidence of alien visits in the past) .
In the sequel, Inside the Space Ships (1955), Adamski meets the alien again. This time, the alien speaks perfect English, and introduces himself as Orthon. He takes him into his spaceship. There Adamski meets ‘The Master’, who warns him that humanity is heading for disaster because of over-population and nuclear war. The Master calls humanity to a more spiritual existence.
This episode clearly owes something to the sci-fi movie, The Day the Earth Stood Still, which came out in 1951 and also featured a tall, benevolent alien who urges humanity to mend its ways. But (as several academics have noted, see bibliography at end) it also owes a lot to Theosophy.
Adamski and his fellow contactees were part of the Californian Theosophical occulture. Adamski founded a short-lived occult organization called the Royal Order of Tibet, while his friend George Williamson (who also supposedly witnessed the UFO) worked for a Theosophical organization called Soulcraft. In short, they shifted Theosophy into space, and turned Blavatsky’s Masters from Indians into extra-terrestrials. Their aliens teach Theosophy — humans have been reincarnated through countless lives, and we need to realize their divinity evolve into higher beings. Indeed, Adamski’s co-author, Desmond Leslie, wrote to him:
I don’t know what has happened, George, but all the mediums have suddenly disposed of their Indian guides, etc, and have replaced them with space people.
[Quoted in Flying Saucers Farewell, p61]
One also finds the racism of Theosophy in UFO culture. Many of the aliens encountered in the 1950s, and ever since, are remarkably Aryan. Orthon, for example, is described as tall, Occidental-looking and ‘sandy-haired’. Many later alien encounters also involved blond aliens, who have since been popularized as ‘Nordic aliens’ — American white supremacists celebrated the superiority of the ‘Nordic race’.
In addition, one of the occult symbols on Orthon’s shoe was a swastika:
This may not be an accident. George Hunt Williamson, who was with Adamski during the first alleged encounter, worked at a Californian occult organization called Soulcraft, run by an American fascist called William Dudley Pelley, nicknamed ‘America’s Hitler’.
Pelley worked as a struggling screenwriter and Theosophist in Los Angeles in the 1920s. He claimed to have had an near-death experience in 1928, described in his 1929 book My Seven Minutes in Eternity, in which a spirit appeared and explained that human races exist in a spiritual hierarchy, with black people at the bottom and white people at the apex.
Pelley subsequently launched a Theosophical movement, which didn’t attract many followers. But it did inspire various more successful offshoots, including the I AM movement, which was started by Guy Ballard in the 1930s. Ballard claimed to have encountered Aryan extraterrestrials on Mount Shasta in California.
The Great Divine Director from Guy Ballard’s I AM movement
Pelley’s own movement, meanwhile, veered into fascist politics. In the 1930s, Pelley claimed to be the first American to declare his support for Adolf Hitler and Nazism. He launched his own fascist organization, the Silver League, railed against global Jewry, and called for the overthrow of American secular democracy. This got him imprisoned for sedition in 1942. He was released in 1950, and that same year he published Star Guests. This is the first book to claim that aliens have been interbreeding with humans.
Pelley suggests that humans were created by ‘star guests’ from the star Sirius, who inter-bred with apes from Earth. Pelley called this alien intervention ‘celestial eugenics’. But the project didn’t go as planned — the aliens and their hybrid offspring bred with animals too indiscriminately.
The result was a confusion that almost defeated the original plans of creation. Beast forms and celestial forms were fused together in an insufferable bastard creation from which certain specimens of the two creations are evincing even down here in the twentieth century
As a result of this ‘Great Abomination’, there are various different races now on Earth — the Sons of God from Sirius, the ‘Goodly Company’ of 144,000 pure souls, and various bastard ‘ape-men’. There are also ‘foreign spirits’, who are a meddling, lying ‘alien menace’ (ie Jews). The Age of Aquarius is coming, Pelley says, but first we need some ‘spiritual eugenics’ to ‘cleanse’ humanity of the bastard hybrids and foreign spirits. This ethnic cleansing will be led by the divine ruler of Sirius:
One by one do we eliminate great social cancers. One by one do we despoil the idols of Mammon and tear apart the altars of connivance for nefarious ends. One by one do we eliminate the princes of evil from their petty thrones, setting up potentates under us who are of the Goodly Company. Now mark this, beloved — I AM COMING BACK TO THE EARTH-PLANE IN PERSON!
[Star Guests, p.204]
As mentioned, one of Pelley’s followers was George Hunt Williamson, who was supposedly present when George Adamski first encountered Orthon, the Nordic alien. In 1953, Williamson published his own UFO book, called Other Tongues, Other Flesh. It tells a similar story — aliens have been visiting Earth for millennia to interbreed and aid our evolution. However they have interbred indiscriminately and now ‘harversters’ need to come, to separate the ‘brute from the angel’. Williamson introduces a new twist. Earth is also inhabited by an evil, reptile-like species from the constellation Orion.
These ‘serpent-people’, or ‘Anti-Christs’, are ‘small in stature with strange, oriental type eyes. Their faces are thin and they possess weak bodies. They come among us to disperse all things not in keeping with their own ideas’. They are ‘talkative, they astound intellects with their words of magnificence. While their wisdom may have merit, it is materialistic and not of pure aspiration toward the Father…they are the Universal parasites! Disturbers, negative elements, soon they will be eradicated…
[Other Tongues, Other Flesh, p.176]
Their sun is about to set, and their day is done. Their power is momentary now as the Earth prepares for its Graduation Day, its Purification Day
The idea of reptile-people from Orion would last up to the present day. Needless to say, Williamson’s description is remarkably similar to the anti-Semitic tropes found in fascist literature, where Jews are also described as serpents, liars, parasites, materialistic and so on. To clarify matters, five years later in UFO Confidential, Williamson wrote that all governments ‘are under the complete control of the ‘International Bankers’. He agreed with Pelley that global Jewry are trying to over throw nation states through the United Nations.
Later alien contactees have continued in this anti-Semitic vein. Retired nurse Doris Ekker of Tehachapi, California, claimed in the 1990s to receive messages from a nine-foot extraterrestrial from the Pleiades called Hatonn the Commander. Most involved long screeds against Jews — Hatonn twice repeated the entire text of the infamous forged conspiracy theory, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
Also during the 1990s, British Theosophical conspiracy theorist David Icke claimed the human race is under attack by an alien reptile race of Lemurians, who have perpetuated their race by breeding with particular families, including the Rothschilds. Icke also imports much of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion into his fantasies — he published the book as an appendix to one of his works, adding it was all accurate if you merely changed the word ‘Jews’ for ‘Lizards’.
Even when aliens aren’t reciting the Protocols, one often finds in UFO culture hopes or fears around eugenics, genetics, racial interbreeding and the evolution of super-races. Many contactees or abductees are sure aliens are genetically modifying humanity — where they disagree is whether this is for our benefit or to enslave us.
3) The idea of Starseeds from the 1970s to the present day
This brings us to the contemporary phenomenon of ‘starseeds’ — people who think they’re actually aliens themselves. We’ve seen some progenitors for this idea — Crowley’s ‘moonchildren’, HG Wells’ ‘star-begotten’, Pelley’s ‘star guests’. But the first to use the phrase ‘starseed’ was actually Timothy Leary.
In the early 1970s, Leary was kicking his heels in Folsom Prison, having been arrested for drug trafficking. He claimed he started to receive messages from the star Sirius, calling humanity to evolve into inter-stellar superbeings (it’s not clear how serious / Sirius he was being). He and another inmate, who also claimed he received Sirian messages, shared these communications in their 1974 book, Terra II: A Way Out.
The aliens allegedly urged Leary to gather together 5000 of the smartest, healthiest and sexiest humans onto a space ship to leave Earth and ‘seed’ another planet and raise a new species of ultra-intelligent, long-living superhumans. The book declares:
The general rule must be that we select the strongest, most viable, superior stock from each species of life and from each human group
Yet in the illustrations, the crew are all strapping blonds:
In 1977, this idea of a space exodus inspired a hoax documentary on Anglia TV called Alternatives 3, which claimed to uncover a plot to send a talented few to another planet. A similar space-eugenic fantasy is found in Moonraker, also released in 1977. The same year, Stewart Brand published an issue of Co-Evolution Quarterly dedicated to ‘space colonies’, in which the white supremacist ecologist Garrett Hardin suggested any colony would only function if it was monocultural and monoracial.
Meanwhile the idea that some of us are ‘starseeds’, whose souls originate on another planet, was popularized by an American pop occult author called Brad Steiger. After writing books about werewolves, vampires and so on, Steiger struck a rich vein with Gods of Aquarius (1976) and Star People (1981), both of which claimed some humans, particularly those drawn to New Age literature, are actually ‘starseeds’ from another planet. Steiger claimed he could identify starseeds with a questionnaire, which asked readers questions like: Did you always feel your parents weren’t your real parents and you have ancient ancestors? Are you unusually sensitive to light and emotions? Do you suffer from sinusitis?
According to your responses, you could be a ‘starseed’, a ‘star maiden’ (like Steiger’s wife, Shelley) or a slightly less exalted ‘star helper’. Needless to say, this proved immensely popular in New Age and UFO literature of the 1980s, and soon many spiritual influencers were declaring themselves ‘starseeds’. The phenomenon spread through the craze for past-life hypnotic regression — never mind remembering you were Cleopatra or Joan of Arc, now you could recall life on other planets!
Today you don’t have to stop merely at claiming to be a ‘starseed’. There is an endless array of different alien races and species you might have been in a past life: Pleiadean, Lyran, Sirian, Casseoipean, Acturian, Lemurian, ‘grey’, Orion, reptilian or hybrid. In the New Age version of 23andMe, New Age hustlers are happy to take your money in order to trace your ancient cosmic heritage (hint: you’re almost certainly not from Earth and you were probably very high up in the Galactic Federation). Galactic ‘genealogy’ guides like the one below describe your space racial origins and characteristics:
Accompanying this ever-expanding menagerie of alien races is an intricate and constantly evolving mythology of the cosmic past and present, a space opera of wars, catastrophes, and genetic engineering projects. And there is usually a future eschatology — Earth is now awakening, a judgement day is coming. As Ken Carey channels it in The Starseed Transmissions:
There are but two roads before you. You can walk in the innocence of those who trust in the Lord, or perish in the impending collapse of your rational systems.
There is obviously a strong Christian apocalyptic aspect to UFO culture. One finds this in the very popular works of Dolores Cannon, a past-life regression hypnotist, who claimed that her clients suddenly started remembering past lives on other planets, all of which conveniently agreed on a common narrative — Earth was seeded by aliens, and humans now face a crisis. Some will ascend to a higher 5-dimensional level, while others will fail to evolve. The Earth itself will split in two — a ‘new earth’ where everything is wonderful, and the old earth, where everything is terrible. Cannon believed this split would happen in 2012, but the failure of that prediction has not put off her many followers on TikTok, who are excitedly preparing for 5D ascension to the New Earth. Also reminiscent of Christianity is the ‘light language’ some starseeds speak — a cosmic version of speaking in tongues.
But if UFO culture is quite evangelical and apocalyptic, it also riffs on eugenics, genetics, and the idea of personal consumer eugenics. Starseeds preach ‘DNA activation’ — the idea that we can upgrade our DNA and activate the supposed ‘junk’ strands of it to fulfil our human or cosmic potential.
4) Why is the idea of ‘starseeds’ so popular now?
Starseeds are all the rage right now, particularly with Gen Z on tiktok, where starseed videos have a billion views. One viral video from 2021 featured a Heather-like starseed declaring ‘everyone asks me how I know I’m a starseed, but no one asks what is it like to be a starseed’. There are a lot of recent books on starseeds — Letters to a Starseed, The Starseed Template, Time To Wake Up Starseeds, Activation from 7 Star Races, and so on. There are starseed shows on Gaia, and endless online quizzes where you can discover what alien race you are (I’ll share one at the end). Even Cheryl has declared herself a fan of Dolores Cannon.
So what explains the popularity of starseeds today?
Perhaps Gen Z and millennials feel like they’ve been born into such a heavy geo-political situation, the best solution is extreme dissociation: find a happy place in another galaxy, far, far away. Perhaps the Qanon shaman, Jake Angeli, is an example of this dissociative flight to cosmic safety — he says he first realized he was a starseed when father made him smoke drugs when he was a boy.
The starseed myth provides what all good religions provide — an explanatory framework for suffering and evil. You’re suffering because you’re not from this planet. That’s why you feel lonely and strangely superior to the people around you. Never mind ‘your problems come from your parents or ancestors’ — your problems come from your multiple galactic lives. Why are you phobic of dogs? Because you’re a Lyran! Why do you have a speech impediment and can’t pronounce your r’s? Because your previous alien species didn’t use r’s (literally, that’s what this person says).
In this sense, the ‘starseed’ narrative perhaps helps people bear the suffering of life. Of course you feel out of place and lonely on this heavy planet. But this is not your actual home. You chose to come here to complete a heroic mission in service of humanity. Don’t be got down, you are an infinitely powerful cosmic being, probably high up in the Galactic Federation.
This is not so different from other religious narratives, like Platonism or Sufism, which also tell us we don’t really belong on Earth, we’re cosmic beings, and that’s why we feel homesick. What’s different about the starseed gospel is, this isn’t necessarily true for all humans. You’re special, you’re a starseed, you’re not like everyone else!
This is closer to the ancient religious movement known as Gnosticism, which flourished in the Mediterranean from around the first century AD. Some Gnostics believed they were a different, superior species to the rest of humanity, and they needed to escape the prison of Earth and ascend back home. Gnosticism fostered the same sort of spiritual superiority one finds sometimes in starseeds.
This sense of being spiritually special is potentially unhealthy, in my opinion. It splits you off from other humans. The new earth ascension myth also encourages a psychological splitting — don’t ever think negative thoughts, don’t read the mainstream news, and for God’s sake don’t get vaccinated. Only cultivate positive vibes and then you will ascend into the 5D New Earth with all the other super-spiritual starseeds.
More positively, you could say that UFO / starseed spirituality shows the riotous creativity of the New Age, with its expanding universe of myths and characters. Imagine if the Bible was sci-fi fan-fiction. The proliferation of alien races is a reflection of modern identity politics and of the metaverse, where you can be whatever species you want.
And yet I admit I find starseed culture dispiriting. The glib certainty with which influencers inform their followers about all these made-up races and space dramas seems to me shameless profiteering. And I find it slightly terrifying how ungrounded the culture is in any sort of evidence or reasoning beyond your feelings and your imagination. Your identity depends on your feelings. Your race depends on your feelings. Reality depends on feelings.
That sort of free-floating reality easily swings from ecstasy to paranoia and terror. When the 5D awakening doesn’t happen, the starseeds look around and ask why. It must be because of Them: the Lemurians, the Democrats, the Paedos, the Jews. 12 million Americans believe in ‘the lizard people’. That’s why you see a starseed storming the Capitol, why a man in Nashville detonated a bomb to kill ‘the lizard people’ , why so many starseeds could apparently be found at Qanon rallies during the pandemic, and why starseed and ancient alien mythology features so prominently in the Qanon ‘map of great awakening’.
UFO culture has always had elements that are conspiracist, White supremacist and quasi-fascist, and it’s always attracted grifters and charlatans happy to make stuff up in order to make their audience feel special. It has always recycled simplistic rapture-myths where people like you are saved and the demons get exorcised. One can’t help noticing that, even though you can now choose to be an infinite number of alien species, the most popular still seems to be the highly Aryan Pleiadians.
Finally, I guess you want to know what alien species you are, right?
No problem, just take this quick quiz.
A) Do you have blue eyes?
B) Do you sometimes feel homesick?
C) Do you ever long for a Great Purification to sweep away the dross of humanity?
Just click here to find out your results!
Anthropologist Susanna Crockford has a great chapter on starseeds in her new book on Sedona spirituality, Ripples of the Universe
William Dudley Pelley: A Life in Right-Wing Extremism and the Occult, by Scott Beekman
UFO Religions, edited by Christopher Partridge
ET Culture: Anthropology in Outer Spaces, edited by Debbora Battaglia, especially the chapter on race by Christopher Roth
Mahatmas in Space, by Mikhail Rothstein
Handbook of Spiritualism and Channelling, edited by Cathy Gutierrez, especially Christopher Partridge’s chapter on channelling extra-terrestrials
“These Are They”: ET-Human Hybridization and the New Daemonology, by Robert Pearson Flaherty
‘Race and (the Study of) Esotericism’ by Justine Bakker
This is a great recent article on starseeds by ‘Default Friend’
Finally, people interested in the overlap between Aryan supremacy, fascism and UFO literature should check out the work of French author Robert Charroux, who suggested humanity was seeded by an alien, Aryan race; also check out the bizarre life and work of Chilean diplomat Miguel Serrano, who was a part of a Nazi occult society in Chile during the war, before becoming an ambassador for the Pinochet regime while authoring several books of Nazi intergalactic speculation.