Chapter Three: Religious evolutionary connections
A bright light flashed. Valerie instinctively shielded her eyes as a gush of warm air pelted her body. Dancing stars of every color replaced her vision, the kind produced if one squeezes one's eyes together too hard and too long. She started to get frightened and wondered if she and the kids had done the right thing by requesting that a Balazon show itself.
Soon the light display faded. When she dropped her hands, she saw a being that was semi-transparent, whitish-yellow, taller than an average human, with skinny body and extremities and long fingers. Its head was narrow and the face, though similar to a human's, had stumps for ears, slightly larger eyes and no hair. It also seemed to have female facial features.
Nick and Stephanie stared at the Balazon.
"My name is Acin-om," it said. "How may I assist you?"
Stunned and unable to speak, Valerie stared at the Balazon too for several seconds. Then she hypnotically said, "Please sit down."
"Thank you," Acin-om said and sat in a leather chair across from the couch.
All four were speechless. Even Nick seemed to be too overwhelmed for words.
After a while, Acin-om spoke. "I am neither female nor male."
"Um...what was that?" Valerie said as if snapping out of a daydream.
"I am neither female nor male. You were wondering what sex I was."
"Oh...I'm sorry." Valerie looked away, slightly embarrassed.
"No need to apologize. You simply do not understand my people cannot sexually reproduce. We can only duplicate ourselves by helping other beings evolve to a higher plane of existence. That is why we are so concerned for you humans. You are like our children, so to speak."
"Yes," Valerie said slowly, trying to remember the words Khur-ak had used. "I guess this mind implant of yours didn't work as well as you thought."
"No," Acin-om admitted. "People used their creative imaginations to add to what they sensed from the implant and developed all types of religious systems, everything from the ancient beliefs in the Egyptian, Roman, and Greek gods to the more modern philosophies of Buddhism, Confucianism, Daoism, Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, and Sikhism. These religions are often violently opposed to each other. Others are extreme and cruel, even involving rape, torture, and burning of babies on altars."
"Are you saying Christianity is merely another human attempt at explaining God?" Valerie asked. She had never been a diehard believer anyway, but the thought was still a little disheartening--sort of like when she was younger and woke up to catch her mother putting a quarter under her pillow, glad she finally knew the truth about the tooth-fairy but sad her mother had lied. She would have preferred to remain ignorant until she had grown up and out of simple beliefs on her own.
"Not exactly," Acin-om countered. "Christianity is not merely a human invention, for we have expended a personal effort in creating it. We had to come up with some way to try and curtail your wild imaginations from totally corrupting what we were trying to do. So we decided to try to create a more vivid depiction of what God might be like if he did exist. We guided the development of a nation called Israel and inspired various individuals such as Moses to write down the Scriptures, giving more appropriate definitions of God, his laws, principles for living, and worship ceremonies."
"Wow!" Nick suddenly said. He had been uncharacteristically quiet for several minutes. "You inspired the Bible."
"Yes," Acin-om said. "We had hoped Israel would influence other nations to worship and obey the types of directives we had given them."
"I guess the plan didn't work too well," Nick said.
Valerie thought Nick must be referring to the centuries of moral depravity the Bible writers had recorded the Israelites had done.
"No," Acin-om replied. "We have found humans to be exceptionally rebellious, self-centered, and self-seeking."
"But how did you inspire people to write and do all those things?" Nick asked. "I didn't know they had pencils or paper when Adam and Eve were alive."
Acin-om smiled. "They didn't. The events recorded in the Bible weren't written as they happened. In fact, there were no organized Scriptures until Khur-ak appeared to and instructed Moses what to write in the first five books of the Old Testament around 1400 BC. Previous to that, any knowledge of our involvement with humans was passed on to others by oral tradition because for the first few thousand years we were mainly involved in people's lives in a very secretive way--influencing them subconsciously through the conscience-bubble and inflicting guilt if they disobeyed. But, as I said, it was quite difficult to control people reliably and consistently through these means alone, for they simply didn't listen very well, and the promptings of the mind implant were subject to human interpretations and feelings. You needed more definite guidance.
"So we carefully thought through the best way to appear to humans physically and influence them further--by pretending to be God. In the case of other Old Testament writings, Khur-ak again appeared and talked to some of the authors. At other times we spoke through prophets, dreams, visions, or disguised as angels. Rarely would we appear visibly because you were not ready for such a thing. We were usually either revered or feared--neither of which we wanted for we are merely the same type of creature as yourselves, but much older."
"Just a minute," Valerie said. "This doesn't make sense. Whether humans revered you or feared you, either way they would obey you. Why didn't you just appear to people physically and command them to behave with civility." Valerie realized she sounded like a doubter, but inside, started to feel less and less like one. She simply desired to understand.
"We considered it, but our future forecasts showed there was virtually a one hundred percent chance such action would have led to man's extinction around 1000 AD."
Valerie wrinkled her left eyebrow up in a thoughtful pose. "Are your forecasts always right?"
"Then how could you be sure it wouldn't work?"
"We couldn't, but we weren't willing to take the chance. From our observations of human nature, we believed the forecasts were correct in this instance."
"Because, as you humans are fond of saying, familiarity breeds contempt. If we were constantly visible, commanding everyone to obey us, it wouldn't be long before the novelty of our existence would wear off and people would start openly challenging us. We have observed that humans have an exceptional hatred of domination and have a strong desire to govern themselves. If we had tried to rule this world with an iron hand, pretending to be gods, it would work for awhile, but eventually people would rebel, forcing us to either destroy everyone, or leave--of course we would have chosen the latter. Once gone, any possible influence a belief in God might have once had would be minimal. People would realize they could rebel against us 'gods' and triumph, and they would assume the same would hold true after death. Your extinction would then be pretty much a certainty.
"Instead, we decided a form of human self-government, built on basic laws and principles of a mysterious 'God' would be best. We had observed that this, combined with a conscience, and the fear of what will happen to oneself after death, was the best possible behavioral control mechanism for humans."
"I see," Valerie said with a bit of resentment swelling up in her voice. She was beginning to dislike the realization that the Balazons had subtly manipulated humans for thousands of years.
"The ancient world was a very sensuous and violent place; the reason you didn't destroy yourselves long ago was because you simply didn't have the technological capability to do so. We looked ahead to this present time and saw the danger of a human race with a lack of more precisely defined moral guidance. So, before we appeared to Moses, we took our time and carefully thought through every contingency that came to mind, ironing out all the little details and deciding exactly what we wanted to do with this idea of 'God.' For the past several thousand years, we have more or less accomplished our objectives. There was some inevitable divergence from the road we wanted to lead you, but for the most part, we have been able to deal with them."
"Then what did you do?" Nick asked.
"We created the idea of a loving but just God, the perfect balance between love and forgiveness for repentant sinners on the one hand, yet vengeful dispenser of horrible punishment for evildoers on the other. But we knew humans needed something more authoritative than just another set of sacred writings to get them to listen. We saw that even though we might give you written laws such as the Ten Commandments, humans nevertheless wouldn't fully understand or obey them. You needed a powerful human personality to live life as an expression of these ideals and explain them to you."
Acin-om paused before continuing, as if expecting a reaction of some sort. "Khur-ak decided that when he felt the time was right, he would take on human form and try to authoritatively pound home the necessity for commitment to such things as love, forgiveness, good thoughts and actions, and in the process, die in such a dramatic way that humans would know a higher power loved everyone dearly. Khur-ak would try to do away with strict obedience to the external laws we had given humans earlier as a rough guide, and try to inspire people to live deeper lives of true goodness. In order to lend credence to the Scriptures and to prepare people for his arrival, right from the first few pages of the Bible we dropped hints, clues, and prophecies of Khur-ak's imminent appearance; we manipulated events to make sure these and all other prophecies came true. Even the religious festivals we instructed Moses to initiate, such as Passover, and the animal sacrificial system for sins, were types and shadows of our leader's future role in human affairs."
Valerie's mouth dropped open, and her eyes widened. She understood the implication.
"I don't get it," Nick said.
Acin-om said plainly, "Khur-ak took on human form, born of the Virgin Mary, and became the Biblically prophesied Messiah: Jesus Christ."
Now they both stared at Acin-om. The Balazon waited for a few seconds to let everything sink in before continuing. "Starting life as a human baby, he had no recollection of his life as Khur-ak, or of his mission on earth. Slowly, throughout his life, his memory returned and we revealed ourselves to him personally to explain things further. By the time Khur-ak, or Jesus Christ if you will, reached the age of thirty, he was fully aware of who he was and what he must do. To lend validity to his message, we performed many signs and miracles for him from behind the scenes: healing the sick, raising the dead, feeding the poor and hungry, and the biggest one of all--coming back from the dead himself. These things seem supernatural to humans, but to us they are relatively simple to do. Ever since then, we have recruited and helped humans from behind the scenes to propagate the message Khur-ak came to bring. We couldn't do this openly ourselves or it would have destroyed the illusion of mystery, and a few sharp individuals might have figured us out. Throughout your history, we have limited our supernatural interventions for the same reason."
"You tricked everyone," Valerie said, half-sounding offended. She was increasingly finding the idea of being lied to and manipulated insulting. For approximately two thousand years, one of the great faiths of the world, and the founding religion of many of the free-world democracies, was one big lie.
Acin-om nodded her head in understanding. "I sense you are feeling uneasy. What we did, we felt we had to do in order to ultimately help mankind. A short-term illusion back then could potentially yield attainment of so much more than a human being could ever have desired on earth. It all depends on whether or not you humans will accept us.
"At first, if necessary, Khur-ak had intended on going through with the original plan, which was to fulfill Bible prophecy about Jesus Christ coming back to set up the Kingdom of God. We made the prophecies concerning the timing of his second coming specific, yet vague enough, as to be able to be applied to any generation since he ascended into the sky in front of many witnesses; we had hoped the threat of Jesus' possible second coming at any moment to judge the world would coerce people into obeying their conscience-bubbles and the laws and principles set forth in the Bible. But if it didn't, Khur-ak would have come at the last possible moment, when humans were about to destroy themselves. Our leader would then have pretended to be God and forcefully established a peaceful and fair new world order. We had hoped Khur-ak would be able to reign until humans had evolved beyond the need for such tricks.
"However, the desire to govern yourself is even stronger than we had first thought. Our forecasts gave us good reason to believe humans would not accept Khur-ak's rule, but that we'd have a better chance if we unveiled. To psychologically prepare you for this day, for decades we have slowly tried to validate the reality of extra-terrestrial life by mysterious personal and public appearances of UFOs and aliens. Humans naturally built on these themes in literature and broadcast media to better prepare you for our unveiling."
Valerie thought about this for awhile. Sometimes even friends and relatives had deceived her before in life, and she had gotten over it--their motives hadn't even been pure. Her ninth grade "friend" Lisa had told her Scott, Valerie's boyfriend at the time, was philandering, which led to their breakup. Later she had found out Lisa had lied so she could date Scott.
She remembered what she had said when Stephanie was very young and kept playing in the streets despite repeated warnings to the contrary. She had intentionally lied to her daughter, trying to frighten her into obeying, by saying the boogie man liked to kidnap children who played in the streets. It worked. At least until she was old enough to question her mom about this doctrine, Stephanie never played in the streets again. By then she understood why her mother had lied--and forgave her. Valerie's motives had been pure, though her method had not been totally honest. But it was justified under the circumstances, for love had motivated her to lie.
Valerie suddenly felt like a five-year old. She was beginning to understand how much these Balazons really cared for the world, realizing all the trouble, time, and effort it must have taken to get humans this far. She quickly cast away any childish resentment and embraced the parental care of Acin-om and her kind.
"I'm sorry," Valerie finally said. "I know you were trying to help. I shouldn't feel resentful."
"That's OK," Acin-om replied. "I just wish everyone in the world could be as open and accepting of us as you are. Then we will be able to help everyone to have a better life now and ultimately immortality."
However, there were still some important questions to be answered. "Why did so many people vanish? And why did you attack my husband?"
"Because of a Balazon named Xsalma," Acin-om answered immediately. "It's always difficult to decide when to reveal the truth about ourselves to an evolving civilization. For instance, we unveiled to the Gerutniks of the Spiral Belt Galaxy during the eight thousandth year of their dark stage, but they were still too immature, and ended up destroying themselves with nuclear weapons. Some Balazons began to have severe doubts that humans were ready for the unveiling, and their leader, Xsalma, started a movement to prevent it. In an effort to force Khur-ak to reverse his decision, for years now Xsalma and his small band of supporters have been terrorizing humans in all sorts of strange ways."
"I don't understand how scaring us could cause your leader to change his mind," Nick said.
"Xsalma hoped Khur-ak wouldn't unveil if the world was afraid of us, so has been sowing fear of aliens for decades, almost as long as Khur-ak has been trying to allay people's fears of extra-terrestrial life."
"Ah," Nick said. "That explains why there have been so many negative accounts associated with UFOs over the years. Cattle mutilations and such."
"Yes," Valerie said. "I remember watching a documentary detailing the alien abduction phenomenon, where people are brought on board a spaceship and terrorized, and assaulted, subjected to experiments, had mysterious objects implanted in their brains, pregnancies inexplicably terminated as fetuses disappear. Really strange stuff."
"Yes, these types of incidents originated from Xsalma," Acin-om said. "But Khur-ak sanctioned most of the more benign accounts to prepare you for open contact--mysterious lights in the skies, UFOs toying with fighter jets, crop circles, and such."
Valerie shook her head in disbelief. "How can such obviously advanced and capable beings as you fail to come to some sort of agreement about open contact before now? I mean, UFOs and alien abductions have been reported since before I was even born!"
"Actually, it has been a very short period of time from our perspective. On our plane of existence, we experience time differently than you do. As a rough analogy, you could say 1000 years from your perspective only feels like one day in our perception of time. Since we only started intense UFO activity shortly after World War Two, it has been a very short span of time to us."
"Wow," Nick said. "So all these decades of mysterious UFO encounters from our perception of time, converted into your time, would be about..." Nick tilted his head to one side somewhat, and his eyes rose to stare at the ceiling. "Hmmm, let's see, I'm usually pretty good with math in my head..."
"A little under two hours from our perspective," Acin-om said, saving Nick the bother of the calculation.
"Right, I was just about to say that."
"As the moment of our unveiling drew near, Xsalma's followers began intensifying their efforts and started assaulting people at random, but especially concentrated on those who were socially influential: newspaper and TV reporters, politicians, movie stars, and powerful businessmen. They even attacked Jeff because of a potential connection to somebody important."
"So to you guys a million years of your working with humanity would seem like a little under 3 years work seems to me," Nick said, obviously still fascinated with the time differential calculations.
Valerie ignored Nick's obsessive comment and tried to imagine who Acin-om was referring to. Then it hit her. "Of course! Jeff's friend, Brian Ferster."
"Precisely. He could've turned people against us if he'd used his investigative television program to do a report on the danger of our kind."
"I'm sure Jeff would've called him too," Valerie said as she slowly took in everything Acin-om said. She paused for a few more seconds. "But how could Brian do an expose on the Balazons who hadn't yet shown themselves?"
"He couldn't, but Xsalma had hoped to make our leader reluctant to go through with the unveiling by making sure it would be difficult to win people's trust if he did."
Valerie nodded her head. "His plan may work yet. Humans can be very unforgiving. What exactly did Xsalma do to all those people who disappeared?"
Acin-om looked at the floor, seemingly ashamed to answer. "Since their initial attempts were relatively unsuccessful at reversing Khur-ak's decision, Xsalma and his followers increased their efforts further: they randomly vaporized a total of about a half a billion people all over the world. But you must understand! Xsalma did care, even though it may seem he showed it in an inappropriate way. He believed killing millions of people now could save your entire race if it prevented the unveiling.
"Besides, our future forecasts showed a high probability that nuclear war would ensue in the Middle East standoff, which would have resulted in even more deaths than what he did. Xsalma believed some would survive a nuclear war, so better to delay open contact. Khur-ak thought it more likely your entire race would be obliterated. The data from our future forecasts was inconclusive, so not very helpful either. It was a difficult decision, but Khur-ak gambled that it was less dangerous to unveil now."
"What's so dangerous about showing yourselves?" Nick asked with childlike innocence.
"Many humans would rather die than welcome us as friends. Many will be suspicious, thinking us horrible invaders out to kill them, especially after what Xsalma did. Many others may be tempted to live hedonistic lifestyles because they no longer need fear death. But you must control yourselves or you may not reach the exultation stage. Unfortunately, the only way of controlling some would be to destroy them, which we do not want to do."
"What's the exultation stage," Valerie asked.
"If a race of beings can survive long enough, they will enter exultation--the final stage I am now in and always will be: immortality."
Valerie thought about this for a moment. The story made sense, and a part of her really wanted to believe Acin-om. Her dad had been a preacher while he was still alive, and had always told her humans were the only intelligent life in the universe. Valerie silently disagreed, although she didn't say anything verbally; she didn't think anything in the Bible contradicted at least the possibility. The narrow-mindedness her father seemed to exude on this point probably fueled her mild discontent with religion over the years. She never wanted to become as close-minded to scientific possibilities as her dad had always appeared to be. She never wanted to be accused of checking her brains at the door just because she had a belief in a God. Now to see undeniable proof of alien life before her eyes was something extraordinarily exciting.
As an adult, Valerie still went to church the odd time, more for social contacts and to make friends though. She had long since had too many questions about religion to take it all too seriously, and tried to encourage her kids to think for themselves and find their own path about faith.
"It still seems a rather extreme way to try and 'help' us," Valerie said. "Could Xsalma think of no better solution?"
Acin-om looked down at the floor with seeming regret, then up again. "You must understand. Occasionally some Balazons disagree with our leader about how best to serve an evolving civilization. Xsalma was bound by the highest law, love, to act as he thought best. In cases such as these, we must appeal to the Council, a board of super-beings that live in the center of the universe.
"The Council members are made up of exultation entities who have willingly merged their very essences into one mass of collective energy; they are very powerful and wise, and all Balazons willingly submit to their judgments. I, or any of my kind, can join the Council after 100 million years of service and experience in the field as an exultation worker. Most of us aspire to join the Council someday. It's the highest form of office in the universe."
Acin-om shrugged. "Anyway, we took the conflict to the Council to consider the matter and a ruling was to come down before four o'clock, the time scheduled for the unveiling. Though we were confident the Council would rule against Xsalma, we had to respect his right to do as he deemed right. Until then, Khur-ak sent me to guard Jeff. I appeared to him as a human female named Monica and preserved his life on several occasions."
"I see," Valerie said.
"We hope to prove our sincerity. It was a calculated risk to reveal our existence after what Xsalma did, but we knew it was very important we do something soon."
"With your help, our odds of surviving are better?" Valerie asked.
"Much better, but there are still risks. There is an all too real possibility humans will reject us and force us to leave. If that were to happen, mankind is almost certain to become extinct. Without our help, this world conflict will likely spiral into something like your two world wars, and threaten your entire existence."
Valerie nodded in agreement, considering the logic and wisdom of all of Acin-om's words up to this point. It was a lot to take in.