On the TV screen in the 1980s, a middle-aged woman addresses a rapt crowd. She wears a golden headdress and espouses a message of peace and love. This bizarre broadcast was part of a series shown across the U.S. – but just what is the truth behind these strange scenes?
The story began in California in February 1954. Ernest Norman, a clairvoyant and spiritualist, apparently met a 53-year-old woman named Ruth at a psychic event and regaled her with outlandish tales about her past lives.
According to Ernest, Ruth was the reincarnation of an Egyptian Pharaoh’s daughter who had been friends with Moses. Of course, the pair instantly hit it off, and it’s said that they tied the knot that very same day.
Later that month, Ernest and Ruth Norman founded the Unarius Academy of Science in Los Angeles. The aim of the organization? To spread and popularize the results of Ernest’s channeling sessions.
During these sessions Ernest claimed to receive messages from extraterrestrial entities and, equally bizarrely, figures from history. These messages formed the basis of the Unarius Science of Life Teachings. Apparently, they were a set of lessons designed to help individuals to overcome personal and emotional difficulties.
And at the core of the Normans’ philosophy was a belief in reincarnation. Unariuns were also taught that the Earth was once inhabited by advanced peoples that traveled between planets, and that these “space brothers” occasionally maintained contact.
When Ernest died in 1971, Ruth took over as the organization’s head. She claimed to have received more messages from a higher plane of existence, and so she began working these into books. In fact, between 1972 and 1993 she published more than 80 titles.
Moreover, during this time, Ruth, who later became known as Uriel the Archangel, reinvented Unarius’ mission statement. She believed she’d been in contact with leaders from 32 planets, whom she planned to unite to establish an Interplanetary Confederation. She also predicted that spaceships from these planets would land on Earth in 2001.
Interestingly, in 1975 the Unarius Academy of Science opened a teaching center in El Cajon, California. It was here that Ruth built a state-of-the-art video production studio, where she began making movies and TV programs aimed at spreading Unarius’ message to people across the country.
After all, since the early ’70s public-access TV had been growing in popularity throughout the U.S. Created as a response to perceived problems with commercial broadcasting, this new form of media gave ordinary people the power to create their own shows.
In fact, their programs utilized cable technology to beam into living rooms nationwide. So by the time the ’80s came around, public-access TV had become a much-loved genre that seemed to be going from strength to strength.
The TV schedules were subsequently awash with weird and wonderful programming. And, in among the LGBT chat shows and bizarre interviews, the films being produced by Unarius found an unlikely home.
Yes, Ruth’s goal of reaching wider audiences was realized. Before long, her productions were being viewed on cable television stations across the country, with several Californian cities airing weekly showings.
As well as raising awareness about Unarius, some of the programs took the form of psychodramas. This involved participants acting out events from their lives in order to gain some kind of weird insight into any issues with which they may have been contending.
The theory was that by enacting traumatic scenes from their past lives Unarius members were able to use the psychodramas to heal. And because many of them claimed to have lived in mythical ancient civilizations like Atlantis, or even on far-off planets, their dramas made for some pretty weird viewing.
Plus, the psychodramas, which often featured elaborate costumes and props in keeping with their fantastical settings, were shot minus a script. So participants were filmed as they acted out supposedly real events from the past, with the resulting footage broadcast to the masses.
The films that came out of this creative process took many forms. The Decline and Destruction of Orion Empire, for example, told the story of an apparently real 800,000-year-old empire. The Arrival, meanwhile, claimed to be a true retelling of events on Lemuria, a mythical lost continent.
Of course, Ruth featured prominently in many of the films, where she played a benevolent space brother, the goddess Isis and, of course, the Archangel Uriel. In one, she wears a staggering costume befitting her status as emissary to the Interplanetary Confederation – a voluminous dress featuring all 33 planets and a light-up halo.
At the time, Unarius’ fans ensured that the psychodramas were regularly aired on public-access TV in 20 states. They continued to be shown well into the ’90s too, with Ruth’s appearances on The David Susskind Show and Late Night with David Letterman adding to the fame of the so-called UFO cult.
Sadly, Ruth Norman died in 1993, and the prophesized date of 2001 came and went without any noticeable signs of an alien visitation. Despite this, Unarius continues today. Now it calls itself a spiritual school dedicated to the union of science and spirit. It even runs classes in past-life therapy, though the kitschy videos of the ’70s and ’80s are, tragically, a thing of the past.