photo by Amy Babin

photo by Amy Babin

by Tim Tevault
photography by Amy Babin

From across the globe, a diverse group of people gather each summer to hike Mt. Baldy. For them, Baldy is no ordinary mountain, and theirs is not a typical hike—more a pilgrimage to the top of what stands above them as a holy giant. Together, they tackle the 10,000 foot behemoth head-on, climbing almost to the very top. Tired and worn, only some will reach the destination they seek—the “charged” spot—where 50 years ago, cosmic beings used their founder as a conduit for channeling energy into the very mountain itself.

Although it sounds like it belongs in the X-Files, this event plays a significant role in the lives of people belonging to the Aetherius Society, a non-profit institution of faith with branches around the world. At a glance, it is similar to many mainstream, organized religions. However, its members’ beliefs, which mesh many spiritual traditions together into one, separate it from the norm. The Aetherians believe in the ancient principles of karma and reincarnation but also incorporate the teachings of Jesus Christ into their beliefs as well. And Buddha. And Muhammad.

Underpinning their mix of beliefs is a commitment to a life serving the community and nurturing Mother Earth as a living being. That is the conventional part, however. Society members also believe in extraterrestrials and cosmic beings—ideas that turn heads either toward or away from their faith. Paul Nugent, a director at the Aetherius Society’s American Headquarters in Hollywood, has a few theories why people are not ready to accept the group’s beliefs with open arms. “The majority of people aren’t curious enough about the subject of UFOs and about some of the spiritual beliefs we have,” Nugent explains. “On the one hand, a lack of curiosity of life itself at fault, and, on the other hand, people are too engaged in making the basics of their own life work.”

However, for those who subscribe to the Society’s set of beliefs, life has a new meaning. Not only do they study the teachings of Christ, Buddha and other prophets, they look to a more contemporary luminary, their founder, the late Dr. George King. Aetherians believe King was a medium between the extraterrestrials and humans. According to the Society, King, a Briton, was alone in his apartment when a loud voice commanded: “Prepare yourself! You are to become the voice of the Interplanetary Parliament!” It was then, they say, that King knew his destiny, and his mission had begun.

Praying for peace, Aetherius Society members gather in sight of the exact spot where founder George King channeled otherworldly energies into Mt. Baldy. / photo by Amy Babin

Praying for peace, Aetherius Society members gather in sight of the exact spot where founder George King channeled otherworldly energies into Mt. Baldy. / photo by Amy Babin

King was chosen, they believe, because he was a Yoga master and could reach a heightened sense of consciousness called Samadhi. During the 1950s, he would meditate for eight to 12 hours a day—for 10 years. While in Samadhi, King received transmissions from extraterrestrials the Society calls the Cosmic Masters, beings of a higher power who exist on a different plane. Some of the beings who contacted King were the Master Aetherius, Master Jesus, Lord Buddha, and the provocatively named “Mars Sector 6.” They claim Master Jesus to be the same Cosmic Master that Christians center their faith around. King recorded these transmissions, which can be heard at the Society’s weekly services.

In the mid-1950s, King established the Aetherius Society and began publishing Cosmic Voice, the Society’s weekly newsletter. He lectured across England while receiving transmissions which totaled more than 600 in his lifetime.


Between July 1958 and August 1961, King was directed to various mountains around the world—Mt. Baldy being one of them—that were deemed holy by the Cosmic Masters in what is called Operation Starlight. In total, Aetherians believe there are 19 of these holy mountains. “These mountains were filled with spiritual energy by masters from beyond this world as a source of energy that humanity could tap into and use to send out to the world,” Nugent says.

For five Saturdays every summer, members of the American Headquarters visit the “charged” spot near the top of Mt. Baldy. Although several dozen people routinely participate, only some complete the demanding two-hour hike to reach the actual spot they say King channeled the cosmic energy into the mountain.

While hiking up the mountain, members take breaks to participate in occasional prayers. Not only does it make for a needed rest, they seek the approval of the Cosmic Masters. At the top, however, the actual ritual begins.

For the last trek of 2003, 15 made it to the spot, while another 20 or so lingered down by the ski lift. Nugent says a typical trip attracts anywhere from 30 to 50 people.

As the prayers begin, the Aetherians stand in a semi-circle. With their eyes closed, member Brian Keneipp asks them to slow their breathing, slow their thoughts and tune in to the environment. They are asked to feel the thinness of the air and the strong mountain at their feet. “Feel the love and compassion the mountain is giving us,” Keneipp says. The members then intone what they call the A-U-M, a humming mantra, in addition to performing guided visualizations.

“We bring down a white light literally from the cosmos,” Nugent explains. “Then we bring up a violet flame from the Mother Earth as a cleansing practice.”

After more visualization, including conjuring of the image of a golden sphere representing the “spark of God,” the group returns to mantra. “We use the mantra to literally invoke spiritual energy to purify our minds, our hearts,” Nugent illustrates.

These prayers are all followed by the primary rite of the Aetherians—the 12 Blessings. Similar to Christianity’s “Our Father,” the 12 Blessings are a series of benedictions wherein the members pull up latent energy from the mountain and channel it out to 12 different living beings, from the concrete to the conceptual: Peace Makers, Wise Ones, Loving Ones, Planetary Ones, Thanksgivers, Healers, Mother Earth, Sun, the supreme lords of karma, the galaxy, the Supreme Lords of Creation and the Absolute. According to the Society, Master Jesus delivered the 12 Blessings to King on 12 consecutive Sundays in 1958.

During the prayer, some of the members’ fingers move about as they feel energy channeling through them. The eight members form into a semi-circle and assume a position of prayer. Instead of the traditional Christian stance—a position they consider closed and confined— the Aetherians extend their arms forward, elbows bent with their palms close to the shoulders. According to Nugent, the energy flows outward from their palms.

Nugent says the Aetherians help the world through their prayer. At their church in Hollywood, the Society keeps one of its two spiritual energy radiators, which they say intensifies the strength of their prayers. The other is in England. The radiators are key in what Nugent calls Operation Prayer Power, a tradition the Society has kept since 1973.

At a weekly meeting, members pray together, and these prayers are stored into a physical object—a battery—filled with crystal. This crystal is said to hold and maintain the vibrations of the prayer energy. In a complex cycle, the prayer energy in the battery is eventually released electromagnetically through the spiritual energy radiator to Satellite No. 3, which Nugent says orbits around the earth four times a year.

But since when has any faith made sense? The word itself implies belief in something that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. In a more mainstream religion, members ritually drink the blood and eat the flesh of their once-resurrected savior. If anything, the Aetherians welcome skepticism and say they are suspicious of anyone who doesn’t approach them with some doubts. They seem less interested in convincing others of these things than they are in their primary mission: to save the world. “One of the ways we believe the Cosmic Masters are helping humanity is with a spacecraft that comes into orbit of this earth at various times of the year,” Nugent says. “We cooperate with the orbit of the satellite in a number of ways. We have prayer services, and we will come together and send out prayer energy through prayer and the 12 Blessings.

Why are these Cosmic Masters so concerned with us Earthlings? In a nutshell, it is to discourage us from screwing up again. Society beliefs include a history wherein humanity has destroyed itself not once—but three times. The first of these took place on an entirely different planet in the solar system, of which remains only an asteroid belt.

It is the nuclear menace that again empowers humans to annihilate themselves that motivates the Aetherians efforts to perform Good Works on a global scale. “The Aetherius Society is all about sending out spiritual energy, either to an individual or to a group of individuals—victims of a flood or an earthquake. We also send it to Mother Earth, in each case to bring about improvement,” Nugent says. “The energy is sent where it’s most needed unless it is designated somewhere.”

In addition to Operation Prayer Power, the Aetherians practice Operation Space Power. According to Lesley Young, another director at the Headquarters, Operation Space Power also involves spiritual energy that is directed to wherever it is needed. The difference, according to Young, is this: Operation Prayer Power involves hours of prayer and mantra, which takes a long time and much hard work to build up, whereas Operation Space Power involves using recycled prayer energy and the millions of units of that energy that is already stored up.

“This is energy that has gone through the spiritual energy radiator, was not used at the time and is taken back in by Satellite No. 3,” Young explains. “The greater beings have a way to draw it back.” Young adds that after the unused prayer energy is taken back, it is not stored on Satellite No. 3, but rather somewhere else in the solar system. Once this energy is stored for backup, it is available for use when an emergency occurs. Aetherians employed both Operation Prayer Power and Operation Space Power during the firestorm of 2003, which devoured portions of Southern California. Both operations were implemented for the Williams Fire of 2002 as well, which scorched the foothill communities of La Verne and San Dimas. Nugent says the Williams Fire was expected to go for months, but when the Society members used prayer and focused their energy to Mt. Baldy, the rain fell, and the winds dropped. “The media called it a miracle,” he says. “To us it wasn’t a miracle; we knew why it happened.”


Far from living together in underground barracks, members have a life outside of the Society. Members Ellie Abrahamson of Hollywood and Michael Scholey of Pacoima joined the Society in 1961 and 1967, respectively. Abrahamson has been retired for two years, and worked as assistant Hollywood director of contracts in the Screen Actors’ Guild. “I was interested in metaphysics and flying saucers,” says Abrahamson of her early days with the Society. “Dr. King came to Detroit, where I lived, and I was interested. What he said was so interesting, and I felt it was true. Everything sort of fell into place like a jigsaw puzzle.” Scholey, originally from England, is now an industrial designer and says he was more interested in spirituality than science when he discovered the Society. “The Church didn’t know the things I was wondering,” he says. After discovering his new faith, Scholey moved to California in 1975 and worked for the Society with Abrahamson’s husband.

Gordon McKenzie, who has visited mountains sacred to Aetherians on three continents, recites the 12 Blessings with Paul Nugent on the east summit side of Mt. Baldy. / photo by Amy Babin

Gordon McKenzie, who has visited mountains sacred to Aetherians on three continents, recites the 12 Blessings with Paul Nugent on the east summit side of Mt. Baldy. / photo by Amy Babin

Maria Secco, her 45-year-old daughter Stella, and two grandchildren, David, 11, and Evelyn, 9, made the pilgrimage to Mt. Baldy, but opted not to climb to the “charged” spot. Maria, whose English is limited, says she is happy with her new-found faith, which Stella and she discovered two years back while listening to a radio show at 3 a.m.

“It was a special time; I am more relaxed at 3 a.m.,” says Stella with a thick Spanish accent. Her son David translates what she later says, “When she came to the Society, she found out about God, her true self and her special connection. Bringing her kids is very special.”

David, however, has his own opinion. “I’m not really into spiritual stuff,” he says. “I’m into the nature.” Instead of climbing to the “charged” spot, the Secco family, Abrahamson and Scholey ride the ski lift to the base of the hiking trail. Here, these and other Aetherians, hold their own prayer and mantra services.

Nugent and a few other hikers shoot ahead of the pack and start up the trail. They will eventually reach the “charged” spot about 30 minutes before the other hikers. Keneipp has decided to stick behind and bring up the rear.

Keneipp, editor of Cosmic Voice, found the Society in 1976 when he came across a recording by King, “Karma and Reincarnation.” From there, he bought books from the Society and followed its teachings. His views began to make a slow turn, and eventually he moved to Hollywood and began to take care of King in his old age in 1987.

“King was unbelievably hard . . . everything was under his scrutiny,” he says. Keneipp, who explains an earthly side of King many did not know, says he was an intense man and devoted to his faith. But he was also a normal person, who Brian says smoked, drank and swore.

Also on the trail is Mary Bagan, a retired manager of addiction treatment at Kaiser Permanente and licensed psychotherapist. She wields a pair of ski poles that help in navigating the steep portions of the mountain. Bagan, who discovered the Society in 1995, says she took a liking to the Aetherians when she, like Keneipp, listened to King’s tapes. “When I started listening to them, I said, ‘Wow!’ They just knocked my socks off,” she says. Bagan admits, however, it took her a while to grasp the Society’s belief in extraterrestrials. “I slowly came to understand and believe,” she says. “I gradually got more involved, and a year ago I became a full member.”

Once Bagan and Keneipp reach the charged spot, they join Nugent and five others, including Gordon McKenzie. McKenzie, originally from England, joined the Society in the early 1970s. Here, he said he was looking for truth. McKenzie bought the Nine Freedoms, a code of conduct similar to Buddhism’s Eightfold Path or Islam’s Five Pillars. Except there are nine. The Cosmic Master, known as Mars Sector 6, delivered these to King, the same entity responsible for channeling energy into King and “charging” Mt. Baldy.

McKenzie’s interest in the Society compelled him to move to London in 1977, and eventually to Australia in 2000, where he started the Brisbane chapter of the Society. Early in 2003, he moved to New Zealand, his current home. McKenzie has hiked every holy mountain in England and Australia and now can check Mt. Baldy off his list of holy mountains. “I’ve had some amazing experiences on the mountains,” McKenzie says. “They’re all different but all intertwined as well. Mt. Ramshead, in Australia, has an amazing presence of spirits and energies. When you start praying, you can have some amazing visions.”


According to Nugent, Operation Prayer Power played a part in the 1985 meltdown in Chernobyl. He says five hours before the blast occurred, King was contacted by an extraterrestrial who told him of an accident due to take place on earth, and that he should activate the spiritual energy radiators immediately. Nugent says King did not know why he was told to do this but he followed the instructions and kept the radiators running for the next three days.

Nugent also claims that at the end of 2002, a Russian news agency reported sightings of hundreds of UFOs by hundreds of eyewitnesses over Chernobyl. This event, combined with others, gives Nugent and the Society what they perceive as cold, hard evidence of the existence of extraterrestrials. One such example is another nuclear accident that took place in 1957. British government authorities covered up the release of radiation at the Sellafield nuclear reactor for 30 years, but it was published in Cosmic Voice long before then. Thirty years later, when the details came out, the Society was able to say, “No, we published it first before the public even knew about it.” A similar incident happened in 1958 in the Soviet Union when there was a nuclear blast. “This was during the time of the Cold War and was completely covered up by the government,” Nugent explains, adding that the UFOs told King they were helping clean up the radioactivity. The incident was later revealed in 1976, but it was actually Cosmic Voice that printed details about it when it originally happened. This is further proof, according to Nugent, that extraterrestrials are here to help and not to harm.

“Those three cases are enough to give any reasonably open-minded person sufficient evidence to say there’s got to be something going on here,” Nugent argues. “The evidence is out there, but you have to have the curiosity in the first place. You have to have a sufficient interest, a desire to understand that. It is inevitable that the truth about UFOs will come to light. “It will be the most significant event in the human race when we discover we are not alone,” Nugent says.

“Many will say that there cannot be any life on other planets, but it is not life as we know it. When we die we go on to one of the subtle planes of existence around this Earth. We normally cannot see these planes because of their different vibratory nature compared to this physical level. Nevertheless, the other planes of existence around Earth are very real, as we will all experience when we pass on,” he adds.

All things said, E.T.s are not the focal point of the Aetherius Society— prayer and helping others is, and it is those cosmic beliefs that separate them from conventional religion. “If everyone prayed, we could change conditions on earth,” Young says. “Humanity is so locked after chasing things like conflict and materialism that conditions don’t change.”

However, Nugent hopes one day the truth that is out there will finally surface and everyone will see that “we are not alone.”

For more information about the Aetherius Society, visit

 Paul Nugent, a director at the Aetherius Society American Headquarters, leads the summer hikes up Mt. Baldy to the “charged” spot. At this location, Aetherians summon the energy within the mountain through prayer. / photo by Amy Babin

Paul Nugent, a director at the Aetherius Society American Headquarters, leads the summer hikes up Mt. Baldy to the “charged” spot. At this location, Aetherians summon the energy within the mountain through prayer. / photo by Amy Babin