In the heart of Brazil's southern plateau, barely 90 minutes from the capital city of Brasilia, lies a village called Valley of the Dawn. In this unique rural community, medieval Sephardic Judaism is mixed with the worship of extra-terrestrials to form a most unexpected new religion. In December 1997, an international group of ufologists boarded a bus and journeyed there.
A blend of Jewish, Christian, and extraterrestrial icons and images surrounds the Valley of the Dawn temple. That month, two of the biggest UFO conferences in the world had taken place. More than 20 international ufologists, including Budd Hopkins, Michael Hesemann, Whitley Streiber, and myself, had spoken before audiences of more than 700 people in Acapulco, Mexico. It was a marvelous experience and we all looked forward to an even greater one in Brazil.
However, once in Brasilia, we found that it was not to be. We felt we were being exploited by a group called the League of Goodwill, whose buildings in Brasilia and Rio have signs outside reading "The World Ecumenical Parliament."
I had little idea what this group's agenda actually was, but I was certain it was some kind of New World Order cult. Its goal is partly to "save" street urchins from poverty in return for allegiance to a new religion, which is a mishmash of Christian, Babylonian, Egyptian, and Marxist symbols. We ufologists, to our utter confusion, spoke in a temple replete with an Egyptian meditation room and crystals. The crowds were sparse and almost totally composed of League members wearing white, silky uniforms. It was quite frightening to see the young members walking barefoot in zombie-like trances under pyramids and crystals. And we were aghast at the surveillance of our activities: Every time we stepped outside, a platoon of crew-cut, black-suited young toughs reported our whereabouts on walkie-talkies.
At last, we were to escape the suffocating confines of the Temple of Doom and venture into the wide-open Brazilian countryside to meet a few simple, hard-working peasants. In a bus rented by Glennys M. Mackay, an Australian in our group, we would discover another side of Brazil.
The bus ride mellowed and energized everyone. The vehicle was filled with a collection of some of the most inquisitive minds on the planet. And as we rolled deeper into the crimson-soiled terrain of the South American wilderness, I thought to myself, This is peaceful. No more young kids wearing sheets, no more Babylonian statues, no more blending of every nation, religion, and creed into one world faith, no more....
What's this? lt looks like some sort of...what do we call it? ...weirdo temple. Don't tell me Glennys got us up at 6:30 to see another damn New Age sanctuary?
Into the Valley
Indeed, she had. I felt a second punch to my gut. We had returned to sinister spiritualism, and just when my stomach was starting to settle.
With utmost hesitation I descended from the bus and immediately swallowed a mouthful of what I assumed were malarial mosquitoes. We were now in dengue country and I knew that what Mexico had started, Brazil would finish off.
Dreading each step, I approached the temple area. I soon noticed a major difference between the World Ecumenical Parliament and Valley of the Dawn -- simplicity. The area was dotted with tiny farms and shops, and unlike in the elaborate and pricey Brasilia compound, the art outside the temple was childlike and unsophisticated. This place seemed more genuine. A lot more genuine. I ventured into the compound.
The most striking feature was a pair of gigantic stairways leading to a cutout of a yellow sun with seven beams radiating from its orb. Now what on Earth, I wondered, is that supposed to symbolize?
Glennys filled me in. The people of the town believe a fleet of UFOs hovers over the temple, and each day they pray to receive its energy. The gods of the ships, they think, will someday walk down those stairs. Uh-huh. Sounds reasonable.
She called over a priest, and as the ufologists gathered, she initiated a conversation translated by our tour guide. She didn't make much small talk before rushing into the extraterrestrial beliefs of the town. But the priest would not say so much as a word about the subject.
I snuck into the temple alone. Wait a minute, I thought, there's something very familiar about this gate. And that altar. And what's that hanging from the cross? I've seen that seven-branched candelabra before.
I had walked into a synagogue. Sure, there was a picture of Jesus above the altar and some crosses about, but the majority of the symbols were plainly Jewish. Stars of David were everywhere inside and out, and the seven-horned candelabra was a Menorah. The Star of David and the Menorah are the two central symbols of Judaism, ancient and modern. Draped around the crosses were talitot, Jewish prayer shawls.
The heavy Jewish symbolism could not have been accidental. There was too much of it for that.