Fatima, Facts and Fantasies

Joaquim Fernandes and Fina D’Armada. Heavenly Lights: The Apparitions of Fatima and UFO Phenomenon. EcceNova, 2005. (Also Anomalist Books, 2007)

Joachim Fernandes and Fina D’Armada. Celestial Secrets: The Hidden History of the Fatima Incident. Translated from the Portuguese by Alexandra Bruce and edited by Andrew D Basiago. Anomalist Books, 2007.

I seem to have been hearing about Joaquim Fernandes’s linking Fatima with UFOs for about 30 years now, and here at last in Heavenly Lights is the English language edition of the full book, Of course this isn’t new, Paul Misraki/Thomas did this in his attempt to shoehorn ufology into ultra-montane Catholic dogma back in the 1960s.

What Fernandes and D’Armada do is take bits of what people say they experienced at Fatima and bits of UFO narratives and compare them. They claim to have gone back to the original sources, those created before the story was fully integrated into Catholic Marian tradition. This would have been a useful exercise if these sources had been quoted at length, unedited. As it is there is a whiff of convenient selection about the whole thing.

Alhough the authors claim that the original stories were of extraordinary experiences perceived and interpreted in terms of the culture of the period, they fail to see that their own reinterpretation does exactly the same thing, replacing traditional religious ideas with those of late 20th century belief in extraterrestrials. This is not helped by the fact that their ufology is of a fundamentalist kind of ETHism based on the pseudoscientific flying saucer propulsion theories of the likes of McCampbell and Petit. McCampbell, in turn, based some of his ideas on a literal reading of the books of George Adamski and other contactees.

A more sophisticated analysis would be centred on the recognition that both Marian apparitions and UFO experiences are anomalous personal experiences perceived and interpreted in the terms and beliefs of the time and culture of the witnesses.

There is material of potential interest in Celestial Secrets, and some good bits. There are the intriguing newspaper adverts put out by occultist and spiritist groups prophesying that “something big” was going to happen on 13 May 1917, the date of the first Fatima encounter. One of these was a group called the Stella Matutina, one wonders if this had any connection with the British occult group of the same name with which W. B. Yeats was once a member. There is also a useful discussion as to how much the historical image of Fatima was concocted in the 1940s as propaganda for the Salazar regime in Portugal.

Sadly none of this makes up for the numerous grievous faults, the continuing attempt to bludgeon the Fatima incident into ufology, the forward by barmpot conspiracy theorist Jim Marrs, the dedication to John Mack, the presentation of numbers of dubious UFO tales at face value, the factual errors, the continuing quotation of extracts of documents rather than whole, the use of spurious ‘authorities’ such as James McCampbell (who as far as I know never claimed to be a ‘nuclear scientist’) and Erich Von Daniken. Add to that the generally rambling nature of this book and its numerous irrelevant asides, and the result is not remotely convincing. Needless to say it is no more open minded than the most credulous work of Catholic piety, the authors just have a different set of prejudices and agendas.
 
What the authors have done though is to make us want to see a genuinely detailed, scholarly and agenda free study of Fatima.  |PR|


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