Why you should care
Because aliens are coming to colonize Earth and we’re unprepared. Apparently.
The image that appears on Skype is not Marshall Vian Summers, prophet of the New Message from God, but rather a younger man with gentle eyes and a fixed smile who introduces himself as Reed. “I’m here with my father, Marshall,” he says. When the elder Summers edges onto the screen, it’s clear why Reed serves as the advance man, why he has been brought into the conversation.
Marshall Summers is far less approachable, by his own admission a solitary man who rarely speaks to the media. When he does speak, it’s with a laid-back California vibe that’s at odds with his stern gaze and weary expression. But, as he begins to recount, Summers has spent decades relaying revelations from an angelic presence warning of coming disaster and alien encounters. It’s a mission that explains the somber disposition — as well as his 231,905 Facebook followers, people in 102 countries studying his work and a series of books translated into 25 languages.
Now 68, Marshall Vian Summers spent his formative years in California during the Aquarian Age, when gurus from Father Yod of the Source Family to Charles Manson were preaching, healing and expanding consciousness. But Summers did not get swept up in the boho, countercultural scene: “I felt very socially restrained,” he says, “very careful about getting into groups of political movements.” Young Marshall preferred to spend his days alone, exploring nature: “The reality of nature is not the same as the human reality,” he says. “We live immersed in the human reality, and I knew that was not enough.”
Whether Summers is peddling doom and disaster to further his own interests is hard to say.
And it was there, in nature, that Summers, then 32, claims he first came into contact with divine beings he calls “the Angelic Assembly.” They explained that it was his destiny to convey God’s New Message to the world — his calling these past 35 years. Complex, filled with its own terminology and infused with urgency, the New Message is also very, very long, filling 21 books Summers wrote as a conduit for the “Unseen Ones” who watch over Earth. And it boils down to this: God wishes to prepare humanity to enter into “the Greater Community,” which will be a galactic federation of intelligent beings joined to confront malevolent aliens. “[A]lready there are forces in the world interfering with human affairs,” Summers says. “These forces are not here for our good; they are serving their own interests.” The New Message, he assures, can empower humanity to repel the invaders looking to carry out a dark purpose.
“Doomsday predictions can often be convenient points of leverage and control for cult leaders,” says Rick Ross, executive director of the Cult Education Institute. “That is, creating unreasonable fears about the future and then offering themselves and their message as the only genuine protection and/or single source of certain safety for their followers.”
Whether Summers is peddling doom and disaster to further his own interests is hard to say. He sits at the helm of a tax-exempt nonprofit called the Society, which received donations last year tallying more than a quarter of a million dollars. But because the New Message is considered a religious organization, it is not legally required to disclose its financials, so what information is available is based on its own calculations. Anyone who logs on to the New Message website, however, will be struck by the number of ways visitors are invited to join the worldwide community — by making a one-time gift, monthly “Pillar” donations or charitable bequests from your will (bitcoin also accepted).
When asked about the money side of the operation, Reed responds, “We’re a 90 percent donation-driven organization. … Why you might see ‘donate’ everywhere is because we offer almost everything for free.” And it’s true: You are welcome to purchase copies of Summers’ books, but every message he has transcribed from the Angelic Assembly is also available online for free.
Reed is the one to field questions about finances, because it would appear that Marshall doesn’t know the answers. The son of the Messenger, as Reed is known, is the movement’s public face–slash–PR agent, running the back office and appearing at panel discussions while his father, presumably, is fully occupied intercepting transmissions from the heavens.
Reed maintains his own blog, which provides a poignant glimpse into an unusual childhood. In a post from 2012 titled “Witnessing the Revelation,” he recounts how, at the age of 10, he heard an unfamiliar voice coming from his father’s room. Reed’s mother, Patricia, who worked as a nurse to support the family, told him that his father was “conferring with a great teacher.” Day after day, Reed and his mother would return home to find Marshall either locked away recording divine directives or “deeply tired and very disoriented.” Not easy explaining that to school-age friends, but over time Reed came to see that it was a process Marshall did not make or control.
Whether Marshall Vian Summers is in fact the chronicler of a vast new revelation and humanity is careening toward an encounter with a supernatural threat remains to be seen, but the medium and his message are not unique. “Prophets like Summers are commonplace, and there seems to be a new one popping up weekly,” says Ross.
As he says goodbye, Summers, an antisocial man by nature (“I don’t want people hanging out with me, frankly,” he said earlier in the interview), touchingly tries to play the role of benevolent spiritual leader. “I just want to say that knowledge lives within you,” he says. “Whether I see you again or not, I want you to know that.” Coming from someone who professes to have a direct line to the angels, it’s hard not to hope that we meet again.