Ruth Norman believes "the greatest event in the history of the world" will unfold soon on 67 acres of desert scrubland she recently purchased outside this suburb 15 miles east of San Diego.
The 77-year-old retired realtor says the land - bought for 150,000 - is the designated landing site for an upcoming visit to earth by spaceships from 32 planets.
"They will come soon. How soon might be a matter of months. Or to the end of the century, but probably this year," Norman said, her chiffon gown waving in the desert wind. "They don't give us a date." But already, in preparation for the big day, Norman has put up signs on her property welcoming her "space brothers" to earth.
Ruth Norman and her husband, who died in 1971, first began communicating with extra-terrestial beings 24 years ago, she says, but it has only been recently, since the maiden flights of the Space Shuttle "Enterprise" and the popular acceptance of "Star Wars" that she had felt free to discuss her beliefs publicly.
"We almost had to work underground for a long time," Norman said. "But now there's a great expansion of awareness. We're no longer just a little cult, we're really on the way - and that wonderful 'Star Wars' really opened up the way. That 'Force be with you' is preconditioning for the landing."
In El Cajon, a dusty city of 70,000, Norman has set up headquarters for her Unarius Foundation, an organization dedicated to paving the way for the smooth landing of the "space brothers." Located at a desolate downtown El Cajon intersection, Unarius provides educational facilities for some 50 vocal disciples and sends books to their claimed 300,000 devotees around the world.
Unarius, which stands for Universal Articulate Interdimensional Understanding of Science, possesses a philosophy as complex as its name. The followers of Ruth Norman believe in reincarnation on a grand scale, a deep-seated spiritualism and a galaxy full of advanced, warm-hearted spacemen who want to help Earth, a fairly primitive world in the Unarius universe.
Students at the Unarius Center don't have to pay for their classes, although contributions are encouraged. But they all seem ready and willing to do volunteer work including building model "Martian cities," driving Norman around the freeways in her faded green Cadillac and sending out mail advertising Unarius books. They come from various backgrounds and appear no different from any other group of California suburbanities.
Unarius followers, however, claim Norman's philosophy has improved their entire outlook on life. Since the spacemen are supposed to be the harhingers of a brighter human future, the Unarius disciples say the preparation for thei landing given them a purpose and a hope in life.
"It filled in the engigmas of my own personal search for truth and identity" claims Vaughn Spaegel, a 56-year-old one-time insurance salesman from Toronto who now devotes most of his time to Unarius activities. "I could finally see beyond earth, beyond myself. I could see almost to an infinite degree."
For Calvin Kennedy, 19, of El Cajon, life changed dramatically the day a few months back when he walked into the Unarius office. "I was just passing by and went in and I knew at once this was what I wanted. It was just an inner knowing," recalls Kennedy, a short-order cook at a local fast-food restaurant.
"I was your typical, run-of-the-mill, drug-taking, pot-smoking guy walking down the street. I was a bum, he said, "Now I feel better, Now I have coherence in my life."
Many Unarius students claim that belief in the spacemen has replaced their older, and now antiquated, religious faith. Thomas Reed, 56, says he was a minister in Boston and Baltimore before discovering Unarius in 1972. "Now I have done a complete reversal," Reed said. "This has given me a new life. Religion, that's just escapism - this is reality. This is facing who we are and what we are about to become."
Unarius' force is being felt elsewhere in El Cajon. When a rash of UFO citings was reported in the area earlier this month, local reporters rushed to Norman to get the inside story. She told the press that aliens were indeed bussing their little suburb but added, sadly, that they decided not to land at this time because some unruly Earth man might take a shot at them.
Since its beginning in 1954 by the Normans, Unarius has been kept alive through the sale of their books, now consisting of some 33 volumes, as well as individual contributions from followers worldwide. Norman is vague about the financial status of the organization, saying only that "the space brothers always take care of us when we need it."