Oxford University Press

Book Description

When Prophecy Never Fails gives first-hand ethnographic details of a UFO religion, called the Unarius Academy of Science.  It covers the social psychology of their belief system, which includes visions, dreams, myth, and recovered memories of past lives.  It further discusses the creation and maintenance of an alternative reality, one where extraterrestrials communicate with humans in order to ready them for a massive spacefleet landing that will transform Earth into a scientific paradise.  

From the theoretical perspective of the social construction of reality, it analyzes the way members create their own social world.  Based on lengthy field research, the everyday life in one of America’s oldest contactee groups is described from their interpretations of prophecy to the unique ways members “heal” themselves using their version of science.  

The text explicates the lives of the Unarian founders, Ernest and Ruth Norman, providing a rich cultural history of a little known part American religion.  The Normans claimed to be Space Brothers in contact with higher realms of knowledge, and that they had brought a celestial science to Earth.  Ruth Norman led the group in her persona as Uriel the Archangel, Goddess of Love.  Her life and the way she guided her followers present one of most colorful examples of charismatic authority ever written.  Since Unarius has a disconfirmed prophecy of spaceships landing in 2001, the author compares the group’s response to failed prophecy to that of the group Leon Festinger studied in the 1950s.  In looking at the interpretive methods Unarius used to explain success rather than failure, the text discusses the reasons why prophecies seldom fail in the eyes of believers.




"This book summarizes years of study of a fascinating new religious movement that offers important insights concerning the manner in which otherwise normal people who are attracted to minority faiths construct their worldviews and maintain them in the face of widespread social disconfirmations. Tumminia's work makes a real contribution to an increasing social concern—understanding our neighbors who have chosen a very different way to make their way through life."

- J. Gordon Melton, Institute for the Study of American Religion


 "The fruit of many years of research, this is a truly outstanding contribution to studies of new religions in general and UFO religions in particular. Combining rigorous sociological analysis, sensitive ethnography, and warm empathy, this is both a thoroughly enjoyable book to read-a book that draws the reader into the world of Unarius-and also one of the most helpful, careful, and detailed academic studies of a UFO religion that I have come across. All who are interested in the dynamics of new religious belief should read this important and fascinating study."

-- Christopher Partridge, editor of New Religions: A Guide: New Religious Movements, Sects and Alternative Spiritualities


"Diana Tumminia's When Prophecy Never Fails presents a compelling account of a twentieth-century flying-saucer movement that is academically sophisticated while remaining accessible to the general public. A compelling read and valuable contribution to the literature on New Religious Movements."

-- William H. Swatos, Jr.,  Senior Fellow, Center for Religious Inquiry Across the Disciplines (CRIAD), Baylor University


"A tour de force."

-- James R. Lewis, University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point, author of Encyclopedic Sourcebook of UFO Religions.


"Rich in detailed description and thoroughly developed dialogue, this book will also be a useful teaching tool for courses on ethnography or religion."

-- Salvador Jimenez Murguia, CSU, San Bernadino, quoted from the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, June 2006.


Sure to be a classic in the construction of social realities genre.

-- Rick Nadeau, California Faculty Association (retired)