The Priest who Said He Could Time-Travel

Was Father Ernetti Lying, or Did the Vatican of the 1950s Have Something to Hide?

On September 24, 1953, Douglas K. DeVorss, founder of the DeVorss Publishing Co., was shot to death at point-blank range while working in his office in downtown Los Angeles. The murderer, who fled and was soon apprehended, claimed DeVorss had been having an affair with his wife. The wife vehemently denied this. Because of this apparent crime of passion, the husband was convicted of second-degree murder and sent to serve out a mandatory five-year-to-life sentence at Chino State Prison. Was there more to the case than this?

Douglas K. DeVorss was the only person in the world who knew the full story about Baird T. Spalding, author of the four volumes of Life and Teaching of the Masters of the Far East, which DeVorss had published over the preceding two decades. Spalding, a self-proclaimed millionaire and world-traveler, had died just six months before DeVorss. He had claimed to be 95 at the time of his death, and to have journeyed with a party of twelve in 1894-1897 through India, Tibet, China, and Persia (now Iran). Spalding claimed that the material for his Life and Teaching—two more volumes of which were published posthumously—came from the teachings of the numerous Himalayan ‘elder brothers,’ said to assist in and guide the destiny of mankind, whom he had met during the expedition.

Spalding also claimed to have invented, at the end of the nineteenth century, with famed engineer-inventor Charles Steinmetz, a Camera of Past Events, which could peer back into time and even photograph Christ giving the Sermon on the Mount.

Shortly after Spalding’s death, it was reported that he had died penniless and that he had done none of the things he claimed he had done. But, if this were so, how did Spalding come upon the numerous remarkable insights that have fascinated generations of ‘New Age’ readers of Life and Teaching of the Masters of the Far East? The only person who knew the answer to this question was Douglas K. DeVorss.

On April 8, 1994, Father Pellegrino Mario Ernetti died, according to at least one account in his tiny cell at the Benedictine Abbey of San Giorgio Maggiore in Venice, Italy, some six months before his seventieth birthday.

There is no doubt that Father Ernetti, who, as well as a priest, was a world-class scholar of pre-tenth century AD music and a physicist, died of a form of cancer. But, during the last ten years of his life, this brilliant and highly respected monk was strangely silent on a subject which had occupied his conversation at least as much as had archaic music and electro-acoustics: the time machine he claimed to have built, called the ‘Chronovisor.’

Father Ernetti said that—with the help of a team of eminent scientists including Enrico Fermi—he had, in the 1950s, melded quantum physics with ancient astral lore to create his time-traveling device. He said it had enabled him to see back in time and watch Christ dying on the cross. The chronovisor had also permitted him to peer back to ancient Rome in 169 BC and watch the performance of a drama, now lost, Thyestes, by “father of Latin poetry,” Quintus Ennius.

Father Ernetti exhibited a photograph of Christ on the cross that he claimed to have taken from the Chronovisor, and a partial text of Thyestes that he claimed to have reconstructed from the performance he witnessed. But he never showed anyone the Chronovisor, nor provided more than teasing hints at its construction (it’s now said to be dismantled and hidden on San Giorgio Maggiore island). Many have disputed the authenticity of the photo of Christ and the Thyestes text.

Yet Pellegrino Maria Ernetti was a world-class musicologist and a proficient scientist as well as a Benedictine priest, whose views on religious, scientific, and other matters were sought out from all over Europe by those as eminent as French President François Mitterand. Why should a man of such accomplishment and recognition feel compelled to confabulate a story about a time machine?

Why did Father Ernetti, in the last ten years of his life, become increasingly silent about the Chronovisor? Was the Vatican gradually suppressing this brilliant man? Were yet more powerful forces suppressing his astonishing invention?

Until recently, traveling through time—in particular, backward in time—had been considered impossible. Today, eminent scientists are beginning to debate the conditions under which it could occur. University of Oxford physicist, David Deutsch, says relativity theory suggests that space-time can become so distorted that bits of it can break off to form closed space-time loops. Such ‘world-lines’ would be ‘timelike’ all the way around,” says Deutsch; if we followed part of such a closed time line curve (or CTC) “we could return to the past and participate in events there.”

Writing in Scientific American for March, 1994, Deutsch and Oxford philosopher Michael Lockwood cite physicist Stephen Hawking as stating that “quantum-mechanical effects would either prevent CTCs from forming or would destroy any would-be time traveler approaching one,” making time travel to the past impossible. On a more commonsensical level, Hawking has argued that, if time travel were possible, we would be flooded with waves of tourists from the future—and we’re not.

But few scientists, including Deutsch and Lockwood, have any trouble with the relative absence in our time of oglers from the future, and even Stephen Hawking has recanted, suggesting now that time travel may be possible. “I can think of half-a-dozen ways in which we could not be awash in time travelers, and still time travel is possible,” said now-deceased Carl Sagan on a NOVA TV documentary on time travel in 1994. Sagan said it might be possible to build a time machine that can go into the future but not into the past—but we don’t know about this, because we haven’t yet invented that time machine.

Sagan also speculated that time travel into the past might be possible, but that the time travelers haven’t gotten to our time yet since they’re very far in the future, and the farther back in time you go, the more expensive it is. The Cornell University author/scientist wondered if perhaps backward time travel were possible but only up to the moment when time travel was invented. “We haven’t invented it yet, so they can’t come to us,” he explained. “They can come to as far back as whatever it would be, say AD 2300, but not further back in time.”

Sagan put forth the possibility that the time travelers are here but we can’t see them, perhaps because they’ve perfected something like an invisibility cloak. “If they have such highly developed technology, then, why not?” he said. The author/astronomer speculated that the time travelers are here, and we see them, but “we call them something else—UFOs or ghosts or hobgoblins or fairies or something like that.”

Sagan said that, finally, “there’s the possibility that time travel is perfectly possible, but it requires a great advance in our technology, and human civilization will destroy itself before time travelers invent it. I’m sure there are other possibilities as well,” Sagan concluded, “but if you just think of that range of possibilities, I don’t think the fact that we’re not obviously being visited by time travelers shows that time travel is impossible.”

Many other scientists agree with Carl Sagan. In a recent book, Beyond Eternity (Jenseites der Ewigkeit, Langen-Müller, 2000), noted German time travel authority/author Ernst Meckelburg cites the theoretical proof for the possibility of time travel put forward as far back as 1988 by MIT astrophysicists Michael Morris, Kip Thorne, and Ulvi Yurtsever in a paper published in Physical Review Letters. In earlier works, such as Zeittunnel (Time Tunnel, Langen-Müller, 1997) and Zeitschock (Time Shock, Langen-Müller, 1995), the Hanau-based author has cited the far-reaching speculations of eminent scientists, such as Israeli physicist Yakir Aharanov and Princeton cosmologist Richard Gott, which have helped place the study of time travel on a respectable footing.

Meckelburg, who received the Swiss Dr. A. Hedri Award for epipsychology (study of post-death mental states) in 1997, the same year Drs. John Mack and David Jacobs received it for exopsychology (study of the ET mind), believes, along with the scientists he cites at length, that time travel must be a fairly commonplace occurrence in the universe. The German researcher asserts that only the mastery of such a technique can account for the many flying objects we apparently see coming at us from outer space and frequenting our atmosphere. Since, according to relativity theory, it’s impossible to travel faster than light, then “interstellar travel to Earth can only come, theoretically, from a handful of nearby star-systems,” he says. Yet the thousands of varied sightings in our time and earlier seem to suggest far vaster activity than that. Meckelburg concludes that many ET races must have solved the problem of crossing interstellar distances by achieving the total nullification of time (or, more accurately, space/time)—by traveling, that is, “via a higher-dimensional hyperspace, in which time is only a sub-dimension—a ‘space’ without any time at all.” Time travel, then, has been achieved by many alien species—and can be achieved by our own.

Ernst Meckelburg’s works, along with those of many other researchers into time travel, chronicle many instances where, if not an actual physical device, then some form of mental or “astral” time travel may have been involved. Meckelburg has written at length in Time Tunnel on the astonishing “Doddleston” incident in which, in the tiny village of Doddleston, England, in 1984-1986, an entity claiming to be from the year 1545 of Henry VIII’s reign seems to have dreamed his way up into our present era. The entity, calling itself Thomas Harden, left 250 messages in flawless pre-Shakespearean English on the computer screens of researchers, in particular Ken Webster and Debbie Oaks. When “Harden” finally departed, his place was taken by an even more mysterious group of entities, calling themselves the “2109” and claiming to be from that year. For almost a century now, writers on paranormal phenomena have told the story of two English schoolmistresses who believed they traveled back in time and witnessed Marie Antoinette somberly facing her future in the tumultuous days of 1789 that saw the start of the French Revolution.

The visitation took place while Anne Moberly and Eleanor Jourdain were exploring the gardens of the Petit Trianon, at Versailles, in August of 1901; the two were to describe it in 1911 in their bestselling An Adventure (Ernst Meckelburg has reported that Anne Moberly recanted the story on her deathbed, declaring it to be an invention). In An Experiment in Time (1927), J.W. Dunne told of how, systemically dreaming his way weeks and months into the future, he may have witnessed a day in advance of the devastating eruption of Mont Pelée on Martinique in 1902 (Dunne foresaw the number of dead as 4,000; it turned out to be 40,000). In our own times, past-life regressionist and author Dr. Chet Snow has described, in Mass Dreams of the Future (1989), how he and Dr. Emily Wambaugh “future-life progressed” thousands of volunteers ostensibly into the future. Remarkably, those regressees who returned with memories of an encounter with the future described one of only four different futures—a statistically significant figure given that hundreds of volunteers “returned” with such memories. And, in 2000, dentist, hypnotherapist, and author Dr. Bruce Goldberg published the controversial Time-Travelers from the Future: A Fifth Dimension Odyssey (2000), which purports to detail his many encounters, while in a hypnotic trance, with the earth of the future, up to the year 3500, and its many time travelers.

It’s in regard to the cases where actual physical time machines may be involved that there may be another reason why time travel from the future, or elsewhere, may be happening, and we don’t know about it. According to journalist Miguel Jones, translator of Peter Krassa’s Father Ernetti’s Chronovisor: The Creation and Disappearance of the World’s First Time Machine (New Paradigm Books, 2000), its presence might be suppressed by one or another government in the same way as, according to Philip Corso in The Day After Roswell, the U.S. Government suppressed news of the retrieval and back-engineering of UFOs downed in New Mexico in 1947, even while clandestinely introducing alien technology (such as lasers) into our society.

The Flagstaff, AZ-based Jones said that Father Ernetti repeatedly reaffirmed that “anyone building a time machine would have to keep it a complete secret. If word got out, the government, or evil people, would steal or appropriate the machine.” The ability to time travel confers enormous power, remarks Jones. “You could murder someone and change the present in a way that suited you. You could travel into the future and bring back knowledge which would enable you to assume absolute control in the present.”

The journalist/translator noted this was the principal reason Ernetti gave for not divulging details of the Chronovisor: “He was afraid villains would steal it and use it to control the world.” Jones quoted Father Ernetti as saying that for a year-and-a-half he couldn’t leave the monastery of San Giorgio Maggiore unless he was accompanied by two bodyguards, because “the American and Russian intelligence agencies had taken an interest in him and had sent spies to shadow his every move.”

Helena R. Olmo, a Spanish journalist who spent three months in Italy in 2000 researching Father Ernetti for a forthcoming book, says that, according to her sources, both the Vatican Secret Service and the Italian Secret Service detained someone in 1965 who they thought had sold information to the Russians on work being done on the Chronovisor in Venice by Father Ernetti. “The incident was mentioned in the Russian press,” says Olmo, who lives in Madrid.

Has the U.S. Government—perhaps in some future form—suppressed time travelers? “I don’t know,” ponders Ernst Meckelburg, “anything is possible.” Meckelburg has long wondered if the collapse of the Soviet Union and the reunification of Germany “might have been arranged from our very future.”

George Andrews, well-known author of such works as Extra-Terrestrial Friends and Foes (Illuminet Press, 1993), notes that Father Ernetti was at the peak of his activities at about the same time the CIA’s MK-ULTRA project, meant to explore the possibility of time travel and much else, was itself in full swing. Andrews remarks that the research of the well-known, respected—and talkative—Benedictine priest could not have escaped the notice of the CIA—or the KGB or any other major intelligence agency.

Pointing out that it was at this time that the CIA was administering LSD on a large scale to witting and unwitting test subjects, Andrews wonders if Ernetti himself might have been the victim of such a procedure. He wonders in addition if the notorious, rumored Radio Hypnotic Induced Control—Electronic Dissolution of Memory (RHIC-EDOM) technique—might have been used on him to ensure that the priest, his groundbreaking ideas appropriated by the CIA, said no more about them or even remembered anything more about them than the government agency permitted.

The shock of such a violently imposed procedure to Father Ernetti’s belief system, Andrews speculates, may have been such that the Benedictine “resorted to deception, not so much to deceive other people, as to provide a fantasy solution for himself—to preserve his own sanity.” Herein, suggests Andrews, may lie the key to the maddening ambiguity and ambivalence which dogged the Venetian priest’s references to the Chronovisor during the latter part of his life.

Conflicting stories continue to emerge about Ernetti, even regarding the accounts of his death. Father Ernetti’s Chronovisor contains a chapter the editors believe was sent to them by a distant relative of Ernetti in which the priest, while on his deathbed, repudiates to a degree his experience with the Chronovisor. Helena Olmo says she interviewed Ernetti’s 80-year-old sister, who gave a somewhat different account of Ernetti’s last hours. “We had very solid reason to believe that the version we received was absolutely authentic,” muses Jones. “Now, we’re wondering if disinformation was not involved.”

The Vatican steadfastly refuses to either affirm or deny Ernetti’s claims, according to the translator/journalist. “You can explain this by saying they were embarrassed by this ‘nut,’ who wouldn’t stop talking about ridiculous things,” he says. “Or you can believe that Father Ernetti was onto something, and that the Vatican suppressed it. After all, the Chronovisor would have shown whether there were flaws in the Church’s teachings on the life of Christ.”

Jones says a cover-up may well have been a part of the Baird T. Spalding story (also told in detail in Father Ernetti’s Chronovisor). “For sure, a great deal of what Spalding said about himself during his lifetime was absolutely untrue. So was a whole lot of what Doug DeVorss said about Spalding. But DeVorss was in touch with Spalding on a daily basis for years, and often traveled with him. He must have known the truth.

“But despite all these untruths, Baird T. Spalding was incredibly knowledgeable in many areas of esoteric learning. How did he acquire that knowledge? Doug DeVorss was murdered at just about the time people were beginning to ask questions. Now we’ll never know.”


Originally published in Atlantis Rising #26, March/April, 2001.

By John Chambers