Success has many father; ‘failure’ is an orphan. —Old Proverb
In the wake of the success the History Channel’s Ancient Aliens, it should come as no surprise that the original idea—that extra-terrestrials have influenced the development of civilization on Earth—is now attributed to many. According to Dr. Gregory Little—researcher, publisher of the online magazine Alternative Perceptions, and regular contributor to Atlantis Rising—who has studied the matter extensively, the ancient astronaut hypothesis has been attributed to everyone from horror writer H.P. Lovecraft to popular astronomer Carl Sagan, but few contemporary researchers really understand the true origins of the concept.
For today’s followers of UFOlogy, Erich Von Däniken’s 1968 blockbusting best-seller Chariots of the Gods provided an introduction to the subject, and Zecharia Sitchin’s 1976 best seller, The Twelfth Planet, with its extensive account drawn from ancient Sumerian cuneiform texts, filled in the details. Both books led to many sequels which remain massively popular and which inspired the History Channel series. Many documentaries, books from like-minded writers, and virtually religious fervor from true believers has ensued. For mainstream academic scholars, however, the very suggestion that there could have been intervention in human history from other worlds has always been taboo, if not outright anathema.
Clearly threatened by the immense popularity of the theory, orthodoxy seems more than willing to trash its heroes. “Skeptics,” says Little, “will seemingly go to great lengths to demean the Ancient Aliens idea.” The very notion, they will say, was plagiarized from science fiction. Little goes into considerable detail debunking such claims (see “The True Origins of the Ancient Astronaut Idea,” Alternative Perceptions Magazine, September 2014, and its follow-up, “Ancient Astronaut Origin Redux”).
Even if, however, Science Fiction could be shown to have provided inspiration for the idea, that is still—alas for orthodoxy—not the same thing as disproving it. Science fiction, after all, has been right about many amazing things, and some of its fans have even speculated, over the years, that SF writers must have had access to secret and authoritative sources of information. As researcher William B. Stoecker explained in “Foreseeing the Past,” (Atlantis Rising #94, July/August 2012) some writers of the genre do “seem to have had knowledge of our own mysterious past, as well as knowledge of the present, unavailable to most people.” He cites Jonathan Swift’s famous satire Gulliver’s Travels, seen by some as early science fiction, which in 1726 mentioned “the two moons of Mars, over a century before their discovery. Swift said they orbited at three and five diameters of Mars in orbital periods of 10 and 21.5 hours. The actual moons orbit at 1.4 and 3.5 Martian diameters from the red planet, in 7.6 and 30.3 hours. While not exact, this is pretty close for a coincidence.”
Science Fiction and Spiritualism
Seeming connections between science fiction and what might be called ‘ancient astronaut theory’ can be found well into the past, certainly long before Sagan or Lovecraft.
The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells, first published in 1897, described an invasion from Mars; but it was by no means the first book to make us worry about ET intervention. Three years earlier the French astronomer and science fiction writer Camille Flammarion had published Omega: The Last Days of the World, imagining how telepathic communication from other worlds could alter the course of history on Earth. Years later prolific science fiction writer Edgar Rice Burroughs would speculate on telepathic links and out-of-the-body travel between Earth and Mars.
Other vintage science fiction books which made ancient astronauts their central theme, included: In 1897, William Windsor’s Loma, A Citizen of Venus, where Loma comes to Earth specifically to influence a young girl and a physician in order to advance civilization. In Alerial, On a Voyage to Other Worlds (W. S. Lach-Szyrma, 1885) ETs influence the formation of Christianity. Another novel, On Two Planets (published in Germany by Kurd Lasswitz, 1897) tells of a Martian outpost at the North Pole. The advanced Martians take some earthlings back to Mars.
As early as 1871 novelist Edward Bulwer-Lytton, in Vril: the Coming Race envisioned a technologically advanced civilization secretly surviving beneath the surface of the earth in vast spaces connected by long tunnels. Years later, it would become very popular with Nazis. Though the inhabitants of this subterranean world were said to be descendants of a prediluvian surface civilization, their great advancement sharply distinguished them from the ordinary surface humans, whom they ultimately attempted to conquer. The underground world, it was said, was highly telepathic.
Another book published around the turn of the twentieth century was The Dweller on Two Planets which detailed the forgotten yet highly advanced world of Atlantis, before its final destruction about 10,000 BC, and the continuing hidden and subtle relationship between Earth and a higher civilization on Venus, also known as Hesper. For the initiated, Venus is understood to be much more than the seemingly hellish and uninhabitable world observed by conventional astronomy today. Life can be established, it is argued, and can successfully evolve in many dimensions which cannot be detected by garden-variety consciousness on Earth. According to this line of thinking, when modern science examines Venus, it sees only that which corresponds to frequencies to which life on Earth is presently linked. Meanwhile, life existing on bands unfamiliar to observers on Earth cannot be detected. The same, it follows, would hold true with other extraterrestrial worlds. Such notions have gained some academic scientific support in recent years under the heading of multiverse theory.
Written by Frederick S. Oliver, Dweller was finished in 1897 and first published in 1905. It is said to be an account of the life of the ‘true’ author, identified as “Phylos the Thibetan.” The story deals with deep esoteric material including karma and reincarnation. It also describes technology attributed to Atlantis, including flying craft called Vailx. Though such technology may be familiar today, Oliver wrote about it well before the invention of the airplane, and even included illustrations depicting the craft. Just as some in the critical establishment have claimed that Erich Von Däniken’s work was plagiarized, so have some attempted to suggest that the famed sleeping prophet of Virginia Beach, Edgar Cayce, borrowed much of his own story of Atlantis from Oliver’s account.
But while skeptics may have difficulty explaining—without resort to accusations of collusion—how such widely separated accounts could share so many details, a simpler answer might be that the stories are based on a shared experience of dimly recalled, yet subconsciously significant, events, preserved through either race memory or reincarnation. Certainly the Spiritualist movement—very influential in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries—had an impact on all of these writers. Many of them were self-described spiritualists or were followers of the Theosophical movement found-ed in the 1870s by H.B. Blavatsky and Henry Steel Olcott. Madame Blavatsky wrote at length about life on other worlds, and her views were later preserved and perpetuated by other theosophical teachers like Annie Besant, Rudolph Steiner, and Alice Bailey. The tradition continues today in related activities like the I Am movement, led by Guy and Edna Ballard, and the Summit Lighthouse founded by Mark and Elizabeth Clare Prophet. All share a belief that human consciousness is capable of interdimensional navigation and that it is possible, by inner faculties alone, to journey to other worlds and to communicate directly with the inhabitants.
One of the most striking examples of the spiritualist influence in the 1880s, according to Greg Little, was The Oahspe. Even today, investigators continue to sift through claims made in the Oahspe, an immense 900-page volume, published in 1882. John Ballou Newbrough (1828-1891), a New York dentist, reportedly produced the book through “automatic writing.” Touted as a history of the past 24,000 years, it was widely read and was popular in spiritualist circles. Ostensibly the secret history of Earth, it offered details of extraterrestrial powers said to have influenced the development of humanity. The book sometimes calls the extraterrestrials “angels” but makes it clear that they are physical beings performing the work of their leaders (called “gods”). In essence, the Oahspe is another version of ancient astronaut theory.
The Oahspe describes literally legions of flying ships coming to Earth in ancient times from other worlds to teach mankind. Several hundred pages are devoted to descriptions of the craft that travel between planets and star systems—and to their many inhabitants. The book makes it clear that there are “hundreds of millions” of these extraterrestrials.
In his 1984 book The Archetype Experience, Dr. Little wrote, “From the contents of the Oahspe, there can be no doubt, the gods and their legions of angels are flying around the universe… [Their craft] are called fire-ships, star-ships, and dozens of other names. There are many inhabited worlds throughout the universe but the fire-ships are said to be the vehicles of god and angels… The Oahspe reveals that just as we need ships to cross our oceans that the gods and their angels [physical beings] need ships to cross the atmospherean oceans between planets. The ships usually remain invisible because man would fear them if he were able to see them.”
According to Oahspe, “early in man’s development the angels descended from the heavens in their fire-ships to teach man. They first raised man upright and then taught him to dwell together in cities and nations.”
For his money though, Dr. Little believes the individual who deserves the most credit for the ancient astronaut hypothesis is the eighteenth century Swedish polymath Emmanuel Swedenborg. Little’s comments on Swedenborg are also laid out in The Archetype Experience.
World famous in his own time, Swedenborg was a confidant of kings, queens, inventors, physicians, and theologians. He wrote more than 20 books, served in many official capacities, and continued to be well respected even after his ideas about life on other planets were made public. When he first wrote of such life, Swedenborg was head of the Swedish Board of Mines. His first experience with a “nonhuman” personage came, he said, in 1744. In a series of books first published in 1749 he presented the idea that there were other inhabited worlds in the universe and that, indeed, beings from those worlds visited Earth.
Swedenborg’s scientific writings dealt with human physiology, inventions, some of the initial concepts concerning brain neurons, and virtually all known regions of scientific investigation. He was a friend of Immanuel Kant and with other celebrated thinkers. William Blake, Arthur Conan Doyle, Carl Jung, Honore de Balzac, Helen Keller, William Butler Yeats and many others have written that they were deeply influenced by Swedenborg.
While he had introduced, in 1749, his ideas about beings on other planets and their visits to Earth, Swedenborg, in 1758, further astonished readers by devoting an entire book to life on other worlds. Beings from those worlds, he explained, had been in contact with him for over a decade and had physically manifested in front of him. He related that these beings came to him in several places and provided information about the universe. In Earths in the Universe (1758) he wrote that the majority of planets in the universe were inhabited. Gradually he had come to realize that those whom he had seen resided spiritually on other planets, but that they could become physically real if they chose. Swedenborg’s works were immensely popular in his time and have been subject to much ‘interpretation’ ever since. He spoke of beings on Mars, Venus, the moon, Saturn, Mercury, and Jupiter. He also wrote that outside our solar system were many other inhabited planets. Some have taken his reports more as depictions of human “spiritual states” as they would exist on various planets. In some ways, says Little, this is similar to what Edgar Cayce later called “planetary sojourns.”
While a few modern writers want to give the credit for depicting life on other planets and wondering how it might influence Earth to others, the fact is, Little believes, Swedenborg was the first, and most detailed. Moreover, he was the one likely most responsible for the birth of the Spiritualist Movement and its many subsequent variations.
Explaining Earth’s Mysteries
Some have cited the Hindu Vedic scriptures as evidence of extraterrestrial intervention in Earth’s ancient past. Sanskrit scholar Dr. V. Raghaven, of the university of Madras, is among those convinced that the many references to flying machines, ray weapons, advanced chemistry and other science- fiction-like technology, are clear evidence that at least 4000 years ago, India was host to ETs. Dr. Little doesn’t rule out such claims but underscores that such evidence is irrelevant to his claims about the origins of ancient astronaut theory. “It [Vedic India] did have a lot of flying ships and death rays, but claims that their origins were from ‘elsewhere’ aren’t so clear. If there is anything in the ancient literature mentioning that the opposing sides in
the battles came from other worlds, I don’t know about it.”
Accounting for the mysterious advancement of ancient civilization on Earth certainly does not require a belief in extraterrestrial intervention—not the physical kind anyway. In fact the entire controversy serves to highlight a split in human thinking that can also be found in other debates—the materialist versus the mystical.
The materialists believe in the primary reality of all things physical. Their ranks would include, but are not limited to, most mainstream scientists. On the other side is what might be called the ‘metaphysical’, including, but not limited to, mystics and most new-agers. Most ancient astronaut proponents appear, just as with orthodox science, to be motivated by a desire to find a physical explanation for the, otherwise, virtually inexplicable. Giorgio A. Tsoukalos, heir apparent to the Erich Von Däniken Empire, and primary commentator on the History Channel’s Ancient Aliens, recently said, regarding the hypothesis that angels could actually have been physical and not merely spiritual beings, “At last, an explanation that makes sense.”
What makes sense to a materialist, though, is not necessarily the only possible explanation for much that we know to be true, a situation which can be very threatening to mainstream—or what could be termed ‘fundamentalist’—science as well. Recent discoveries in quantum physics, including such ideas as nonlocality and entanglement, make it clear that truth could be more friendly to mysticism, than to materialism. Typical of the new kind of thinking, is ‘biocentrism.’ Its chief proponent, renowned biologist Dr. Robert Lanza, says life after death is real and can be proven. “The universe only exists,” he says, “because we are conscious of it.” In such a world, interplanetary travel might, it seems, be feasible without resort to any of the physical apparatus (i.e., spacecraft) which we now consider essential.
Were the spectacular achievements of our ancient predecessors, the result of ET intervention? And, if aliens helped us, then who helped the aliens? Could there be explanations other than the popular ones? Writer William Stoecker believes we should not rule out the influence of a benign guiding spirit. In “Ancient Astronauts or Guiding Spirit? The Mysterious Origins of Ancient Technology,” (A.R. #89, September/October, 2011) he points out that benevolent spirits may be behind many of our greatest achievements. A case in point is that of German chemist Friedrich August Kekule, who figured out the structure of the benzene ring in 1865 after a kind of waking dream of serpents seizing their own tails.
Could the nature of reality actually be fully comprehensible to us all but simply improperly perceived? In his Parable of the Cave, the Greek philosopher Plato told of prisoners chained in a cave who watch shadows on the opposite wall and mistakenly conclude that the shadows are the source of voices that they can hear. Ultimately the prisoners are freed and discover the fire at the mouth of their cave and learn that it was their jailers who were casting the shadows. At first, the newly enlightened prisoners must struggle to comprehend the unfamiliar world that they can now see, but eventually their eyes and their imagination adjusts and reality becomes clear.
Could pinpointing the source of ancient mysteries depend more on the quickening of our own inner sight than on any conquest of outer space? Someday, perhaps, when we have mastered the challenges of Earth, we will simply open our eyes, and the glowing truth will become clear at last.