The Theosophical Roots of the Ancient Astronaut Theory
from The Secret Doctrine
H. P. Blavatsky
HELENA PETROVNA BLAVATSKY (1831-1891) knew a good racket when she saw one and decided that the best way to make money was to start a cult. The result was Theosophy, one of the most influential philosophical systems of the nineteenth century. She worked on her first Theosophical study, Isis Unveiled, while living a stone's throw from where I went to school in Ithaca, New York. Later, she published her magnum opus, The Secret Doctrine, a two-volume summation of history and myth that appropriated occult works like Donnelly's Atlantis and translations of Hindu epics wholesale, folding their ideas (largely uncredited) into her system of alternative spirituality whereby the universe was alive with consciousness just waiting to help humanity across the aeons.
In the second volume of the Secret Doctrine, on the origins of humanity ("Anthropogenesis"), Blavatsky speculated on the possibility of life on other worlds, arguing that the ancients were already aware of spiritually advanced creatures on planets such as Venus, and that these creatures (which she viewed as largely spiritual rather than biological entities, following the medieval Christian idea that angels resided on the crystal spheres associated with each planet in geocentric orbit) had visited the earth and aided the evolution of humanity. In his, Blavatsky generated an early form the Ancient Astronaut Theory, which would blossom into its modern form after European writers rediscovered it through its transmission in the work of later Theosophists like Annie Besant A.E. Powell (who were more explicit about the alien visitors) and the fiction of pulp writers like H. P. Lovecraft. Theosophy's Venusian visitors were even incorporated wholesale into the 1953 UFO hoax Flying Saucers Have Landed by Desmond Leslie and George Adamski.
The following excerpt from The Secret Doctrine is Blavatsky's clearest explanation (which isn't saying much) of extraterrestrial life and its influence on the multiple races that preceded humanity on the ancient earth. It is included in my book, Theosophy on Ancient Astronauts.
From The Secret Doctrine
About the Aryan Root-Race and its origins, Science knows as little as of the men from other planets. With the exception of Flammarion and a few mystics among astronomers, even the habitableness of other planets is mostly denied. Yet such great adept astronomers were the Scientists of the earliest races of the Aryan stock, that they seem to have known far more about the races of Mars and Venus than the modern Anthropologist knows of those of the early stages of the Earth.
Let us leave modern Science aside for a moment and turn to ancient knowledge. As we are assured by Archaic Scientists that all such geological cataclysms -- from the upheaval of oceans, deluges, and shifting of continents, down to the present year's cyclones, hurricanes, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tidal waves, and even the extraordinary weather and seeming shifting of seasons which perplexes all European and American meteorologists -- are due to, and depend on the moon and planets; aye, that even modest and neglected constellations have the greatest influence on the meteorological and cosmical changes, over, and within our earth, let us give one moment's attention to our sidereal despots and rulers of our globe and men. Modern Science denies any such influence; archaic Science affirms it. We may see what both say with regard to this question.
B. On Chains of Planets and Their Plurality
Did the Ancients know of worlds besides their own? What are the data of the Occultists in affirming that every globe is a septenary chain of worlds -- of which only one member is visible --- and that these are, were, or will be, "man-bearing," just as every visible star or planet is? What do they mean by "a moral and physical influence" of the sidereal worlds on our globes?
Such are the questions often put to us, and they have to be considered from every aspect. To the first of the two queries the answer is: -- We believe it because the first law in nature is uniformity in diversity, and the second -- analogy. "As above, so below." That time is gone by for ever, when, although our pious ancestors believed that our earth was in the centre of the universe, the church and her arrogant servants could insist that we should regard as a blasphemy the supposition that any other planet could be inhabited. Adam and Eve, the Serpent, and the Original Sin followed by atonement through blood, have been too long in the way, and thus was universal truth sacrificed to the insane conceit of us little men.
Now what are the proofs thereof? Except inferential evidence and logical reasoning, there are none for the profane. To the Occultists, who believe in the knowledge acquired by countless generations of Seers and Initiates, the data offered in the Secret Books are all-sufficient. The general public needs other proofs, however. There are some Kabalists and even some Eastern Occultists, who, failing to find uniform evidence upon this point in all the mystic works of the nations, hesitate to accept the teaching. Even such "uniform evidence" will be forthcoming presently. Meanwhile, we may approach the subject from its general aspect, and see whether belief in it is so very absurd, as some scientists along with other Nicodemuses would have it. Unconsciously, perhaps, in thinking of a plurality of inhabited "Worlds," we imagine them to be like the globe we inhabit and peopled by beings more or less resembling ourselves. And in so doing we are only following a natural instinct. Indeed, so long as the enquiry is confined to the life-history of this globe we can speculate on this question with some profit, and ask ourselves what were the "Worlds" spoken of in all the ancient scriptures of Humanity, with some hope of at least asking an intelligible question. But how do we know (a) what kind of Beings inhabit the globes in general; and (b) whether those who rule planets superior to our own, do not exercise the same influence on our earth consciously, that we may exercise unconsciously -- say on the small planets (planetoids or asteroids) in the long run, by our cutting the Earth to pieces, opening canals, and thereby entirely changing our climates. Of course, like Caesar's wife, the planetoids cannot be affected by our suspicion. They are too far, etc., etc. Believing in esoteric astronomy, however, we are not so sure of that.
But when, extending our speculations beyond our planetary chain, we try to cross the limits of the solar system, then indeed we act as do presumptuous fools. For -- while accepting the old Hermetic axiom: "As above, so below" -- we may well believe that as Nature on Earth displays the most careful economy, utilizing every vile and waste thing in her marvellous transformations, and withal never repeating herself -- we may justly conclude that there is no other globe in all her infinite systems so closely resembling this earth that the ordinary powers should be able to imagine and reproduce its semblance and containment.
And indeed we find in the romances as in all the so-called scientific fictions and spiritistic revelations from moon, stars, and planets, merely fresh combinations or modifications of the men and things, the passions and forms of life with which we are familiar, when even on the other planets of our own system nature and life are entirely different from ours. Swedenborg was pre-eminent in inculcating such an erroneous belief.
But even more. The ordinary man has no experience of any state of consciousness other than that to which the physical senses link him. Men dream; they sleep the profound sleep which is too deep for dreams to impress the physical brain; and in these states there must still be consciousness. How, then, while these mysteries remain unexplored, can we hope to speculate with profit on the nature of globes which, in the economy of nature, must needs belong to states of consciousness other and quite different from any which man experiences here?
And this is true to the letter. For even great adepts (those initiated of course), trained seers though they are, can claim thorough acquaintance with the nature and appearance of planets and their inhabitants belonging to our solar system only. They know that almost all the planetary worlds are inhabited, but can have access to -- even in spirit -- only those of our system; and they are also aware how difficult it is, even for them, to put themselves into full rapport even with the planes of consciousness within our system, but differing from the states of consciousness possible on this globe; i.e., on the three planes of the chain of spheres beyond our earth. Such knowledge and intercourse are possible to them because they have learned how to penetrate to planes of consciousness which are closed to the perceptions of ordinary men; but were they to communicate their knowledge, the world would be no wiser, because it lacks that experience of other forms of perception which alone could enable them to grasp what was told them.
Still the fact remains that most of the planets, as the stars beyond our system, are inhabited, a fact which has been admitted by the men of science themselves. Laplace and Herschell believed it, though they wisely abstained from imprudent speculation; and the same conclusion has been worked out and supported with an array of scientific considerations by C. Flammarion, the well-known French Astronomer. The arguments he brings forward are strictly scientific, and such as to appeal even to a materialistic mind, which would remain unmoved by such thoughts as those of Sir David Brewster, the famous physicist, who writes: --
Those 'barren spirits' or 'base souls,' as the poet calls them, who might be led to believe that the Earth is the only inhabited body in the universe, would have no difficulty in conceiving the earth also to have been destitute of inhabitants. What is more, if such minds were acquainted with the deductions of geology, they would admit that it was uninhabited for myriads of years; and here we come to the impossible conclusion that during these myriads of years there was not a single intelligent creature in the vast domains of the Universal King, and that before the protozoic formations there existed neither plant nor animal in all the infinity of space. [!]
Flammarion shows, in addition, that all the conditions of life -- even as we know it -- are present on some at least of the planets, and points to the fact that these conditions must be much more favorable on them than they are on our Earth.
Thus scientific reasoning, as well as observed facts, concur with the statements of the seer and the innate voice in man's own heart in declaring that life -- intelligent, conscious life -- must exist on other worlds than ours.
But this is the limit beyond which the ordinary faculties of man cannot carry him. Many are the romances and tales, some purely fanciful, others bristling with scientific knowledge, which have attempted to imagine and describe life on other globes. But one and all, they give but some distorted copy of the drama of life around us. It is either, with Voltaire, the men of our own race under a microscope, or, with de Bergerac, a graceful play of fancy and satire; but we always find that at bottom the new world is but the one we ourselves live in. So strong is this tendency that even great natural, though non-initiated seers, when untrained, fall a victim to it; witness Swedenborg, who goes so far as to dress the inhabitants of Mercury, whom he meets with in the spirit-world, in clothes such as are worn in Europe.
Commenting on this tendency, Flammarion in his work Sur la Pluralité des Mondes habités, says: --
It seems as if in the eyes of those authors who have written on this subject, the Earth were the type of the Universe, and the Man of Earth, the type of the inhabitants of the heavens. It is, on the contrary, much more probable, that, since the nature of other planets is essentially varied, and the surroundings and conditions of existence essentially different, while the forces which preside over the creation of beings and the substances which enter into their mutual constitution are essentially distinct, it would follow that our mode of existence cannot be regarded as in any way applicable to other globes. Those who have written on this subject have allowed themselves to be dominated by terrestrial ideas, and fell therefore into error.
But Flammarion himself falls into the very error which he here condemns, for he tacitly takes the conditions of life on earth as the standard by which to determine the degree to which other planets are adapted for habitation by "other Humanities."
Let us, however, leave these profitless and empty speculations, which, though they seem to fill our hearts with a glow of enthusiasm and to enlarge our mental and spiritual grasp, do but in reality cause a factitious stimulation, and blind us more and more to our ignorance not only of the world we inhabit, but even of the infinitude contained within ourselves.
When, therefore, we find in the Bibles of Humanity "other worlds" spoken of, we may safely conclude that they not only refer to other states of our planetary chain and Earth, but also to other inhabited globes -- stars and planets; withal, that the latter were never speculated upon. The whole of antiquity believed in the Universality of life. But no really initiated seer of any civilized nation has ever taught that life on other stars could be judged by the standard of terrestrial life. That which is generally meant by "earths" and worlds, relates (a) to the "rebirths" of our globe after each manvantara and a long period of "obscuration"; and (b) to the periodical and entire changes of the Earth's surface, when Continents disappear, to make room for Oceans, and Oceans and Seas are violently displaced and sent rolling to the poles, to cede their emplacements to new Continents.
We may begin with the Bible -- the youngest of the World-Scriptures. In Ecclesiastes, chap. i., we read these words of the King-Initiate: -- "One generation passeth away and another generation cometh, but the earth abideth for ever," and again, "The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done, is that which shall be done, and there is no new thing under the sun." Under these words it is not easy to see the reference to the successive cataclysms by which the Races of mankind are swept away, or, going further back, to the various transitions of the globe during the process of its formation. But if we are told that this refers only to our world as we now see it, -- then we shall refer the reader to the New Testament, where St. Paul speaks of the Son (the manifested Power) whom (God) hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds (plural.) This "Power" is Hokhmah or (Chochmah) the Wisdom and the Word. We shall probably be told that by this term "worlds," the stars, heavenly bodies, etc., were meant. But apart from the fact that "stars" were not known as "worlds" to the ignorant editors of the Epistles, if even they must have been known to Paul, who was an Initiate ("a Master-Builder"), we can quote on this point an eminent theologian, Cardinal Wiseman. In Vol. I. of his work treating of the indefinite period of the six days -- or shall we say "too definite" -- period of the six days of creation and the 6,000 years, he confesses that we are in total darkness upon the meaning of that statement of St. Paul, unless we are permitted to suppose that allusion is made in it, i.e., the period which elapsed between the first and second verses of chapter i. of Genesis -- to those primitive revolutions, i.e., the destructions and the re-productions (of the world) indicated in chapter i. of Ecclesiastes; or, to accept, with so many others, and in its literal sense, the passage that speaks of the creation of worlds -- in plural. . . . . It is very singular, he adds, that all the cosmogonies should agree to suggest the same idea, and preserve the tradition of a first series of revolutions, owing to which the world was destroyed and again renewed.
Had the Cardinal studied the Zohar his doubts would have changed to certitude. Thus saith Idra Suta: "There were old worlds which perished as soon as they came into existence; worlds with and without form called Scintillas -- for they were like the sparks under the Smith's hammer, flying in all directions. Some were the primordial worlds which could not continue long, because the 'aged' -- his name be sanctified -- had not as yet assumed his form,  the workman was not yet the 'Heavenly man.'" Again in the Midrash, written long before the Kabala of Simeon Ben Iochai, Rabbi Abahu explains: -- "The Holy One, blessed be his name, has successively formed and destroyed sundry worlds before this one. . . . Now this refers both to the first races [the "Kings of Edom"] and to the worlds destroyed." "Destroyed" means here what we call "obscurations." This becomes evident when one reads further on the explanation given: -- "Still when it is said that they [the worlds] perished, it is only meant thereby that they [their humanities] lacked the true form, till the human [our] form came into being, in which all things are comprised and which contains all forms. . . . -- it does not mean death, but only denotes a sinking down from their status . . ." (that of worlds in activity).
When, therefore, we read of the destruction of the worlds, this word has many meanings, which are very clear in several of the Commentaries on the Zohar and Kabalistic treatises. As said elsewhere, it means not only the destruction of many worlds which have ended their life-career, but also that of the several continents which have disappeared, as also their decline and geographical change of place.
The mysterious "Kings of Edom" are sometimes referred to as the "Worlds" that had been destroyed; but it is a "cloak." The Kings who reigned in Edom before there reigned a King in Israel, or the "Edomite Kings," could never symbolize the "prior worlds," but only the "attempts at men" on this globe: the "pre-Adamite races," of which the Zohar speaks, and which we explain as the First Root-Race. For, as, speaking of the six Earths (the six "limbs" of Microprosopus) it is said that the Seventh (our Earth) came not into the computation when the Six were created (the six spheres above our globe in the terrestrial chain), so the first seven Kings of Edom are left out of calculation in Genesis. By the law of analogy and permutation, in the Chaldean Book of Numbers, as also in the Books of Knowledge and of Wisdom, the "seven primordial worlds" mean also the "seven primordial" races (sub-races of the First Root-Race of the Shadows); and, again, the Kings of Edom are the sons of "Esau the father of the Edomites"; i.e., Esau represents in the Bible the race which stands between the Fourth and the Fifth, the Atlantean and the Aryan. "Two nations are in thy womb," saith the Lord to Rebekah; and Esau was red and hairy. From verse 24 to 34, ch. xxv. of Genesis contains the allegorical history of the birth of the Fifth Race.
"And the Kings of ancient days died and their chiefs (crowns) were found no more," says Siphrah Dzenioutha (3). . . . "The Head of a nation that has not been formed at the beginning in the likeness of the White Head: its people is not from this Form," states the Zohar (iii.). . . . "Before it [the White Head, the Fifth Race or Ancient of the Ancients] arranged itself in its [own, or present] Form . . . all worlds have been destroyed; therefore it is written: And Bela, the Son of Beor, reigned in Edom." Here the "worlds" stand for races. "And he [such or another King of Edom] died, and another reigned in his stead."
No Kabalist who has hitherto treated of the symbolism and allegory hidden under these "Kings of Edom" seems to have perceived more than one aspect of it. They are neither the "worlds that were destroyed," nor the "Kings that died" -- alone; but both, and much more, to treat of which there is no space at present. Therefore, leaving the mystic parables of the Zohar, we will return to the hard facts of materialistic science; first, however, citing a few from the long list of great thinkers who have believed in the plurality of inhabited worlds in general, and in worlds that preceded our own. These are, the great mathematicians Leibnitz and Bernouilli, Isaac Newton himself, as can be read in his Optics; Buffon, the naturalist; Condillac, the sceptic; Bailly, Lavater, Bernardin de St. Pierre, and, as a contrast to the two last named -- suspected at least of mysticism -- Diderot and most of the writers of the Encyclopaedia. Following these come Kant, the founder of modern philosophy; the poet philosophers, Goethe, Krause, Schelling; and many astronomers, from Bode, Fergusson and Herschell to Lalande and Laplace, with their many disciples in more recent years.
A brilliant list of honored names indeed; but the facts of physical astronomy speak even more strongly in favor of the presence of life, even organized life, on other planets. Thus in four meteorites which fell respectively at Alais in France, the Cape of Good Hope, in Hungary, and again in France, there was found, on analysis, graphite, a form of carbon known to be invariably associated with organic life on this earth of ours. And that the presence of this carbon is not due to any action occurring within our atmosphere is shown by the fact that carbon has been found in the very centre of a meteorite; while in one which fell at Argueil, in the south of France, in 1857, there was found water and turf, the latter being always formed by the decomposition of vegetable substances.
And further, examining the astronomical conditions of the other planets, it is easy to show that several are far better adapted for the development of life and intelligence -- even under the conditions with which men are acquainted -- than is our earth. For instance, on the planet Jupiter the seasons, instead of varying between wide limits as do ours, change by almost imperceptible degrees, and last twelve times as long as ours. Owing to the inclination of its axis the seasons on Jupiter are due almost entirely to the eccentricity of its orbit, and hence change slowly and regularly. We shall be told, that no life is possible on Jupiter, as it is in an incandescent state. But not all astronomers agree with this. For instance what we say, is said by M. Flammarion: and he ought to know.
On the other hand Venus would be less adapted for human life such as exists on earth, since its seasons are more extreme and its changes of temperature more sudden; though it is curious that the duration of the day is nearly the same on the four inner planets, Mercury, Venus, the Earth and Mars.
On Mercury, the Sun's heat and light are seven times what they are on the Earth, and astronomy teaches that it is enveloped in a very dense atmosphere. And as we see that life appears more active on earth in proportion to the light and heat of the sun, it would seem more than probable that its intensity is far, far greater on Mercury than here.
Venus, like Mercury, has a very dense atmosphere, as also has Mars and the snows which cover their poles, the clouds which hide their surface, the geographical configuration of their seas and continents, the variations of seasons and climates, are all closely analogous -- at least to the eye of the physical astronomer. But such facts and the considerations to which they give rise, have reference only to the possibility of the existence on these planets of human life as known on earth. That some forms of life such as we know are possible on these planets, has been long since abundantly demonstrated, and it seems perfectly useless to go into detailed questions of the physiology, etc., etc., of these hypothetical inhabitants, since after all the reader can arrive only at an imaginary extension of his familiar surroundings. It is better to rest content with the three conclusions which M. C. Flammarion, whom we have so largely quoted, formulates as rigorous and exact deductions from the known facts and laws of science.
I. The various forces which were active in the beginning of evolution gave birth to a great variety of beings on the several worlds; both in the organic and inorganic kingdoms.
II. The animated beings were constituted from the first according to forms and organisms in correlation with the physiological state of each inhabited globe.
III. The humanities of other worlds differ from us, as much in their inner organization as in their external physical type.
Finally the reader who may be disposed to question the validity of these conclusions as being opposed to the Bible, may be referred to an Appendix in M. Flammarion's work dealing in detail with this question; since in a work like the present it seems unnecessary to point out the logical absurdity of those churchmen, who deny the plurality of worlds on such grounds.
In this connection we may well recall those days when the burning zeal of the Primitive Church opposed the doctrine of the earth's rotundity, on the ground that the nations at the Antipodes would be outside the pale of salvation; and again how long it took for a nascent science to break down the idea of a solid firmament, in whose grooves the stars moved for the special edification of terrestrial humanity.
The theory of the earth's rotation was met by a like opposition -- even to the martyrdom of its discoverers -- because, besides depriving our orb of its dignified central position in space, this theory produced an appalling confusion of ideas as to the Ascension -- the terms "up" and "down" being proved to be merely relative, thus complicating not a little the question of the precise locality of heaven.
According to the best modern calculations, there are no less than 500,000,000 of stars of various magnitudes, within the range of the best telescopes. As to the distances between them, they are incalculable. Is, then, our microscopical Earth -- a "grain of sand on an infinite sea-shore" -- the only centre of intelligent life? Our own Sun, itself 1,300 times larger than our planet, sinks into insignificance beside that giant Sun -- Sirius, -- and the latter in its turn is dwarfed by other luminaries in infinite Space. The self-centered conception of Jehovah as the special guardian of a small and obscure semi-nomadic tribe, is tolerable beside that which confines sentient existence to our microscopical globe. The primary reasons were without doubt: (1) Astronomical ignorance on the part of the early Christians, coupled with an exaggerated appreciation of man's own importance -- a crude form of selfishness; and (2) the dread that, if the hypothesis of millions of other inhabited globes was accepted, the crushing rejoinder would ensue -- "Was there then a Revelation to each world?" involving the idea of the Son of God eternally "going the rounds" as it were. Happily it is now unnecessary to waste time and energy in proving the possibility of the existence of such worlds. All intelligent persons admit it. That which now remains to be demonstrated is, that if it is once proven that there are inhabited worlds besides our own with humanities entirely different from each other as from our own -- as maintained in the Occult Sciences -- then the evolution of the preceding races is half proved. For where is that physicist or geologist who is prepared to maintain that the Earth has not changed scores of times, in the millions of years which have elapsed in the course of its existence; and changing its "skin," as it is called in Occultism, that the Earth has not had each time her special humanities adapted to such atmospheric and climatic conditions as were entailed. And if so, why should not our preceding four and entirely different mankinds have existed and thrived before our Adamic (Fifth Root) Race?
 We are taught that the highest Dhyan Chohans, or Planetary Spirits (beyond the cognizance of the law of analogy), are in ignorance of what lies beyond the visible planetary systems, since their essence cannot assimilate itself to that of worlds beyond our solar system. When they reach a higher stage of evolution these other universes will be open to them; meanwhile they have complete knowledge of all the worlds within and beneath the limits of our solar system.
 Since no single atom in the entire Kosmos is without life and consciousness, how much more then its mighty globes? -- though they remain sealed books to us men who can hardly enter even into the consciousness of the forms of life nearest us?
We do not know ourselves, then how can we, if we have never been trained to it and initiated, fancy that we can penetrate the consciousness of the smallest of the animals around us?
 Pluralité des Mondes, p. 439.
 In Hebrews i.
 This relates to the Logos of every Cosmogony. The unknown Light -- with which he is said to be co-eternal and coeval -- is reflected in the "First-Born," thee Protogonos; and the Demiurgos or the Universal Mind directs his Divine Thought into the Chaos that under the fashioning of minor gods will be divided into the seven oceans -- Sapta samudras. It is Purusha, Ahura Mazda, Osiris, etc., and finally the gnostic Christos, who is in the Kabala, Hokhmah or Wisdom the "Word."
 Page 309.
 Hebrews i. 1
 In the Zohar, iii., 292, c.
 The form of Tikkun or the Protogonos, the "first-born," i.e., the universal form and idea, had not yet been mirrored in Chaos.
 The "Heavenly man" is Adam Kadmon -- the synthesis of the Sephiroth, as "Manu Swayambhuva" is the synthesis of the Prajapatis.
 Bereshith Rabba, Parsha IX.
 This refers to the three Rounds that preceded our fourth Round.
 This sentence contains a dual sense and a profound mystery in the occult sciences the secret of which if, and when, known -- confers tremendous powers on the Adept to change his visible form.
 Idra Suta, Zohar, iii. 136, c. "A sinking down from their status" -- is plain; from active worlds they have fallen into a temporary obscuration -- they rest, and hence are entirely changed.
 Genesis, xxxvi. 43
 Genesis, xxxvi.
 Ibid. 31 et seq.
 In that learned and witty work, God and his Book, by the redoubtable "Saladin" of Agnostic repute, the amusing calculation that, if Christ had ascended with the rapidity of a cannon ball, he would not have reached even Sirius yet, reminds one vividly of the past. It raises, perhaps, a not ill-founded suspicion that even our age of scientific enlightenment may be as grossly absurd in its materialistic negations, as the men of the middle ages were absurd and materialistic in their religious affirmations.
Source: H. P. Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine: The Synthesis of Science, Religion, and Philosophy, Vol. 2: Anthropogensis (New York: Quarterly Book Department, 1888), 699-709.