For those of you who are interested in the Fawcett Mystery, which I discussed on Wednesday, I’ve posted a translation of the mysterious Manuscript 512 that I drafted yesterday. Composed in 1754, the text purports to relate the discovery of a massive stone city in the east of Brazil, complete with an arch like that of Constantine, a pointing statue like the Augustus of Prima Porta (though obviously not inspired by it, having been discovered only in 1863) and other heroic images, and massive houses akin to Nero’s Domus Aurea. I faulted author David Grann for omitting much of the detail from the text in describing it in his Lost City of Z (2009), but only after translating the whole text did I realize just how ridiculous the manuscript really is.
If you’re interested, Harold Wilkins, a UFO and lost white race theorist, published an English translation of the manuscript in his Mysteries of Ancient South America (1945), but he wasn’t completely familiar with eighteenth century regional Portuguese dialects, so he missed a few details. For example, he translated the word fumines as “smokes” and entered a note expressing confusion over why an abandoned city would have smoke as a “sign” of its civilization. The word, I learned, is a dialect variant of chimines, influenced by fumar (“smoke”), and actually means “chimneys.” The author almost certainly had a European city in mind, much as when Shakespeare mistakenly described ancient Rome as having “chimney-tops” in Julius Caesar. As I learned in the comments below, Mrs. Richard Burton translated the text, unbeknownst to Wilkins (who claimed to be the first), in 1865 and her husband published it in 1869.
Anyway, let’s move on to something else. One thing I’ve noted multiple times is how the modern ancient astronaut theory tends to exempt Jesus from being a space alien, unlike all the other gods and heroes of religion and myth. Arthur C. Clarke mentioned the idea in Rendezvous with Rama (1972), where a cult worships Christ as a cosmonaut. But the Catholic Erich von Däniken, for example, told Playboy magazine “I am asked questions by people who say Jesus was an astronaut. That makes me laugh. I’m definitely sure Jesus had nothing to do with astronauts, and I want to say so once and for all.” His version of ancient astronautics, which, as his book Miracles of the Gods showed, made room for Jesus and faith, influenced Ancient Aliens and the semi-spiritual incarnation of the ancient astronaut theory.
But this isn’t the only version. As early as the 1950s, the FBI began tracking UFO preachers who claimed that religious figures were really space aliens. For example, George Van Tassel of the Ministry of Universal Wisdom, claimed Yahweh was from Venus, as was Mary. According to a 1960 FBI report,
He said that JESUS was born of MARY, who was a space person sent here already pregnant in order to show the earth people the proper way to live. He said the space people have watched over us through the years and have tried to help us. He said they have sent their agents to the earth and they appear just as we do; however, they have the power to know your thoughts just as JESUS did. He said this is their means of communication and many of the space people are mute, but they train a certain number of them to speak earth languages.
Now that’s all well and good, but it doesn’t really hit the level of crazy we expect from a really good ancient astronaut theory. That’s why I was so pleased that archaeologist Ken Feder sent me some pages from the May 1977 edition of Official UFO magazine’s Ancient Astronauts special edition, of which I had never heard. I had no idea that there was an ancient astronaut magazine! The cover story that month featured a drawing of Jesus in a NASA space suit and…. well, you’ll be amazed at what the magazine concluded.
Unfortunately, I don’t know who wrote the article on Jesus—I’ve asked Feder if he has the article’s cover page and will update this if I get the name—but there are claims in there that are too good not to share. It starts off soberly enough (by ancient astronaut standards) by mining the New Testament for evidence that Jesus was an astronaut. Matthew 28:2-3 the author explains as a human in a white spacesuit descending from a spaceship using a rocket pack: “And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow.” The angel-astronaut seemed bright because, the author says, he had a search light attached to his helmet. The Resurrection, the author says, was performed on Jesus by astronauts to impress the Hebrews.
OK, so far this is just standard ancient astronaut nonsense, albeit applied to Jesus rather than, say, Gilgamesh. But it gets better! In order to set up the climax, I need to introduce two pieces of evidence for consideration. First, former NASA employee Josef F. Blumrich identified the conveyance of God in the Book of Ezekiel as a spacecraft in his 1974 book The Spaceships of Ezekiel, and the resulting design from his “reconstruction” of the spacecraft bore a passing resemblance to the basic design of the Apollo-era Lunar Excursion Modules, known as LEMs.
Secondly, in 1968, the Rod Serling-penned Planet of the Apes move proposed that American astronauts, through the magic of physics, could travel through time and end up mixed up in archaeological mysteries, albeit those of the future.
With that in mind, let’s proceed to Ancient Astronauts magazine’s conclusions about Jesus:
From evidence in the Old Testament we are aware that astronauts came here from a future earth and disguised themselves and their spaceships as a deity. So the Kingdom of God is the kingdom of the spacemen. Since the astronauts’ space vehicle resembles the American LEM and was identified by a NASA engineer, the reader should have no trouble deducing what the Kingdom of God is. It is THE UNITED STATES OF AMERCIA!! Yes! American spaceships landed on earth 4000 years ago!
And there you have it! Jesus was American, and America is God’s own Kingdom! It’s almost the perfect synthesis of American fringe history’s obsessions all at the same time. It explains UFOs, glorifies America, and grants a supposedly scientific reason to continue venerating Jesus. It is an Apollo-era cousin to the claim that secret Templar land claims mark America as godly country, and a space age update to the Book of Mormon placing Jesus in America to give divine sanction to Euro-American possession of the land.
I can’t imagine why this claim didn’t take off in the fringe literature. In fact, I can’t see that anyone ever referred to this article again. A missed opportunity indeed!
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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