Here's a fun "ancient text" that would seem to indicate that the medieval Japanese had a close encounter with a UFO. It comes from a tenth-century folk tale known as the Taketari Monogatari, or the "Tale of the Bamboo Cutter." Here is the key line:
In a short time the sky was entirely obscured, till at last the cloud lay over the dwelling only ten feet off the ground. In the midst of the cloud there stood a flying chariot, and in the chariot a band of luminous beings.
Well, this certainly seems like a standard UFO encounter. Except that assuming it is a true account of UFO poses an impossible problem. If we accept this line as genuine, we must accept that the text containing it is also literally true. This means that we must accept the folktale itself--that a princess of the Moon People came to earth and won the heart of the Japanese emperor before returning to her moon-city filled with many moon men. It also means we must ignore the tale's likely derivation from the Chinese legend of Chang'e, the goddess of the Moon who in myth lost her immortality and descended to earth.
Richard Adams Locke and Lucian notwithstanding, anyone with a telescope can see that there are no current or former moon cities. Well, you may say, maybe the Japanese were wrong about the heavenly body from which the UFO came. OK, fine. But if we get to say (purely on grounds of convenience) that some of the details of the ancient text are wrong, by what right do we claim any of the text to be true? Why is this line literally true but no other?
Unless and until ancient astronaut theorists can propose a coherent set of rules (beyond "it looks like it to me") to explain how and when to accept single lines or incidents from large, mythic texts, this type of evidence is nothing more than an interesting, but meaningless coinc
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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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