With no new Ancient Aliens this week, I'm rather at a loss for what to write about today. On the other hand, it's nice to have a day off. Since it's the weekend, I'm inclined to take a bit of a break. So, let's just look at one brief example of how Afrocentric alternative history sees what it wants to see. Our example will come from R. A. Jairazbhoy, an Afrocentrist who believes that Greek mythology is "really" Egyptian history, which in turn is "really" the history of sub-Saharan West Africans, coincidentally the same people who are the ancestors of most African-Americans.
In Greek mythology King Aeëtes of Colchis was the son of Helios, the sun god, and was thus styled the Son of the Sun. Jairazbhoy claims that this is proof of Black influence.
This would be a surprise to ancient people. The Greeks had not just Aeëtes as the child of the sun but also Phaëthon. Some Mesopotamian kings styled themselves children of Shamash, the sun god, and went by the name “son of the sun," including one of the first kings of Uruk, the city of Gilgamesh. The god Marduk of Babylon also went by the name "son of the sun," as did the planet Mercury (= the god Gud) among the Assyrians.
Now it's true that the Egyptian title dates back to 3500 BCE and thus predates evidence of its use in other cultures; however, it was certainly not "exclusive" to Egypt or its pharaohs in "antiquity."
This is not new information. It has been known since the late nineteenth century.
Afrocentristic theorists and ancient astronaut theorists don't agree on much, but one thing they share is a common belief that ancient texts can be used without any confirming evidence to generate radical revisions of ancient history. In Herodotus (2.102-111) we find an accounted of the mythical Egyptian pharaoh Sesostris, whom the Greek historian claims conquered lands as far north as modern Georgia. Archaeology fails to find any evidence of this, and most historians think the story is a corruption and exaggeration of events from the reigns of Ramesses II, Seti I, and possibly Senusret II. Later, Diodorus Siculus and Strabo magnified this pharaoh still further, making him the conqueror of the entire world. Needless to say, there is no evidence whatsoever of Egyptians in France, or England, or Spain.
Herodotus also says that the Colchians, the people of modern Georgia, are the descendants of Sesostris' army and of a colony founded on the Black Sea. His evidence was primarily the shared rites of circumcision, along with some nebulous claims that the people were "black," which in those days was a conventional way of saying they were located close to the east, where the sun rose and therefore "burned" them. The same word for "black" was also used to describe Greece's own olive-skinned people.
Based on this, Robert Temple, the ancient astronaut theorist, argued in The Sirius Mystery (1976) that Colchis was an actual Egyptian colony and that it was through this colony that the sacred truth that flying space frogs from Sirius had given humanity civilization was passed from Egypt to Greece, and thus from the Greeks to the Dogon of Africa.
At least Temple stopped there.
On Dionysus and Cthulhu
I was reading Jane Ellen Harrison’s Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Religion (1903) when I came across the following passage quoted by Harrison from Gilbert Murray’s A History of Ancient Greek Literature that has a strikingly Lovecraftian feel to it:
Compare this to the “Dunwich Horror”:
Murray was referring primarily to the orgiastic rites of the Mysteries of Dionysus as presented in Euripides’ Bacchae, and it is interesting to look at the faith of Dionysus and see in it a clear anticipation of the wild ecstasies Lovecraft attributed to the Cthulhu cultists—the crazed nocturnal celebrations, the wanton mixture of license and worship, the sharing of a cult secret. Just as only the initiated might know more of Cthulhu than stock phrase “In his house at R’lyeh, dead Cthulhu waits dreaming,” so too were only the initiates of Dionysus privy to the secret of their savior’s death at the hands of the Titans and subsequent resurrection. Yes, both Dionysus and Cthulhu were gods who “died” and rose again, though one must concede that an encounter with Dionysus is typically a bit more pleasant than running into Cthulhu. Significantly, though, both gods were famed for causing "madness" in their followers.
Lovecraft, well-versed in Classical mythology, was well aware of Dionysus, and I am sure that god's Mysteries were one of the models for the Mysteries of the Cthulhu cult.
I admit it: I'm getting tired of aliens. It's hard to come up with new things to say about them every day since ancient astronaut claims are always mind-numbingly monotonous. So, today I thought I'd take a break and do some alternative archaeology instead. Let's take a look at an oldie but a goodie: Graham Hancock's so-called "Draco Correlation."
On Angels and Aliens
Yesterday, the Canadian National Newspaper, an alternative-progressive online publication, posted a Google-baiting “news” story proclaiming that the angels of the Bible are in fact extraterrestrial visitors from space. This brief article, intended to lead readers to donate to the paper, contained a number of false assertions before segueing into a defense of the online publication as a bastion of progressive and alternative values. According to the newspaper, progressives believe in alternative history and an international inter-governmental conspiracy to suppress ancient astronaut information.
(Full disclosure: I was asked to write for the newspaper several years ago, but the stint ended after one article when the editors realized I am not a conspiracy theorist and would not pretend false theories were true.)
On Ancient Astronauts and Atheism
Over the past few days, ancient astronaut theorist and Ancient Aliens star Giorgio Tsoukalos has been tweeting about ancient astronauts and atheism. Tsoukalos wants his readers to know that “there are no gods,” only aliens. For him “God” is merely the “cosmic force” or “the universe” as a whole. This would seem to contradict other ancient astronaut theorists, especially Erich von Däniken, who has always been quick to emphasize that the aliens were false gods, distinct from the true God worshiped by his readers.
Interestingly, Von Däniken emphasized in his 1974 Playboy interview that “I’m definitely sure that Jesus had nothing to do with astronauts,” while Tsoukalos echoed the sentiment: “Where did I EVER say, insinuate or suggest that Jesus was an alien?” The difference, though, is that Tsoukalos apparently disclaims von Däniken's stated belief in a personal God.
But Tsoukalos’ deistic or atheistic views are very different from the views presented in Ancient Aliens S03E14 “Aliens and the Undead.” There David Childress told us that after we die our souls join the aliens on other worlds: “With our death, our passing from this existence, we are going to this other world.” Similarly, Andrew Collins added: “At the point of death, we may find ourselves at the other end of the universe.” The aliens, the ancient astronaut theorists claim, are trans-dimensional beings who can move from dimension to dimension, interacting with human souls at a quantum energy level beyond the human.
At the Pic de Bugarach, a mountain in the Pyrenees of southern France, New Age believers in the 2012 Mayan apocalypse are gathering. They believe that within this oddly-shaped French mountain sits an extraterrestrial spacecraft that will spirit away the more than 100,000 believers expected to gather on the mountain December 21 in anticipation of the end of the world.
According to believers, the mountain is a “chakra” point where earth energy and alien technology combine to protect inhabitants from the upcoming cataclysm. Believers also say that the late French president François Mitterand, the Nazis, and Israel’s security service explored and excavated on the mountain. Local officials, by contrast, fear that the New Age believers plan a mass suicide like the Heaven’s Gate cult, who killed themselves when they thought a UFO arriving behind the 1997 Hale-Bopp comet would take their souls to an alien base on Pluto.
What interests me is the way in southern France the 2012 apocalypse is repeating a widespread bit of European folklore that dates back thousands of years.
More on Lovecraft and Religion
Earlier this week, Anselmo Quemot wrote about Lovecraft, anthropology, and primitivism on his blog, and I responded. Yesterday, Quemot posted a thoughtful response to my post, and today I return the favor with my own reply. I strongly recommend reading the preceding discussion before reading my response posted below.
This has to be a joke, right? Like when South Park had Ancient Aliens and Thanksgiving on their “Very History Channel Thanksgiving” episode?
I guess not. “Aliens and Bigfoot” really is about the possibility that Bigfoot—and other cryptids—are extraterrestrial species that came to earth with ancient astronauts.
Earlier today, ancient astronaut theorist and Ancient Aliens talking head Giorgio Tsoukalos answered a question from a Twitter correspondent about when earth would join a galactic federation resembling the “Star Wars Era,” referencing the movies, not the Reagan-era defense program.
I suppose this is the difference between the ancient astronaut theory and Scientology: Scientologists believe the federation already came and went.
Tsoukalos’ remarks may appear to be so much science-fiction-inspired hot air, but they point to an interesting set of connections at the intersection of pseudoscience and speculative fiction.
Notice that the alien societies beyond earth are described as “Star Wars-esque,” using the George Lucas films as a touchstone for understanding how a multi-system federation would operate (despite the physical impossibility of such a construct—just try running a galactic empire when it takes light years for taxes to reach the capital and imperial decrees to reach the colonies).
It is patently obvious that in imagining the aliens’ civilization, ancient astronaut theorists are explicitly drawing on twentieth century science fiction, further blurring the line between their supposedly scientific theory and the science fiction it grew out of. Tsoukalos is also explicitly adopting the Star Wars/Star Trek idea of, essentially, human civilization projected into the stars. By contrast, H. P. Lovecraft imagined alien civilizations that humans could barely understand. But this is far less emotionally comforting.
When George Lucas created the Star Wars universe, he drew explicitly on ancient myth, the so-called hero’s journey as outlined in Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1949), which itself drew upon the psychoanalytical mysticism of Carl Jung. Jung was deeply interested in the occult (and even wrote a book on UFOs), seeing in the occult manifestations of the unconscious—the same unconscious that Jung’s estranged friend Sigmund Freud had viewed as erupting in science fiction and horror literature in his classic essay on “The Uncanny” (1919). Later science fiction and horror would, in turn, drawn explicitly on Freud, Jung, and Campbell in creating psychologically potent alternative worlds.
The upshot is that speculative fiction and the nonfiction understanding of myth suffered extensive cross-pollination, each informing the other, becoming, in essence, the ouroboros, the serpent that swallows its own tail.
This symbol, of course, was used in the seal of Theosophy, whose own attempts to transform pseudoscience and early science fiction, including the vril of Bulwer-Lytton’s The Coming Race, into mystic fact eventually informed H. P. Lovecraft, whose Cthulhu Mythos accidentally touched off the ancient astronaut theory by preserving nineteenth century extraterrestrial mysticism in an especially potent and widely accessible form.
So, it’s no surprise that ancient astronaut theorists reach for science fiction metaphors to explain their vision of the heavens. That’s all it ever was, science fiction, “always and always, back to no first beginning.”
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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