Here’s what Ancient Aliens has been teaching us over the past five seasons:
Now, I don’t know about you, but it sounds to me like these “aliens” are not “flesh and blood extraterrestrials” but rather pagan gods. They have no characteristics that distinguish them from the pagan gods, not even their UFOs, which are nothing more that the chariots that convey Thor and Helios and their ilk. Specifically, the vision of the aliens put forward by the ancient astronaut “theorists” is exactly that of Helena Blavatsky and Theosophy, where the aliens are spirit beings who bestow knowledge and boons on humanity and can speak through psychic communication.
It is the spirit of Blavatsky that hangs over Ancient Aliens S05E07 “Prophets and Prophecies,” and I would like to seriously propose that the “ancient astronaut theory” as presented on Ancient Aliens has become a revised Theosophy, a neo-pagan religion—a type of polytheism where every religion is right because all gods are real.
This gradual transition from pseudoscience to out-and-out religion seems to be reflected even in the titles given to the show’s episodes. Have you noticed that Ancient Aliens has largely dropped the title formula it’s used for five years? Most episodes were titled “Aliens and [insert subject],” but the “Aliens…” part has faded away. Tonight’s episode is part of that new formula, simply called “Prophets and Prophecies.” I’m not sure whether this is a concession to the tiresomely repetitive nature of the show, or just an attempt to hide the fact that season five has been recycling material quite heavily from earlier seasons. This episode’s final quarter is recycled nearly verbatim from S05E05, about Einstein.
Tonight’s title card is different from the past few as well; it’s green and features what seem to be Mesopotamian carvings.
At any rate, I have an epistemological problem with this episode, one derived from its confusion between science and religion. The conceit seems to be that some humans have knowledge of the future, which implies a deterministic cosmos at odds with the spiritual fantasy the program has been putting forward recently. I don’t really see how we can have a spiritual dimension operating alongside our own but also a material cosmos that would be necessary for predicting the future. For aliens to be able to predict the future scientifically, they would need perfect knowledge of every subatomic particle in the universe, in a universe that operates on strict laws of causation. But if the aliens come from another dimension, how would this irruption of influence from other realms impact the material cosmos? It also doesn’t help that the show uses “prophet” in two different ways without distinguishing between them: as anyone who delivers a message on behalf of the gods, and someone possessed by a deity and controlled by that god.
We begin by discussing Moses and other prophets of Judeo-Christian society, but I’m not sure that either Jews or Christians would agree with the assertion that Jesus was a prophet of God. (Muslims believe this, however.) Some experts on religion explain what prophets were in Jewish society, and then their insights are tossed overboard so Philip Coppens can tell us that “entities,” his famous “non-human intelligence,” are behind prophecies. It’s clear that he imagines these beings as trans-dimensional, godlike creatures, indistinguishable in any practical way from pagan gods. David Childress agrees that the aliens warned ancient people of natural disasters by pretending to be gods. If true, of course, Ancient Aliens is telling its viewers, most of whom come from Judeo-Christian backgrounds, that they are worshipping aliens. I’m sure Muslims (who consider Moses a prophet of Allah) are happy to hear that their religion is a false cult of alien-worship.
Giorgio Tsoukalos says he is “fascinated” by the Burning Bush because it speaks to Moses, suggesting that it is a communication device. From this, we hear of Exodus 13:21-22, in which the pillar of cloud and fire accompanied the Israelites, which Tsoukalos tells us is a type of spacecraft. I’m not sure I understand how clouds are the same as a ship, though they make a good effort at trying to tell us that we should focus on the “pillar” rather than the “cloud” to get the UFO shape out of the description. However, the show’s talking heads are reduced to suggesting that the ship was “shiny” and “brightly lit” to explain why it would have a “halo” (reflected sunlight) around it to make it look like a cloud during the day.
So, Moses goes up Mount Sinai to speak with God, who is of course an alien, returning with the Ten Commandments. Nick Redfern tells us that this is exactly like the “contactee experience” of today, pretending that modern UFO abduction experiences are both real and independent of the cultural framework of our society. The moral messages brought back by “abductees” over the past fifty years are general-issue social-liberal bromides about New Age niceness. It derives from the Judeo-Christian teachings that Redfern wants us to see as inspired by a larger level of alien influence, rather than a straightforward influence of Christianity on the beliefs of the abducted. Of course there has never been any conclusive evidence that anyone has ever been abducted.
Next up we have Elijah, the prophet who was translated to heaven in a whirlwind, in the fiery chariot of God. Most of us would see this as a story, probably analogous to the fiery chariot of the sun in Near Eastern and Indo-European myths (a widespread symbol of the sun and thus of heaven), but Ancient Aliens wants us to read this a “spinning beam” (a tractor beam) from a UFO. Tsoukalos says that the fiery chariot is an interpolation and the original story mentioned only a fiery furnace, which Nick Redfern calls a jet engine. I’m not sure what he’s talking about since there is no older version of the Elijah story than that given in Kings, and the “fiery furnace” is not part of the Elijah story but rather is found in Daniel 3:14-29.
Instead, Tsoukalos seems to be misunderstanding scholarly debate about the Hebrew text of 2 Kings 2:11 versus the popular understanding of it. This is a bit confusing, but the simple version is this: In the Hebrew text (and the English translations), Elijah and Elisha are separated by “a chariot of fire, and horses of fire” and then the whirlwind takes Elijah up to heaven. These are distinct events; further, the Hebrew does not specify that the chariot and horses were connected. Scholars also debated whether the Hebrew specifies that Elijah entered heaven or merely was carried off in the direction of heaven by the whirlwind, as well as whether the Hebrew word for “carried off” connotes travel or the extinguishing of life. Later writers conflated the horses, the chariots, and the whirlwind and depicted Elijah as riding a chariot to heaven. Thus, Tsoukalos seems to be badly paraphrasing material contained in the John Peter Lange’s Commentary on the Holy Scriptures (1873) and similar early critical texts.
After this, we recount the story of Joseph Smith, the Mormon founder who supposedly discovered golden tablets on the advice of the angel Moroni, who the ancient astronaut pundits feel is an alien. We here a blunt assertion that Moroni was an extraterrestrial, but let’s be frank: Joseph Smith made up Mormonism, fabricated the Book of Mormon, and never met an alien. In fact, Smith couldn’t even decide how many aliens he met, what they looked like, or what their names were. Sometimes it is one angel, sometimes two; the angel’s name changes more than once in various texts, and sometimes the angel(s) aren’t named at all. Smith’s accounts are so muddled and conflicted that it becomes obvious they are not real events but either intentional fabrications or fantasies.
Following Mormonism, we turn to Buddhism to no great effect, and Jason Martell tells us that there are other dimensions where the aliens live. (They’re no longer space beings, as noted.) But this is what bothers me: How could you predict the future in a cosmos where cause and effect cannot be mechanistically determined due to the random influx of other dimensions that (according to ancient astronaut theorists) operate under other physical laws? To predict the future well, one must deduce effects from causes, requiring a near-perfect knowledge of every subatomic particle in the universe, and this in turn requires a cosmos operating without “supernatural” forces. The only other option is to accept a universe filled with magic, but this would mean that the trans-dimensional beings aren’t distinguishable in any real sense from the gods they are meant to replace: which means that the ancient astronaut theory collapses in on itself, and the old stories become literally true as reports of actual gods! Polytheism!
This epistemological conundrum makes my head hurt, and I wonder why it occurs to no one that many of these stories are (a) fiction, (b) unoriginal, and (c) dependent upon or related to other stories that are also claimed as independent verification of ancient astronauts.
As we pass the halfway point, we travel to Persepolis, the ancient capital of Persia, to review (again!!!) the picture of Ahura Mazda in a winged disc, supposedly a picture of a UFO. I’ve written of this before and have no interest in rehashing it. We hear that Zoroaster (called Zarathustra here) met Ahura Mazda atop a cloud-covered mountain; supposedly this another alien encounter, but it’s actually not a piece of mythology but rather literature, the framing device of the Zend-Avesta, one of the sacred texts of Zoroastrianism, but one composed of texts written over many centuries. In the book, Zoroaster is sitting on a mountain praying to Ahura Mazda when the god speaks to him. The book is clearly meant as a lesson plan to give divine sanction to Zoroaster’s teaching, and there is no serious effort to paint the framing story as history. So far as I can tell, there is no indication that the mountaintop of Ushidarena was covered in cloud for the entirety of the thirty years (!) Zoroaster spent atop it communing with Ahura Mazda.
After this, we get the Oracle of Delphi, who channeled Apollo. The pundits seem confused about the Oracle and how to make it into an alien since the Pythia wasn’t specifically an alien, nor did she claim to meet one in person. We get some mainstream opinions about oracles as part of Greek culture, and the show makes a noble effort to try to attribute accuracy to the Oracle’s prophecies, none of which was ever recorded prior to the event it described. (Like every oracle, its predictions were ambiguous and could be interpreted to agree with any outcome.) David Childress tells us that Apollo was an extraterrestrial (which was the plot of a Star Trek episode), and Tsoukalos tells us that humans are Apollo’s “pet project.” But no one explains how aliens got into the Pythia’s head when she was prophesying to control her body. We simply pretend this further epistemological problem doesn’t exist. She was simply “in contact” with Apollo—in her head!—through some unknown, maybe magical, means. And that makes Apollo not a god how? I think this is still more evidence that ancient alien pundits are pagan polytheists.
Do I really need to discuss Nostradamus, and the show next does? Philip Coppens says Nostradamus could “access information not available” to his contemporaries, but the show goes overboard to present Nostradamus as an accurate prophet of the future with “uncanny” knowledge, despite the fact that his “prophecies” are ambiguous quatrains written in a mixture of languages that can be well-explained as references to medieval and contemporary events familiar to Nostradamus. At any rate, the alleged prophecies can only be “understood” in retrospect.
Some science-like mumbo jumbo related to string theory is used to explain how Nostradamus could channel information from the invisible dimensions, but we go back to the Akashic Record again, which I’ve explained in great detail simply does not exist. It is an imaginary construction of Theosophy, and calling it the “zero point field” doesn’t make it any more real. No one, however, seems troubled by the idea that if these prophecies are true and there is a cosmic “well of knowledge” telling all that will be that this means that free will is an illusion, that the cosmos moves inexorably from cause to effect… Nor does anyone pause to think how the aliens are able to reason from cause to effect to accurately forecast the future thousands of years ahead of time. We can’t even predict tomorrow’s weather. Apparently the aliens are just magic… but if they’re magic, then they are contravening the mechanistic universe required to make the prediction!
Oh, fuck this. Nobody cares. In its last quarter, the show simply moves ahead to summarize the Albert Einstein material they already did an hour about two episodes back, including the claim that his mind was receiving ideas from aliens, specifically “in [his] bedroom.” Did they think we wouldn’t notice? How stupid do they think their viewers are? If they care so little that they’re just assembling episodes out of spare parts, why shouldn’t I simply recycle my reviews? Maybe this is the aliens’ secret prophetic goal: To get me to stop reviewing the show by boring me to death.
The fact that Einstein supposedly enjoyed Blavatsky’s 1877 Isis Unveiled is meant to tell us that Einstein was a mystic who “received” the theory of relativity from psychic connections to Theosophy’s ascended masters (the aliens). He is alleged to have kept copy on his desk, but this detail appears in no biography of Einstein, no photographs of his desk, and is almost certainly apocryphal—reverse engineered from Theosophy’s own documented obsession with Einstein’s relativity as proof of their slipshod cosmos.
Congratulations, Blavastsky. You win. I give up. You made up all this crap about aliens, and now Ancient Aliens really thinks you were the prophet you always claimed to be. But I still get one point on you: Ancient Aliens’ producers are so stupid or illiterate they don’t even realize you wrote about ancient aliens (I’m sure they can’t get through your doorstop-sized books), so they haven’t managed to do an hour on you. Yet.
We conclude by summarizing parts of the Einstein episode where Steve Jobs and other inventors are called prophets and thus alien contactees, and we return to the idea that humans are stupid, ignorant buffoons before the alien overlords. In fact, Childress says “we’re like their children,” and proves finally that ancient astronaut writers actually are looking for a powerful sky daddy, the same as creationists, but with a scientific gloss. This is just religious fundamentalism under another name, a neo-pagan revised Theosophy too cynical or stupid to recognize its roots.
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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