So that happened. I think my TV just told me to fall down and worship Satan. So, um, hail Satan?
Just two weeks after Ancient Aliens devoted an hour to telling us that the rebel angels who fell from heaven during Satan’s insurrection were evil aliens who corrupted the human genome and nefariously plot to control the world, this episode tells us that their traditional leader, Satan, is a pretty cool dude who just wants us to be happy and really cares about us. That’s right, Ancient Aliens has done a full Aleister Crowley and is embracing Satan as humanity’s true hero!
Seriously: Ancient astronaut theorists are now Satanists. Apparently they read Matthew 4:8-9 in which the devil shows Jesus all the kingdoms of the world and says “All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me” and thought “Good deal!”
Now, I don’t really care one way or the other since the character of Satan is an artificial construct composed from a range of ancient parts, but for a show—and a “theory”—that has been extremely careful to exempt Jesus from alien parentage, it seems odd to suddenly alienate a chunk of the audience by embracing Satan. Oh, well, William Henry wants you to know that Lucifer is love.
Ancient Aliens S06E05 “The Satan Conspiracy” opens with a brief discussion of the character of Satan and traditional Christian views of demonic possession and exorcism, with some footage of the expelling of invisible demons at what appears to be a deliverance ministry conducted by Bob Larson. Then the assembled pundits tell us that Satan was originally the angel Lucifer, the most beautiful of God’s creations, that he rebelled in his pride, and that he was expelled from heaven. This story is an old one, but almost certainly one that was assembled from various spare parts.
One of those parts was the Hebrew figure of Satan, the adversary, who in the Hebrew Bible is God’s agent, satan, and is sometimes a supernatural figure (as in Job and Numbers 22) and other times a general term for any human God uses to block the actions of another (as in 1 Kings 5:4). In Job and Numbers, this figure is an angel. In Zecharia 3:1-2, the Satan (“the Accuser”) stands at the right hand of the presiding angel in the presence of God and the heavenly host.
Another part was the serpent in the Garden of Eden, who tempts Eve into sin. The Hebrew Bible does not identify the serpent as Satan; that occurs only much later, taking shape in last few centuries BCE and taking canonical form in Revelation (20:2), in the New Testament, whose authors were all familiar with the newish fallen angels story.
A third part was the material in Isaiah (14:12-15) about the Morning Star falling from heaven, referring poetically in context to a Babylonian king, but applied as early as the New Testament authors to the emerging idea of Satan. Isaiah’s imagery is in turn likely derived from a Canaanite myth of a lesser god or hero who attempts to overthrow El, the supreme god, and is hurled back to earth, something on the order of the Greek Bellerophon attempting to conquer Olympus.
After this, some pagan elements fold in, notably Greek conceptions of Hades and Pan.
This composite figure, the devil, emerges largely thanks to Jewish apocalyptic literature. Satan does not appear in the apocalypse of Daniel nor is he a main character in the fall of the Watchers in the Book of Enoch (canonical only in Ethiopia), yet because Satan was among the heavenly host—one of the benay Elohim, the sons of God—he could therefore be interpolated into the apocalyptic narratives once the sons of God from Genesis 6:4 were firmly declared fallen angels around the time of the composition of the Book of Enoch. From Enoch’s chief naughty angels Samyaza and Azazel, our Satan gains his rebellious character and his punishment to be bound beneath the earth until the Last Judgment. The last chapters of Enoch, probably composed long after the first section on the Watchers, significantly replace Azazel with Satan, reflecting the transition and fixing it in time, around 100 BCE.
I could go on to chronicle the further development of Satan and the fallen angels in Jubilees and among the New Testament writers (2 Peter 2:4, Jude 1:6, etc.), but, really, what’s the point? Ancient Aliens wants us to believe that ancient texts are firsthand reports of events; so, does that mean that Satan flew down in his spaceship in 100 BCE, or that somehow no one thought to mention it for a few thousand years? And if you, as an ancient astronaut theorist, refuse to recognize the literary development of the Satan figure, how can you make a logical case of any kind for knowing the true character of Satan? Instead, they go down the garden path trod by Kirk Cameron where he attempted to divine the mind of God from the “perfect” shape of the banana, unaware of human cultivation of the plant.
I find it interesting that two weeks ago, in covering the Anunnaki, we were instructed that ancient texts had to be taken absolutely literally, particularly the Book of Enoch, yet here we are told we must take the Biblical texts symbolically and interpret the serpent as Satan and Satan as the victim of anti-satanic propaganda.
Some biblical explication occurs next, speculating on the character of Eve and whether she wanted to “mature” from God-imposed infantilism. William Henry tells us that Satan is our benefactor, a Promethean figure giving us much-needed wisdom. Frankly, though, with all the discussion of God and God’s judgment, and all the commentary from priests and ministers and professors of Judaic studies, this segment—and indeed the whole show—would not be out of place on a religious channel. This only reinforces my refrain that ancient astronaut ideas are meant to substitute for or supplement traditional religion in the context of modern science.
We next discuss Satan in the Book of Job, and William Henry mistakenly identifies the “divine bureaucracy” of God’s heavenly court as “advanced humans” rather than angels, which of course contradicts the literal reading of the Genesis creation narrative, the whole Hebrew Bible, and Enoch.
A quarter of the way through, no sign of the ancient astronaut big guns: no Giorgio Tsoukalos, no David Childress. They only start to show up in brief cameos, and they take a back seat to priests and ministers and religious thinkers mainstream and extreme.
We move on to recapping the same material from the Book of Enoch about the Watchers that we last went over two weeks ago, though the pundits seem to confuse the material in Enoch with that of Jubilees, for it is in the latter rather than the former that the Watchers originally came down for noble purposes before falling prey to feminine wiles; in the former, they were always horny for human women. The show asserts that Samyaza is Satan, and it attempts to claim the name Samyaza (“shem,” fame, and “azaz,” rebellion) is also given as Shaytan-i-el or something like that. (I couldn’t quite make out what they said.) Giorgio Tsoukalos, in his first appearance, suggests that there are many versions of the Book of Enoch, and I can’t tell whether he is referring to the various manuscript traditions of the book we know as 1 Enoch, or whether he is referring to 2 Enoch and the unrelated 3 Enoch, which are much less developed in discussion of the Watchers. Tsoukalos claims that Watchers are aliens because they came from the sky.
Now we visit Mt. Hermon, where Enoch placed the descent of the Watchers and their unbreakable oath to rebel against God. He did so not because Satan actually fell onto the mountain but because it was long the cult site of Baal, where his palace was thought to stand, and a holy place by which Canaanites swore unbreakable oaths. Thus was it appropriate to put demons atop Baal’s palace and have them swear a mockery of pagan holy oaths.
Scott Roberts asserts that the angels provided “forbidden” knowledge and that “cross-culturally” many groups claimed that such knowledge was forbidden by god(s) and that the deliverers were “all condemned for it.” Oddly, the cultures don’t seem to agree on what was forbidden. Enoch singles out metallurgy, astronomy, and cosmetics as particularly awful, but the Greeks were content with claiming only that Zeus tried to hide fire. That’s really more of a physical item than a body of knowledge, though. Native Americans told similar stories of Coyote or Raven and fire. I guess you could extend this to Gilgamesh losing the plant of immortality to the serpent, but that was less the gods’ fault than his own clumsiness. I’m not really sure how to extend this further, for the idea of condemning a god for passing on knowledge to people isn’t really a widespread motif. No one spanked Osiris, Glooscap, Viracocha, or Quetzalcoatl for their efforts. (Osiris was killed, but not for sharing knowledge.)
Philip Coppens asserts that civilization is the gift of Satan, and we hear from another “thinker,” Kathleen McGowan, that we should praise Satan for his forward-thinking approach. David Childress tells us (again) of the supposedly parallel story of the Anunnaki, whom he claims were “half-god, half-man and came down from the stars.” All of that is false. Not a shred of evidence exists for that, for he is confusing them with the fish-men of the late Oannes myth. He then claims that Anunnaki instructed humans in civilization, which is again Oannes. He then says that the Anunnaki were reptilians with narrow eyes—again not found in any cuneiform text—and he asserts that the “Bible” calls the “Watchers” serpents, which is utterly false since the Watchers don’t appear in the Bible at all, let alone as snake-people.
William Henry asserts that Satan was a Seraphim (which is not canonical but rather a later gloss) and that Seraphim means “giant serpent.” More literally it means “burning ones” and is usually used to mean actual serpents. Only once is it applied to angels (Isaiah 6:1-3), and there it’s likely reflecting the golden serpents of Near Eastern cult practice. It’s only with Enoch that we see these inflated into heavenly dragons.
Now, halfway through the show, we decide to adopt John Bathurst Deane’s Worship of the Serpent, which attempted in the early 1800s to claim that all mentions of serpents in pagan myth were all mistaken worship of Satan from a corruption of the Genesis narrative. Henry says Quetzalcoatl is Satan because he’s a serpent.
Prometheus is held up as a parallel story of a noble fellow unfairly punished for sharing divine wisdom. Viracocha is claimed to be Lucifer on account of being a bringer of light, and they charmingly claim he is seen in “Inca” sculpture all while highlighting the Staff God on the decidedly non-Inca Gate of the Sun at Tiwanaku. (The Staff God may or may not be an early form of Viracocha.) The Egyptian god Set is claimed to be Satan because he ruled over darkness, which takes at face value late Egyptian myths. The earlier Set, still remembered in rural Egypt as late as Greco-Roman times, was not evil.
In short, the show managed to discover the concept of the culture hero, a well-known anthropological and folklore type, who is sometimes human and sometimes divine but always bringing the arts of civilization. But they somehow want us to be in awe of this fact and see it all as connected to Satan, whom they apparently venerate as a hero. How did they miss Osiris? He was a culture hero who ruled over the underworld—just like Satan! Oh well, we’re supposed to think that the devil is the “good” character, according to Philip Coppens, David Childress, and Erich von Däniken, and therefore to venerate Satan as our savior—“the god of hard work [and] the opportunity to do things ourselves,” as Childress says. I knew Ayn Rand’s Objectivism seemed suspiciously satanic.
Erich von Däniken claims that Prometheus, stealing fire, is Lucifer because Lucifer is Latin for bringer of light. Never mind that Lucifer was only invented by that name when Jerome translated the Bible into Latin…
In order to explain why Satan is seen as evil rather than as our savior, the show introduces the concept of demonic possession, which it treats—thanks to Adam Blai, for-profit demonologist, and Bob Larson, exorcist—as actual possession by supernatural creatures. I do not understand how this relates to aliens in any way, unless these are the same aliens that mind-project scientific formulae into human brains. Somewhere, though, we’ve lost the thread of aliens in the show’s quest to titillate us with Satan and ask us to fall down and worship him. Larson tells us that he enters a metaphysical realm to battle demons, and the show suggests that somehow our brains invite demons from an extraterrestrial dimension, something I guess like H. P. Lovecraft’s brain-swapping Great Race. But even the show can’t really sustain this as more than a throwaway line at the end of a segment that’s all about supernatural evil.
We conclude with a discussion of Revelation and the rise of Satan at the end of time. The show asks us to reject the literal interpretation of Revelation (there’s a first!) and instead asks us to imagine that this is rather a description of an upcoming return of extraterrestrials in a “galactic war […] waged over the ultimate fate of mankind.” In this, Satan is our hero because he stole UFO secrets to help humanity fight back against the Anunnaki, the Elohim, and that arch-fiend Yahweh. But at least it restores humanity to the center of creation. McGowan finally acknowledges that Satan isn’t one coherent figure but many, but Henry tells us that “in reality” Satan truly cares about and loves you. “Satan’s not such a bad guy,” Childress states. Satan, the narrator says, might simply seem evil because he’s angry at us for not respecting his contributions. Remember: Satan is love.
I can’t believe that I just sat through an hour of primetime major cable network television asking me to worship Satan. Where the hell is Pat Robertson when you need him? Seriously, Harry Potter novels get burned because religious extremists think they lead kids to Satan and network TV is routinely blasted for being satanically liberal, and nobody cares that the History Channel is all but advocating Satan worship?
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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