I can’t say that I’m sorry to see it go. This episode of Ancient Aliens marked the end of its eleventh season (and seventh calendar year) on the air. This season was also the longest since season three, and the first I can remember to run almost uninterrupted. (It was off the day of the Olympic opening ceremony.) All told, this gave me Ancient Aliens fatigue, and it sapped some of the joy even out of pointing to such ridiculous missteps as citing the Weekly World News as a reliable source, as they did a few weeks ago. Fifteen episodes is just too much of a bad thing, but clearly History’s audience disagrees. Last week’s episode drew 1.12 million viewers, about even with its season average, a number that has rarely moved more than 10% up or down year after year.
It seemed fitting that the morning this episode aired, the Bizarro comic strip ran this:
This cartoon neatly encapsulates the stereotypes of the ancient astronaut theory, from the popular (though incorrect) shorthand that aliens built the pyramids, to the assumption inherent in the theory that ancient people were pretty stupid.
Speaking of stupid, we might as well discuss the show.
Our topic for this evening is the Hindu deity Shiva, who is thought by some to originate not with Indo-European mythology, as most Hindu gods, but from the Indus Valley Civilization, and thought by others to be a composite who subsumed aspects of a range of Indo-European gods and pre-Indo-European gods. The show ignores this to go back to the classic ancient astronaut claim that the Mahabharata describes the nuclear annihilation of a city and descriptions of alien spaceships, the vimanas. This is only partly true. Powerful weapons are indeed described, but they bear only a superficial resemblance to nuclear weapons—the more exact similarities are modern fabrications. There are also flying ships in the epic, but these are etymologically derived from earlier accounts of horse-drawn chariots that could fly, a clear literary projection of the ground world into the sky.
The show alleges that Shiva’s third eye isn’t symbolic but rather an energy beam that shot out of Shiva’s forehead. Giorgio Tsoukalos bizarrely identifies Shiva with Zeus, Viracocha, Quetzalcoatl, Odin, and other chief gods and civilizing gods of various mythologies. This is bizarre on many levels, not least of which is that Zeus has a Vedic analogue: Dyaus, the Vedic god who shares his name and originates in the same Indo-European deity.
The show also ascribes to Shiva the onset of Noah’s Flood, even though Hindu mythology does not. In the most ancient surviving Hindu versions of the Flood myth, such as the one recorded in the Satapatha Brahmana, it is Vishnu who takes the lead role in warning the first man, Manu, of the coming disaster.
The second segment reviews the rock-cut stone temple to Shiva known as Kailasa, carved entire from the living rock in the early middle ages. The show alleges that such rock carvings are impossible in the eighteen-year timeframe ascribed to it. The show also claims that the excavated rock “disappeared.” I can’t find any reference to the building taking eighteen years to build; it seems to be a misunderstanding based on the length of the commissioning king’s reign (756-773 CE).
The show also takes for truth the semi-fictional 1876 spiritualist text Ghost-Land, which claims that a cult had a secret headquarters in tunnels under the temple. They ascribe the text to Emma Britten, though she credited herself only as its translator, the work being that of the Chevalier Louis de B—. (The actual authorship is unknown.) The text is a common enough Western Orientalizing narrative, in which a Westerner travels to India, encounters holy men (in this case the fictitious Ellora Brotherhood) and receives spiritual wisdom from them. They lie, though, in saying that the leader phased in and out of existence; the author actually says in Chapter 21 that he came and went “like a spirit,” meaning that he was fast and silent. David Childress alleges that the temple is older than archaeologists let on, and that it was created in the Great Flood, which the aliens rode out in a city under the temple.
The third segment talks about Shiva’s stone penises, the lingam. The show rejects the phallic worship inherent in the stone penises and instead suggests that they are copies of “technological” devices. Kathleen McGowan Coppens, who believes herself to be Jesus’ descendant, claims that the stone represents “atomic energy.” The narrator calls it a “mysterious shape,” and a talking head called Praveen Mohan claims that it looks like a nuclear reactor, and the milk poured over it in ritual is coolant. It’s a dick. No points to guess what the milk represents.
The fourth segment describes pages of an undated text that describe the works of Sage Agastya, author of the Agastya Saṁhitā, laying out how to build a battery. David Childress and a physicist then reconstruct this battery and claim it has amazing power. If this sounds familiar, it is because I wrote about it last December, when I found the story in an old book of mystery-monger Andrew Tomas. It’s an old hoax, and rather surprising that producers for the show only got around to doing an episode about it after I wrote of it, coincidentally right around the time they would have been breaking episodes for this season. As I discovered, everyone who wrote about the text, including David Childress, who popularized it in 2000, pretended to have seen or know of someone who has seen a text that does not exist. Even the alleged “discoverer” of the text lied about it. The text comes from the December 1923 Vedic Magazine (vol. 21, no. 7), where it is given not as an ancient recipe for making a battery but an admitted modern interpretation of an alleged ancient poem! There is no actual ancient text describing how to make a battery.
The fifth segment discusses Mount Kailash, the mythological home of Shiva. The show follows a Russian claim that the mountain is actually an artificial pyramid, though there is no evidence of artificiality. The evidence seems to be that pilgrims to the holy mountain feel “energy” in the area. The show tries to link this to Mount Meru, though it is not always identified with the mythological axis of the world, and sometimes stands alongside it. Childress claims that the mountain is hollow, and that it contains nuclear waste from alien activities, though no radiation measurements have ever suggested such a thing.
And what a surprise that the last segment uses Nicholas Roerich’s UFO sighting at Mount Kailash, also from Andrew Tomas’s book, that I wrote about a month before discussing the Agastya Saṁhitā “battery.” Roerich actually saw a weather balloon, launched by Sven Hedin nearby. Either I am very good at psychically intuiting this show’s “research,” or could it be that someone at the show reads my blog? As Giorgio Tsoukalos likes to say, I’m just asking questions. (Best answer: They are probably just recycling Tomas via Childress.)
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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