Unfortunately, we don’t have six years to wait to examine this episode of Ancient Aliens—not that I would want to spend six years thinking about what took them less than six weeks (or more likely six days) to cobble together from Google searches and recycling past episodes. This is, of course, not the first time Ancient Aliens has dealt with Tibet. It was only back in March, just before the pandemic struck, for example, that they devoted a chunk of an episode to claiming aliens from the Pleiades created Denisovans to pass along oxygen-regulation genes perfect for Himalayas living. Mandalas, of course, have occurred several times on both Ancient Aliens and the In Search of Aliens spinoff as supposed alien art related to the Nazca lines. Even Shambhala has been mentioned in passing over the years. Tonight’s episode is more of a collection of greatest hits about Tibet than an original production, but such is always the case now.
The show opens by describing Tibet and its Buddhist culture, albeit without any reference to the tensions between native Tibetans and its Chinese overlords, which might make it harder to sell History shows in China. The show takes less than two minutes before the first description of Tibetans as “exotic,” firmly aligning Ancient Aliens with a white, Western perspective. David Childress calls it “magical” and “mystical,” again exoticizing an actual country where there are real everyday people who live actual lives independent of Western fantasies of exploration and enlightenment.
Giorgio Tsoukalos alleges that Tibet became a religious center due to its ancient alien visitors.
The mythical kingdom of Shambhala gets a mention, but the show claims it is some sort of secret fantasy land, and no one mentions that it likely derives from the real Sambhal in Uttar Pradesh. That kind of takes some of the wind out of the Atlantis-of-the-Himalayas sails.
The second segment deals with Nicholas Roerich, the mystic who allegedly saw a UFO from Shambhala while traveling in Tibet in 1927. I covered that story back in 2015. He likely saw a silver-colored weather balloon launched by Swedish geographer Sven Hedin.
After this, we hear tell that Shambhala is located underneath the earth or in a hidden valley accessible only through tunnels, which is less an ancient legend than the plot of the 1933 novel Lost Horizon. Some UFO sightings in the Himalayas are alleged to be aliens buzzing Shambhala, and the show repeats a claim from season five that Buddhist stupas are stone copies of flying saucers.
After the break, we get a discussion of Helena Blavatsky and Theosophy, including Atlantis and Lemuria. The show has never read Blavatsky, so it confuses her discussion of human prehistory with later elaborations by her followers. Blavatsky had claimed that a spirit from Tibet had given her secret knowledge through a mystical appearance in her New York apartment, which lets the show make some sort of connection to Tibet. The show states that Blavatsky taught Gandhi about universal brotherhood, and the show takes this to an extreme by asking if Gandhi pursued Indian independence on orders from aliens. According to standard biographies, Gandhi did meet Blavatsky on her death bed, but it was not a moment that changed his life. He was actually more influenced by Blavatsky’s follower, Annie Besant, whose Hindu-inspired ramblings, along with one of Blavatsky’s confoundingly mixed-up books, made him curious about rediscovering his own Hinduism.
Following this, we get another recitation of the familiar story of Aleister Crowley claiming to open portals to other realms through knowledge channeled from a Tibetan adept with a giant head. Lynn Picknett claims this adept looks like a Grey alien, but it seems more likely that when Crowley drew his picture, he intended to suggest a massive brain.
The next segment involves, as it must, Nazis. Ancient Aliens loves Nazis, and in this case, the Nazis did travel to Tibet—in search of Atlantis and Aryan homeland. The show ignores this to focus instead on the examination of a statue the Nazis looted from Tibet which turned out to (possibly) be carved from a chunk of the Chinga meteorite, which hit Earth between 10,000 and 20,000 years ago. David Childress asks if the meteorite was “part of a spaceship” that crashed in Tibet. The answer is so obviously no—the meteorite is, as you might suspect, something that has been studied and is patently not artificially created or worked.
The subsequent segment covers the fictitious Yeti and the people who claim to have seen it. The show claims Yeti are charged with preventing the impure from reaching Shambhala. I believe that is actually part of the plot of Uncharted 2: Among Thieves and some Lovecraftian fan fiction, since it does not feature in standard accounts of the Yeti or any historical sources on Shambhala. Indeed, the images Ancient Aliens uses to illustrate this segment are the same images that appear on that Lovecraftian page I just linked to, and it appears that the researchers didn’t realize that the page was fiction and not history. The show claims Yeti are interdimensional beings that pop in and out of our reality, but this is not based in fact (or even authentic accounts of myth) so much as the show repeating claims from its Bigfoot episode but swapping out the name of a different fictional giant ape.
The final segment claims that meditation can give Buddhists access to other dimensions, and Shambhala exists in another dimension. How that is different from it being a fantasy in one’s head, or how we would ever determine the difference, they do not say. The show ends with the claim that Tibetan monks shrivel up and turn into beams of light when they die. They claim to have photos of a monk’s dying body shriveling to nothing and then becoming a beam of light, but it all looks so staged and fake that it’s hardly worth commenting on. If it were true, you’d think someone over the centuries would notice all these beams of light and wonder where corpses keep vanishing to.
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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