As part of my research for my upcoming anthology of ancient texts related to ancient astronautics, fringe history, and other weird topics, I had to confirm as much as I could about the apocryphal quotation from the Mayan books of Chilam Balam appearing in Peter Kolosimo’s Not of This World (1968; English trans. 1970): “Creatures arriving from the sky on flying ships … white gods who fly above the spheres and reach the stars (ellipses in original).” In so doing, I was doing some research on Kolosimo, whose real name was Pier Colosimo. The book in which the fabricated quotation appears, an early example of ancient astronautics, won one of Italy’s highest literary prizes, and Kolosimo, a journalist, went on to run Italy’s Association for Prehistoric Studies.
The book, overall, is a discursive pile of Fortean nonsense in the very worst of the European tradition. Continental writers, especially in fringe topics, seem to think that mere accumulation of incident is somehow an argument. Poorly organized, disconnected, incoherent—it lacks even the rudimentary forward thrust of Chariots of the Gods, made worse by an apparently very literal translation from the Italian that produces sentences much more obscure and roundabout than those composed originally in English.
Since I already had the book checked out from the library, I thought it might be fun to take a look at one of the early texts in the field of ancient astronautics. I probably won’t review every chapter of the book, but I’ll see how it goes next week. Today I’ll look at the opening chapters, and next week (after my reviews of Ancient Aliens and America Unearthed) I will at least look at the chapters on Atlantis and Mu.
Not of This World opens in a very strange way. Kolosimo retells part of the plot of a science fiction novel, Able to Zebra by Wilson Tucker, in which archaeologists find modern pennies buried in a Mound Builder mound. Kolosimo then asserts that the novel fails verisimilitude in only one respect: Instead of panicking over the anomalous results, real mainstream scholars would simply walk away and refuse to deal with the material or declare it a hoax. This sets a bad precedent, for Kolosimo is all but daring us to catch him substituting science fiction for fact, as he would in fact do throughout the book.
He then discusses an alleged quotation from St. Augustine on the possibility of crossing the ocean, but he provides no citation—a recurring problem with the book—and it took me a good long time to recognize the loosely translated material as City of God 16.9, conventionally given thus: “For Scripture, which proves the truth of its historical statements by the accomplishment of its prophecies, gives no false information; and it is too absurd to say, that some men might have taken ship and traversed the whole wide ocean, and crossed from this side of the world to the other, and that thus even the inhabitants of that distant region are descended from that one first man.” He relates this to great moments in wrongheadedness, such as when the Paris Academy of Science refused to believe that meteors came from space—in 1790. For Kolosimo, this is proof that if academia was dogmatic in 1790 it must also be dogmatic in 1890, 1990, and forever, for nothing ever changes except hatred of radical thinkers.
Kolosimo seems to be writing in the vein of Charles Fort. He next presents an alleged case from 1871 when a cache of flat, irregular metallic fragments were unearthed 42 meters below ground level in Illinois. He calls them coins from a lost civilization thousands of years old. He similarly unearths a raft of old nineteenth century “finds,” many of which later reappear in fringe works like Cremo and Thompson’s Forbidden Archaeology. We hear of “bucket handles” encased in rock, a screw encased in rock, the Paluxy “human” footprints, and so on. We also hear of the infamous Dr. Gurlt’s Cube, which is not a cube at all but rather a piece of meteoric iron. He calls it impossible as a meteor because it is too perfect—all without ever having examined the object! With no citations, there is no way to check the sources or the accuracy of his claims.
In moving on to Soviet material (of special interest to the Communist Kolosimo), Kolosimo reports uncritically claims from Constantin Flerov, an actual Soviet scientist, that a bison from Siberia had been shot through the head by a bullet thousands of years ago and that, according to unnamed “colleagues,” “Only one explanation is possible—the one linking it with the landing on Earth, at various times, of explorers from space very long ago.” The hole is similar to holes later determined to have been caused by meteor shrapnel. He reports as well allegations that the Tunguska explosion was caused by “an interplanetary cruiser with nuclear propulsion.” He cites this to an unidentified source named “Kasanzev,” with the implication that this is a scientific finding like those he had previously listed. But “Kasanzev” appears to be Alexander Kasantsev (or Kasanzew), the Soviet science fiction writer, who made the claim in his 1946 story “A Visitor from Outer Space,” also translated as “Guests from the Cosmos.” (He later produced nonfiction works on the same subject.) This will not be the last time in Kolosimo’s book that science fiction is passed off as science. He then asserts that the Soviets believed that the dinosaurs had their skeletons shattered by powerful explosive devices.
Although Kasanzev was condemned by Soviet officials for his “anti-science” ideas in the 1950s, Kolosimo seems to have no inkling that the Soviets were actively creating ancient astronaut propaganda in the 1960s as part of a concerted effort to undermine the West by providing a materialist counterpoint to religion, and he takes at face value Soviet claims. Or maybe the Communist Kolosimo was happy to carry water for the effort.
But even stopped clocks are right twice a day; Kolosimo points to evidence that members of the Homo genus living in Europe as much as 40,000 years ago were using tools and making art, at a time when archaeology had not yet pushed the limits of such endeavors so far into the past. Today, we know that human relatives have been engaged in such activities for far, far longer. Instead, Kolosimo suggests that space aliens were responsible for teaching these people to make stone tools. One might think the aliens would have better stuff to offer.
The first chapter concludes with a discussion of a site near Roquebrune San Martin, on the French Riviera. At a cave there were discovered a cache of bones from many species, including whales, lions, and hyenas. Kolosimo says that it is too hard to imagine pre-humans collecting animal bones; therefore, this must be where aliens descended to earth and collected a variety of species to conduct scientific tests. Kolosimo does not tell readers that the site, known as Grotte du Vallonnet, was discovered in 1958 and excavated in 1962. The animal bones, according to the evidence, were brought to the cave by large predators—cave bears—and early humans entered the cave 1.05 million years ago, only when the bears were not at home. Although the bones had been broken and gnawed by the predators, some had been smashed with stone tools to steal the marrow. I doubt that aliens flew between the stars to pound on bones with rocks.
The chapter opens with Kolosimo dismissing the Caucasian blond aliens of George Adamski as “childish” and wondering how anyone could be taken in by such a fraud. This is astonishing given how Kolosimo has just finished presenting us with a fraud of his own, a science fiction novel offered as science fact, and will do so repeatedly throughout the book. It is a tour de force of performance art. It is not entirely clear why he next chooses to explore the alleged “sacred texts from Venus” Adamski reported and which Kolosimo believes to fake except that he professes to be personally offended that Adamski attributes to the Venusians “liberal interpretations” of the Bible (the Venusians being Christians, of course), which he considers “blasphemous”—as opposed to the atheist communists who were just being honest about their claims for prehistoric spacemen! Perhaps the entire performance is meant as a joke on the New Age, exposing fringe readers as uncritical believers.
This leads by a thin strand into a discussion of the Book of Enoch, but Kolosimo doesn’t discuss Enoch of his own volition, instead reacting to Robert Charroux’s claims that the tale of the Watchers in the Book of Enoch represents a literal report of the descent of astronauts from outer space. He is critical of Charroux’s claims, correctly noting that the Book of Enoch is not contemporary with the events it describes but is a heavily edited text long post-dating the Hebrew Bible. He further criticizes Charroux for accepting at face value an imaginary legend that a Spaniard named Bertran Garcia claimed to have read in a hidden manuscript by Garcilaso de la Vega telling of a Venusian who came to earth to create humans. Of course no one ever saw this alleged text. I’ve never heard this claim, but from what little I can gather Garcia had put forward a hoax in the 1960s. Kolosimo finds it “depressing” that Charroux claims to rewrite history on such faulty evidence. The irony is rich.
Kolosimo then reports how in the United States, UFO cults were losing ground to evangelical Christians after Christians began to assert that flying saucers were “sent by angels.” He reports how followers of Adamski, a group whom he calls the Sons of Jared, tried to take back the initiative by proposing all manner of science fiction claims for the Watchers from the Book of Enoch (some are robots, they fly in spaceships, their leader is Lucifer, they introduced gambling and gladiators, they engaged in a war with archangel fighter pilots, etc.), and I was immediately struck by the similarity between the alleged Adamski space opera and what would soon become the secret teachings of Scientology.
I will, however, pause to point out this astonishing passage from the Adamski Foundation as quoted by Kolosimo (if it is in fact not actually written by him to discredit Americans) since it again points to a recurring theme in fringe history. After describing the Catholic Church, Al Capone, and the Soviet Union leadership as Enochian Watchers, the text states: “The Watchers are white and are accepted as members of the white races; which is just why the populations of Africa, India, and the East have been dominated by foreign masters like the colonial powers and the communist bosses in the Kremlin.” Here we see, during the period of Cold War tensions and decolonization, that the “good” and “evil” aspects of “white” civilization have been neatly separated; imperialism and racism have been excised from “white” people by attributing it to an alien other who just happen to look exactly like white people. Astonishing.
The Sons of Jared and their newsletter, The Jaredite Advocate, apparently operated briefly in the Los Angeles area in the mid-1960s as a UFO cult group, if references in fringe history texts can be trusted (a big if). However, David Icke and Andrew Collins have turned whatever this small local group was into a global conspiracy, a sort of occult CIA dedicated to combatting the Watchers.
This chapter is all about hunting for rocket ships in ancient texts. Elijah’s chariot of fire is, of course, a space ship with rocket propulsion. The powerful weapons of the Sanskrit epics are nuclear weapons, hurled from flying chariots that were of course rocket ships. Kolosimo asserts that Elijah is an archetype—actually a thunder god—and that stories of thunder gods, flying snakes, etc. are all Elijah and all rocket ships and their alien inhabitants. In discussing alien gods in Africa, Kolosimo quotes the occultist Serge Hutin (later an ancient astronaut theorist) as claiming that “ear-rings were brought by white men who had come down from the sky.” Kolosimo claims that the British found the same legend—that white men were gods from the sky—in the Gulf of Guinea, on the authority of Georges Barbarin, whom he fails to inform readers was a pseudoscientific essayist who believed the Great Pyramid was a stone Bible and could predict the future. The sources are poor and appear to reflect uncritical acceptance of colonial-era beliefs about indigenous cultures.
He then quotes what he calls “R. W. Drake’s” “Spacemen in the Ancient East” at great length. This book would be easier to find had the author correctly given the author was W. Raymond Drake and the book as Gods and Spacemen in the Ancient East (1968). To make a long section short, Kolosimo gathers several legends similar to that of the Watchers (the corruption of early humanity by divine beings) and asserts that they are all memories of spacemen. He asserts that capes and cloaks, particularly those made from feathers, symbolize the gods’ origin in flying spaceships, and he emphasizes (wrongly) that Quetzalcoatl was “white.” The whiteness of the aliens is an ongoing theme in this book and appears intimately tied to the European context in which he was writing. In fact he does it again on the next page, associating the “white sons of light” with serpent-shaped spaceships and consigning all others to “darkness.”
Kolosimo then reports very briefly a laundry list of ancient accounts of lights in the sky, which he sees as spaceships, but without any exact references allowing us to confirm them. It is clear he knows them only secondhand, from other ancient astronaut books, primarily Drake’s. Drake sums up everything wrong with ancient astronautics: “Could an illiterate Chinese of olden times imagine a dragon or have sufficient awareness of this idea to inspire him to art and religion? It is hard to credit it…” But white people? Oh, well, they are chock full of imagination and creativity.
I cannot even pretend to entertain the next section, in which Kolosimo asserts that James Churchward’s researches (the book misprints this as “researchers”) “are anything but negligible.” He takes the old fraud at his word, and it is bizarre to behold since Kolosimo just finished lecturing us on how embarrassing it was to see people fall under the spell of Adamski’s lies.
He concludes the chapter by repeating claims that the Sanskrit epics are chock full of alien space weapons and demands that researchers go looking for evidence of them. Kololsimo, however, relies entirely on Drake for this and does not bother to consult a single primary source. Kolosimo mentions ancient ruins in India that had been melted and fused, seen by an explorer named “De Camp.” I can find no record of this, and it sounds to me like one of L. Sprague de Camp’s science fiction stories that the Italian has mistaken for fact. Indeed, Hartwig Hausdorf, the ancient astronaut writer, attributes the story to L. Sprague de Camp in The Chinese Roswell (1998), calling him an “explorer” because he simply repeated Kolosimo and made a stab in the dark as to what Kolosimo was talking about. Hausdorf writes: “In several books, author /explorer L. Sprague de Camp has written about ruins displaying traces of incineration which could hardly have been just fire damage.” Obviously de Camp, a skeptic, would not be advocating fringe history.
Without citing sources, Kolosimo attributes to H. J. Hamilton the discovery of a “crystal” palace in India, within which was a “statue” that turned out to be a skeleton encased in crystal. Unfortunately, though, the translator did not seek out the original but has translated back into English Kolosimo’s Italian translation of whatever the original once was. The style of the text, the sensory details, and the slow build-up to a shocking revelation are entirely in keeping with pulp fiction stories. I don’t want to spoil a future chapter, but Keith Fitzpatck-Matthews caught Kolosimo reprinting a pulp fiction story from the pulp fiction magazine Adventure as though it were factual in a later chapter of this same book, so I have good reason to suspect that the story that concludes this chapter is another pulp adventure being passed off as real history. Surely when some of the material is said to have been gathered by an official named J. Campbell we can’t help but read this as a reference to John W. Campbell, the famous science fiction writer. Perhaps H. J. Hamilton is meant to recall Edmund Hamilton, whose “Monster-God of Mamurth” bears a passing resemblance to Kolosimo’s story, as does “The Nameless City” by H. P. Lovecraft. I feel like I have read the tale somewhere, but I just cannot place it since the excerpt is devoid of context and the overarching plot of whatever story it came from. Sadly, I am not familiar enough with all of the many science fiction stories published from the 1920s to the 1960s to narrow it down much further.
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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