This past week, I worked on translating J.-H. Rosny’s classic ancient alien story Les Xipéhuz (1887) from French to English. Well, technically Rosny doesn’t call the mysterious entities aliens, though for all practical purposes they are. Although they story has been translated three times before (in 1968, 1978, and 2011), none of these translations is available in its entirety online. If you didn’t see it in my Twitter feed or my newsletter, here’s the link to my translation.
Rosny’s story is a masterpiece; it anticipates both the war motif of H. G. Wells’ War of the Worlds as well as the incomprehensible otherness and prehistoric arrival of the Old Ones in H. P. Lovecraft. So far as I know, however, neither Wells nor Lovecraft read Les Xipéhuz. The Theosophists, reading the story in 1903, thought that Rosny had channeled Theosophical truths about ancient aliens from the astral plane.
The astral plane also appears to be where Scott Alan Roberts has his head these days. Roberts is the former editor of the TAPS Paranormal Magazine, the “official” publication of SyFy’s Ghost Hunters. However, Roberts has branched out from ghosts to ancient aliens. Attentive readers will recall that Roberts participated in a “debate” with PZ Meyers in July in which he claimed that he could not remember any of the “evidence” for his belief that the Bible was full of ancient astronauts and therefore wished to talk only of philosophy and theory.
Well, Roberts is now promoting his newest book, The Secret History of the Reptilians. According to the description he gave the New Richmond News, his central claim is both breathtakingly stupid and recycled from a long list of earlier writers. Roberts, borrowing from David Icke, believes (well, that’s a strong word for someone whose ideas fluctuate with his sales figures) that there is a race of reptile-people who are secretly running the world and who have been in charge since ancient times, when they were worshiped as snake-gods like Quetzalcoatl. This idea is not unique to Roberts, or even Icke, who presented it in The Biggest Secret (1999) and has been cashing in on it ever since.
Icke was making literal a wild speculation William Bramley had put forward a decade earlier. In his Gods of Eden (1990), Bramley had claimed that a world-controlling cult of extraterrestrials and their descendants, which he called the Brotherhood of the Snake, had used serpents as their divine/alien symbol. Thus, the universality of snake worship was evidence of universal alien influence. Icke simply refined the message to make the snakes themselves the aliens. This was, perhaps, slightly better than the white supremacist group who used Bramley’s theory to conclude that the cult was made up of Jews who secretly ran the world.
But Bramley was far from original. His speculation merely applied aliens to a pre-existing nineteenth century pseudo-theory of universal serpent worship (then called ophiolatreia) which claimed to trace this global belief back to a single origin. This origin wasn’t aliens but rather the penis since the snake, to their repressed minds, looked like a penis. This was the theory of the Rosicrucian occultist and author Hargrave Jennings, and it is his book Ophiolatreia (1889)—published anonymously and never absolutely confirmed as his—that contains most of the evidence Bramley, Icke, and Roberts draw from in creating their reptilian fantasies. Jennings gathered together serpent cults from around the world, collected their myths and legends, and declared them all related—and all penises.
There is one other source for the reptilians worthy of note: Theosophy. According to Theosophists and Rudolph Steiner, the third “root race,” which lived in ancient Lemuria, coexisted with dinosaurs, reproduced by laying eggs, and combined a dark-skinned human shape with reptilian characteristics. This root race interacted with aliens from Mars. (Of course they did.) They survived as the “darkest” races of the earth, the ones Theosophists considered especially stupid, like the Aborigines of Australia and the peoples of the Congo.
The Theosophists, you will recall, also believed that science fiction was a racial memory of the extraterrestrial history of the early earth. This brings us full circle back to the Rosny’s Xipéhuz, those luminous geometric forms that interacted with Stone Age man. These creatures were much more original and interesting than the Reptilians and predated the 1888 invention of the Third Root Race in Helena Blavatsky’s Secret Doctrine by a year.
So, Roberts is not original. What else does he have to offer? Incoherent sentences that I struggle to understand, apparently:
The “buildings” of our mythologies? Does that mean the story construction of mythology, or does it refer to places like Odin’s Valhalla or Yam’s undersea palace? I was amazed at how incoherent Roberts, a talk radio host—a communication professional, sounded in his New Richmond News interview.
So that’s not his contribution.
His contribution is a symposium he’s hosting October 18-21 in Minneapolis. He’s thrilled that “icons” of ancient astronautics, including Erich von Däniken (“the first in modern pop culture that brought the ancient astronaut theory in front of us”), Giorgio Tsoukalos, Philip Coppens, Nick Redfern, and Georgy Noory will be sitting on panels and addressing adoring crowds. A fellow billing himself as “Dr.” John Ward will speak, too. He claims a doctorate in archaeology, but by his own admission it’s an “honorary” degree bestowed by a British Knights Templar fan club! (He also claims the club, a fraternal order, is "affiliated" with the Vatican, who in turn recognize his "degree," but there is no evidence of this, and the group makes no such claim in their promotional materials. It would be a challenge, anyway, since the modern club isn't Catholic and is open to any old heathen, for free even!) I predict these speakers will average a ratio of one fact to four fabrications, though this may be generous.
And how much does this number cost? Tickets range from $229 to $449, though active duty military members can receive discounts of $50-150. Prices do not include airfare, hotel rooms, or most meals.
“It’s already being hailed as the event of a lifetime,” Roberts told the New Richmond News. “The grouping of these people together is unheard of. It’s going to be pretty amazing.”
Right. Unheard of. Except for on Ancient Aliens and at almost every single ancient astronaut convention for the past five years. They really ought to form a touring company, like the Kings of Comedy, and do a road show. Then, perhaps, their bus would plunge off a cliff.
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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