Delving Deeper. The Gale Encyclopedia of the Unusual and Unexplained. Editor: Brad Steiger & Sherry Hanson Steiger. Volume 3. Detroit: Gale, 2003.
Since primitive humans first crawled out of their caves and gazed up in awe at the star-filled night, humankind has been intrigued by the unexplained mysteries of the universe. Early myths and legends tell of mysterious objects roaring across the heavens. Scraps of ancient documents reveal phenomenal, unexplained manifestations in the skies. Virtually every religion relates visitations from angels, demons, devils, and gods who descended to Earth in ancient times.
With the highly publicized arrival of the “flying saucers” in the earth’s atmosphere in 1947, modern humans were confronted with what they thought was a new celestial mystery. However, in their efforts to interpret this phenomenon, a band of scholarly individuals dug through old documents and musty records and discovered that the UFO phenomenon had appeared periodically throughout history. Gradually, some UFOlogists believed humankind’s gods, angels, devils, and demons were nothing more than alien visitors from some superior civilization on some far planet in a dark corner of the universe.
The hypothesis of ancient astronauts received its most popular expression in Erich von Daniken’s Chariots of the Gods? (1970), which led to the formation of an international Ancient Astronaut Society in 1973. While many find the premise that “gods” from outer space may have guided developing humankind in its evolutionary ascent, critics find fault in the propensity of such theorists to attribute any ancient, unexplained mystery to extraterrestrials who supposedly seeded, propagated, and still maintain watch over the planet. Despite these shortcomings, certain researchers have amassed an impressive stack of evidence to support their beliefs that ancient astronauts visited Earth in prehistory, and old historical accounts, ancient legends, and myths are brought forth and given fresh interpretations.
The possibility of ancient space visitations was explored by Dr. Carl Sagan (1934-1996) as early as the 1966 convention of the American Astronautical Society. “Our tiny corner of the universe may have been visited thousands of times in the past few billions of years,” Sagan stated in Intelligent Life in the Universe (1966), coauthored with I. S. Shklovski. “At least one of these visits may have occurred in historical times.” Sagan, both an exobiologist and an astronomer, theorized that Earth may have been visited by various galactic civilizations many times during prehistoric times and that it is not out of the question that artifacts of such extraterrestrial visits might still exist, or even that some kind of alien base is maintained within our solar system to provide continuity for successive expeditions.
Such a hypothesis coming from a respected scientist encouraged many UFO researchers to theorize that Homo sapiens may have been seeded on Earth, for despite the many theories put forth by conventional scientists, it is still not known how humans originated on this planet. The Darwinian theory of evolution remains a fascinating, yet unproved, hypothesis, simply because the elusive “missing link” remains undiscovered. The alleged link between humans and their anthropoid cousins may have been provided by visitors from another world.
Some believe that not only did the ancient astronauts carefully guide the evolution of humankind, they also assisted early builders in erecting great monuments as testimony to their presence. For instance, there is the Cheops Pyramid, the tallest structure in antiquity, which, discounting a number of skyscrapers in the United States, still ranks as the ninth tallest architectural marvel in the world today. It has been estimated that more than 2,300,000 stone blocks of an average weight of two and one-half tons went into the construction of this last resting place for the pharoah Cheops, c. 2800 B.C.E. The Pyramid of Khafre, near Cheops, stands 442 feet high and covers 12 acres. The third pyramid in the massive triumvirate, Mycerinus, is 215 feet tall and 346 feet wide on each side. Those researchers who favor the ancient astronaut hypothesis protest that the classic picture of teams of men roped together and tugging away at moving the massive stone blocks up the ramps, tier by tier, may be feasible, but such a method of construction would call for such unlikely figures as 100,000 slaves struggling in torment for 20 years to shape one pyramid. It seems illogical to such theorists that any governing agency, no matter how tyrannical and all-powerful, could ever conscript that many workers over that long a period of time without causing a revolt or draining off too much manpower from other tasks, such as raising food. In addition, it seems unlikely that the government would be able to convince the populace that the pyramid was necessary in the first place. Would supplying tombs for dead pharoahs be considered a worthy task on which to expend so much time and manpower? Would ancient Egypt, with a population of only a few million, stand such a drain of numbers for long periods of 10 or 20 years?
To those who espouse the ancient astronaut theory, such massive works as the pyramids of Egypt were built by intervening extraterrestrials, who used the power plants of their flying saucers to hoist such tonnage into place. Spaceships of vast proportions may have brought extraterrestrial colonists to various parts of Earth and may also have supplied the heavy lift power for erecting great stone works before returning to the home planet.
The earliest civilization of which contemporary science has any records flowered among the Sumerians of ancient Mesopotamia. For many years the reason for this sudden onset of culture in Sumer had remained a mystery. It wasn’t until the 1980s that science determined just how such a miracle of seemingly instant progress had occurred. Now it is known that this quantum leap in humankind’s intellectual development occurred in Sumer 6,000 years ago when cuneiform writing was developed to record a dramatic starburst. Literally overnight in evolutionary terms, the Sumerians gave the world the first love song, the first school system, the first directory of pharmaceutical concoctions, a law code, and the first parliament. The roots of the Judeo-Christian religious beliefs grew from the “tree of knowledge,” the Garden of Eden, which tradition places in that same area. The origins of Western culture were nursed in Sumer, and it has come to be acknowledged as the cradle of civilization—all because of a starburst.
Astronomers recognize that the nearest and brightest supernova that has ever been witnessed by humankind was Vela X, now a faintly flashing pulsar about 1,300 light-years from our solar system. George Michanowsky, a specialist in Mesopotamian astronomy, saw how the first and most fundamental symbol of Sumerian script was one which represented “star.” He went on to show how the very first word ever written by a human hand soon became linked with the symbol for “deity,” thus communicating “star god.” Michanowsky saw the death-blaze of Vela X to have been such a dramatic sky show that it became a profound cultural organizing principle that forced human knowledge to take a giant leap forward. But was there something more that took place at that time?
The Babylonian priest-historian Berossus chronicled the coming of Oannes, an entity described as being half-man, half-fish, who surfaced from the Persian Gulf to instruct the early inhabitants of Mesopotamia in the arts of civilization. Before the advent of Oannes, Berossus stated, the Sumerians lived like beasts in the field, with no order or rule. The Sumerians lived exactly as their primitive forefathers had existed until Oannes, the bizarre “beast with reason” appeared in their midst. The gifted alien entity was endowed with superior intelligence, it is written, but its appearance was frightening to behold. Oannes had the body of a fish with humanlike feet—and a head that combined the features of fish and human.
Berossus explained that the Fishman walked about on land during the day, counselling the Sumerians, but returned to the ocean each evening. Oannes gave the Sumerians insight into letters and sciences and every kind of art. He taught them to construct houses, to found temples, to compile laws, and explained to them the principles of geometrical knowledge. He made them distinguish the seeds of the earth, and showed them how to collect fruits. In short, he instructed them in everything that could tend to soften their manners and humanize them.
Sumerian astronomers became so accurate in their science that their measurements on the rotation of the Moon is off only 0.4 from modern, computerized figures. One pictograph depicts the planets revolving around the Sun—something that Copernicus and Kepler postulated only 500 years ago. At the height of the Greek civilization, the highest known number was 10,000. After that sum, the Greek mathematicians could only fall back on “infinity.” A tablet found in the hills near ancient Sumer some years back contained a 15-digit number:195,955,200,000,000.
Many ancient cultures have legends of amphibians or serpent people who, like Oannes, the half-human, half-fish, instructed the early inhabitants of Mesopotamia in the arts of civilization. There was Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent of the Aztecs, who descended from heaven in a silver egg, and there are the Nagas, the handsome, semidivine Serpent People with supernatural powers who figure in the Hindu and Buddhist traditions. Throughout the dim corridors of history, there are frequent mentions of legendary “sky people,” who were considered to have been emissaries of the “flying serpent.” The snake-worshiping Aztecs and Mayans are not far removed from the Chinese, who worshiped a celestial dragon. Both cultures may have been contacted by emissaries from another world, a highly advanced extraterrestrial reptilian species that has been observing the evolution of Earth for millions of years and has returned in the “Grays,” the UFOnauts of modern times, who are described by contactees and abductees as reptilian in appearance.
If, as those researchers who champion the ancient astronaut hypothesis believe, extraterrestrials constructed so many of the architectural wonders of the ancient world and may even have guided the evolutionary path of humankind, the great question remains whether the “gods” of old have returned in their chariots as our benefactors or our owners.
Space Visitors in the Bible and Other Holy Books
One of the most beloved stories in the Christian tradition concerns the Star of Bethlehem that hovered over the stable where lay the infant Jesus (c. 6 B.C.E.-c. 30 C.E.). In recent years, some UFO researchers have suggested that the “star” was actually a spaceship from another world, thus raising the controversial question of whether the Holy Bible, the most revered book in the Western world, contains references to UFOs and alien visitors. Provoking even greater controversy are those researchers who make reference to the Christian Apocrypha, books banned by church censorship from services and religious reading, and the claim that Jesus was brought to Earth in the Star of Bethlehem, which is described in the ancient texts as being winged, with various colored rays shooting out from behind it.
According to those UFO researchers who scour the Scriptures for descriptions of extraterrestrial visitations, the writers of biblical times were at a disadvantage in describing sophisticated spacecraft. For lack of a better term, they resorted to their own known word for a vehicle of transporation—”chariot.” Those UFO researchers who have conducted a careful analysis of biblical texts have found three types of cosmic conveyances employed as vehicles of transportation for celestial beings:
- The wheel, or disc-shaped object described by Ezekiel;
- the chariot of fire mentioned in the second book of Kings;
- the cloudy chariot found in the writings of Moses, Daniel, David, Matthew, Paul, and John.
In II Kings 2:11-12, 6:17; Psalms 68:17; and Habakkuk 3:8, the Old Testament writers describe cosmic craft identified as a “chariot of fire” powered by engines called “horses of fire” with “charioteers” (pilots). The chariot’s lift-off is described as a “whirlwind.” In II Kings is written: “And it came to pass, when the Lord would take up Elijah into heaven by a whirlwind, that Elijah went with Elisha from Gilgal…and…behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven…”
In Zachariah 6:1-7, four cosmic pilots are dispatched in as many chariots (spacecraft), which come out from between two mountains. The prophet Zachariah is informed that each charioteer had flight orders to go to a different part of the country. According to the Scripture, the four UFOnauts had been ordered to “walk to and from through the earth.” The Con-fraternity Version of the Bible reports that the orders were to “Go patrol the Earth.”
Moses frequently mentioned the presence of the cloud chariots: “The Lord descended in the cloud”; “The Lord came down in a cloud”; “The Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them the way and by night in a pillar of fire.” The prophet Daniel was another who described the use of a cloudy chariot for cosmic transportation.
Other UFO researchers say that if one were to read the creation story in Genesis from the historical perspective of our current awareness of genetic engineering, the interaction between the Sons of God and the fair daughters of men assumes a rather different interpretation: “And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth and daughters were born to them, that the sons of God saw the daughters of men were fair; so they took them wives of all whom they chose.…There were giants on the earth in those days; and also after that, for the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bore children to them, and they became giants who in the olden days were men of renown” (Genesis 6:1-4).
If those fallen angels of Genesis should actually have been extraterrestrial scientists conducting experiments on female members of the developing strain of Homo sapiens, they were carrying out a directive of the Star Gods to provide early humankind with a genetic boost. The Hebrew word to describe demigods—or men of great renown, those who were said to be the offspring of the Sons of God and the daughters of men—is Nephilim. Interestingly, the word used to denote true giants, as far as great stature was concerned, was rephaim. The Israelites found such giants among the Canaanite inhabitants of Palestine. Among these were the Anakims of Philisa and the Emims of Moab. Goliath was a Gittite, a man of great stature and bulk, but he was not a Nephilim.
In the apocryphal Book of Enoch (7:12), one learns more of the nonterrestrial entities who desire the daughters of men for their own interests: “It happened after the sons of men had multiplied in those days, that elegant, beautiful daughters were born to them. And when the angels, the sons of heaven, beheld them, they became enamored of them, saying to each other: Come, let us select for ourselves wives from the progeny of men, and let us beget children.”
Those researchers who believe that the Bible contains many passages relating to extraterrestrial visitations often state that “gods” from other worlds may have prompted the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, suggesting that the two cities were devastated by an ancient nuclear blast. They also mention other ancient texts that describe flying machines, advanced technology, and awesome weapons wielded by the gods.
The sacred Hindu hymns, the Rig-Veda, constitute some of the oldest known religious documents. The splendid poetry tells of the achievements of the Hindu pantheon of gods, and one passage tells of Indra, a god-being, who was honored when his name was turned into “India.” Indra, who became known as the “fort destroyer” because of his exploits in war, was said to travel through the skies in a flying machine, the Vimana. This craft was equipped with awesome weapons capable of destroying a city. The effect of these weapons seems to have been like that of laser beams or some kind of nuclear device.
Another ancient Indian text, the Mahabharata, tells of an attack on an enemy army: “It was as if the elements had been unfurled. The sun spun around in the heavens. The world shuddered in fever, scorched by the terrible heat of this weapon. Elephants burst into flames.…The rivers boiled. Animals crumpled to the ground and died. The armies of the enemy were mowed down when the raging elements reached them. Forests collapsed in splintered rows. Horses and chariots were burned up.…The corpses of the fallen were mutilated by the terrible heat so that they looked other than human.…”
Many old traditions speak of a war between the forces of light and darkness that raged in humankind’s prehistory. Perhaps there were rival extraterrestrial forces that fought for dominance over prehistoric Earth. According to some traditions, the Sons of Light vanquished certain Dark Magicians who sought to enslave developing humankind. Whatever may have caused such a violent conflict, physical evidence exists on Earth indicating that someone was exercising power of formidable energy. There are accounts of sand melted into glass in certain desert areas, of hill forts with vitrified portions of stone walls, of the remains of ancient cities that had been destroyed by what appears to have been extreme heat—far beyond that which could have been scorched by the torches of primitive human armies. Even conventionally trained archaeologists who have encountered such anomalous finds have admitted that none of these catastrophes have been caused by volcanoes, by lightning, by crashing comets, or by conflagrations set by humankind.