Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Five reasons I do not subscribe to the "ancient aliens" hypothesis at this time

Myths around the globe can be conclusively shown to contain very strong parallels with details that are so precise and so obscure (in some cases) that the correspondences are very hard to attribute to "mere coincidence."

For instance, the "incomplete" or "failed baptism" motif can be shown to be present in the mythology surrounding the semi-divine hero Achilles in ancient Greece, as well as in the mythology in the cycle of myths surrounding the semi-divine hero Maui in the cultures of the Pacific Ocean. 

In the Achilles myth, the mother of the infant Achilles attempts to make him invulnerable to any physical weapon and thus virtually immortal by dipping him into either a sacred fire or into the River Styx (there are different versions of the same story). However, because she holds him by the heel, that one portion of his body remains susceptible, and he eventually receives a mortal wound in his "Achilles' heel."

In some of the many forms of the Maui cycle of sacred stories, which have been preserved by the indigenous Polynesian cultures of the Pacific Ocean stretching from the islands of Hawaii and Rapa Nui to Aotearoa (a vast expanse), Maui's father baptizes him as an infant but accidentally omits some of the essential Karakia which must be spoken during the ceremony, and thus Maui is vulnerable to death, although the baptism could have made him immortal, had it been performed properly. You can read an account of this tradition in an 1884 edition of the Princeton Review in an essay by Andrew Lang entitled "Myths of the Origin of Death" which begins on page 56 (the discussion of Maui's "incomplete baptism" can be found on page 64).

In another version of the same myth-pattern, recounted by Plutarch in his discussion of the sacred mythology of Isis and Osiris, the goddess Isis visits the palace of the king and queen of Byblos, disguising her divinity. She is searching for the casket containing the body of the murdered Osiris, which has been enclosed in a tree and then later used as a pillar in the palace. The queen, unaware of the goddess's true identity, appoints Isis to be the nurse for the queen's infant child. 

As Plutarch relates in section 16 of the account on this page, Isis decided to bestow immortality upon the child, by placing it into the fire each night to burn away its mortal nature. The use of fire is very common in versions of this story, for reasons which I believe to be celestial and to have to do with the fact that the shining column of the Milky Way band was often envisioned in ancient myth as a column of smoke or a blazing fire -- and there is also a constellation nearby which plays the role of a baby in many myths around the world, even though such a connection must be admitted to be rather unusual, and not something we would expect to simply "pop up" in different cultures in different parts of the globe, over and over again. 

Just as in other versions of this "incomplete baptism" pattern, the queen discovers what Isis is doing and, horrified to see her baby in the flames, pulls it out -- thus depriving it of the immortality that the child could have enjoyed.

This shared pattern, found in myths of ancient Egypt, ancient Greece, and even of the Pacific Islands,  argues that there is some sort of common system operating around the globe in the myths and sacred stories of humanity, stretching not only across great distances but also across centuries and even across millennia.

And there are hundreds of other examples of very specific patterns which show up in the myths, scriptures and sacred stories of different cultures in ways that are clearly closely related -- including gods and goddesses who share very similar aspects and characteristics across the globe. Gods wielding a thunderbolt-weapon, for example, can be found in the myths of ancient Greece and Rome, in the Norse myths, in the Vedas, and in the Popol Vuh of the K'iche' Maya -- and in each case, the thunderbolt weapon and the god who wields it can all be seen to have very similar characteristics.

How do we explain this fact?

One possible explanation is put forward in the popular "ancient aliens" theory, championed by authors such as Zechariah Sitchin and Erich von Daniken and by many of the guests who appear on the television series of the same name, and that is that our planet was visited by aliens in ancient times, and that "our ancestors misinterpreted extraterrestrials as gods, because that was the only way that they could explain away what they witnessed," as Giorgio Tsoukalos says at 0:00:47 in the above episode, from Season 2 of the long-running series (Season 2, Episode 2: "Gods and Aliens").

While the "ancient aliens" framework is one possible hypothesis which may explain the startling evidence we find of close relationships between the myths of very different cultures, and between the gods and goddesses and supernatural beings we find described in those myths, scriptures and sacred stories (close relationships which the conventional theories of ancient history have some difficulty in explaining), there are some reasons why I do not believe it is the best hypothesis.

Below, I will very briefly list just a few of the reasons why I personally do not at present subscribe to the "ancient aliens" hypothesis as the best explanation for the evidence we find:

1. The stories in all the myths can be shown to be based on a common system of metaphor, describing the motions of the constellations -- including the examples given above. If the deity who bears the thunderbolt-weapon (for example) can be shown to correspond to the constellation Hercules in every myth-system in which this weapon appears, which I believe can be conclusively demonstrated, then it is very unlikely that the stories are describing a literal alien with a directed-energy weapon. I have now published three volumes of several hundred pages each which detail the evidence that the ancient myths are based upon celestial metaphor -- a common system of celestial metaphor used literally around the world. I freely admit that the origin of this common system of celestial metaphor is unknown, and I do not categorically exclude the possibility of extraterrestrials or extraterrestrial contact in ancient times -- but I believe the evidence is overwhelming that the myths themselves are not describing literal extraterrestrials, but rather the motions of the constellations, as well as the cycles of the sun, moon, visible planets, and other heavenly phenomena, and that therefore we cannot really use the myths as evidence for ancient extraterrestrial activity.

2. Sometimes, the same constellations will be found informing a recognizable pattern in different myths, but with very different details -- just as we find in the "incomplete baptism" pattern described above. We can see that the pattern contains many common elements, most notably the fact that the baby in question fails to attain complete invulnerability or immortality. But the other aspects of the story are very different -- in one case, it is the mother who is doing the baptizing, and in another case it is the father, while in the third example given, it is the goddess Isis who is burning away the mortality of the child. It would be unlikely for the same pattern to show up in very different "parts of the storyline" if it was based on a literal event that ancient people witnessed. Another example is the "foot-washing" scene which is found in the Odyssey and which is also found in the gospels of the New Testament. In the Odyssey, the foot-washing is performed by Eurycleia, the faithful old nurse who once cared for Odysseus when he was a baby. In the gospels, of course, the foot-washing is performed by Jesus at the Last Supper -- but note that another version of the foot-washing pattern is also found in the gospels in a few different formats, in different scenes in which a woman with an alabaster container of precious ointment uses it to anoint the feet of Jesus (under different circumstances in different gospel accounts). I believe that these examples show us that we are not dealing with literal events that happened to take on the same pattern over and over, but rather with stories that encode specific constellations, but which do so in different forms in different myths and sacred stories. The fact that the incomplete baptism of Achilles was described as being performed in a fire in some ancient Greek myths, and as being performed in the River Styx in other ancient Greek myths, is another point which shows that it is probably based upon celestial metaphor (with the Milky Way playing the role of the fire or the river in either case), rather than upon eyewitness accounts of the actions of extraterrestrials, as reported by our ancient ancestors.

3. Much of the mythology which is referenced by proponents of the ancient aliens hypothesis comes from ancient Mesopotamia, and is almost certainly based upon celestial metaphor rather than literal historical events. The most-recent volume (Volume Three) in my multi-volume series Star Myths of the World, and how to interpret them, which deals with the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, provides some evidence to believe that the story of the Annunaki who are described as coming to earth and interacting with mortal men and women, and who are later imprisoned in the underworld, probably fits into the same pattern as the story of the Titans in the mythology of ancient Greece who also overstep their bounds and are imprisoned in Tartarus, as well as the account of the beings described in Genesis 6 who famously overstep their bounds and are described as being partly responsible for bringing on the Genesis Flood. Volume Three provides extended discussion that this "overstepping of boundaries" is celestial in nature (and points to some evidence provided in Hamlet's Mill which also argues the same). There are many other parallels in the myths of ancient Mesopotamia with myths in other cultures, myths which I have shown to be based on celestial metaphor in other volumes in the series -- for example, the story of Marduk slaying Tiamat with a bow (which is later suspended in the heavens) has parallels in the slaying of Python by Apollo, and the Kali Naga by Krishna. The story of Apollo and Python is discussed at some length in Star Myths of the World, Volume Two (which deals almost exclusively with the Greek myths). There are many other similar parallels to myths in other cultures, which can also be shown to have their foundations in celestial metaphor (and therefore, I would argue, to be much less likely to be describing literal, historical events).

4. Artwork -- much of it very ancient -- which depicts the gods and goddesses and familiar stories of mythology can be shown to use specific constellational characteristics in the depiction of the various mythical figures, and to do so over and over across the centuries and across cultures, with tremendous consistency. This fact argues very strongly that the ancient myths are based upon a system of celestial metaphor, and that their basis in celestial metaphor may well have been understood in ancient times. I have provided literally hundreds of visual examples of such artwork in the Star Myths of the World series, as well as showing several in previous discussions and blog posts. Some examples of ancient artwork which points directly to constellational outlines can be seen here, here, here, herehere, and here. The fact that the ancient artists themselves depict gods and goddesses and heroes and demigods with outlines that appear to refer to very specific constellations argues that these stories were understood to be metaphorical and celestial, and that the artists were not attempting to record the appearance of extraterrestrials that they or other men and women had witnessed with their own eyes.

5. The myths and sacred stories can be shown to use the celestial realm and the celestial cycles as a way of depicting the reality of the Spirit World, the Invisible Realm, the Other Realm. This system is discussed at length in my books, based in part on the extensive insights of Alvin Boyd Kuhn on this subject (here is one previous blog post discussing some aspects of this connection). The narrator and the proponents of the "ancient aliens" hypothesis in the above video are constantly asking, "But what if the ancient myths were true?" as if the only way that they could be "true" is if they were describing literal events which took place in terrestrial history. But I believe that the precious myths, scriptures, and sacred stories given to humanity in ancient times are most certainly true, in that they are describing a reality which we cannot see but which is nonetheless very much real. In fact, I believe it is very possible that the stories describing specific characteristics of gods and goddesses which remain consistent across cultures and centuries may very well be true descriptions of supernatural powers or supernatural beings who inhabit the Unseen Realm, the Invisible Realm, the realm of pure potentiality: the realm of the gods. In fact, I believe it may be very misleading to reduce the stories which tell us about the Unseen World to "primitive attempts to describe extraterrestrial visitors with advanced technology, weapons and spacecraft." Doing so is actually a form of "literalism" or "literalistic interpretation" -- based on the assumption that the myths and sacred stories of humanity were intended to be understood and interpreted as if recounting literal, terrestrial events. But I believe the stories can be shown to be celestial and metaphorical in nature, rather than terrestrial and literal -- and in some cases they simply do not make any sense if we attempt to interpret them as literal and terrestrial. For example, the description of the journey of the Magi who come to worship and give gifts to the newborn Christ does not make any sense, geographically speaking, if we attempt to read it as literal and terrestrial. Even if the Magi had spacecraft, it would not make sense for them to come from the east and follow a star that they see in the east, if they are traveling over the surface of our planet to arrive in Bethlehem. However, the story makes perfect sense if it is describing a metaphorical scene based upon the motions of constellations as viewed from the earth (see discussion with diagrams here).

It is this final point that makes me slightly suspicious of the "ancient aliens" theory, if there are indeed proponents who did not or do not actually sincerely believe it (I do not know that to be the case, but it is always a possibility that must be admitted to be within the realm of human behavior).

The authors of Hamlet's Mill, for example, published their groundbreaking study in 1969, complete with hundreds of footnotes and citations of scholarly work from previous decades and centuries (as well as dozens of diagrams and illustrations), showing fairly conclusively that the myths and scriptures of humanity appear to be based upon celestial metaphor in some way. While they did not specifically argue that the purpose of the myths was to convey actual truths about an Invisible Realm which does indeed intertwine with and powerfully interact with this more familiar Visible Realm or Material Realm which we consider "ordinary reality," they did show extensive connection of these myths with their celestial system to the initiations and practices of shamanic cultures across the centuries and around the globe.

If the ancient myths and sacred stories are actually intended to convey understanding and awareness of the Other Realm, as well as the importance of interacting with that Other Realm in this life, and if someone did not want people to know that information, then one way to prevent that knowledge from becoming too widely understood might be to propose other forms of literalistic interpretation which steer people away from what we might call a "shamanic" or "spiritual" interpretation.

For centuries, literalistic interpretations of the scriptures of the Bible have served that purpose (and continue to do so for some). However, it may be that new forms of literalism are occasionally brought forth to appeal to people for whom the more traditional forms of literalism are not attractive, by those who wish to keep the "shamanic" knowledge from empowering people whom this knowledge could actually help.

I have no doubt that many people who subscribe to some form of the "ancient aliens" theory are sincere in their belief (and I know for a fact that some of them are extremely devout in their adherence to that theory as the only possible alternative, and will not give you the time of day if you don't also express your faith in it).

But it is also possible that, either by accident or intentionally, this hypothesis serves to obscure the celestial metaphor behind the ancient wisdom of the human race, and thus to obscure the truths about the Invisible Realm which the myths may be trying to teach us.