Ancient Earthians

The Palenque Slab

Far back in the mists of ancient time, yea, e’en before the Great Nova of Gath, I wanted to start a piece of writing with that phrase, which I think is actually a quote from somewhere, so I can’t. But anyway, a long time ago, according to Erich von Däniken, ancient aliens visited this planet, interbred with the hominids here and gave rise to intelligent humans. Their traces are still evident in the markèd differences between us and the other great apes, in ancient myths and legends, and in the art, objects and buildings of ancient civilisations. The word “ancient” has to be used a lot here, with reverence and an air of mystique. None of this happened of course, but the idea has a surprising history.

One of the first people to make this suggestion was none other than Carl Sagan, who later came across very much as a sceptic, although not precisely in the same mould as James Randi or John Sladek because of his claim that the Galaxy is “teeming with life”. In his 1966 book ‘Intelligent Life In The Universe’, cowritten with Iosif Shklovsky, Sagan claimed that scientists should take the possibility that aliens had visited this planet in prehistoric times seriously, although it should be treated as a hypothesis subject to testing as part of the usual scientific process. Their reasoning was that since the Universe was such a big place with so many star systems apparently suitable for life, the chances of intelligent species leaving their worlds and exploring distant stars were very good indeed, particularly over the billions of years this planet has been in existence. He later regretted saying this because he felt responsible for the whole ancient astronaut debacle that ensued, particularly due to Zechariah Sitchin and Erich von Däniken among other less well-known writers, and of course this ultimately led to the interminable History Channel series ‘Ancient Aliens’. Sagan actually used to appear on documentaries in the ’70s trying to undo the damage. He actually wasn’t the first. In 1940, the editor of ‘Astounding’ John W Campbell had Isaac Asimov insert Greek deities as aliens in Asimov’s story ‘Homo sol’, with racist overtones. Asimov, being Jewish, was unsurprisingly not keen on this at all and proceeded to make sure he avoided non-human intelligent life forms in most of his writings after that, thereby inventing the ‘Humans Only Galaxy’ which still shows its influence today, for instance in Rob Grant’s and Doug Naylor’s ‘Red Dwarf’ series, where there are no genuine species not originating ultimately on Earth.

Erich von Däniken is obviously the worst offender here. Some of his work is based on forgeries and outright falsehoods. For instance, he mentions and illustrates stones carved with heart transplant operations which were in fact contemporary engravings which he commissioned personally. I don’t want to go into too much detail about this because even his reputation is old hat nowadays, but just briefly he was found guilty of repeated fraud, embezzlement and forgery in 1968 on unrelated matters connected to loans and went to prison for three years. Luckily for him, ‘Memories Of The Future’, more usually known by its English title ‘Chariots Of The Gods’, had been published by then and he was able to pay off his debts with the royalties. He wrote the second book, ‘Gods From Outer Space’, in prison.

Before I go on, I want to debunk this.

First of all, the really low-hanging fruit is the issue of aliens interbreeding with humans. The definition of a species is a population able to interbreed and produce viable offspring, although this often doesn’t work very well because there are microspecies, asexual organisms and fossils we have no idea about. In one of his attempts to salvage the situation, Carl Sagan once said it would be easier to mate a human with a petunia than with an alien, because petunias are more closely related to us. The only scenario in which this would not be so, given unaltered biology, would be if the aliens were actually completely human. More on that in a bit. However, this is often evoked as an explanation for perceived human exceptionalism, but fails for two reasons even if it worked. Firstly, it attempts to explain something by simply deferring it. Secondly, it makes humans seem more special than we really are. We’re apes, simple as that. Our intelligence differs to some extent from the others but if assessed, inappropriately of course, by human standards all the other species of great ape would have an IQ above thirty, probably higher, and they are also ahead of humans in cognitive development until eighteen months. They also have cognitive abilities we lack, as I mentioned previously.

As far as anyone has been able to discover, all living things on this planet descend from a common ancestor four billion years ago, because our genomes are all fairly similar, and with a few exceptions among the viruses, all use the same DNA or RNA bases. It is possible that there’s a “shadow biosphere”: undetected life forms whose chemistry is somewhat different and therefore undetected. The phenomenon of desert varnish is sometimes explained by this – a coating on rocks in deserts whose mode of formation is unknown. Most scientists involved would say it’s very unlikely that we wouldn’t have detected them by now. Anyway, it would be enormously difficult for visiting aliens not to leave behind a few microörganisms, but there are no traces of those at all, so it’s also unlikely that this planet has ever been visited at all. That said, the Silurian Hypothesis suggests that there may have been a technological civilisation before us on this planet, the best candidate being some time in the Eocene (see the post for details), although that could in theory have been native. Or hypothetically, rather.

The humanoid nature of the aliens might be worth looking into. The general consensus among xenobiologists (the only science without a subject, as it’s been called) is that there won’t be any human-looking aliens. Using a very slapdash approach, if each step in evolution had only two alternatives and every star in the Galaxy had intelligent life on one planet circling it, it would take only thirty-nine steps for every such species to be different. On the other hand, evolution really comprises order imposed on randomness by the constraints of biology and the influence of the environment, and this frequently leads to similar organisms. For instance, a flower-like body plan crops up over and over again in the animal, protist and plant kingdoms, even without similar pressures. As for humans, well, maybe we’re just what intelligent tool-using life forms end up looking like, but I personally doubt it. There are reasons for supposing the opposite though.

The illustration at the start of this post is notoriously interpreted by many as an astronaut at the controls of a spaceship. It’s from Palenque (I’m not sure about the political significance of this spelling incidentally – at school we were taught the spelling “Palenki” and that may be less culturally imperialistic but I’m not sure how Yucatec Maya uses Latin script). This is in fact a bas relief of Pacal (and again I don’t know how to reproduce Mayan glyphs inline), a ruler of the area in question. The Von Dänikenische interpretation of that carving is that the snakes’ heads at the bottom (right) are the bottom of a space capsule, there are flames coming out of them, the thing to Pacal’s left/above Pacal is a control panel and so on. Here’s a link to an illustration of that interpretation in detail.

Glossing over what was happening on the Other Side at the time, which is in fact VASTLY significant to many people, on 26th November 1977, as well as there being a really good episode of ‘Doctor Who’ on BBC1, BBC2 broadcast a Horizon special called ‘The Case Of The Ancient Astronauts’. There must’ve been something in the water on that day, because a nice throwaway tidy-up line at the end of the documentary ended up hugely influencing my thoughts on the matter for years afterwards:

The achievements of the past tell us nothing about spacemen (sic), but a great deal about the intelligence of our ancestors. And if we are ever to find other intelligent life among the stars, it’ll be because we continue to apply that inventiveness and that questioning spirit which the ancient astronaut theory seeks so strongly to deny.

And it’s true of course. The idea of ancient astronauts guiding every great achievement of the human race makes us look as if we’re unable to take the initiative, and also carries with it the suggestion that primitive people were primitive more than they were people. I may be reading too much into this but there seems to be an overtone of colonialism there, in that if a non-Western civilisation comes up with something technologically sophisticated it is automatically explained via alien intervention. The TV series ‘Ancient Aliens’ may be a little better in this regard for all I know, but that’s only because it’s had to keep dredging the bottom of the well for more source material to shoehorn alien intervention into. I don’t know how seriously viewers have taken that programme but if they have, it hasn’t done their critical thinking skills any good. However, I do have a slightly more sympathetic take on this because I think for some people belief in ancient astronaut intervention is a form of religious expression, which is seen elsewhere in for example the Raelians, the Aetherius Society, Scientology and tragically also the Heaven’s Gate cult. Since I am religious, possibly even pathologically so, I can’t help thinking that there’s a widespread instinctive human need for religion and this is an example of a new set of religious beliefs with pseudoscientific trappings. Like some other religious beliefs, it portrays humans as helpless, and this strong statement made at the end of this documentary made quite an impression on me.

Remember first of all that I was only ten at the time. I took on board the idea of human ingenuity and resourcefulness, but didn’t reject the ancient artefacts. As far as I was concerned, there was still a mystery to be resolved vis à vis the likes of the Baghdad Battery, the stainless steel pillar in India, the nuclear war in the ancient Indus Valley and so on. I even attempted to write my own version of ‘Chariots Of The Gods?’ likening snakes to trains and so forth, which was more for fun than anything I took seriously. It was kind of a parody, which ‘The Burkiss Way’ was doing better at the time with their Eric von Kontrick character, who incidentally was a creation of Douglas Adams – his fingerprints are all over the sketch.

These are the odd conclusions I drew at the time, which turned out to be remarkably durable. It’s a good example of my tendency to believe it’s important to be delusional in order to support one’s mental health:

I started with the discovery of fire by Homo erectus. This species was the first whose cranial capacity overlaps that of today’s humans. Two important sets of remains are the Peking and Java Men, the second of which is more like Homo sapiens than the latter. I have to say that although they’re portrayed as another species, since they’re not around today I don’t think there’s any firm evidence that they could not have formed a breeding population with us, the Neanderthals and the Denisovans, and therefore that their physical differences from us may be due to evolution having occurred within our species. I suspect that we are they. Their earlier members had a cranial capacity of 600-800 cm3 but later on it had exceeded a litre, reaching 1250 cm3 . Archaic H. sapiens are actually smaller than that at 1200. I could introduce a lot of stuff that I’ve learnt since then and changes due to scientific findings, but I’m going to stick to this impression as it’s what I based my thoughts on at the time.

This next bit had its first draft in about 1978 when I wrote an essay on it for RE, which I’ve lost.

In order to resolve the problems presented by out of place artefacts without evoking aliens, it’s possible to assume that from the discovery of fire, Homo erectus continued to advance technologically over a period of a few thousand years from about 800 000 BP (=Before Present, present being 1950 here) to develop firstly a global advanced industrial society, then to venture forth into the solar system and then the Galaxy, settling worlds all over the Milky Way and maintaining a Phase Three civilisation for hundreds of thousands of years. At this time, the now lost continents of Atlantis and Mu still existed and were the most heavily developed landmasses on this planet. During the last Ice Age, a catastrophe befell this civilisation and it returned to Stone Age level, before giving rise to civilisation as we know it today.

A little embarrassingly, I held on to this set of beliefs for many years although I can’t place when I stopped believing it was so except that I was definitely adult at the time. I also recognise that it’s somewhat reminiscent of the ‘Battlestar Galactica’ mythos, but I guarantee I wasn’t aware of that at the time because I came up with it in late 1977 and the first episode was broadcast in September 1978. There does, however, seem to be a tendency for ideas to occur to various people at the same time, which I think is due to most of the pieces being in place for them: what Charles Fort calls “steam engine time”.

You might also be wondering how come nobody has found any trace of this civilisation. The answer is that it had been calculated many years before, in the 1920s, that all traces of human civilisation would have disappeared entirely within 50 000 years. However, to my pre-teen mind the presence of fossilised artefacts such as screws, glass jars and hammers would’ve been enough to justify my belief. I think there’s something about that age which makes us very keen to believe in things like the Loch Ness Monster and flying saucers. We want the world to be outlandish, exciting and exotic, and it’s like an outgrowth of our earlier burgeoning curiosity about life with, perhaps, a bit of rebellion mixed in with it.

There’s a danger in using ideas without experience of what other people have done with them. Doris Lessing’s ‘Canopus In Argus’ series is an example of that, as may be Audrey Niffenegger’s ‘The Time Traveler’s Wife’, although I admit that she did something different with it than Kurt Vonnegut did. I’ve seen one Galactica film at the cinema in 1980 and that’s it. I never watched the TV series or the reboot, although I have watched one episode of ‘Caprica’. Therefore I’m quite ignorant of it, which I may in fact already have exposed by writing what I have here, but my impression is that it’s set in prehistoric times and that humans on Earth are in the future relative to the time its set in, although this might have been retconned.

A major flaw in my ideas was that if civilisation had collapsed, it should have left humans all over the Galaxy unaware of their history, which is fine since we don’t know anything about any possible life forms in the rest of the Milky Way except that that then makes the probability of us just happening to be on the planet humans evolved on very low. If it had happened, the chances are we’d be living on a different planet with no fossil record of earlier humans and two distinct sets of life forms, one related to humans (even if only distantly, such as algæ) and another which had completely different genetic code and possibly even biology.

As a world-building idea, it has possibilities. The less plausible one is just to take it as it is: we are living after the end of an interstellar civilisation without knowing it. This is not sustainable in hard science fiction. The more plausible version would involve positing that humans do, in fact, eventually colonise the stars before their civilisation collapses and on various planets recovers and gradually discovers that they are not the first. Andrew Tomas wrote a book with that title in 1972, but I haven’t read it and it seems to confine itself to this planet and the likes of the Ancient Babylonians having electric current or something. I vaguely associate that with a book called ‘On The Shores Of Distant Worlds’, which seems to be imaginary as I can’t find any trace of it.

The remaining question is, what does it say about me that this belief system was so persistent? Does it mean I was immature or psychotic? All I can say is that it’s along the lines of my general belief that it’s important to have some kind of “give” in a rational mind to enable it to persist in being rational under stress. It’s kind of like escapism I suppose. On the other hand, there are people who believe all sorts of strange things throughout their lives, whole communities of them, so maybe I’m not so unusual.

3 thoughts on “Ancient Earthians

  1. The morning of the 4th day of the Pesach, we Jews stand on the 3rd day of the Omer count. The Omer count teaches a נמשל mussar whereby Jews count the day cleansed of avoda zara. The count distance from biur chametz and the night of the Sedar Pesach where we Jews acknowledge that HaShem alone brought Israel out of Egypt. The משל of biur chametz sanctifies as קודש. Which means exactly what? That Jews commit to remove and distance themselves from chametz, similar to a nazir who likewise does so with grapes, what Jews do with chametz the entire chag of Pesach. The נמשל of biur chametz, Jews search their houses and property to remove any and all foreign Gods. Something as did Israel before the revelation of the Torah at Sinai; comparable to La’van searching the tents of Yaacov looking for his God. Bottom line, the Haggadah teaches faith in the justice of HaShem which ipso facto rejects prayer offered to both idols or other Gods. The 11th middle Blessing of the Shemone Esri,

    ולירושלים עירך ברחמים תשוב, ותשכן בתוכה כאשר דברת וכו’ וכסא דוד מהרה לתוכה תכין…
    Its central k’vanna makes discernment between oath brit sworn to HaShem from the worship of foreign imposter Gods/chametz. The revelation of the Torah at Sinai excludes all other Gods. Both rational or mystic belief based theologies, mussar mitzvot exclude from the inheritance of the brit Cohen nation. Rational or mystic theology compares to avoda zara which once worshipped the stars in the Heavens as Gods; the latter – an inheritance given to all Mankind. Only Israel accepted the Torah revelation of HaShem at Sinai. Mussar commands middot, tohor middot.

    Ingestion of tohor middot causes the emotional irrational mind to mature due to developing wisdom, consequent to acquired life experience; lessons learned over and over again and again, until that novice becomes a master. Enslaved Israel had to learn how to make and work with bricks. Wisdom enlightenment, attained through labor with bricks, likewise produced two great “tuma” Temples: courtroom righteous justice has priority over korbanot. The logic skill that applies knowledge of bricks and their purposes, equally applies to many other subjects and walks of life. On this basis stands all Common Law courtrooms of justice.

    Rule #1 of the Torah faith: Erect the Torah world – – through validation of established precedents. A novice that reads T’NaCH and Talmud, basically limited his understanding to what his eyes immediately read from those books. The style of the Baali-Tosafot – they brought precedents from other places within the Sha’s Talmud; their T’NaCH and Talmudic commentaries learn by way of bringing comparative precedents, comparative case/law, from other places within the Sha’s Talmud. A novice can not duplicate the sh’itta of learning done by the Baali Tosafot; a commentary which consistently follows the sh’itta of learning through precedents; expressed throughout the Baali Tosafot’s commentary upon the Sha’s Bavli.

    The קודש of the Haggadah: it separates tefilla from prayer. Both the worshipers of idols and the disciples of the Scientific method limit the reality of their Gods to 3 physical dimensions. On par with the Ancient Greeks as expressed through the flaw of Euclid’s 5th axiom of geometry, or the absolute necessity required by all branches of Xtian theology, which demands that a physical Jesus once lived as a man within the lands of Judea over 2000 years ago. Neither the idea of a myth or an imaginary Jesus can Church theology ever accept. Therefore persons who pray, they – by definition – worship other Gods. Why? Because persons who pray have long ago embraced Goyim customs, cultures, practices and behaviors – all Goyim refused to accept the revelation of the Torah at Sinai; assimilated Jewry have likewise abandoned and rejected the cultures and customs practiced by the Cohed nation.

    The רשע who asks one of the 4 questions, he excludes himself not only from the liberation from Egyptian g’lut, but even worse he excludes himself from the eternal Cohen inheritance of the Jewish people. G’lut comes when the Cohen nation abandons tohor practices and assimilates unto foreign alien cultures and customs. Year by year Yidden repeats the salvation from Egyptian bondage. Slowly the dawn breaks and Yidden perceive much more than the טפש פשט of remembering the suffering and salvation from the bondage of Egyptian slavery, an event that happened thousands of years in the past, yet whose meaning applies to our situational lives. Specifically, that HaShem and no other God or Angel, redeemed slaves from g’lut.

    In the beginning: Yosef reveals his hidden identity unto his brothers, to the latter dedication of korbanot by the sons of Aaron, avodat HaShem stands separate and apart from prayers offered unto other Gods. קודש. The Haggadah of Seder Pesach teaches the קודש: HaShem commands the 613 mitzvot over the tuma of the worship of other Gods. Do not follow after the culture or customs practiced by the Goyim who refused to accept the revelation of the Torah at Sinai. To understand the 613 requires a strong knowledge of classic Jewish cultural practices and customs. Tuma attempts to divorce the 613 from the cultural background of Jewish culture, customs, practices, and ways. The Torah refers to this crime by the name of avoda zarah. Prayer – the opposite of tefilla. Persons who worship other Gods …… they pray.

    Persons who worship other Gods, they know nothing of the pre-condition which tohor makes upon both mitzva observance in general and tefilla in particular. They assume that korbanot compare to primitive Bar BQ’s offered up to Gods who live in the Heaven – rationally comparable to the stars in the skies. They do not grasp that tefilla functions as a sign of the brit faith, on par with brit melah, shabbot, and tefillen. Tefilla means the dedication of tohor middot unto HaShem alone, as learned directly from the Chumash and NaCH: that HaShem accepts our korban tefilla middot dedications as קודש, and rejects the prayers Goyim pray unto their foreign Gods, by judging those alien Gods with curses and plagues.An interesting Pesach commentary,

    that Rabbi David Bar-Hayim, he based his lecture upon the Reshon halacha established by Rambam. He makes efforts to explain Talmudic opinions of origination, based upon the order by which Rambam organized his halachic code. Not to follow after the way of the Goyim, it seems to me, defines the mussar mitzva of “Jewish modesty”: not to follow or copy the customs, manners, and ways that Goyim accustom their social neighborly affairs. The Rambam listed these halachot located within his legal code – Hilchos Avodat Kochavim. And therein lays the rub, what defines avoda zara? A lack of modesty. As opposed & contradicted by the worship of idols and other God(s). Of the two, which has מלכות priority? The midda of modesty learns its definition, tohor humility stands upon the יסוד, the life lived by the prophet – king Moshe. Versus the 2nd Commandment revelation of the Torah at Sinai.

    Rabbi David Bar-Hayim failed to bring the mussar commandment attached to the halachic rulings that forbade to follow the practices customs or manners – both personal and dress – of the Goyim. He likewise failed to mention the specific, yet clearly לאו דוקא Torah commandment – After the ways of Egypt or Canaan, do not follow.

    Alas the Rambam erred, his Code destroyed the פרדס kabbalah established by Rabbi Akiva and all his talmidim. Rabbi David Bar-Hayim, in his turn, also failed to discuss the 13 tohor middot revelation of the Torah sh’Baal pe – Master of Torah logic – in his amplification of the Rambam’s Halachic opinions: “his” errors doubled and compounded, “he” ripped apart the worp from its woof in the fabric of the Sha’s Bavli. “He” divorced prophetic mussar learned directly from the aggadic drosh of logic unto the T’NaCH Primary Sources which teach the kabbala of our musar masoret, known as prophecy.

    Rabbi David Bar-Hayim follows the err made by the Rambam, similar to the prophet Chaggai who taught a tuma prophecy, consequent to the domino effect error made by the Shlomo the king – who failed to listen and to heed the mussar mitzva which the prophet Natan commanded, and which king David opened his last address to another Man in this world. Chaggai links construction of the Temple as the mitzva of keeping and doing the curse included in the 2nd paragraph of kre’a shma. Natan, the prophet of king David, advised the king, of the k’vanna of thatTorah kre’a shma commandment: Justice Justice pursue but the ways and customs of the Goyim – do not follow. The construction of the Temple by king Shlomo: this erroneous action\decision…initiated the path whereby the soul of king Shlomo walks before HaShem unto all eternity; avoda zara, reliance upon wood and stone as a blessing from Heaven, results in Civil War. Herein defines the term: destiny of Temple Shlomo.

    The curse decree pronounced upon king David by Natan the prophet, this mussar passed as an eternal inheritance which king David’s sons for ever inherit – comparable to DNA – War among Brothers, also known from the evil sinister alias: “Civil War”. Civil War – – no greater plague of destruction and cruel death. King Shlomo erred, he failed to establish the rule of law through the judicial decisions reached through aFederal Sanhedrin lateral Common Law court system. The din by which king Shlomo launched his reputation of fame, that “courting” [people in dispute] came before the Court of king Shlomo – not before the lateral Common-law Sanhedrin Court.

    [Common-law courtrooms stand upon logical precedents which the opposing lawyers introduce as “legal” evidence – made by two of the three Torts Court Justices – these opposing Torts court justices argue the merits of that specific Case, before the 3rd Judge of the same Torts Court. Upon this יסוד\kabbala stand the Order of Organization of both the Small and Great Sanhedrin Capital Crime courts of law. When the opposing Justices argued pro & con “legal”, meaning: (the obligation to acquire similar yet earlier opinions made by all previous courtrooms; specifically – from all other Sanhedrin courtrooms across the country. Law by means of valid precedents successfully compares previous Case/Rule cases. The 3rd judge of a Torts court makes his ruling after reading the legal briefs and hearing the arguments of the 2 opposing judges of the court. From this sh’itta – of precedents required – the 3 Justices of the Torts court rooms determine judicial justice), earlier halachic precedents, meaning: legal rulings made by earlier\previous Case/Rule Common-law court rulings].

    The prophets teach the strong mussar commandment: justice justice pursue. From this tohor concept of mussar, Natan the prophet interpreted the k’vanna of the 2nd paragraph – acceptance of the curse obligation within the mitzva of kre’a shma. Specifically the dedication to do all mitzvot, tohor mussar middot mitztvot לשמה. Herein explains why rabbis in Judea did not have to wear distinctive garments to acknowledge their righteousness. Rather these Court Rabbis enjoy the potential to transform their lives unto the madraega/level of Baal Shem Tov\master of the Good Name – – meaning – – fear of heaven. Doing mitzvot לשמה the reputation and Good Name of Judean Jews. Doing mitzvot oblivious of what means לשמה – the slandered reputation and Bad Name whereby Goyim condemn g’lut Jews – throughout human history. This distinction learns from the opening opinion on the first Mishna of גיטין.

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  2. Nice essay! I think you’re spot on with your “there’s something about that age” comment. I, too, was smitten with Chariots.. sometime in late elementary school. While I might cringe for my younger self now, I have to say that it certainly stoked my imagination.

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