Gareth Medway looks at the writers who developed the Ancient Astronaut concept, and why that belief system proved so popular. (From Magonia 57, September 1996)
R.L.Dione’s God Drives a Flying Saucer (Corgi, 1973; 1st ed. 1969) sneers at traditional metaphysics: “… no system of logic yet devised can resolve the inconsistencies and paradoxes inherent in the belief that man is inhabited by a mystical, supernatural and immortal something called a soul.”
Turning to the Bible, what is to be made of the miracles recorded there? Dione can find no reason to doubt the Bible’s accuracy: “…if it were not for the references to miracles, the Bible would stand unchallenged as a monumental achievement in historical reporting.”
The possibility of supernatural powers he finds absurd, therefore the only explanation is that flying saucer technology was at work. After that, everything becomes simple: Adam and Eve were created by genetic engineers working under the direction of God, who is the “leader of the master technologists”; angels were spacemen; Ezekiel’s vision was of flying saucers; as to the Immaculate Conception, it is “reasonably certain” that Gabriel was a “biological specialist” who artificially inseminated Mary with a hypodermic needle; and “it may well be that the sperm used was God’s making Jesus the Son of God just as the Bible teaches.”
Yet in the end Dione’s super-technological God is hardly different from the supernatural one of the Catholics. We don’t have souls, but technology can make our minds, which are electromagnetic in nature, immortal: “God will choose which of us will survive as angels in heaven … by analysing the references of our guardian angels and by studying the monitoring tapes which are at this moment recording our lives.”
Dione’s original background was evidently in the Roman church, since he gave a whole chapter to Fatima, and quoted the Bible in a revised version of the Douay translation. David F. McConnell, in his Flying Saucers of the Lord (Economy Printing Company, Miami, Horida, 1969) used the King James translation (and so was presumably brought up a Protestant), but his interpretations were very similar to Diane’s:
“Exodus 13:21 And 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, to give them light, to go by day and night. This was a case of a flying saucer or saucers of the Lord leading the children of Israel through the wilderness of the Red Sea…. Psalm 97:3 A fire goeth before him, and burneth up his enemies round about. The flying saucers of the Lord with the angels go before the Lord and burn up his enemies.”
A Question of Faith
Up until about 1950 religion seemed to be everywhere in decline, whilst science and materialism increased, apparently in the direction of universal atheism. One of the standard objections to religion was that the Bible is full of miracles, which the progress of science had indicated to be impossible. The Book of Joshua records that God, at the request of Joshua, stopped the sun in its movement for the space of a whole day. In ancient times this did not seem odd; after Newton, it was difficult to believe.
1950 saw the publication of Immanuel Velikovsky’s Worlds in Collision. Though its author may not have consciously realised it, the intent of this book seems to have been a reconciliation of science and religion.
Velikovsky being Jewish, for him religion meant the Old Testament. He suggested that many of the Biblical wonders could be explained in wholly scientific terms as being catastrophes brought about by the wanderings of the planets Venus and Mars. He considered that Venus only came into existence a few thousand years ago, when it was blown out of Jupiter. About 1500 BC it came close to Earth, causing various dramatic gravitational effects such as the parting of the Red Sea, and the halting of the motion of the sun mentioned above. Eventually it reached its present orbit, which was then occupied by Mars. Venus settled in Mars’ orbit, and Mars was driven away from the sun, passing Earth during the middle of the period covered by the Biblical Book of Kings, causing various further apparent miracles.
Dr Velikovsky was a friend of both Sigmund Freud and Albert Einstein, and evidently expected that his name would one day stand alongside theirs. He was disappointed: though Worlds in Collision was first issued by the respected academic publishers Macmillan of New York, not only did scientific writers denounce it, but universities threatened to boycott Macmillan’s entire book list so long as Velikovsky’s work remained on it. So they transferred the rights to Doubleday, who did not have a textbook business, and despite all the criticism it sold well for decades. Though there were perfectly legitimate objections to Velikovsky’s theories on astronomical grounds, this excessive reaction leads one to suspect that his opponents were unconsciously aware of the book’s hidden religious agenda, and that was what they objected to.
The idea of Ancient Astronauts was toyed with as far back as 1919 by Charles Fort in The Book of the Damned.
* * *
In a sense, Velikovsky was firmly within the Rabbinical tradition, which is that anything and everything can be found in the Torah (Law of God). In the 12th century, when Aristotelian philosophy became popular amongst the Jews, Rabbis claimed to find it all in their scriptures. Aristotle taught that there are three parts to the soul: the animal soul, the rational soul, and the divine soul. Now, the Biblical Hebrew word for ‘soul’ is nephesh, but once or twice ruach and neshamah, both of which mean ‘wind’ or ‘breath’ and are used in the sense ‘breath of life. (Genesis 2:7: “And the Lord God formed Adam of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the neshamah of life; and Adam became a living nephesh.) So it was explained that nephesh was the animal soul, ruach the rational soul, and neshamah the divine soul. Having by such means discovered the whole of Aristotle’s system within their sacred books, they declared that Aristotle must have travelled to Jerusalem and learnt from the Jews.
The idea of Ancient Astronauts was toyed with as far back as 1919 by Charles Fort in The Book of the Damned. It also become a regular theme in science fiction. Notably, in November 1947, Fantastic Stories had a short story ‘Son of the Sun’, in the form of a message from an extra-terrestrial, who tells the human race that the craft now being seen in the skies (this was a few months after the start of the first flying saucer wave) have visited the Earth long ago: their occupants were formerly confused with gods. They left behind “certain landmarks” in Egypt and elsewhere. The author of this piece, ‘Alexander Blade’, was none other than Brinsley le Poer Trench, subsequent author of a series of books on the theme, from The Sky People (Neville Spearman, 1960) onwards.
The first substantial treatment was by Desmond Leslie in Flying Saucers Have Landed, which appeared three years after Worlds in Collision. After some account of modern UFOs, Leslie suddenly jumped back thousands of years to Atlantis, In those days people flew around in machines called vimanas, of which it was written: “… their outside surface was apparently seamless and perfectly smooth, and they shone in the dark as if coated with luminous paint.” (FSHL, p.81, quoting W. Scott Elliott, The Story of Atlantis)
These were not the earliest flying saucers: in fact, human life was first brought to Earth from Venus by the Lords of the Flame, on whom Leslie, quoted from the Stanzas of Dzyan:
The Lords of the Flame arose and prepared themselves … the Great Lord of the Fourth Sphere (the Earth) awaited their oncoming. The lower (Earth) was prepared. The upper (Venus) was resigned …” Their arrival was described thus: “Then with the mighty roar of swift descent from incalculable heights, surrounded by blazing masses of fire which filled the sky with shooting tongues of flame, the vessel of the Lords of the flame flashed through the aerial spaces. It halted over the White Island which lay in the Gobi Sea, Green it was, and radiant with the first blossoms as Earth offered her fairest and best to welcome her King.” (FSHL, p.166, quoting Besant and Leadbeater, Man: How, Whence and Whither) Leslie commented: “In this fragment we have the first account of the landing of a great space ship or flying saucer … Incredible as it seems, there can be no other meaning to this passage,”
He dated this landing to the year 18,617,841 BC…
In view of the sensational conclusions, one might ask, just how reliable are the sources? This question did not seem to occur to Leslie, His main authorities are given as the Stanzas of Dzyan, along with the writings of Annie Besant, Charles Leadbeater, W. Scott Elliott and Alice Bailey. The Stanzas of Dzyan were first published in Madame Blavatsky’s The Secret Doctrine, introduced with the description: “An archaic Manuscript – a collection of palm leaves made impermeable to water, fire and air, by some specific and unknown process – is before the writer’s eye.” Unfortunately, this book does not seem to have lain before the eye of anyone else, and Madame Blavatsky herself probably only saw it with clairvoyant vision. It can therefore be reasonably objected that it is a matter of faith, rather than historical record, to accept its account of the Lords of the Flame. Furthermore, the information given by Besant, Leadbeater, Scott Elliott and Bailey was also obtained by psychic investigation, (The date 18,617,841 was “according to the Brahmin Tables”.)
“As soon as we abandon our own reason, and are content to rely upon authority, there is no end to our troubles. Whose authority? The Old Testament? The New Testament? The Koran? In practice, people choose the book considered sacred by the community in which they are born, and out of that book they choose the parts they like, ignoring the others .,. No Catholic, for instance, takes seriously the text which says that a Bishop should be the husband of one wife.” (Bertrand Russell, Unpopular Essays, 1950, p. 108)
Now, Leslie’s main authorities were Theosophical writers, and though the Theosophical Society might deny it, Theosophy is in effect a religion, with the writings of Blavatsky, Besant and Co. as its scriptures. Desmond Leslie was evidently a Theosophist, and he was merely updating his Victorian religion to encompass the new phenomenon of flying saucers.
To be fair, he was also able to cite some unquestionably ancient books, notably the Mahabharata, which mentions flying ships and lethal armaments such as the “Brahma Weapon” described in terms comparable to a nuclear bomb. Yet the Mahabharata is itself a sacred book to the Hindus. Some years ago I met an Indian Guru who was on his way to California. He said his original home was a cave in the Himalayas, which was equipped with its own television set. He explained that they had to get one in order to see the dramatisation of the Mahabharata, as it was a religious duty to watch it.
For most westerners, of course, religion means Christianity and scripture the Bible. The 1956 appearance of Morris K. Jessup’s UFO and the Bible (Citadel Press, New York) was overdue: he began by saying: “Scarcely a week goes by without some alert reader sending me suggestions that I should expound on the Biblical references to UFO and related phenomena of a so-called miraculous type.”
Jessup started from the position: “I believe that it is time for Church and Science to bury their respective tomahawks and let the pipe of intellectual peace glow as both parties mellow around the camp fire of tolerant and objective inquiry.” As an example of the reconciliation of these two sides, take Kings 2:11: “And it come to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, 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.” Jessup quoted a “skilled and thoughtful student of the Bible” a Mr H. Lawrence Crowell, as saying that “the Aramaic words ruach cearah should be translated ‘power blast’ instead of ‘whirlwind’.” He could thus offer a new version:
As they walked and talked there suddenly appeared a bright UFO, emitting electric sparks and blasts, and it parted them: Elijah was snatched up into the sky with a blast of power.”Having once hit on this principle of interpretation, other miracles are easily explained. Considering such passages as: “… and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha” (2 Kings 6:17): “And he rode upon a cherub, and did fly: yea, he did fly upon the wings of the wind” (Psalm 18:10), Jessup commented: “No longer can we afford to laugh off these references as merely ‘quaint’ and allegoric, for they begin to sound more and more like accurate descriptions of the UFO.”
Pertinent here is the furore, created by Honest to God (SCM Press, 1963), written by the Bishop of Woolwich, John A.T. Robinson, which proposed a mild revolution in theology. He began by asking if it made sense to speak of God “up there” in a Copernican universe. Though his argument was not set out clearly, he went on to propose displacing “supranaturalism” with “naturalistic” religion. This meant getting rid of miracles and such-like, which in the scientific age had become regarded as a bar to faith, though he was unsure with what they should be replaced.
The original print-run of Honest to God was for 6,000 copies, but before the end of the year more than 350,000 had been sold, showing that the questions it raised already bothered many people, Inevitably there was controversy and calls for the Bishop’s resignation, but it is significant that the critics did not agree among themselves. One man wrote to him “I have, and many thousands have, an image of God in the heavens. The parsons have always spoken of a God up there, but now the parsons ore contradicting everything they have said … These new beliefs will smash Christians in believing there is a God and it could be the Church in general will break up. The words of the creed will mean nothing. It is suddenly like telling a youngster who believes whole-heartedly in Father Xmas, ‘there isn’t a Father Xmas, it’s your Dad,’ The whole world would collapse beneath them.” (This quotation, and other comments from The Honest to God Debate, SCM,1963) C.S. Lewis, by contrast, thought that the Bishop was making a noise about nothing: “We have long abandoned belief in a God who sits on a throne in a localised heaven.”
Voices of praise were far more common: a vicar’s wife told the Bishop he had “made the Church seem alive again, when for years it has seemed so unbearably dead!” Letters expressing agreement came from priests, theologians, doctors, headmasters and businessmen, “A well-known politician” wrote: “Reading it, and hearing you speak it, has done more to make the basic validity of the Christian message seem relevant to me than all the sermons and services I have ever heard or attended.”
Until the debate on the ordination of women, this affair was the biggest religious controversy the Church of England had seen this century. It suggests that, generally speaking, the British felt unable to believe in a comforting God the Father ‘up there’, just as they could not believe in Father Christmas. Yet they did not simply turn to atheism (as most materialists expected they would) but felt the need for some new kind of religion or belief, something to replace the old supernatural God.Bishop Robinson remarked that he had never experienced “being born again” (Honest to God, p. 27). Since then, the most notable development within the Church has been the rise of “born-again” Christianity. A former “born-again” tells me that it is perfectly fair to say that born-again Christians are taught not to think. Instead they are meant to rely on the authority of the Bible, and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. For this growing section of the Church, there can be no conflict between science and religion, since they do not think about the question.
But for the rest of the ‘Body of Christ’ the problem has remained, and the conventional, non-born-again churches have continued to decline. And, so, the Space Gods have been able to manifest to help fill the vacuum left by the departure of God the Father from his throne in heaven
Return of the Gods.
A few years later appeared the most successful of the Ancient Astronaut books, Erich Von Daniken’s Chariots of the Gods? 1969 (1st ed. as Erinnerungen an die Zukunst, Econ-Verlog, 1968. The original title meant ‘Memories of the Future’). The first thing that would strike anyone familiar with the literature is this book’s lack of originality. Despite his continual references to ‘my theories’ (etc.), almost everything in his book had already been noticed by Desmond Leslie, Robert Charroux, Pauwels and Bergier, W. Raymond Drake and others. Indeed, van Daniken’s quotations from the Ramayana and Mahabharata are simply lifted from Flying Saucers Have Landed (he translated the 19th century English renditions into German, whence Michael Heron turned them back into English, so that the versions in Chariots of the Gods? have been translated thrice). Likewise, when van Daniken wrote: “Seen from the air, the clear-cut impression that the 37-mile-long Plain of Nazca made on me was that of an airfield!” (Chariots, p. 32), he was most likely influenced in this impression by Louis Pauwels and Jacques Bergier’s The Morning of the Magicians (Mayflower, 1971, p.117; 1st ed. Paris, Editions Gallimard, 1960): “Photographs taken of the plain of Nazca remind one irresistibly of the ground-lighting of an airfield.” It would be tedious to analyse the whole book in this way, but nearly all of it had been said before.
So why did this book greatly outsell its predecessors? Part of the reason is no doubt that van Daniken wrote in a fluent and popular style (more than one can say of the average UFO author), he appeared (if only superficially) to be scientific, and he had actually bothered to visit many of the sites he wrote about.
Unlike Desmond Leslie and many of the others, his treatment was simple and unmystical. Readers of Brinsley le Poet Trench’s The Sky People, for instance, might have been able to take in the Garden of Eden (a Galactic cross-breed experiment carried out on Mars), Atlantis, Osiris and Isis, Abraham, Red Indian folklore, Sodom (destroyed by nuclear weapons), tektites, Jericho, the 1908 Siberian explosion, and the star of Bethlehem, but maybe it all got too confusing
when he added Madame Blavatsky, Kundalini, Gnosticism, etheric nature, mediumship, the significance of the cross, telepathic powers, and the “‘journey back to godhood’.
Perhaps the main cause was simply that he published at the right time and place to influence those who, like the disaffected readers of Honest to God, wanted a non-supernatural God ‘up there’. For instance, Darwin had made Christians uncomfortable about Genesis, and Bishop Robinson hardly bothered to defend it:
A hundred years ago the Church was forced to clarify whether it accepted the Adam story as history or as myth. Until then there had been many theologians (St Paul probably among them) who, if pressed, would not have thought the truth of the story depended upon Adam being an actual historical individual. But the point is that they were not pressed. There was no compelling need to distinguish between the categories of history and myth. But with the Darwinian controversy on evolution it became a vital necessity. It was imperative for Christian apologetic to be clear that Genesis was not a rival account of primitive anthropology. If the distinction had not been made it would have been virtually impossible to continue commending the Biblical faith to modern scientific man.
The Bishop himself settled for myth, regarding Adam and Eve as metaphors for Everyman and Everywoman, who are always subject to temptation (the Serpent). “Go back as far as you will, human nature has always been like that. That’s why in the myth they are put at the beginning.” (John A.T. Robinson, But that I can’t believe!, Fontana, 1967)
How much happier are those who can take a myth to be absolute truth! The born-agains, as always, adhere to the Bible on this question. Many of them suppose that the world was created in 4000 BC, hence that radioactive dating is all wrong, dinosaurs and Neanderthal man never existed, and Darwin is condemned to hell. Some even suggest that God created fossils, as they were found, with intent to deceive (“God shall send them strong delusion that they should believe a lie”, 2 Thes.2:11) in order to test Christians’ faith in the scriptures.
Return to the Stars offered, again, a reconciliation of scripture and science: it took the Garden of Eden as an accurate record, not of the doings of a supernatural Lord God, but of genetic manipulation by which unknown cosmonauts created homo sapiens from ape-men. Even outlandish verses could thereby be believed in: And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof, and the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. Von Dianiken: “Eve must have been produced in a retort. Now a number of cave drawings showing objects like retorts in the vicinity of primitive man have been preserved. Could foreign intelligences with a highly developed science and knowing about the immune biological reactions of bones have used Adam’s marrow as a cell culture and brought the sperm to development in it?”
It say so in the Bible
Miracles aside, the accuracy of the Bible has been a matter of dispute since the 18th century: until then, it had apparently never occurred to anyone to doubt it. Thomas Paine, author of The Age of Reason, objected to the Bible on the grounds that it often depicts God as a mad tyrant. He backed this up with critical arguments against the Bible’s supposed textual perfection: The Book of Kings (“little more than a history of assassinations, treachery, and wars”) actually contradicts itself: as to the Kings of Judah and Israel who were both called Joram, “one chapter (2 Kings 1:8) says that Joram of Judah began to reign in the second year of Joram of Israel; and the other chapter (8:16) says, that Joram of Israel began to reign in the fifth year of Jorom of Judah”. Such mistakes are enough to disprove the old contention that it is all the word of God, dictated by the Holy Spirit to scribes incapable even of ordinary clerical error. The born-again Christian response is that it is not possible to understand the Bible properly unless you are born again in Jesus; anyone who raises objections like the above is still under the influence of Satan.
UFO writers are divided on the issue. Some, like Dione, regard it as wholly accurat, and merely in need of scientific interpretation. By contrast W. Raymond Drake’s Gods and Spacemen in the Ancient East (Neville Spearman, 1968, Sphere, 1993), though happy with The Secret Doctrine, Sanskrit romances, Oahspe (produced through automatic typewriting by a New York dentist), the Egyptian and Tibetan Books of the Dead, and the revelations of Aetherius through Dr George King, was dubious about the historical value of the Bible: “Egyptologists, Assyriologists, archaeologists of renown, men of science, who should know the facts, find no evidence whatever of the Exodus … no Egyptian text refers to the miraculous deliverance mentioned in the Bible … the Book of Exodus is not a factual, critical record of events, history as we write it today … With all due respect to the learned Moses, this hotch-potch of religious narrative in such turgid style does his great mind ill-justice; it is doubtful whether its literary merit would attract any publisher today.” (Mayflower ed., pp 157-8)
This attitude is understandable: anyone attempting a revolution in thought will tend to challenge the accepted standards they were brought up with, and if that included ‘The Bible is true’, the independent thinker grows up to question that. Ancient Eastern literature and modem inspirational works were not mentioned in childhood, so there is not the same motive to doubt them.
Howsowever, the texts he relied on were mostly religious works of one kind or another. The same is true of Robert Charroux, the cover of the original French edition of whose Le livres des Secrets Trahis (Robert Laffont, 1965) promises it is “from documents older than the Bible”. These are primarily The Book of Enoch and the Popol Vuh, Enoch treats of the “fallen angels”, who descended to earth, married human females, and taught various arts and sciences: this indicates “a colonisation of our world by cosmonauts” (p. 127); conventional scholarship, though, assigns the book to the intertestamental period. The Popol Vuh relates that a woman named Orejona descended to earth from Venus, and gave birth to the human race by mating with a tapir. Charroux apparently accepted this because it was in a book he supposed “older than the Bible”.
On the subject of the Virgin Birth, Bishop Robinson summarised the modern sceptics’ position thus: “But you can’t really believe that lot, can you? Stars hopping over cribs, angelic choirs lighting up the skies, God coming to earth as a man – like a visitor from outer space? You couldn’t really believe it today.” (But that I
can’t believe! p.27)
The Bishop’s response was vague, suggesting that the star and the angels and the Virgin mother were “poetry”, a way of saying “God is in all this”. Yet he unwittingly suggested the new solution of ‘a visitor from outer space’, that would be so enthusiastically adopted by some. “The only celestial object to appear suddenly close enough to the Earth to be visible within only a small radius, which moves guiding followers, then stands still, is an intelligently controlled Spaceship.” (W. Raymond Drake, Gods and Spacemen throughout History, Sphere, 1977, p. 184) “The arrival of the infant Christ on earth from a spaceship is less fantastic, more credible, logical and acceptable, than the ethereal dogma taught by the Christian Church.” (Robin Collyns, Did Spacemen Colonise the Earth?, Mayflower, 1975, p, 163) By 1976 W. Raymond Drake could declare: “Today the only persons prepared to accept those New Testament wonders as literally true appear to be our believers in Flying Saucers,” (Gods and Spacemen in Ancient Israel, Sphere, p. 11)
The question of the resurrection is a tricky one even for UFO writers, but it did not daunt Paul Thomas (Flying Saucers Through the Ages, Neville Spearman,1965; French ed., 1962, Thomas was actually Paul Misraki, a well-known French popular musician) who was a Catholic (like Dione he gave a chapter to Fatima), as was his English translator Gavin Gibbons. However, his interpretation of Jesus’ return from the dead would not have commended itself to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. He suggested that Jesus Christ was a ‘biological mutation’ produced by alien genetic experimentation. In fact, the Astronaut Angels’ interest in the Children of Israel, from the time of Abraham, was as a gene pool from which to breed the first specimen of the next phase of evolution: humans who could die and then naturally come back to life, as was demonstrated after the crucifixion.
If this was true, one would expect that Jesus would have been encouraged to have as many offspring as possible: but, as Thomas/Misraki admits, he left the world childless (The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail to the contrary); so it seems that for some reason the aliens decided on a delay before making the benefits of immortality generally available.
The life to come
The other key feature of a religion is its teaching on the future, in which, nearly always, present wrongs are to be set right in some way. Either there is a life after death in which rewards and punishments will be given out, or future lives assigned on the basis of past behaviour, or else there is to be a Second Coming, in which the Divine Kingdom will be brought to Earth, and (after the wicked have been thrown into the fiery pit which burns forever) universal peace and happiness will reign for eternity. One of the best-known prophecies to this latter effect is Mark 13:26-27: “And then shall they see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. And then shall he send his angels, and shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven.”
Morris K, Jessup produced his own version:
”Shall we paraphrase it a bit? (such as combining verses 26 and 27)
“The great shining and powerful mothership will appear among the clouds and the Master will dispatch his assistants in smaller craft, and will gather from all parts of the earth those who have survived the brunt of the cataclysm and have reached temporary places of safety, and particularly those whom the Shepherd Race deem suitable for the propagation and resurgence of humanity in a new racial generation, and these will be taken to live for a while in the celestial regions where are the homes of the UFO in space.
There isn t much more to say, is there?”
Some people would conclude from all this that there is no reason to believe in Gods or Astronauts. Actually all it proves is that people a have a very strong need for some kind of religion, and if one is taken away from them they will hasten to locate another. Even the most severe secularists would admit that the creed of the Astronaut Gods is harmless, as religions go: believers are not expected to obey every command of a priesthood, or burn heretics at the stake. Science might one day be able to provide a testable explanation for the religious impulse: until then, the frontier between science and religion must remain uncertain and disputed territory.
From the Pulpit
Barry H. Downing, a Presbyterian pastor in Endwell, New York, was one clergyman (probably speaking for many) who came out in favour of such interpretations with The Bible and Flying Saucers (Sphere, 1973; 1st US ed., 1968). Downing was able to salvage a more traditional God from the work of Space Angels by means of the following construction: “Suppose that in five hundred years humans on earth should advance technologically in the space age to the point where we are able to travel to another world in a spaceship and discover intelligent beings who were scientifically primitive. Suppose that Christian missionaries were to travel in space to this planet to try to convert these primitive people to Christianity. How would these people talk about our missionaries? The Bible seems to suggest that angels are very much like missionaries from another world.”
The starting point of Robert Temple’s The Sirus Mystery was the Dogon, a Sudanese tribe whom French anthropologists learnt to have traditions about being visited by beings from Sirius.
Temple reproduced their findings, then tried to prove that the same information was known to the ancient Egyptian priests as a secret tradition, and later to various Greek philosophers who were initiated into their mysteries. Of course these traditions were never written down, and Temple had to guess at them from scattered clues. His main authorities were Wallis Budge’s The Gods of the Egyptians, the Mesopotamian epics, the Hermetic books, Robert Graves’ The Greek Myths, Plutarch On Isis and Osiris, and the neo-Platonists. These are all either sacred writings of the Pagans, or modern summaries of such. At a guess, one would take Robert Temple to be a Pagan himself, particularly since he ignores the Bible altogether, and his only reference to Christianity is this: “The perversions of Christianity have always seemed to me to incorporate a perversion of the notion of ‘sin’ and the means by which ‘sin’ can be exploited as a means of temporal blackmail over other human beings.”
Drawing of an amphibious creature which, according to Temple, gave the Dogon information about the solar system.