"The Origins Of The Space Gods" ~ Jason Colavito (Part 1/2)

Art work "The Forgemaster" by Brandon Moore
Art work by Ted Nasmith

Source of this text - Jason Colavito -


I. Aliens in the Mythos



One of the most dramatic ideas found in the Cthulhu Mythos is the suggestion that extraterrestrial beings arrived on earth in the distant past, were responsible for ancient works of monumental stone architecture and inspired mankind’s earliest mythologies and religions. In the 1970s, this basic premise was resurrected as the “ancient astronaut theory,” a hypothesis that gained widespread popularity thanks to Swiss - Erich von Däniken’s book Chariots of the Gods (1968) and its television adaptation, In Search of Ancient Astronauts (1973), hosted by Rod Serling, of Twilight Zone fame. According to research done by Kenneth L. Feder, at the height of von Däniken’s popularity in the 1970s and ’80s one in four college students accepted the ancient astronaut theory, but twenty years later less than ten percent did. Though mainstream science does not recognize extraterrestrial intervention in human history, the theory continues to receive exposure on cable television documentaries, in magazines, and in a plethora of books.

Providence, Rhode Island author H.P. Lovecraft (1890-1937) has been justly hailed as a master of the horror story, and his work claims a place beside Edgar Allan Poe and Stephen King in the pantheon of the genre. Born into a wealthy family in 1890, Lovecraft's life was a series of reverses and declines as his family lost their fortune and his parents succumbed to madness. He was a precocious and self-taught scholar who read voraciously and devoured as much literature as he could read. He read the novels of H.G. Wells, whose War of the Worlds told of the coming of alien creatures to earth. He also read the eighteenth-century Gothic masters of horror, and above all Edgar Allan Poe. He also read works of pseudoscience and mysticism for inspiration.

When he set about writing his own works, he began to blend the modern world of science fiction with his favorite tales of Gothic gloom. Lovecraft tried to bring the Gothic tale into the twentieth century, modernizing the trappings of ancient horror for a new century of science. Lovecraft published his work in pulp fiction magazines, notably Weird Tales, though many of his works were not published until after his death in 1937. Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, science fiction and horror magazines reprinted Lovecraft's tales numerous times, and he became one of the most popular pulp authors.

Lovecraft's works banished the supernatural by recasting it in materialist terms. He took the idea of a pantheon of ancient gods and made them a group of aliens who descended to earth in the distant past. Across his works, Lovecraft provided a number of different explanations for the arrival ancient visitors on the primeval earth. In The Call of Cthulhu, the Old Ones, including the tentacled, star-born Cthulhu, are said to have come “to the young world out of the sky” and to have raised mighty cities whose remains could be seen in the cyclopean stones dotting Pacific islands. These Old Ones brought with them images of themselves (thus inventing art) and hieroglyphs once legible but now unknown (the origins of writing). They spoke to humans in their dreams and established a cult to worship them (the origins of religion). They appeared as, and were treated like, monstrous living gods, so great were their mystical powers.

In later stories, Lovecraft added new details and altered his previous conception of the Old Ones to provide a richer and more developed picture of alien intervention in earth life. In At the Mountains of Madness, Lovecraft presents his most complete vision of the extraterrestrial origins of human life. Here, the Old Ones were now a separate species of alien creature at war with Great Cthulhu and his spawn, who only arrived eons later. The Old Ones were “the originals of the elder myths” of ancient mythology, and they raised great cities under the oceans and on the primitive continents. These beings arrived on earth after colonizing other planets, and they created life on Earth a source of food. These artificial primitive cells they allowed to evolve naturally into the plants and animals of the modern world — including primitive humanity, which they used as food or entertainment.

"Old Castro remembered bits of hideous legend that paled the speculations of theosophists and made man and the world seem recent and transiest indeed.
There had been aeons when other Things ruled on the Earth, and They had great cities.
Remains of Them, he said the deathless Chinamen had told him, were still be found as Cyclopean stones on islands in the Pacific.
They all died vast epochs of time before men came, but there were arts which could revive Them when the stars had come round again to the right positions in the cycle of eternity.
They had, indeed, come themselves, from the stars, and brought Their images with Them.
These Great Old Ones, Castro continued, were not composed altogether of flesh and blood.
They had shape - for did not this star-fashioned image prove it? - but that shape was not made of matter.
When the stars were right, They could plunge from world to world through the sky; but when the stars were wrong, They could not live."

~ H.P. Lovecraft, "The Call of Cthulhu" (1926)

Art work "Project Genesis" by Taenaron
Moebius
Elsewhere, Lovecraft described his ancient visitors as maintaining a presence on the modern earth, and like the Nephilim of the Bible, they begat children with earth women in “The Dunwich Horror,” “The Shadow Over Innsmouth,” and “Medusa’s Coil.” In “The Horror in the Museum,” it is suggested that the monstrous creatures once worshipped as gods were not all extraterrestrials, and that some may have come from alternate dimensions. In The Shadow Out of Time, the extraterrestrial Great Race is one of countless species spanning the universe, and their mental powers let them project themselves backward and forward in time, gathering intelligence and knowledge for their library and, in places, imparting their own wisdom. Most to the point, in his ghostwriting of William Lumley’s “The Diary of Alonzo Typer” the title narrator learns from the pre-human Book of Dzyan that aliens from Venus came to earth in spaceships to “civilize” the planet.

Human knowledge of these aliens is fragmentary and obscure. Evidence exists in the form of anomalous ancient artifacts of pre-human manufacture, garbled folklore and mythology, and written texts like the Necronomicon, Nameless Cults, and the Book of Eibon, which hint at but do not fully disclose the extraterrestrials’ nature and habits.

Many critics of Lovecraft have noted that his vision for the Mythos changed over time, as the godlike and semi-supernatural Cthulhu of “The Call of Cthulhu” gradually gave way to the fully material aliens of At the Mountains of Madness; in time faux mythology gave way to faux science in the Mythos. Many Mythos writers, beginning with August Derleth, were dismayed by the contradictions in Lovecraft’s writing (e.g., Cthulhu is an Old One in “Cthulhu” but merely “their cousin” in “The Dunwich Horror”; the Old Ones change identity several times, too), and they have attempted to systematize the Mythos. However, Lovecraft’s writings reflect the way real myths develop, with changes and contradictions and anomalies. This is compounded by the fact that Lovecraft did not write as an omniscient narrator but rather presented his Mythos through the eyes of scholars and writers who had only part of the story and therefore could not present the whole truth. Even in the Necronomicon Abdul Alhazred (it is implied) was privy only to hints and rumors and interpreted the Mythos through the guise of the Near Eastern mythologies he knew. In other words, Lovecraft’s Mythos tales show us a fragmented, shifting, and uncertain view of the alien beings reflected through the biases and prejudices and mental limits of those who encounter them.

"These viscous masses were without doubt what Abdul Alhazred whispered about as the "Shoggots" in his frightful Necronomicon, though even that mad Arab had not hinted that any existed on Earth except in the dreams of those who had chewed a certain alkaloidal herb."

~  H.P. Lovecraft, "At the Mountains of Madness" (1931)

Art work by Paul Gulacy (1980)
Ancestral Puebloan granaries high above the Colorado River at Nankoweap-Creek, Grand Canyon


II. Ancient Astronauts before Lovecraft




The idea that life could exist on other worlds was not unique to Lovecraft, of course, and the concept had a long history dating back to early Greek philosophers who speculated on the nature of beings on other worlds. Anaxagoras (c. 500-428 BCE) proposed that life began from “seeds” that littered the universe; Anaxarchus (c. 340 BCE) thought there to be an infinity of worlds, and Epicurus (c. 341-270 BCE) felt life existed on many planets across the vastness of space. These philosophers, though, did not propose the visitation of these aliens to the earth.

The most important early writer to propose extraterrestrial visitation on earth was Madame Helena Blavatsky (1831-1891), the founder of Theosophy, a Victorian-era amalgam of Spiritualism, Eastern religions, and good old-fashioned hokum. In The Secret Doctrine, Theosophy’s most important text, Blavatsky noted Greek speculation about life on other worlds and asserted that the ancients had first-hand knowledge of the fact of extraterrestrial existence. She speculated that the beings on the innumerable inhabited worlds may have “influence” or “control” over the earth. She also asserted that spiritual beings originating on the moon contributed to the metaphysical development of earth life, but for her any alien intervention is a sideline to the epic history of evolutionary and spiritual developments of an assortment of earth creatures who grew from primal ooze to Aryan supremacy on the lost continents of Hyperborea, Lemuria, and Atlantis.

"The first race of men where, then, simply the images, the astral doubles, of their Fathers, who were the pioneers, or the most Entities from a preceding though lower sphere, the shell of which is now our Moon. But even this shell is all-potential, for, having generated the Earth, it is the phantom of the Moon which, attracted by magnetic affinity, sought to form its first inhabitants, the pre-human monsters."

~ Helena Blavatsky, "The Secret Doctrine" (1888)
Blavatsky’s disciple W. Scott-Elliot expanded on hints in the Theosophical cosmos by creating a race of divine beings inhabiting Venus. In The Lost Lemuria (1904), Scott-Elliott claimed that beings that evolved on Venus but had reached a spiritual or “divine” stage of development came to earth and taught the inhabitants of Lemuria the arts of civilization and gave them wheat and fire (34-44). A critical difference between the lords of Venus, Blavatsky’s moon creatures, and Mythos beings (and indeed modern ancient astronauts) is that the Theosophical Venusians and lunarians are not envisioned as true extraterrestrials (in the modern sense) from distant star systems but as incarnations of spiritual beings who share a mystic connection to earth creatures and feel a spiritual calling to aid their brethren on earth. Here, the Venusians are inhabitants of Venus in the same sense that the angels of God were once thought to inhabit Venus, Mars, and the other crystalline spheres that surrounded the earth.

"The positions occupied by the divine beings from the Venus chain were naturally those of rulers, instructors in religion, and teachers of the arts, and it is in this latter capacity that a reference to the arts taught by them comes to our aid in the consideration of the history of this early race, continued."

~ W. Scott-Elliot, "The Lost Lemuria" (1904)

In 1919, the great collector of anomalous trivia, Charles Fort, published The Book of the Damned, in which he speculated that old stories of demons could be related to “undesirable visitors from other worlds” (66), though he did not draw a firm connection between devils and aliens. He also suggested that other worlds may have communicated with ours in the distant past (118), left behind advanced technology (124), or attempted to colonize the Earth (164). However, Fort made no claim that such things actually happened, only that they may have happened, and at any rate there is no way to tell whether the creatures were alien, trans-dimensional, spiritual, or even imaginary — perhaps the result of telepathy, communications from the spirit realm, or from myriad other sources.
"If other worlds have ever in the past had relations with this Earth, they were attempted positivizations: to extend themselves, by colonies, upon this Earth; to convert or assimilate, indigenous inhabitants of this Earth."

~ Charles Fort, "The Book of the Damned" (1919)

H. P. Lovecraft read both The Book of the Damned and Scott-Elliott, in the compilation volume The Story of Atlantis and Lost Lemuria (1925), and from these fragmentary ideas about prehistoric extraterrestrial visitation imagined (more-or-less) flesh-and-blood aliens arriving on Earth in the distant past and all that this implied.
Vitthala Temple Hampi - Vimana

The Sphinx and Pyramids of Giza, frequently claimed evidence of alien visitation. (Library of Congress)


III. Ancient Astronauts after Lovecraft


Lovecraft’s mythos became one of the touchstones of modern horror literature and a powerful theme in horror, fantasy, and science fiction, where the idea of alien visitors in the deep past continues to enjoy popularity in contemporary works like: Stargate, The X-Files, Doctor Who, Alien vs. Predator, Hellboy, and hundreds of other movies, books, and television shows. However, Lovecraft’s alien gods also spawned the decidedly non-fiction (if not factual) ancient astronaut theory, which continues to convert new adherents today.

The names of Lovecraft’s alien gods, like Cthulhu, Yog-Sothoth, and Shub-Niggurath, began to crop up in other stories during Lovecraft’s lifetime. Lovecraft himself started this practice by inserting these names, or variants on them, into stories he ghostwrote or revised for other authors. In his revision of Zelia Bishop’s “The Mound,” for example, Lovecraft slipped his alien god Cthulhu into the story under the variant name Tulu, giving magazine readers what they thought were independent stories featuring references to the same ancient gods. By the 1960s, several dozen authors were using elements of what came to be called “The Cthulhu Mythos” in stories they wrote for science fiction and horror magazines.

Lovecraftian fiction became increasingly popular in Europe, where the French embraced him as a bent genius, much as they embraced Edgar Allan Poe. In France, the Russian expatriate Jacques Bergier and the writer Louis Pauwels read Lovecraft and were inspired by his cosmic vision. Bergier claimed to have corresponded with Lovecraft in 1935, though no letters survive. He spent much of the 1950s promoting Lovecraft in the French media, including the magazine he and Pauwels edited, Planète, and working to bring Lovecraft’s work out in French editions. The Planète’s editors held Lovecraft as their prophet, and their reprints of his stories helped to popularize him and the Cthulhu Mythos in the French imagination.

Digging into Lovecraft’s Theosophical and Fortean source material, Bergier and Pauwels wrote Le Matin des magiciens (1960) (published in English as The Morning of the Magicians) and presented the first fully-fledged modern ancient astronaut theory. In it, they presented the themes found in Lovecraft as nonfiction, speculating about such alternative history touchstones as the “true” origin of the Egyptian pyramids, ancient maps that appear to have been drawn from outer space, advanced technology incongruously placed in the ancient past, and the other staples of later ancient astronaut theories. They note that ancient mythologies are replete with gods who visit earth in fiery chariots and return to the sky. These, they state, may have been alien visitors in spaceships (?).

Art work "The Engines of God" by Bob Eggleton
Art work "Black Knight" by Tim White

Pauwels and Bergier drew on unrelated writings from a number of French and other authors who wondered to a greater or lesser extent that modern UFO sightings might have antecedents in prehistory, but they combined this 1950s space-age speculation with a Lovecraftian cosmic vision and a New Age sensibility that translated Cthulhu into an ancient astronaut in a way that shiny atom-age extraterrestrials in spacesuits never could.

Morning of the Magicians became one of the most important sources for Erich von Däniken, the Swiss writer whose Chariots of the Gods brought what had hitherto been a theory known only to: Theosophists, Lovecraft aficionados, and fringe theorists into the cultural mainstream. Von Däniken did not mention Pauwels and Bergier in his works, however, until a lawsuit forced him to disclose the sources he closely paraphrased in Chariots. The bibliography of Chariots thereafter listed the French writers’ book in its 1962 German translation, Aufbruch ins dritte Jahrtausend. Tens of millions of copies of Chariots and its sequels sold, and the ancient astronaut theory became a cultural phenomenon, appearing in movies, on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show, in Playboy, and practically anywhere people were talking about the past.

Other authors were inspired by von Däniken’s theories, including Robert Temple (whose Sirius Mystery argued that amphibious aliens from Sirius taught Sumerians civilization) and Zecharia Sitchin (whose Twelfth Planet argued that aliens from a “wandering” planet called Nibiru conquered ancient Earth to steal its gold and other precious metals). By the end of the 1970s, there was an entire network of authors and promoters then known as the Ancient Astronaut Society (now the Archaeology, Astronautics and SETI Research Association, or AAS RA). As of this writing, the History Channel broadcasts Ancient Astronauts: The Series, a weekly program that explores the work of von Däniken and AAS RA. The program is seen by more than two million viewers each week.

So what made so many believe aliens visited our ancestors?

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End of part 1 (2 - soon)

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