Recently I came across an interview with a scholar who was asked if the ancient Israelites believed in extraterrestrial life. He responded that there was virtually no reference to such in the Old Testament. My first reaction was, “What’s he talking about?”
Granted, to put his answer in context, he was actually asked about a belief in life on other planets. And he was correct; there is no indication the Hebrews ever considered such a thing. But there are plenty of passages that talk about encounters with odd beings.
First off, we have the Elohim (gods) who “walked in the Garden” of Eden. Then there are the giants (the Nephilim) who loved human women. Enoch, who “was taken” by one of these gods. The emissary who sat outside Abram’s tent. The angels who delivered Lot from Sodom. The angel of the Lord who wrestled with Jacob beneath a stairway to heaven. The fiery chariot that carried Elijah into the skies. And the Watchers in the book of Daniel. (To quote Alan Rickman in Dogma, “Guess what they do.”)
And who can forget the weird contraption in Ezekiel?
When there is a physical description given of these visitors, they always appear human, but there is something unmentioned about them that distinguishes them as being other. Inventing these labels for them is a clear attempt to make this point.
So who were they? Hard to say. What is easy to say, though, is that they didn’t come from any of the local villages of the time. They were outsiders, not just of the tribe, but of mankind itself.
I have long followed the debate among cognitive scientists concerning how brain function is correlated to consciousness in general, and to personality in particular. In regards to the latter, the famous argument about nature versus nurture seems to have, for the moment, come to a compromise: Now, the prevalent theory is that both positions are correct. The two operate in tandem, with genetic endowment setting the basis and experiential learning causing individual growth. This actually appeals to me, as I’ve never liked adhering to extremes.
But there is a third aspect of personality that warrants consideration. In a two-year study of heart transplant recipients conducted by the Vienna University Hospital surgical staff in the 1990s, 6% of the patients reported personality changes after the operation that they recognized as reflecting those of their donors. Another 15% reported changes, but did not accredit them to the transplant itself, but rather to a response to the trauma of the procedure. The remainder denied vehemently—according to the report, suspiciously vehemently—that they observed any inner changes at all. Their denials were considered suspicious because of the strongly defensive nature of their argument, which the study’s authors regarded as a form of refusal to honestly assess themselves. (In a separate case from the 1970s, heart recipient Claire Sylvia wrote a book describing how she had taken on certain predilections of her donor. A Change of Heart: A Memoir.)
Doctors explain this apparent taking on of someone else’s personality as being due to what they call “cellular memory.” This hypothesis suggests that at least some memories are stored outside of the brain, and can be called up just like “real” memories. Adherents of this idea admit they don’t have a good theory for how it might work; it is not established medical science. But it might be one explanation for the observed effects.
If such a thing is true, we might have to reconsider how we view personality. Perhaps the ancient belief that a person’s character resides in the heart is not so far-fetched, after all.
He was performing on the street at the Wilhelmsplatz in Heidelberg, Germany, before a medium-sized crowd of maybe thirty or forty people. I’m not a fan of mimes; I don’t find them funny in the least. But I always stop to watch the various street artists. They make for a pleasant evening and are a part of big city culture. So I stood in the back, my arms crossed, a look of bored dismissal on my face, and let him carry on his predictable antics.
As mimes go, he wasn’t that bad. So I hung around
longer than I’d originally intended.
Long enough for him to notice me. He began taking furtive glances in my direction. I knew what he was thinking: I was someone he would need to harass. I was obviously a target for him, which made me smirk a bit. At last he broke from his routine and wended his way through the audience. I dropped my grin and returned to my former stoicism, waiting for him. He stopped before me, stuck his face three inches from mine and glared at me. We locked eyes and held each other’s gaze for a full minute. My demeanor and posture did not change. Not so much as a muscle twitch. I stood ramrod stiff, unblinking. Deadpan. The crowd watched us, expectant. Then they began to laugh. At last, defeated, with a barely discernible shrug, he turned and made his way back to his post.
This statement by John Keel, in his book The Eighth Tower, is really just a succinct summation of the beliefs of many so-called Pagan and New Age religions and philosophies. Earth and Nature worshipers have existed throughout human history (and, archeological evidence suggests, prehistory). According to their doctrines (or perhaps “teachings” is a better term, since the ancients didn’t really have any set doctrines per say), the natural world actually consists of deific beings with whom we can interact. These beings have distinct personalities and engage in various activities. In some cases, they represent the natural surroundings; in others, they actually are the natural surroundings. In this way, consciousness is posited as an aspect of all living things.
There are modern concepts that reflect this belief. James Lovelock’s Gaia Principle, which states that living organisms interact with their natural surroundings to form a web of environmental wholeness and sustainment, is one such concept. This is not the same as deifying living beings, but it is recognition that all things are an intrinsic part of the natural environment, and have an important effect on it.
But since the advent of quantum mechanics in the 1920s, scientists have begun to consider an even more astounding idea, one that reaches back to the philosophical surmising of the ancient Greeks.
Sir James Jeans, the mid-20th Century physicist and astronomer, remarked in his 1930 book The Mysterious Universe, “The universe looks more and more like a great thought rather than a great machine.” This marked the first time scientists considered that there might be an element of consciousness inherent to the universe. This concept, called panpsychism, is the belief that the universe itself is a conscious entity. Once considered the realm of parapsychologists and other “quacks,” it has been taken up by such eminent thinkers as cognitive scientist David Chalmers, neuroscientist Christof Koch and physicist Sir Roger Penrose.
I tend to subscribe to the idea, although I haven’t embraced it in its entirety. There is certainly something strange about existence—as many quantum physicists are quick to agree. Universal consciousness might explain some of these puzzling aspects of the cosmos. But if nothing else, panpsychism is certainly an intriguing thing to think about.
Ever since Erich von Däniken published Chariots of the Gods? in 1968, people have been in an uproar. The idea that extraterrestrials may have once visited Earth in the past is one that not many can accept. Most people flatly denounce it. And it seems to engender a lot of hot emotions on both sides of the aisle.
Yet the controversy continues, with writers like Zecharia Sitchin promoting the idea via an intriguing reinterpretation of ancient Sumerian cuneiform tablets. His books span from 1976 until his death in 2010, their very longevity indicating they enjoy a large following. (The first one, The Twelfth Planet, sits at # 496,474 on Amazon as of this writing.) So at least he was not chased out of the village by crowds wielding pitchforks and torches.
But these fringe thinkers are not the only ones contemplating the idea. The late Carl Sagan, one of the founders of the SETI program, wrote and talked about the possibility. Besides his novel Contact, he authored a white paper in which he speculated on the issue. While conceding that his conclusions were provisional, he wrote: “It follows that there is the statistical likelihood that Earth was visited by an advanced extraterrestrial civilization at least once during historical times.” (https://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/19630011050.pdf) And while not claiming to believe in the so-called “face on Mars”—another fringe idea along the same lines—he said in an episode of his TV series Cosmos that it couldn’t hurt to use the Viking spacecraft to “take a look.”
This attitude may be gaining a new foothold among some scientists. Two years ago, Silvano Colombano, another SETI researcher, stirred up public ridicule for giving an in-house talk to fellow scientists suggesting the organization devote some time and funding to looking into the possibility that aliens might have visited Earth at one time. Again, the naysayers had a field day, attributing to him absolutist beliefs he himself denied holding. But it shows that the idea has far from gone away.
The truth is, there is evidence of something that doesn’t quite fit with accepted theories to be found all over the planet. No one knows what this evidence demonstrates. But in my opinion, keeping an open mind and actually doing research is better than just closing the door altogether.
The terrain rolls gently among the apples, its sheath of long green grass still wet with the morning’s dew. You can feel it as you walk, the ebb and flow of gravity tugging at you as you alternately climb and descend, the gravel road slipping beneath your feet as it winds its way beneath the twisted gray trees. To your right, crowding you as if seeking to peer over your shoulder, the high ridge of the Schwäbische Alb looms heavily over the alluvial valley. You can feel it, its breath a mist that caresses your cheek with a cold hand. You can feel it, but you cannot see it. Indeed, you cannot see anything at all. It’s 5 a.m. on the Autumn Equinox, and you have neglected to bring along a flashlight. Not that you need one.
The landscape here is simple and familiar. A hundred meters along the path from the narrow asphalt farm road patrolled by the Forstmeister in his green-on-white Bronco lies the Viereckschanze in Belsen, Germany, a 2200-year-old Celtic relic that defies explanation. You need only stay on this path to reach it. When you do, you’ll know it. You’ll be able to feel it.
The farm valley spreads out below you in silent invisibility, snug in a blanket of darkness that has tucked in the parent city of Mössingen, an expanse of twinkling lights to the north, for the night. But even now, more than an hour before dawn, you can sense the tiny community beginning to awaken. Here and there, a light burns. Somewhere, a door slams. Even though it’s a Sunday, you soon hear the rhythmic pounding of metal upon metal, as some farmer opens his shop to make a repair that cannot wait until the regular workweek—or, apparently, even until daylight. In the city, his neighbors would not have hesitated to call the Polizei at such a disturbance; but out here, life is different. More intimate, more forgiving. The ritual clanging is a lonely, empty bell in the hollow night. On the manmade hill on the north side of the relic, an ancient 10th-Century stone chapel—originally a Catholic structure built atop a Pagan site, and now Protestant—overlooks the shallow valley. On the western wall of this structure, surrounding the massive oaken doors, are carved images of Ba’al and other Pagan symbols. These are largely lost among the modern visitors to the church, who don’t seem to notice them.
You come upon the Viereckschanze, an earthen enclosure roughly 100 meters on a side, surrounded by a trench. The path you’ve followed runs through a cut in the westward wall, which you can sense rising up on either side as you pass through it. You pause here, and step up onto the wall itself. Following its uneven contours, you walk northward along it until you come to the first corner. You recognize this by the way it sweeps up and around in a great arc, twice the height of the wall, like a racetrack corner. Here you settle yourself under a lone apple tree, to wait for the dawn. You imagine that some ancient tribe of Celts had kept this same vigil for hundreds of years, back in the fog of forgotten ages before the Romans and the Christians forced them onto a new path. They would gather together in the Pagan twilight, crowding each other in the tight confines of the Viereckschanze, to witness the rising of the sun and to experience the bond of Oneness that will accompany it. The high priest, standing in their midst, would raise his hands to the east and call for the sun to reappear, as a sign that the harvest would be full and the land prepared for its winter fallow. You can sense the excitement, the anticipation, the electricity in the air. And sensing this, you begin to feel it yourself.
The horizon is suddenly broken by a thread of deep blue, as awesome as silent thunder. Above it, the sky is turning orange and yellow and red. Dawn is on the verge. Without thinking about what you’re doing, you stand, in a show of reverence for what once was acknowledged as a powerful deity. You watch as the sky turns paler and bluer, as daylight begins to dance in the fields. Your excitement grows. You can feel the energy pouring across the Earth, drenching everything in its path and renewing the coming day. You lift your face to the warmth, and your arms rise with it. You are lost in the power of the ascending orb. And then it appears. In a blast of light, a rainbow halo forms above the peak of the Farrenberg, as the sun bursts forth from the ridge of the Schwäbische Alb, directly on line to the eastern corner of the Viereckschanze.
And you marvel at the skills and knowledge of those ancient people, to get it so right.
On 04 July 2007, I had the first of what would become 15 nearly-consecutive dreams about UFOs. These dreams continued until January of the following year, sometimes two in a week. This first one occurred the night after I attended a MUFON meeting in Portland, Oregon, an event celebrating the 60th anniversary of the first flying saucer sighting over the city.
The dream was not particularly visual; it was more suggestive than anything else. This is how it went:
The aliens appear to be like anyone else. One encounters them in everyday places—on a bus, in a bar, in a grocery store. They start up an innocuous conversation. A very tall, thin, insectile man stands in a queue with other people. He appears out of place.
The aliens are hard to spot. As Jack Nicholson said in Easy Rider, they are people just like us. They come and go among us without being identified. They have fully adapted to our culture and lifestyle, and so do not stand out unless one is particularly observant. We stand in queue with them. They engage in small talk. They buy food and drink and ride on buses, drive cars and live in houses. But they can still be known. All it takes is a little attention, a little awareness.
The tall gray man, thin and wiry, stands out from the others around him. He is not like them, exactly. He is close enough in appearance that one does not take him for an alien, yet his body shape is different. He is too slim, too tall, too gray. His arms and legs are too long. He seems a bit uncomfortable. He does not belong here, and he knows it. Yet he is confident, and joins with the others without fear. He stands in queue.
This first dream awoke in me a desire to know if aliens were, in fact, amongst us. It made me hyper-vigilant, on the lookout for them. And a few days later, this vigilance paid off. For I saw this man, this alien, in an everyday setting. I ran across him in the parking lot of a Home Depot. He was walking from his car to the store. He was exceptionally tall, with overly long arms and legs. He was very insectile in appearance, and walked with a stumbling gait, as if he was not used to the movement of his muscles. He left me with a creepy feeling.
So what did I actually encounter? I don’t know for sure. Something unusual, at any rate. Whatever had happened that day, it set me on a quest, reading every book I could find on UFOs and alien encounters (plus some forays into some other, equally conspiratorial, subjects). It’s been a fun occupation, and has certainly affected my thinking.
Yesterday, a friend and I were discussing the Transpersonal Movement, sometimes known as Group Dynamics, a theory/practice that posits a psychic connection between human beings. Advocates of the idea–which include scientists and university professors–claim that the mind extends beyond any individual brain, and that it is therefore possible for people to share thoughts. The paranormal investigator John Keel claimed in his book The Eighth Tower to be able to do this spontaneously, although the movement practitioners have developed techniques for tapping into it. Some large corporations use these techniques to enable executives and other key groups to build up a kind of energy between each other, thus producing more innovative ideas and enabling faster decision making.
My friend related a recent incident he had had. In his words: “There is another effect that (perhaps) occurs. One could describe it as a carrier frequency, onto which are modulated certain words, phrases, or, perhaps, ideas. At times, we ‘receive’ this signal and become aware of parts of its content. This happened yesterday. Early in the morning, I thought of the word ‘bolo’, as it was used in the 1980s, to mean someone who failed at something, or the act of failing itself (‘he bolo’d that’). Later in the day, I get an email from an old Army friend who I haven’t seen in well over a decade. And he asks me if I remember the word ‘bolo’ and it being used in the sense of failing or being a failure. Was ‘bolo’ on the carrier wave yesterday? Not sure, but it is another one of those very odd coincidences.”
This made me think of something that happened to me about 15 years ago. When I was in the Army, my first duty station was at Heidelberg, Germany. I worked in the same facility as a man named Mr. Clark. We were strictly colleagues, not working the same shift and not socializing together. I never even knew his first name. When my tour in Heidelberg was up, I was transferred to Stuttgart, where I worked for DISA, the joint military communications command for Europe. One day, on my way out to lunch, an image of Clark flashed into my mind. I was perplexed by this; I hadn’t thought of the man for 10 years. When I returned from lunch, Mr. Clark was standing in the front lobby of the building.
I don’t experience many of these episodes. But occasionally, my mind really does seem to tap into something beyond my physical body.
My first novel centered on a group of ancient structures in south-central Germany known as Viereckschanzen–what I refer to as “Celtic Squares.” The term translates, perhaps a bit unromantically, as “four-cornered trench.” These enigmatic earthen structures, tucked away in the woods throughout the high places of Baden-Württemberg, are silent but certain testimony to how little we actually know about ancient civilizations. Being myself of the line of the Celts, I quickly became fascinated with these relics. I spent about six years in my spare time visiting as many of them as I could get to, and studying all the literature about them I could get my hands on. No one seems to know exactly what they are, why they were built or what they were used for. Most of the proffered theories are, in my opinion anyway, little more than a grasping after straws, a reiteration of standard archeological appellations applied when we don’t want to admit we don’t know. They’re interpreted as centers of cult activity, enclosed agricultural yards or walled villages/fortresses. None of these labels accurately fits the characteristics of these structures. Probably the best answer I’ve found is that offered by Alexei Kondratiev in his seminal book on Celtic ritual and society, The Apple Branch. He suggests that their size, layout and accompanying elements (such as temple post holes and bonfire pits) indicate their use as a community gathering place, where major tribal decisions could be made via the Druids’ calling upon the help of the gods. This is a reasonable view, I think, and I subscribe to it myself.
There are some intriguing characteristics to
these relics. In size, structure, and orientation they display a remarkable
similarity to Stonehenge I. As enclosures roughly rectangular in shape, about
the size of a football field, the Squares are made up of low earthen walls
surrounded by a trench. In one wall is found a gateway, an opening that
many archeologists think originally was enclosed by a roofed drawbridge made of
wood. There are no standing stones, but frequently the sites are accompanied by a field of even older grave mounds.
The archeological field seems to be divided pretty evenly between two explanations of what these structures were. On the one hand are those who believe them to be old fortresses. (Originally they were thought to have been erected by the Romans, but nowadays virtually everyone is agreed that they are older, most likely Celtic in origin.) Probably the strongest argument for this is based on the moat structure. The walls themselves are not very high–usually between 3 and 6 feet–but when coupled with a water-filled trench, they might slow an enemy attack. However, unless the earth pilings were augmented with wooden or stone walls atop them, they wouldn’t slow him for long. To my knowledge, no evidence of such augmentation has yet been found.
To my mind, there are some odd things about these structures that make no sense if they are viewed as fortresses. For one thing, the corners of the walls are raised to about twice the height of the walls themselves, arcing in a grand sweep reminiscent of a racetrack. This seems to serve no defensive purpose; indeed, such a configuration would interfere with erecting additional barriers atop the walls. Moreover, the interior floor of the structures is only 18 inches below the top of the walls. Hardly enough to hide behind. So I tend to reject that interpretation.
Another explanation is that they were truck farms. Maybe. They might be big enough to feed a village of around 200 people, but maybe not. However, as Kondratiev points out, those people could conceivably fit within the confines of the walls, suggesting a possible use for the structures.
My own view follows that of such investigators as Dr. Ruediger Krause, who, working from a 1920s study of the Square at Oberesslingen (one of those I have visited on a number of occasions), determined that it was most likely a center of ritual activity. Another thing is the Squares’ orientation: Like Stonehenge, they are angled at an azimuth of just over 23.5 degrees as seen from the eastern wall, which means they are oriented to face the summer solstice dawn. (And, in many cases, so is the gateway–another similarity with Stonehenge.) There would be no defensive reason to so meticulously orient them in this way.
And meticulously done it is. As Zecharia
Sitchen points out in his book The Cosmic Code, quoting an expert on
ancient temples, in order to precisely align a structure with the solstice it
is necessary to know exactly where north lies. And in the cases that I
have personally measured on the ground, the Squares’ northern corners do, in
fact, lie precisely along a 0 degree azimuth.
It is for this purpose, in my opinion, that
the corners of the walls were raised in their circular sweep. Such a
configuration makes it possible to easily determine the cardinal directions
from the center of the Square. And this would be very important for the working
of many Pagan rituals.
The power of these rituals seems to linger there, 2100 years after the Squares were abandoned. I certainly have had some intriguing experiences in those places, and even photos of them can invoke some odd feelings in people. I personally have no doubt that the Celts used them for something a bit less mundane than simple truck farming.
Whatever they may be, and however powerful their esoteric energies, the Viereckschanzen are a precious relic of Europe’s ancient past, well worth visiting and experiencing.
I am the author of the paranormal romance The Forgotten Disturbed. I have an intense interest in existence and the human condition. A born philosopher, I seek to understand what it’s all about. Themes of my writing include magic, the paranormal, consciousness and spiritual searching.