UFO Conjecture(s)

Friday, March 08, 2013

Tacitus, Vico, and subliminal UFOs

Copyright 2013, InterAmerica, Inc.

The great 18th Century polymath, Giambattista Vico, writing in The New Science …[Cornell University Press, Ithaca, 1948/68, translated by Thomas Goddard Bergin and Max Harold Fisch] provides this anecdote from Tacitus’ (Roman historian  c. 55 A.D.- c. 117 A.D.) Germania:

“… Germans dwelling about the Arctic Circle … spoke of hearing the sun pass at night from west to east through the sea, and affirmed that they saw the gods.”  [Section I, Poetic Metaphysics, Page 117]

Anyone scouring early extant works, such as Tacitus’ Germania, will find, almost hidden, in the texts, references to what we would call today UFOs, with observed beings.

That is what one finds in the Ezekiel account of the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) and a plethora of other writings, listed, conveniently, in Vallee/Aubeck’s Wonders in the Sky.

But what are such off-handed accounts telling us?

That, for millennia, things, mostly aerial, have been observed and noted – not pronouncedly but rather subliminally. (Ezekiel’s detailed account was used and is used by Biblical exegetes to augment a religious theme, not recognizing the alien, allegorical, or hallucinatory aspects of the recorded event.)

Ancient Astronaut “theorists” use such arcane references to bolster their theses of visiting extraterrestrials, which is, for me, a creative hypothetical hodgepodge that is not off-putting, intellectually, although rabid skeptics of the AA theory become incensed by the views, offering counter arguments that are also acceptable to me, intellectually.

The hypotheses and counter views about AA visitations show that the discussion is hardly conclusive on either side, much as the UFO mystery remains an open question, even after myriad years of debate and anti-debate.

But setting aside the potential animus-evoking AA mention, one has to agree that, for mankind, some kind of mental or neurological aberration has been occurring from time immemorial, or something or someone, out of the ordinary, has been observed.

Most of the recorded accounts, such as that found in Tacitus’ Germania, are benign in nature and have had little or no impact on humanity’s social evolution and certainly not on humankind’s intellectual evolution, even when a religious or mythological patina is added to such observations or events.

The Fatima sightings, for example, may have provided a temporary fervor among Catholics in 1917, but no Catholic doctrine was altered or enhanced by the alleged events.

The 1947 Roswell incident intrigues a few UFO mavens but humanity, as a whole, remains unaffected by the supposed event, whether it was an ET visitation or something else.

Just as the Germanic note that the sun passed, from west to east, through the sea, and the gods were seen confirms the bromide of something passing in the night, the notation takes us nowhere.

It merely titillates.

And that’s what UFO reports do, and that’s all they do.

Getting worked up about UFO sightings, with or without beings, is, itself, a mental aberration, and not a healthy one; it has created a sub-culture in human society that is pathological and unhealthy.

So, dear readers, if you presume to be psychologically whole, you will scourge any energetic defense of UFOs or equally counter offenses.

UFOs are a footnote, as Vico provided, and nothing more.

They always have been and will always be, it seems…



  • What is interesting to consider is that 2,000 years ago or more, is that if such an encounter took place, it may have not produced any long term effect as these are often recorded not a socially significant but as more of an aside, or exception to daily life. What I find glib and insulting to some degree is that "the teachers of mankind" are cited without bothering to read history, archaeology or the purposes of mythology in an oral tradition of story telling. What is missing is an more remarkable story of just how well traveled these ancestors were, and how time erased the continuity of the oral transmission of knowledge through war, pestilence, misfired translations etc. The recent discovery in Egypt of a older civilization that predated the Kingdoms is an interesting, new benchmark rather than the myopic mythology of omnipresent bored spacemen teaching the wandering monkeys to ride bicycles. Why no spaceman follow up? Why no consistency rather than randomness? Despite the passage of millennia, we still need the comfort of origin stories, and as you cited in your last post, the loss or variegation of memory leads us to concoct mind balm.

    By Blogger Bruce Duensing, at Friday, March 08, 2013  

  • "Despite the passage of millennia, we still need the comfort of origin stories, and as you cited in your last post, the loss or variegation of memory leads us to concoct mind balm."

    The question still remains, however,not so much why we are still rooted in these ancient habits, but why we developed them in the first place, or why we so consistently ascribed what were assumably our own achievements and advancements to the intervention of outside or otherworldly forces. Assigning a UFO reading to ancient events always struck me as extremely perilous, for the simple reason that since we can't definitively establish that events 50 or 10 years ago were "UFO" events,then it seems like an extraordinary presumption to imagine that we can evince any certainty whatever regarding the nature of events which are many, many centuries in the past. Rather than viewing events in the distant past through the prism of the post '47 modern era, as many AA theorists do, it would be better to view the post '47 events as belonging to a continuum of non-specially UFO visionary experience; a history, as you describe it, of "some kind of mental or neurological aberration has been occurring from time immemorial, or something or someone, out of the ordinary, has been observed." (If neurological, however, it may not necessarily be an aberration, in the sense that peak mystical experiences, although neurological in nature, often seem more like brief shafts of sanity or insight rather than aberrations.)

    The most stimulating and provocative answer to the questions raised by AA theorists is still that from Julian Jaynes, in my opinion. If we view UFOs in this wider historical context, however, they may assume a significance greater than a mere footnote; they may be an important clue in the mystery of how our collective hallucinations (if that is what they are)have been codified throughout history as very influential components of our social consensus reality.

    By Blogger Tristan Eldritch, at Friday, March 08, 2013  

  • I think a great deal of revisionist modern day interpretations of our forebears is that the equal tradition of visionary experiences from amillennia ago has been buried by the sociology of a technologically driven species, and so it's been sublimated despite unspoken taboos against their
    being related. How many witnesses have not come forward? I think there's too much myopia in the "UFO" community to understand or even recognize incommensurable experiences in the context of the exceptional history found in visionary oral traditions as counter narratives, origin stories,etc as well as the shunning factor of breaking a taboo that "worships" rational logic.
    I don't thin humankind has fundamentally evolved at all beyond the single category of tool making.
    Around the edges some things change but the basics on our animal nature are still alive and well.

    By Blogger Bruce Duensing, at Friday, March 08, 2013  

  • Given recent events, puts me in mind of an exploding fireball meteor observed during a meteor shower. This one probably isn't any more esoteric than that.

    By Blogger purrlgurrl, at Friday, March 08, 2013  

  • I'm just happy to see Tacitus linked with UFOs. I didn't think that was possible!

    Now, if only you could find a link between UFOs and Herodotus !!

    By Blogger Paul Kimball, at Friday, March 08, 2013  

  • Oh you wait....Mr. Kimball.

    You've thrown down the gauntlet, and I've just retrieved Herodotus, The Histories [Oxford University Press, Oxford (of course), 1998, translated by Robin Waterfield].

    There will be something....


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Friday, March 08, 2013  

  • And PG...

    The (Germans) saw the gods!

    In a meteor? Rather tricky, that.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Friday, March 08, 2013  

  • Okay Paul Kimball...

    You, because of your schooling in history, know more about Herodotus than most.

    And if there is any UFO account, allegorical or actual, in the Histories, it's not blatant, as the Tacitus anecdote was.

    But there are three odd mentions that one could develop, with imaginative chutzpah, into a UFO related report:

    Book Two [55] -- the account of the gods, and the two black "doves" that took off from Thebes, flying to Libya and Dodona, where they spoke in human voices to the people.

    Book Seven [117] -- Artachaees, the overseer of he canal at Actes was about 8 feet tall, and the Orestes skeleton was said to be 10 feet tall; giants, from where?

    Book Eight [37/38] -- "Just as the Persians were approaching the sanctuary of Athena ... thunderbolts crashed down on them form the sky ... {The Persians fled] followed by two heavily armed men of superhuman height, who harried them, and killed them."

    While not UFOs in any usual sense, such renderings indicate somethings of unusual kinds.

    Some accounts in UFO lore are like that noted above; the 1989 Voronezh event in Russia, for example.

    My point, again, is that, hidden in classic written accounts lie many tales that mimic or imply UFO sightings, similar to those from the modern era.

    Finding them supplements the belief that UFOs have been around for a long, long time.

    What that means is up for debate, of course.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Friday, March 08, 2013  

  • Gods could very well be shooting stars (as in meteor shower), i.e. the source of the fireball. You're being coy.

    About six years ago we had an exploding fireball over our area in the predawn hours. The sky was as bright as noon as it went over. Fortunately, the meteor was considerably smaller than the Russian asteroid (the estimated size was was an old CRT monitor) so we got a flash and "thunder" but no damaging shock wave. I was awake and dressed (because of my commute from hell at the time) and got the full show. It was terrifying, since in our times the mind almost automatically jumps to nuclear attack from such a bright flash. In far simpler, more bucolic times, more likely such this would seem to have been a visit from the Gods, coming down from the sky.

    By Blogger purrlgurrl, at Friday, March 08, 2013  

  • Of course, PG...

    Your view makes sense, but one has to keep open the possibility(!) that the things moving west to east (odd) contained something interpreted as gods by the locals.....not embers or shooting stars, or rabbits, but gods.

    That also is a possibility(!), maybe not plausible to some, but a possibility.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Friday, March 08, 2013  

  • It appears that a Mahommedan, who had started on his travels from Tanjiers, came in the year 1325 to Birki, near Erzroum, and had audiences with the king.

    “The King one day said to me, Have you ever seen a stone that came down from heaven? I answered, No. He continued, Such a stone has fallen in the environs of our city. He then called some men, and ordered them to bring the stone, which they did. It was a black, solid, exceedingly hard, and shining substance. If weighed, it would probably exceed a talent (according to some 112, to others 120lbs. weight).

    He then ordered some stone-cutters to come in, when four came forward. He commanded them to strike upon it. They all struck together upon it accordingly with an iron hammer four successive strokes, which however made not the least impression upon it. I was much astonished at this.

    The king then ordered the stone to be taken back to its place.”


    By Blogger Parakletos, at Friday, March 08, 2013  

  • I was just kidding, Rich (obviously). Nevertheless, I'm impressed that you found some tangential connections in Herodotus. I'm sure there's more, in all ancient works. And I agree that there may well be something there to consider, as a common thread running through our history.

    One wonders, however, what our descendants will think in 3,000 years of Superman and the other comic book heroes of our age, particularly if some cataclysm befalls humanity which forces us to start over again (as a nuclear war would have, or perhaps an asteroid hit). Is there a future Rick Reynolds speculating about Kal El, the Kryptonian UFOnaut?

    And it's at this point that I heartily recommend A Canticle for Leibowitz to everyone.


    By Blogger Paul Kimball, at Saturday, March 09, 2013  

  • Yes, indeed, Paul...

    A Canticle for Leibowitz.

    And your speculation about future odd-balls, finding Superman detritus and other remnants (videos and film) from a society devastated (by North Korea?), thinking they were actual depictions of humans or events of our time is not far-fetched as I see it.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Saturday, March 09, 2013  

  • As a counter punctual insertion into the discussion about unusual and possibly anomalous events in ancient history that were observed, a recent discovery buried in the historical record for 2,000 years was recently unearthed. It brings into focus how much we don't know, versus what we assume about our forebears.

    By Blogger Bruce Duensing, at Wednesday, March 13, 2013  

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