Smoothly woven into the history of the ancients is a constant thread of accounts that we are taught to regard as mythological. Into this 'myth' category are placed all those events that do not fit our established scientific world view - i.e. all that that we cannot explain or understand. We do accept that many of the characters and places and events were real - the ones that fit our status quo. Ever since being enthralled by the Greek myths as a senior in Mrs Edna Leigh's English class of '66, this has struck me as being somewhat arrogant.
Had you time-travelled from the 16th century to the future that is today, and returned with tales of cell phones, television, fighter jets and computers, it is almost certain that you would have been considered a liar or a madman. Similarly, we relegate stories about any earlier existence of flying machines and high-tech weaponry to the realms of fantasy, imagination and even stranger things - like the collective unconscious.
Most of the myths consist of stories about a group of super-empowered individuals known as the gods. They all have names and distinctly differing personalities. Similar characters, bearing different names, existed in the religions of the Greek, Roman and Norse cultures. Each of the gods had his or her own special skills and they were able to do things like travel through the sky in special vehicles which were, of course, called chariots. They had magic powers and smart weapons that could smite down individuals from on high. They felt jealousy, possessiveness, love, pride and other emotions common to humans and most mammals. They sexually intermingled with humans and thereby produced children with special powers, for whom they might intervene on the battlefield at moments of mortal danger. It's all there - in the transmitted history of the time. We believe there was an historic Bronze Age war between the Trojans and Mycenean Greeks but dismiss as mythology the idea of super-natural involvement.
The gods of the ancient world seemed very 'human,' even though they were endowed with super-human powers and higher consciousness. They are generally considered to be powerful archetypes fabricated entirely by the need of the human mind to understand some of its deepest character traits. Many books have been written and reputations founded upon creating a rational explanation for these similar archetypes appearing in different cultures of the ancient world.
Perhaps these characters were real, and those imprinted images arose from the powerful imprint created by their appearance and involvement long ago with human culture. As a young man, it struck me that they might have simply been extra-terrestrial characters who for some reason visited Earth, or were stranded here and had to make the best of it. I wrote a letter to my mythology guru, Robert Graves, on the subject in 1965 but he dismissed it out of hand, based upon his certainty that intelligent life did not exist elsewhere in the Universe.
We must recognize that modern technology allows us to build weapons and means of transport often equivalent to those in the written accounts of the ancient gods: accounts that sounded fantastical to 19th century culture. We now possess the technology to create chimeras such as the half-human half-horse centaur of ancient times - or to cook up a half-man half-goat such as the satyrs of ancient myth (or history). Soon, perhaps, some twisted genetic engineer will re-create beasts such as the Minotaur of Crete - or craft a fantastic woman with snakes trailing out of her head, such as Medusa.
We now see that much of what we previously dismissed as impossible myth is indeed technically feasible technology. Can we still relegate much of the recounted history of earlier times to being a figment of the collective imagination?
Whilst thinking these wild thoughts, it struck me that the virgin birth, scoffed at by most rational people, might have been a form of genetically modified implant - presumably by those aforementioned aliens. I have since been advised that the Virgin Mary arose centuries after Christ, following an error in translation to Greek of the original Hebrew Bible (an idea contested by some). Similarly, there might be some other perfectly simple explanation for the widespread legends of super-powered gods mixing with men. I haven't come across it yet.
Perhaps my "alien gods" idea is just a schoolboy's theory from the Sixties, as easily dismissed as those Virgin Mary thoughts. It is re-aired today, in an age when we witness the awesome powers of modern technology and begin to consider the possibility of life evolving on distant solar systems. We accept that intelligent life kind-of-like-us may have evolved somewhere else, millions of years before us, and have developed space travel well beyond our current abilities. It is quite possible for my once wacky ideas to be right. Today, however, with the greater wisdom of years, I must wonder whether those alien gods may have been escaped prisoners, rather than visitors or stranded travelers.