Philip Coppens. The Ancient Alien Question. New Page Books, 2011.

Oh my, what a busy book this is! From the minute you pick it up, it vies for your attention in a number of ways. The cover’s bold font is squeezed around a photograph of what looks to be a Central or South American pyramid plus four small, circular inlays of what are presumably meant to be ‘mysterious’ objects. The effect is to make one think that the publisher is after readers looking for sensation as opposed to careful, reasoned argument. This over-the-top approach to graphics, unfortunately in my view, carries on inside with ‘alien’ writing jarringly placed on the outer border of each page, along with very bold chapter headings and the body of the text in rather large print. Subtlety is obviously not the effect that New Page Books are going for, then.

This would have made my heart sink, were it not for the name of the author, Philip Coppens. Although I had not read any of his books before, I had read one of his articles in Nexus magazine concerning Operation Gladio, the Italian “stay-behind” secret army of guerrillas and saboteurs that were in place during the Cold War in order to fight Communist forces should they invade or take over. Coppens tells how this group was taken over by right-wing individuals affiliated to the Italian government and, instead of protecting the country, went on a bombing campaign whilst putting the blame on Communist organisations. I was impressed by what seemed to be a methodical approach to an issue about which I had heard nothing before. I was, therefore, intrigued to see how he was going to tackle an issue as broad and contentious as the ancient alien question, or rather, questions which, of course, are were there any and did they land here?

The second jarring note for me, after the lively attitude to graphics, was that the foreword was by that veteran (or should that be notorious) writer Erich von Däniken. I will be honest and say here that von Däniken was one of the first authors that I read whilst becoming very interested in the UFO and ancient astronaut themes at school, even to the extent of debating such matters with my Religious Education teacher. The heady rush of such a dramatic intervention in humankind’s history (and, of course, prehistory) from such a radical influence was by far and away much more interesting to me than my usual subjects.

However, I and the rest of the world were to learn that the Swiss author was prone to embellishment. He tended to pull artefacts in to back up his claims which were not what he claimed them to be. One is the Iron Pillar in Delhi. He told the world that it never rusted and no-one knew who put it there. In fact, it is rusty and the emperor Chandragupta II put it there. There is also the distinct probability that von Däniken took much of his - shall we say, inspiration – from The Morning of the Magicians (Le Matin des magiciens) by Louis Pauwels and Jacques Bergier. By way of contrast, later on in the book Coppens seems to single out the author Zecharia Sitchin and his works for criticism. The criticism does look to be justified but it seems in sharp contrast to the leniency he affords von Däniken, whilst the crucial difference between Sitchin and von Däniken is that Sitchin at least seems sincere, although maybe self-delusional. None of this bodes well for the book.

Encouragingly though, Coppens, when he is away from supporting or attacking other writers in this genre, seems more down-to-earth (or as down-to-earth as anyone can be, given the subject matter). Although he puts forward the story in the fashion by which it is known popularly, he then goes on to examine it in further detail. Sometimes, this will lead to his debunking the original story rather than just accepting it as it is initially found.

To give an example, The Sirius Mystery, a book written in 1976 by Robert Temple, details how two French anthropologists working with the Dogon tribe in Mali, West Africa, discovered that the tribe had knowledge of the star system that we see as Sirius. The claim is that this tribe, with no sophisticated technology, knew about the dwarf star Sirius B. Sirius B is invisible to the naked eye; therefore the Dogon had to have learned this from contact from somewhere – or someone – else. This someone else was supposed to be aliens from the star system around Sirius. However, after another expedition by other anthropologists, Coppens informs us that the new expedition could find no consensus amongst the Dogon about Sirius at all.

This continues throughout the book. An initial position is put forward then examined to see if it holds water and, for the most part, the author to his credit does not always take the statement at face value. However, there do seem to be some areas where the author lets his own faith in a viewpoint override his own good sense. It has long been a staple of alternative archæology that the pyramids on the Giza plateau mirror the layout of the stars that form the belt of the constellation Orion. A fair few astronomers have queued up to show that this may not be the case, and other alternative archæologists reckon that the constellation Cygnus is more accurately represented. Therefore, this is not something that can be taken as fact, and most certainly does not even have a consensus amongst alternative archæologists, yet it is uncritically accepted here.

This is important as it later becomes a central tenet to Coppens’ argument that, although there is no evidence to support major influence in humanity’s social evolution by extra-terrestrials in nuts-and-bolts spaceships, that in the distant past people managed to contact denizens of an inner-space akin to C. G. Jung’s collective unconscious who passed on the same information to people utilising shamanic rituals in different parts of the world, which would explain why many sights have similar, but not identical, layouts, buildings, pantheons of gods and mythologies. This does seem to be an answer that has some merit, and could even link into current UFO/UAP phenomena in a neater fashion than the (by now) quite clunky alien astronaut theory.

Philip Coppens has a straightforward writing style that is helpful in explaining some of the more intricate and technical areas that his book touched upon. Whether it is the ins and outs of geopolymers or the anomalies of the Piri Reis map, the explanation is fluid and easy to follow. This is very helpful indeed in a book that covers so much ground. He is capable of spotting flaws in accepted lore and exposing them so that we are not duped. This, then, raises the question as to why some subjects are let slip under the radar. It is, in my view, an inconsistent approach to answering the questions asked by the author himself. Maybe a re-examination and comparison of the layouts of the Giza Plateau, the pyramids at Teotihuacán and the Hopi reservations in Arizona, this time without star maps, might still back up the point that he is trying to make without having to use discredited information. – Review by Trevor Pyne

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this review of my book. I would like to highlight two problems with your conclusions, though. For one, I do not think that Sitchin is "sincere", as I point out in the discussion about the Sinai desert glass and the scientific report that showed it was from a volcanic eruption, that Sitchin pretends the origins of the glass are totally unknown. On the other hand, I do think von Daniken is sincere, and I show e.g. in my discussion of the Metal Library how he was a victim of circumstances, even though the media reported as if he had just been debunked.
    Second, if you had carefully read the book, you would have seen that I say the Gizeh Plateau's pyramids is about Orion's BELT, not Orion as such, and I gave the reasons WHY I think this, which has all to do with creation mythology, which goes beyond what you would call "discredited information", which is not discredited at all, but which is rather not uniformly accepted. Seeing Teotihuacan is identified as a point of creation of this "Age", where the Gods convened, and that this point of creation is linked in astronomy by the Maya with Orion's Belt, and then to find that Teotihuacan's layout overlaps with Orion's Belt, is a most important point that needs to be made, I would think.