Saturn as the Abode of the Dead in Victorian Science Fiction

I put up a post the other day about an early 20th century SF story from 1901, in which Jesus Christ is raised on Mars and sent to Earth by the Martians to enlighten us. They rescue Him from the crucifixion, and bring Him back to Mars. It struck me that the story may have been an influence or at least prefigured the idea that later arose among UFO contactees and researcher that Christ was an alien. The best-known of the various UFO religions that believe this is the Aetherius Society, founded in the 1950s by former taxi driver George King. King was into eastern mysticism, and became aware of his mission as spokesman for the Space Brothers when he heard a voice in his kitchen one day telling him to prepare to be the voice of interplanetary parliament. The Aetherius Society believes that King was the recipient of spiritual messages from Aetherius, an alien on Venus, and that Jesus is also there on the planet. Louis Farrakhan, the head of the Nation of Israel, also claimed that he’d been taken aboard a UFO and shown how Jesus and his predecessor as head of the religion, W.D. Fard, were also on Venus. Both Christ and Fard were Black, and Fard was directing and preparing for the coming apocalyptic war against the Whites that would free Black America.

Looking through the SF collection Born of the Sun again today, I found another early SF story with a religious or supernatural dimension. This was John Jacob Astor’s 1894 A Journey in Other Worlds, in which Saturn is inhabited by the spirits of the dead. I think this was influenced by contemporary spiritualism and trends in psychic research. The followers of the 18th century Swedish scientist and mystic, Immanuel Swedenborg, believed that he had travelled in spirit across the Solar System and that the various planets were inhabited, including by the spirits of the departed. This was also the same time, I think, that mediums like Helene Smith believed that they were receiving telepathic messages from Mars. The Surrealists were fascinated by these mediumistic accounts, and one collection of Surrealist writings contains a drawing, done automatically, of Mozart’s house on either Jupiter or Saturn. There’s definitely a religious element in much Spiritualist speculation about space and early Science Fiction, and I’m very sure that this has had an influence on the UFO phenomenon and its accounts of contacts with spiritually advanced, benevolent alien beings.


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8 Responses to “Saturn as the Abode of the Dead in Victorian Science Fiction”

  1. Brian Burden Says:

    Jacques Vallee wrote an entertaining book on UFO cults, called Messengers Of Deception, and he goes into the folkloric and mystical side of UFO lore in Passport To Magonia. John A. Keel explores this side of the phenomenon in a highly readable series of books: Our Haunted Planet, Operation Trojan Horse, The Mothman Prophecies, The Eighth Tower and Strange Creatures From Beyond Space And Time. I wd describe Keel as a Fortean – a collector of oddities and anomalies. Malcolm X had a vision of W.D.Fard while in gaol. I wd distrust anything Farrakhan claims. After Malcolm’s assassination, he wrote a venomous piece saying he thoroughly deserved to die for disrespecting Black Muslim leader Elijah Mohammed, yet later he had the gall to claim that he bore the mantle of Malcolm X. Malcolm’s widow was readmitted into the Nation, but was burnt to death shortly afterwards. Needless to say, McCavity wasn’t there! By the way, it’s The Nation Of Islam – not Israel! Finally, on the subject of UFOs, George Adamski made a mint claiming to have met a beautiful blond Aryan male from Venus. His book, Flying Saucers Have Landed (co-authored with Desmond Leslie) is illustrated with photos purporting to show the Venusian’s flying saucer. Google “Haunebu” for pictures of a nazi experimental flying disc. Are they identical or are they identical?

    • beastrabban Says:

      Very interesting. I think it’s generally accepted that Adamski was a faker. One of the UFO photos he was hawking about turned out to be of his chicken coop. One UFO researcher I’ve heard argued that the photograph of the UFO he claims to have encountered is really of a type of lantern, or part of it, that was in use about that time. But the Germans were developing saucer-shaped craft out in Czechoslovakia, and there are photos of them in a book I bought recently on the development of saucer shaped aircraft from the 19th century onward. Whether this involved aliens, as in the video ‘UFO Secrets of the Third Reich’ is very dubious.

      As for Louis Farrakhan, he really is a very shifty character. I was reading a bit about Black American messianic religions a few months ago. The book I was reading argued that they started with the Moorish Science Temple, which influenced the Nation of Islam and other Black American Muslim sects. These seem to have suffered from various leadership struggles, some of which were very bloody. The founder of the Moorish Science Temple was accused of complicity in the assassination of his rival, even though he was out of town at the time.

  2. Brian Burden Says:

    I must insist on the Haunebu. Forget the lanterns; forget the other German flying disc projects. The Haunebu and the Adamski saucer are identical, down to the turret on top and the three spheres underneath, which Adamski describes as “landing gear”. There is also Adamski’s Silver Spring film of a similar or possibly the same UFO – which you can watch on line – which is difficult to explain away as a fake. My own view is that the whole Adamski desert encounter was an elaborate diversion operation, staged by a branch of US Intelligence using a captured German craft, in which George was an unwitting dupe. The purpose – to send avid UFO researchers off on a permanent wild goose chase – in much the same way as the Maury Island hoax of 1947 was set up to draw media attention away from a genuine UFO crash at Roswell.

  3. trev Says:

    Apparently William Blake’s parents were Swedieborgens, if that’s the term. Personally I associate Jesus more with Venus and the Sun, and Jehova with Saturn. This was in Heindel’s Rosicrucian teachings too, that Jehova had been the Highest Initiate of the Saturn period, hence the sabbath used to be observed on Saturdays, whereas Christ is the Highest Initiate of the Sun period and so the sabbath is now on Sundays. Venus of course is known as the Morning Star, a term applied to both Christ and Lucifer (particularly in the White Eagle teachings Channeled by Grace Cooke).

    • beastrabban Says:

      That’s really interesting, thanks.

    • Brian Burden Says:

      But if JC escapes the crucifixion, it wipes out a whole swathe of Christian mythology and symbolism, and JC becomes just another prophet. Has anyone here read Michael Moorcock’s Ecce Homo? A guy travels back in time to check the historicity of the Jesus story and discovers that the young Jesus is actually a gibbering idiot. Seeing his big chance, he goes through the motions of Jesus’s ministry as described in the New Testament and ends up getting himself crucified. I forget how Moorcock deals with the Resurrection.

      • beastrabban Says:

        You’re right. I’ve heard of Moorcock’s ‘Ecce Homo’. The anti-Christians I knew at college were into it. It was attacked as blasphemous when it came out, though Brian Aldous denies this in history of SF, ‘The Trillion Year Spree’.

      • Brian Burden Says:

        “Blasphemous” is a convenient label to avoid intelligent discussion. It was slapped on the brilliant Life Of Brian by saintly hypocrites like Malcolm Muggeridge. At the time the film was on general release, the BBC sought to set up an intelligent discussion involving Michael Palin, Muggeridge and a senior cleric who was even then known to be a rapacious closet homosexual. The idea was that they shd watch the film, then discuss the issues it raised. In the event, Muggeridge and cleric wined and dined lavishly at the Beeb’s expense and arrived too late to watch the film. This did not, however, prevent this conclave of hypocrites from going on air to condemn the film in the strongest terms and patronising and insulting Michael Palin. Broadcasting at its worst!

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