Four limbed humans stick out like a sore thumb on Barsoom where
the standard complement of legs seems to otherwise start with six and go
up to ten or twelve. Humans simply don’t seem to fit very well into
the evolutionary history of Barsoom. There’s no evidence of monkeys
or primates that would be related to Barsoomian humans. There’s practically
no evidence even for four limbed critters.
And for that matter, foreign to the ecological context of Venus’s humid
jungles. For the moon, there’s almost no ecological context
left. Meanwhile, Thuria is obviously too tiny a world, and there’s
little evidence for us to assess ecological context on Jupiter or Poloda.
In short, the humans are the ‘odd men out’ on every world but Earth.
We stick out like a sore thumb. Humans are obviously foreign
species rubbing shoulders with native intelligences and the native plants
and animals. And they apparently managed to get out there without
the explicit aid of friendly aliens or their own super civilization.
And for some reason, no parasite species like dogs and rats came along
for the ride.
So, the default assumption is that somehow, primitive humans at the
dawn of history managed to get to these other worlds, where they diversified
along the lines we know now. How did they do it?
Astral projection. Don’t laugh. There are actually
several documented instances of Astral Projection in modern times in Burroughs
Four people have made at least nine trips, between Earth and Mars, Earth
and Venus, and Earth and Poloda. Well, on its face, that pretty
much settles it. John Carter may have been a star crossing
freak. There’s a lot that’s peculiar about John Carter, including
his failure to age, and his lack of memory of early years. Ulysses
Paxton may have been a fluke, perhaps he was drawn into some sort of channel
or pathway cut by Carter. But Betty Callwell and Tangor stand as
proof that there is a pattern. Neither Paxton nor Callwell
nor Tangor seem to be anything but ordinary humans. Their ability
to reach Mars and Venus respectively, suggest that other humans have done
this repeatedly in the past, perhaps in greater numbers.
John Carter, from Earth to Mars, in Princess of Mars.
John Carter, from Mars to Earth, in Princess of Mars
John Carter, from Earth to Mars again, in Princess of Mars.
John Carter, round trip visit to Earth and back to Mars, in a subsequent
Ulysses Paxton, from Earth to Mars, in Mastermind of Mars
Betty Callwell of Brooklyn, from Earth to Venus (implied), in Escape
Betty Callwell of Brooklyn, from Venus to Earth, in Escape From Venus.
Tangor from Earth to Poloda, in Beyond the Farthest Star.
And if humans could project themselves to Mars or Venus, then they could
undoubtedly project to the Moon and Thuria. Possibly even Jupiter
and Poloda. Of course, this means that humans could have originated
anywhere and spread. But for reasons that I’ve given, I suspect that
Earth remains the ultimate origin world.
There is room for refinement of the theory. Thuria is a
tiny world, not even visible from Earth. It’s more likely that
the Thurians were colonized by humans astrally projecting from Mars.
The Thurians themselves seem to be a genetically limited population, with
only one substantial ethnic group... A washed out, blue haired version
of the Orovars of Barsoom?
And there’s a tiny hint in the origins of Poloda, by noting the remarkable
similarity between the name of the system and the Martian word Polodonna,
meaning equator. Coincidence? Or is this evidence that Poloda
was also the recipient of projection from Barsoom as well as Earth.
So perhaps, once humans had astrally colonized Barsoom, they wound up
projecting themselves even deeper into space, to Thuria and Poloda?
As for the Blue skinned Savators of Jupiter, or the skeletal Morgors,
those are anyone’s guess.
Well... Maybe. On Venus there are the Cloud Men, described
as “possessing corpse like skin, tiny noses and large eyes.”
Compare them to Jupiters Morgors, described as a “thin framed race with
parchment like skin, solid brown eyes, no lips or noses.” Are
they related? Possibly. Which may imply astral
transit between Venus and Jupiter. They may each, however, be basic
offshoots of humans. Local departures from the norm who both seemed
to evolve in a similar way.
Also on Venus, there are hairy half human cannibals, possibly transplanted
Cavemen (Neandertaloids or Homo Erectus)?
Finally, there are Brokols, human looking, sentient plant men who hang
from trees and may be related to the non-sentient plant men of Barsoom,
but the identification of the two races of plant men seems dicy indeed.
The Plant-men of Barsoom seem to be a naturally occurring indigenous species,
and they aren’t very human themselves. The puzzling humanity of the
Brokols suggests a form of mimesis. The Brokols are probably a plant
which has evolved to copy the dominant species, and humans are the dominant
So, the phenomenon seems confined to basically to humans (with some
minor allowance for pre-humans or protohumans). Our theory
must be that early on in human history, principally after the human race
was well established, there must have been a wave, or perhaps series of
waves of astral projection to other worlds.
How? Why? Who knows. Perhaps, in Lovecraftian terms,
the stars were different and more hospitable. Perhaps the facility
for astral projection has been bred out of humans over the years, until
it is only experienced by rare or occasional throwbacks, perhaps four or
five per century.
One could easily imagine such a wild talent breeding itself out of the
population. Any time someone gets in trouble, off they go to
another planet, possibly not to return, and probably not reproducing.
Or perhaps astral projection was a talent or skill refined and developed
by a now long lost civilization or series of lost civilizations whose priests
or mystics spread out to the stars and planets. With their
falls, the skill was lost, and the various colonies developed racially
and socially in their own directions. Burroughs has no shortage
of lost civilizations on Earth.
Given the absence of any apparent common origin myth, it must have been
far back in each cultures history. Time enough for some of
the worlds to develop their own radiations of distinct human races.
But finally, if we accept this Astral Projection stuff, how does it
work? This seems tricky.
In the case of John Carter’s initial journey, he is paralyzed, manages
to leave his body, and his spirit flings towards Mars. This
is similar to Ulysses Paxton’s journey, Paxton remembers looking down at
his body with its legs blown off. Obviously, in these cases,
its not the body itself which flies from one planet to another, but the
spirit... Somehow, a new body is created or materialized on the new
world, when Paxton arrives on Mars, he has his legs back. When Carter
returns to Earth initially, its implied his Earth body has been waiting
all this time. When he leaves again, its implied again that his Earth
body is left behind.
Some degree of trauma may be required. Tangor’s plane crashes
and he assumes that he’s died. Paxton is blown apart on the fields
of the Great War. Carter finds himself paralyzed and terrified
in an Indian Cave on Earth. His departure from Mars is triggered
by obvious stress over the impending death of the planet.
On the other hand, Betty Callwell seems only to go to sleep full of
longing. Carter’s second visit to Mars seems to be driven by intense
The departed body appears to be dead, but may be in suspended animation.
Or at least, on Carter’s second departure, he’s assumed dead and buried
in a coffin that, as per his instruction, unlocks from the inside.
When he returns from his first journey to Mars, he finds his body has remained
preserved in a cave for decades, but is as good as new. Betty
Callwell’s body, when it's found on Earth, is perfectly preserved after
It’s not clear whether the body has to be intact for the projector to
survive on another world. Carter, of course, was lucky with
his remains the first time, and careful the second time. On the other
hand there probably isn’t much of Tongor’s or Paxton’s body left on the
battlefields, and if they ever return, it will be to wake in a tomb.
The big mystery is where was Betty Callwell’s Earthly body?
Did she take it with her, or was it somehow hidden or concealed on Earth?
Did finding or disturbing Betty Callwell’s body on Earth destroy her existence
on Venus? We don’t know. Callwell was in the process
of recalling her old life when she vanished, so it seems like an unlikely
coincidence. But then, this is Burroughs, we are talking about.
Is it possible that the Earthly body slips out of synch with our world,
even as it remains tethered here. Carter’s body lay undisturbed
in that cave for years initially. Tangor and Paxton, we have
no inidication that their bodies were ever found on Earth... Frankly,
anyone looking for them would have been armed with tweezers, so the disappearance
of those bodies would not have seemed remarkable. Only Carter’s
second journey seemed to leave a body which people tangibly touched and
treated as a corpse.
To add to the confusion, on some of his subsequent trips, John Carter
appears on Earth in Martian Costume and gear. Either he had
this prepared on Earth for donning by his terrestrial body, or he’s somehow
managed to ship objects, and perhaps physical bodies back and forth with
him. Perhaps he has, he’s done it more often, and with more
control, than anyone else. Maybe he just got better and better at
Does this mean there’s no body in Tangor’s wrecked airplane, and Betty
Callwell’s earthly body remained undiscovered for twenty five years in
the middle of New York because each managed to take it with them somehow?
Again, a mystery.
And there are more mysteries. What about these bodies on the other
worlds of Barsoom, Venus and Poloda? How are these bodies created
in the first place. Each of the reports indicate a fairly gentle
materialization on their new world. There’s no sensation of a disruptive
materialization displacing the air occupying the space they move into.
What happens to that air? How are these bodies made?
Are they brand new matter? Where does that come from?
How do you get something from nothing? Is it converted from Energy?
Where does the energy come from?
Or is it created from existing local matter (which might explain the
lack of disruption). But if created from existing local matter, there
has to be more than the relatively thin air, or a greater volume than the
body, or neighboring substances drawn upon... but there’s no reference
to holes in the ground, human shaped or otherwise, or air disturbance.
If it is drawn from the local environment, then is it drawn at a molecular,
atomic or subatomic level?
On the one hand, they seem to be adapted to conditions there, in terms
of being able to breath the air easily and withstand the climate....
Not difficult given that overall atmospheres and climates seem Earth tolerable,
but still notable (of course, that raises the huge issue of how each of
these worlds manages to have Earth normal environments).
Is there some reason to suspect that their bodies are adapted to their
new worlds? John Carter is cross fertile with an egg laying
female. That’s got to be worth lifting an eyebrow.
On the other hand, they appear to be materializing in Earth bodies...
At least in the case of Paxton and Carter, who appear as white men with
Earth amplified muscles.
They materialize, however, without injuries. Paxton has his legs,
Tangor shows up in one piece and not as dozens of charred pieces, Carter
is intact despite his paralysis and poisoning. It’s as if the
psychic Astral Projection contains a detailed map, down to at least cellular
level and beyond, of what the body should materialize as, based on some
sort of memory or resonance with the physical one. This detail
goes all the way, the travelers materialize with hairstyles, old scars
and fingernails intact.
Think of them as psychic clones, or blueprints, on which matter on other
worlds is laid. Perhaps, the Kirlian field forms the matrix that the new
body is constructed on.
But there are obstacles to the Astral Projection theory.
The Barsoomian humans, at least, are physiologically different from terrestrial
humans. They are egg layers, a huge and irreconcileable difference.
Their neural tissue regenerates. They can be frozen solid and then
thawed out, like a terrestrial arctic char, or experience a form of suspended
animation through hypnosis or suggestion. They have telepathic
and other psychic abilities.
The Kangaroo men of Mars are marsupials.
On Venus there is a race of apparent humans who are aquatic, with gills,
and whose children start off as fish.
So what’s the deal? These differences seem profoundly irreconcileable
with their being human at all.
Perhaps in the case of the Egg laying humans of Barsoom, and the froglike
humans of Venus the modifications were made deliberately, after societies
The Barsoomians may have decided to opt for an egg laying lifestyle
in response to their world’s slow death. The Venerians may have modified
themselves for a fundamentally watery world. The Ameboid and
Plant men of Venus may simply be adaptive mimcry. Others may simply
be coincidental flukes.
Unless, we assume that during the process of materializing a new physical
body on the kirlian map or astral body, there is some incorporation
of local DNA in the new bodies on other worlds.
This might result in Barsoomian humans tending to be egg layers, because
all the DNA on that world is for egg laying creatures. On the other
hand, John Carter’s DNA upon arrival, is probably tweaked to the human
norm, bringing him even more into line with the local population and making
him both long lived and cross fertile. Heck, it may even be
that Carter’s earthly DNA was ‘tweaked’ somehow, by Barsoomian stuff in
some past, forgotten adventure, leading to his extraordinary terrestrial
How this works, or why, is a question. It may be endemic
to the materialization process, which makes one think of the unfortunate
teleportation victims in the various Fly movies. Accidentally
incorporate a bit of the wrong DNA and be doomed to monstrosity and mutation.
That would make astral projection to other worlds a risky proposition.
Go intending to be a hero, arrive as a monstrosity. In fact,
it seems on simple random chance, that monstrosity is the most likely outcome.
Perhaps successful assembly depends on a strength of will, not just to
propel oneself across space, but to reform one’s body based on a mostly
Monstrosity and mutation? Hmmm.... This opens
the door, however, to implying that other intelligent races may actually
merely be materializations which were overwhelmed by local DNA.
Perhaps the Green Men, the Va-Gas, the Bird Men, the Masena and others
were all astrally projected humans whose materialized bodies were strongly
corrupted by local animal or even plant DNA?
Is there support for this? A little. The otherwise
inhuman quadruped Va-Gas of the Moon have human faces. The Rykors
of Barsoom resemble headless humans to an uncanny degree. The
plant men and amoeba men of Venus have every appearance of being human,
including language and culture, excepting only their radically different
biologies. The Bird men of Venus appear to be polyglots
of humans, bats and birds. Many alien races bear peculiar humanlike
characteristics in one respect or another. Possibly even the
most inhuman are simply the result of disproportionate quantities of alien
This may imply that most of the intelligent races in the Solar system
may have emerged at roughly the same time, and they are all contemporaries
of each other. This may explain why single intelligent races
have not conclusively dominated each world... There just hasn’t been
time, in the ten or twenty thousand years since they’ve emerged for true
victors to take control.
Under this theory, the non-human intelligent races may even have emerged,
or stabilized, slightly or somewhat later than the human cultures, and
thus may have been forced into marginal or barbaric niches.
Otherwise, it seems odd that humans would have so easily established
themselves over and over on worlds already sporting intelligent life, already
Indeed, it may well be possible that some, many or even most of the
animal life on other world may be the result of human astral projections
which failed utterly, materializing as non-intelligent creatures.
But so far, we’ve been looking at this Astral Projection phenomenon
as peculiar to humans. And for good reason, as we’ve only seen
it with humans. No Thark has ever materialized on Venus.
Perhaps if they’re human derived, the faculty for projection was overwhelmed
by the influx of alien DNA, and the special unique talent was lost.
It’s a singular talent after all, not shared with other Earth animals that
we know of, so even a small or moderate change might lose the ability.
Thus, for many prospective Astral Travellers, the visits to other worlds
are one way trips. Their new bodies upon arrival are so contaminated
by local DNA that they take on non-human form and lose their ability to
But is this talent absent entirely from the Earth and its life, except
Here’s a wild thought. How is it that six other known worlds,
including three of them radically different and apparently incapable of
it, manage to support Earth normal environments? How is an
Earth normal environment even remotely possible, for that matter, in Pellucidar?
Possibly, there is a more global form of Astral Projection, a Gaean
form of Astral Projection, in which ‘psychic clones’ of Earth’s biosphere
bubble off and are drawn or swept to other worlds. It may well be
a quasi-natural phenomena, perhaps a consequence of Earth’s magnetic field,
which acts as a container vessel for the planetary psychic clone until
its discharged by some shift in polarity or solar eruption.
The terrestrial psychic clone merges with another world, or another
asteroid, and using the same energies that allow the humans to create new
bodies, attempts to resculpt the new world. The process
takes place easily on Earthlike worlds like Poloda, Mars and Venus.
But strongly non-earthlike worlds are more difficult, Jupiter is too
vast, the Moon and Thuria too small. Instead, on these worlds,
most of the inital transformations are swept away time and again, until
chance or happenstance allows ‘Islands of stability’ to emerge on these
planets... Thus the Lunar Interior, or the strange habitable equatorial
belt of Jupiter.
Once a viable local psychic clone emerges and takes root, it simply
absorbs or repels the additional terrestrial ones which come along later,
and begins to develop, more or less, along its own terms.
On Earth, this may help to explain the strange nature of Pellucidar,
which appears to be not only an Earth-normal impossibility but also the
bizarre biology of Caspak. These areas may be the result of
perturbations in the ‘psychic clone’ field generated periodically by Earth.
In such a case, the human talent of Astral Projection may merely be
a simply hyperspecialized, hyperrefined ability found collectively inherent
in life on Earth.
But the larger consequence of this, is that in Burroughs Universe, we
could reasonably expect to discover other Earth-normal environments in
the Solar system, including, perhaps, on Mercury, on Comets and Asteroids,
and even as far as Saturn and the Jovian and Saturnian moons.
It would hardly be unlimited. Admittedly Jupiter, Thuria and the Moon
are stunningly impressive and tributes to the ability of the ‘psychic clone
field’ to find a way to make even seemingly impossible environments habitable.
But let’s face it, Mars and the Moon are both dying worlds, neither
seems to have been large enough to make a long term go at it. Jupiter’s
habitable ‘Earth-normal’ zone is likely far from stable for opposite reasons.
The habitable periods for these worlds may only be a few millions or in
some cases, hundreds of thousands of years. A transient blip on cosmic
But still, there’s likely more out there. And given the
evidence of Poloda, its likely that space around Earth, in its section
of the galaxy, has been colonized by terrestrial psychic clones.
And given the record, its likely that many of these strange new worlds
are peopled by men and women not unlike us.