As a teenager back in the 70’s my mind was broadened and enriched by the theories of Erich Von Daniken. Skeptical about the theories instilled in me, and even by then distrustful of authority for its own sake, I had already rebelled against the “Church of my fathers” and at that time Von Daniken provided a fill-in for the gap in my ontology that ensued upon that rejection. He, let me rephrase, “had answers” to the questions I was asking, he could account in some rational way for human existence without using God and without using Biblical history. Not only that, but he also found way to my heart through his rejection, oftentimes ridicule of “vanilla” science and history. After reading Chariots Of The Gods, I was hooked on the sequels. After three books, I was all but convinced – with those cool photos of ancient relics and all – that human beings did indeed come to Earth from outer space.
Permit me to continue this personal anecdote more than I normally like, as the thought process involved I am certain is not unique to me alone. Many of us have gone the same route. We were initially taught, and not without justification, that God created the world and watches over us. Then we age as humans on an increasingly complex Earth and begin to question how this godly omnipresence could be possible, making the mistake in thinking that because we don’t see how such possibilities occur that they therefore do not. But age more and we find that like our perception of freon gas (among, well,…others), which is mostly colorless, tasteless, and otherwise undetectable, even though we cannot initially perceive it at all, comprehend it in the least, once “inhaled,” its existence you no longer doubt. Or at least for gases…So we continue to grow and seek answers, learning perhaps the same things, but seeing them more objectively. This is what a truth-seeker must do. In our seeking the Origin of Man we must scrutinize even the sources of our own past history and beliefs, and determine whether, rather to what extent we are using these formative crayons to color our present understanding. That is, how far we are distorting the objects of our inner (reflection) or outer (sensation) perception.
Von Daniken was, nevertheless, under my arm for at least two years, part of my UFO-Alien-Bigfoot-Loch Ness Monster-Bermuda Triangle phase. Von Daniken’s primary thesis, I think fair to say persistent and evident throughout his work, is that millenia ago Earth was inhabited by “astronauts” from other planets, and that is where we came from. This theory is in fact echoed by Zechariah Stitchin, whom I did not discover until just a few years ago. Alan Alford, and to some extent Carl Sagan, also ascribe to this general thesis. As to who the “pioneer” is, that would probably be Von Daniken, but Stitchin was known until his recent death as one of the world’s foremost experts in reading cuneiform, and did some good research involving the interpretation of ancient Sumerian and Babylonian art. Alford is fairly new to me, but so far his seems like a combination of the works of Stitchin and Velikovsky, who we will encounter later on. Alford will have to be left out for now.
Von Daniken has spent the majority of his life interpreting art and artifacts of ancient origin, as has Stitchin. In these ancient carvings, etchings, and fragments, both see, rather than anthropomorhosed gods and figurative tales of human origin, instead the chronology of actual interventions of “aliens” from far away, or in Stitchin’s case of Nibiru, extremely long-orbited planetary lifeforms.
As the Von Daniken tale goes, and he has put much travel, energy, and first-hand investigation into trying to prove it, extraterrestrial life forms came to Earth some time in the past and instructed human beings about those things which make a civilization: pottery, language, agriculture, technology, science – all these things, according to Van Daniken, were acquired by Earth people from aliens. Being in his eyes otherwise a mostly ignorant species, primitive men and women of Earth saw the advances of the aliens as magical, and so the early Men of Earth saw these invaders as Gods, coming down from the heavens. In tribute to them, for Von Daniken, the early cultures of the Earth have left behind statues, carvings, and writings of praise for “Gods” who were really only members of a more technologically advanced society.
Like most ancient astronaut theory the whole scheme requires proofs, and visual proofs are Von Daniken’s specialty. He still feels that people will only believe what they can see, and so he culls from old artifacts pictures wherein he sees UFOs, special transports, even advanced machinery. So adamant has Von Daniken been about presenting visual proof that he once promoted as “evidence” for his theory some remarkable images later proved to be phony, and in fact several of his “proofs” have been proven…to be fabricated. When confronted with these accusations, Von Daniken does not deny them, and like Madame Blavatsky, who was known to fake a seance now and then to keep the till ringing, Von Daniken more or less admits he concocts the evidences, to make people believe.
This staging of evidence is not unique to “fringe” theories, as we have seen in prior posts that even “respectable” science, especially in the fields of archaeology, anthropology, and astronomy, have also been “busted” on several important occasions.
But really exposing hoaxed or staged evidence used to support his belief in ancient astronauts is not really necessary to dispute the value of Von Daniken’s theories. So much is hazy in Von Daniken, so many interpretations of ancient relics marginal, that most of his proofs that rely on even these “hard” evidences can be easily and effectively disputed. But for our purposes here, ancient astronaut theories, even if true, would only help us advance our search for Man’s Origin so far. Actually, the idea of people like us coming to Earth in ancient times and civilizing us poor humans only begs our question. It would only take us one step closer to our goal because then the question becomes…where did those “really first” humans come from? It would help hardly at all.
The key note to remember is that the ancient astronaut theory receives little support from science, the very same science that is quick to talk, straight- faced, about all the “possible worlds” like our own. The problem is that while the Carl Sagans of the astronomy world ooze with such “we are not alone” possibilities, Evolutionary theorists would, given such a reality, find their hocus-pocus even further into the junk heap of scientific baloney. It would be a death blow to Darwinism…and opportunists like the Leakey foundation. It is borderline hilarious how “normal” science demands proofs, but then loads us with “possibilities” and “could bes” and “maybes” for which there is absolutely no proof at all. Von Daniken is merely playing the “science game”.
But alas, while I think that the death blows for both Evolution and the Big Bang have been a long time coming, they cannot come from theories like Von Daniken’s alone. His thesis is interesting, and indeed a real possibility, but the evidence he provides is not quite good enough. In my opinion a more complete theory along the same lines, backed up by more evidence, scholarship, expertise, and intriguing possibility – but which still fails on much the same grounds – is the ancient astronaut theory of Zechariah Stitchin.
Stitchin, as I have said already, while alive was considered one of a dozen or so people on the planet able to accurately decipher cuneiform. While his competence in even these regards has come under fire – by those in the same field perhaps not as successful in selling books as Stitchin, see for example the “Stitchin is wrong” website – I think that while he may have taken liberties and jumped to some conclusions, his scholarship was honest and his proofs not marginal or fabricated as some others, like Von Daniken, who believe a similar theory. The pictures and carvings and artifacts he uses are not doctored or fabricated. They are real existing ancient relics anyone can see. While what you look at might not be what Stitchin saw, he nevertheless leaves it to you to make your own conclusions.
I enjoyed reading several Stitchin books, and while I admire some of the chances he took, especially considering the parrot state of normal science, and while I agree many of the antiquities can be interpreted as he has, and that the Epic of Gilgamesh is very important to human history, I cannot agree, actually find no reason to agree, with his greater thesis that is the “story” of how Man came to be on Earth.
As his story goes, the planet Nibiru (yet to be evidenced) is unknown to us because it has a huge orbit, one which carries it, at its furthest distance from the sun, far beyond even the most remote orbit of Pluto, as Nibiru has an orbit that takes thousands of Earth years to complete. This planet uses gold extensively, and Earth, according to Stitchin, provided these people of Nibiru a handy place to mine the same gold their planet, Planet X or Nibiru, had used up. On passing the Earth during one 3000+ year orbit, Nibiru brought some workers in to mine the Earthly gold. After some time the Nibiru workers grew tired of doing this slave-like labor, and so a new plan was called for. It is this tale, and the ensuing events related time and again by Stitchin (like Von Daniken, his books are often repetitive) that differentiates his own ancient astronaut idea from that of Von Daniken.
How to get the work done now became a problem, since no Nibiru workers wanted to do the work. Stitchin here calls upon the Gilgamesh tale, and some Egyptian, Assyrian, and other Mesopotamian records, and even the Biblical “Man made from the clay of the Earth” tale, to prove his thesis. As it goes, some scientist(s) from Nibiru, female, found a way to merge their advanced DNA with that of the “highest” or, most intelligent, Earth creature at the time. Near Man, Neanderthal Man, it is not entirely made clear by Stitchin which upright creature these Planet Xers evolved. Anyway, these female scientists allegedly incubated these hybrid creatures within themselves until they were born, and they got what they had hoped…enough advancement so that these (again) pitiful Earth creatures could reason enough to follow instructions, you know, such as “mine here”.
But these extraterrestrials, it turns out, got more than they bargained for. Not only had these prior ignorant animals developed an elementary reason, they had inherited enough advanced traits, through the genetic manipulation, to actually come to rebel against their creators. Laziness, greed, intelligence…all these things developed in the “new” species. Gilgamesh himself, for example, allegedly a product of this experimentation so-called, lamented his condition as a “half-breed”, a being not immortal like one half of his immortal parentage.
Nevertheless again, though, we have an answer as to how Man came to know metallurgy, agriculture, architecture, medicine, and so on. By a combination of forcibly instilled genetics and the natural development of these genes in the Earth people, civilized Man came to be.
Again with Stitchin, as with Von Daniken, we get answers as to how Man might have come to know civilization, but as far as an answer to where he came from, again we beg the question.
In my opinion the theories of Stitchin and Von Daniken are interesting but likely also incorrect and rely on too many cursory interpretations of existing materials, most of which have already been interpreted differently. Let me be clear that this is not to say that the earlier interpretations are more correct, as the renditions offered by our stars of this section may be just as correct as those of their predecessors. But it is one thing to notice and expose problems in prior theorizing, another to offer new explanations, and still a whole other to offer a whole worldview based loosely on the new interpretations. In sum, my analysis is that Stitchin and Von Daniken both did good work in exposing prior mistakes and omissions in the deciphering of ancient texts and artifacts. Their offerings here should not be discarded out of hand. However, when it comes to the explanations they offer as to the Origin of Man, I think they both go much further than the brunt of their research allows. They jump to too many conclusions. They are useful for us as examples of ideas about human origins that do not rely on either popular science [sic] or established religion, but their conclusions, unfortunately, must be taken with as little a grain of salt as we have come to expect from conventional scientific theory.
Thanks again for your patience and kind notes, I will be trying to post more frequently in the coming weeks. Next up, Velikovsky,