Last week, I wrote about the recent appearance of Brian Muraresku on Joe Rogan’s podcast to discuss the use of psychedelic drugs in ancient times, particularly in the mixed drink known as kykeon served to initiates during the Eleusinian Mysteries in ancient Greece. Part of their conversation revolved around the 1978 book The Road to Eleusis, whose coauthor, Carl Ruck, consulted with and advised Muraresku in his own work. This past week, I heard from Ruck, who argued that my commentary was incorrect and has asked me to retract my blog post due to the “dismay and distress” it has caused his associates. He copied the email to Muraresku.
War of the Gods: Alien Skulls, Underground Cities, and Fire from the Sky
Erich von Däniken | New Page Books | Sept. 2020 | 214 pages | ISBN: 1632651718 | $17.95
Years go by with the inevitable cycle of the seasons repeating their majestic rounds. After winter, summer. After summer, winter. And with the regularity of the season, so too does Erich von Däniken release a new book, and with the same repetition as the seasons. Each book is the same as all the books before, and each one begins with the ritual of pretending otherwise. War of the Gods, originally published in German 2018 but released in English for the first time this month, starts with a letter in which von Däniken (henceforth EVD) proclaims with great excitement news that he imagines will surprise his readers: “In this book, I present new findings!” Unfortunately, there is an ominous note: “But it is only possible by building on previous experiences.” Each winter brings a different snowstorm but you always know it will snow. So, too, do you know that whatever soupçon of new material appears in War of the Gods will be buried in a blizzard of recycling. He frequently refers to his own books, the books of guests on Ancient Aliens, and to claims made on the Ancient Aliens television show itself, recycling in an endless loop of previous claims tracing back to his own earliest efforts to recycle Morning of the Magicians to his own advantage.
Classicist Peter Gainsford made an interesting case on his blog that the humorous ancient Greek science fiction satire of Lucian called The True History includes a close parody of the New Jerusalem of the Book of Revelation. I can definitely see Gainsford’s point, but my gut instinct is that Lucian wasn’t directly drawing on the Christian text in imagining the fantastical paradise on the Isle of the Blessed where the heroic dead reside. Let’s take a quick look at what Gainsford says in order to puzzle out whether he’s right and whether Lucian had it in for Christianity’s most psychedelic text.
Many of you may have seen the sensational headline running this week in The Daily Star, a British tabloid whose priorities lean more toward entertaining readers than informing them. The ridiculous headline proudly proclaimed a world exclusive: “Bigfoot is ‘evidence humans were created from ancient alien slave DNA’.” Aside from being yet another example of the supernatural and the pseudohistorical becoming fodder for the pipeline stretching from the lunatic fringe of the internet through British tabloids to Russian propaganda sites and the mainstream media, there is actually a claim about ancient texts and history underlying the seemingly ridiculous excretion from Ancient Aliens’ infamous Bigfoot episode.
Science Channel Flat-Earther Killed Making TV Show; Plus: Erich von Däniken Gets Another Ancient Text Very Wrong
Over the weekend, pseudoscience television claimed a life. The death of Michael “Mad Mike” Hughes while filming for the Science Channel was not the first death in unscripted TV, but his Wile E. Coyote escapades in a failed effort to prove the Earth flat marked a particularly ridiculous low for the Science Channel and its parent company, Discovery Communications. The Science Channel was shooting a pseudo-documentary series called Homemade Astronauts in which Hughes attempted to launch a homemade rocket 5,000 feet into the air in the hope of using it as a model for a bigger rocket that would let him see the edge of the flat Earth. Just like Wile E. Coyote in the Looney Tunes, his rocket exploded, but since he was not a cartoon character, he died as he lived, utterly irresponsible. The Science Channel and its outgoing chief executive offered their condolences but accepted no responsibility for enabling ad encouraging this staggering act of utter stupidity, which they filmed. In fact, the Science Channel absolved itself on Twitter, claiming it was merely there to “chronicle his journey.”
An Indian scholar claimed that the ancient Sanskrit epic The Ramayana features historical accounts of interactions between Homo sapiens and Homo erectus. Dr. Rangan Ramakrishnan made the claim in his ten-volume study of the Ramayana, its traditional author Valmiki, and its later reception and adaptation in Indian culture. He holds a doctorate in yoga (!) and produces content valorizing ancient India and the Vedas. An article in the South China Morning Post quoted the author on the bizarre claim. Here, Ramakrishnan speaks of Hanuman, a monkey god, and the Vanaras, his monkey retainers:
I'm an author and editor who has published on a range of topics, including archaeology, science, and horror fiction. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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