Ancient astronaut theorist Zecharia Sitchin died in October of 2010, right after the publication of There Were Giants Upon the Earth, which he called his “crowning oeuvre.” This year Inner Traditions is releasing a new paperback edition of Sitchin’s culminating work, and they made galley proofs available for review. There is a sort of touching level of retro charm to the book, particularly when old twentieth century ancient astronaut chestnuts come out to play. Sitchin, for example, claims that aliens (specifically the Mesopotamian death god Nergal) nuked Sodom and Gomorrah and that the contaminated cloud of radiation that resulted from the blast poisoned Sumer. None of the material is particularly fresh or new; a good deal is recycled, sometimes verbatim, from some of Sitchin’s earlier books.
There is a quaint air of the ridiculous as Sitchin builds toward his conclusion. He argues that sixteen opulent 6,000-year-old tombs uncovered at Ur in the 1920s and 1930s are so different from the other tombs of the period that they could not be merely the tombs of kings and queens but rather those of space aliens or their offspring, for “the abundant use of gold, the extraordinary artistic and technologically advanced aspects of the objects, and other features that we have pointed out, lead us to conclude that demigods, and even gods, were buried there …” (emphasis in original). His evidence, as always, is backward: he notes a similarity between burial rituals and Mesopotamian myths and legends; rather than concluding that the myths and legends are connected to the burials through religious belief, he instead concludes that the burials prove the legends true and thus the gods real.
But this goofiness is nothing compared to Inner Traditions’ big new release for 2016, the newest book from former American Nazi leader Frank Joseph: Our Dolphin Ancestors: Keepers of Lost Knowledge and Healing Wisdom, which the company made available for review. Yes, he wrote a book about human-dolphin relations in ancient history. This book is a step beyond his usual pseudo-historical drivel and leans heavily on New Age mysticism about telepathy, astral projection, and other imaginary ways of communicating with undersea creatures. The warrant for this is the so-called aquatic ape hypothesis, which has never been proved but which suggests that humans evolved in an aquatic environment and therefore have some semi-amphibious traits. According to Joseph, this semi-aquatic ape diverged into two species, us and the Deep Ones—er, mermen.
The first eighteen chapters of the book are dedicated to a New Age exploration of dolphin science and dolphin mysticism, including the aforementioned psychical communication methods. After that, Joseph speculates whether the aquatic ape hypothesis and/or “dolphin people” can explain mermaid sightings. (I’ll be honest: I didn’t read the whole thing to find out how he thinks dolphin people came about; I believe it’s his name for the aquatic apes.) There is a disturbing part of the book where Joseph, who was convicted of sexually assaulting boys and served prison time for the same, devotes a chapter to “Dolphins and Children” and explains that the dolphins have a preference for young boys. In doing so, he rhapsodizes about the innocence, beauty, and openness of these children, calling them “innocent creatures without guile, naturally harmless and friendly …” It’s only weird, though, if you know Joseph’s background; the next chapter is about how dolphins communicate psychically with cats. Perhaps unsurprisingly Joseph shares much personal history about himself and his cat, but nothing about his relationship with children.
Only in the last few chapters does Joseph turn his attention to the areas of our concern: ancient history and civilization. He, of course, introduces Oannes into evidence and the promptly distorts the text to make him into a merman, eliminating references to the creature having a fish body conjoined to his human body rather than being, as Joseph claims, half fish and half man. He compares this to global myths of mermen and serpent-people and concludes that the myths must represent reality rather than mere fantasy. “From observations of mermen over hundreds of years, the descriptions of the animals reveal that there may have been, and perhaps still is, an aquatic species of hominid.” He’s not one to accept that sightings of mermaids, like that of Columbus, might really have been manatees.
I feel almost like he’s trolling his readers when he alleges that mermaids and mermen once ruled the seas until humans hunted them nearly to extinction, leaving a small remnant population around New Guinea. Since he makes mention of the Animal Planet hoax Mermaids: The Body Found, it almost seems as if he wrote this book as a printed counterpart to that lie.
But that is neither here nor there, for Joseph goes on to adopt Robert Temple’s claims about amphibious space frogs from Sirius descending to ancient Mesopotamia, as given in his 1976 bestseller The Sirius Mystery. That claim came straight out of Berossus, whom Joseph has already mangled, and he spends a whole chapter defending the Dogon’s alleged knowledge of the Sirius star system from critics who content that it is a product of wishful Western thinking. The end result is that Joseph becomes an ancient astronaut theorist and begins to wonder, in true Ancient Aliens style, if dolphins and aquatic apes are the amphibious gods of Dogon legend: “Does the story suggest that today’s dolphins are the descendants of extraterrestrial beings?” As evidence, he claims that dolphins gather when Sirius rises, not because their movements are coordinated with the seasons but rather because they are inherently linked to their home planet, as were the Sirius-connected inhabitants of Mu, which he continues to believe was a real continent. He believes—and seriously, this has to be trolling—that the dolphins and the Romans both celebrate the fall of Mu with the festival of Lemuria tied to Sirius. “What else,” he asks, “could account for their [dolphins’] appearance” at the old site of Lemuria in May, the same date as the festival? The Lemuria, better known as Lemuralia, was a mid-May festival for exorcising demons and ghosts.
And to think, Giorgio Tsoukalos only claimed that the space aliens made a peace treaty with coelacanths.
Joseph descends into his typical claims about Lemuria, Mu, and Atlantis, including the allegation that the Bimini Road was part of this lost dolphin-human world and is aligned to Sirius, based on Edgar Cayce’s claims about what life was really like in ancient Atlantis. But, fear not! Joseph says that Cayce isn’t the only source for learning about how Atlantis engaged in human-dolphin genetic manipulation. He also says that an American nurse named Athena Neely claimed that the Soviets collected folklore about dolphin-human hybridization on Atlantis, a claim he cites to an old book by Lana Miller called Call of the Dolphins, a book about tantric sexuality. I can find no evidence that this material exists outside of the book.
He gathers together every possible reference to dolphins and sea creatures in Greek and Roman myths, as well as sea-themed material from Mesopotamian mythology, and despite the differences and contradictions asserts that all of these legends reflect essential truths about a lost race of mer-people from Atlantis. It would be possible, but exhausting, to trace each claim individually and explain why and how he misused it, but let’s let one stand for all: He alleges that the Romans referred to all the peoples of Iberia as the “children of Atlantis.” He cites this not to any Greek or Roman text (there not being one), but to his own 2004 book Survivors of Atlantis, where the claim has no citation whatsoever. It’s probably a corruption of several passages from Ignatius Donnelly’s Atlantis such as these: “Gades is the Cadiz of today, and the dominion of Gadeirus embraced the land of the Iberians or Basques, their chief city taking its name from a king of Atlantis, and they themselves being Atlanteans.” And: “This great race ruled the country for one hundred and ninety-seven years: they were overthrown by an immigration from Spain, probably of Basques, or Iberians, or Atlanteans, ‘the sons of Milidh,’ or Milesius, who ‘possessed a large fleet and a strong army.’” Indeed, in Atlantis and Other Lost Worlds (2008), Joseph himself identifies the Basques as the descendants of the Atlanteans of Iberia, and in this book he specifies that the Iberian Atlanteans are the Milesians—just as Donnelly had made up!
Joseph pays himself the ultimate compliment by claiming that the dolphins have traditions of the fake history he remixed from Ignatius Donnelly and pass along the stories from generation to generation.
He concludes the book with some standard New Age hand-wringing over the destructive power of humanity and our tendency to destroy each other and the environment. Given that Joseph spent so much of his life inciting hate as a Neo-Nazi, I guess he would know.
Overall, the book is a blend of repeat claims from earlier Joseph books, summaries of other fringe books, and a major blast of New Age nonsense. He never quite decides whether dolphins are space aliens or how that does or does not relate to human ancestors evolving into mermen. All he can offer is that Atlantis and magic (sorry … unknown science) is somehow involved. It’s a waste of print, and the evidence is, even by his standards, remarkably thin.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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