The success of Graham Hancock’s Ancient Apocalypse surprised me greatly. The show reached #2 on Netflix’s viewership rankings in the U.S. and U.K. and was in the top 10 worldwide. Consequently, it has become the most-watched speculative history series in a decade, likely outstripping the viewership for previous ratings titans in the genre, like History’s Curse of Oak Island (3 million at its peak), Ancient Aliens (2 million at its peak), and America Unearthed (1.5 million at its peak) and easily leapfrogging similar series on the Discovery, Travel, and Science channels, which averaged around 600,000 viewers. (Netflix does not release exact viewership figures.) Part of the reason is likely due to Netflix itself. Cable channels narrowcast. Viewership for the History or Science channels is primarily older white men, while Netflix, which has found success with other New Age shows like the Gwyneth Paltrow Goop series, can put Ancient Apocalypse in front of all four quadrants: men and women, young and old. Thus, they can appeal to a wider anti-establishment audience that would not tune in on cable.
Meanwhile, Galileo Project director and government UFO consultant Avi Loeb has finally admitted that his hunt for extraterrestrials is a spiritual quest more than a scientific one, as I have been pointing out for years now. In a blog post this week, Loeb spoke of a kind of spirit that exists beyond the material world, arguing that the physical universe may not be all that exists:
Cosmologists imagine a lifeless Universe shaped by the predictable interactions of physical objects. But the spirit of humans and their extraterrestrial counterparts can change all of that. As we identify the nature of dark matter and dark energy, we might realize that there is something else out there, defying our expectations from a purely physical world. Whereas our computer simulations can reproduce the formation of galaxies out of the initial conditions of the early universe, they will never be able to reconstruct cosmic engineering projects initiated by free spirits.
After conflating philosophy and ideals with an immaterial spiritual force, Loeb concluded his post, in which he dropped many celebrity names to remind readers that he is now an internationally famous alien-hunter, with a suggestion that contacting aliens will expose us to their intangible “spirit” and thus “we will learn our lesson and treat each other as equal members of the human species.” That worked so well when the Aztecs encountered the “alien” Spanish—and they were the same species.
In a similar vein, the Bigelow Institute for Consciousness Studies, the think tank run by millionaire UFO nut and Republican megadonor Robert Bigelow and staffed with former Pentagon UFO researchers, put out a bizarre statement claiming that its paranormal researchers are looking to communicate with “senior sources” from the “Other Side,” presumably the spirit realm.
“Senior sources!” No low-level blue-collar ghosts, please—only Ascended Masters or higher. According to the Institute’s website, they are looking to make contact with “discarnate intelligence” from the afterlife to obtain “verified higher order information of general value to humankind, otherwise known as ‘wisdom acquisition.’”
It’s all of a piece, really. Whether it’s Graham Hancock hunting for prehistoric wisdom, Avi Loeb seeking extraterrestrial enlightenment, or ex-government UFO contractors looking for knowledge in the afterlife, those who are discontent with contemporary science and society long for a spiritual connection to long-vanished ancestors, beings from other worlds—exotic Others who can hold a mirror to ourselves and suggest a better, different life where somehow things will be different, better. But that’s faith, not science, and shouldn’t be mistaken for it.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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