Coming up next Friday is the event you didn’t even know you were waiting for. Rebecca Jannigan is going to be interviewing the husband and wife team of Sitchin scholars Sasha “Alex” Lessin and Janet Kira Lessin about the Anunnaki, which they insist are extraterrestrials from Nibiru who created humanity as a slave race of gold miners and prostitutes. I’d never heard of the Lessins, so I decided to research them a bit. What I found was surprising.
Sasha Lessin claims that Zecharia Sitchin personally designated him his apostolic successor and tasked him with writing popular books to bring Sitchin’s academic work to a wider audience. Lessin also says Sitchin asked him to create college-level courses in Sitchin Studies. He holds Sitchin Studies certification, as does his wife, having completed the master’s unaccredited Sitchin Studies for-profit seminar program before Sitchin’s death. Janet Lessing is the self-described CEO of the World Polyamory Association, the School of Tantra, and the World Peace Association—all run with her husband.
Sasha Lessin claims to hold a Ph.D. in anthropology from UCLA, which I have not been able to verify. A search of online records and newspaper reports fails to find any mention (in fact, Lexis-Nexis found nothing for him at all, though ProQuest found a few newspaper articles about his polyamory work—but no dissertation—nor does he seem to have any peer-reviewed articles), but get this: UCLA won’t verify the Ph.D. for me; instead, they direct inquirers to submit a request to the National Student Clearinghouse, which charges $9.95 plus a $50 monthly fee. If you think I’m paying $60 to verify his Ph.D. you’re out of your mind. It’s a great way to make sure no one ever checks anything. Lessin says his Ph.D. dates from 1968. [Update: ProQuest UMI has a 1971 dissertation for an Alexander Lessing at UCLA, which must be him. It figures that the name he goes by today is not his given name. My mistake was assuming that he puts "Alex" in quotation marks because it is a nickname when in fact "Sasha" is apparently the nickname.] Anyhow, Lessin would not be the first anthropologist to adopt New Age ideas. I’m surprised that ancient astronaut theorists haven’t jumped on him as an actual degree-holding advocate of their claims.
Sasha Lessin also claims at his World Polyamory Association website to be or have been a psychotherapist, which would seem to require some sort of credentialing. However, the state of California, where he studied graduate-level psychology and once lived, does not have a record of any license to practice psychotherapy for a Sasha Lessin or his alias Alex Lessin in its online license verification database, nor does the state of Hawaii, which is where he currently lives and claims to practice psychotherapy for polyamorous couples. Hawaii requires a license to practice marriage and family therapy. His claim, according to published material I found via ProQuest, is a bit fuzzy. He is not in fact a psychotherapist as described but rather is the dean of instruction of the “School of Tantra” in Hawaii and the founder of the Polyamory World Association, with his wife, who runs the business side of things. I imagine the use of the past tense in referring to his therapy work means that he was a therapist back in the 1970s, before licensing requirements were tightened; the present tense refers to “counseling” work, which has lighter requirements.
Here is how Janet Lessin described herself in a 2006 press release promoting her self-published book on polyamory:
Lessin is the director and CEO of the World Polyamory Association, the School of Tantra and the World Peace Association. She leads seminars and conferences on the topics of including tantra, psychology, relationships, polyamory, UFOlogy and many others. She is committed to the healing of the planet through the teaching of these causes. She and her husband, Sasha, have been polyamorously married since 1997. They have appeared in many publications and television shows including Time, Hustler, Honolulu Weekly, Playboy, "Leeza Gibbons," "Inside Edition," "Extra" and a documentary titled "Intimacy." They currently live in Hawaii where they run a therapy practice and seek brother-husbands and sister-wives to enhance their relationship. This is their first book.
It sure sounds like Sitchin Studies are just one factor in a broader New Age undertaking. I’d really like to know how they can run a therapy practice while leaving behind no trace of licensure in the Hawaii state databases. Do they work under other names? It amazes me to no end that New Age “expertise” is so fluid a concept that once you enter into one New Age field, you can just keep tacking on more until you’ve secured a steady income from those willing to fork over cash. What on earth makes a sex therapist an expert in ufology? How can ufology “heal the planet”? It reminds me of Sean David Morton, the self-described psychic who was convicted of fraud but bought a “Ph.D.-equivalency” degree in New Age studies from an unaccredited Canadian New Age school, claimed it was a real Ph.D., and became an “expert” in prehistory on Ancient Aliens! Psychic powers are of course terrific preparation for studying ancient civilization: You can talk directly to the people who were there!
Of the Lessins’ claims, there is little really to say. They follow the standard Sitchin line and do not appear to have bothered to adapt it in any significant way except to apply Sitchin’s ideas to the current world situation—and here is where I think there is something interesting to say. Not that they say anything interesting, only that their weird combination of sexual libertinism and anti-elite paranoia speaks to something happening in our culture. Here’s what they say about their new book, the latest in the Anunnaki: Gods No More series, which, to understand, you need to recognize that they consider Yahweh, Allah, and Marduk to all be astronauts from Nibiru:
The truth we review in the Anunnaki, Gods No More series, ends the power of the lies of rulers to impoverish us. We see how the elite manipulate us to war. How the matrix they modeled makes us recklessly exploit our resources and pollute our environment. They see that we never feel our unity as a planet of peace. Lies of church and state hide technology, knowledge of our ET heritage and information about the Galactic Federation. At last we acknowledge Yahweh and Allah murdered masses; they and Marduk hated women. These Nibirans lacked compassion, showed no love, certainly exhibited no divinity.
The Galactic Federation they seem to have borrowed from either Star Trek or Scientology.
The Lessins appear to want to overturn the patriarchy and by assigning its representatives to aliens, they make the patriarchy still more of an Other against which they can offer their polyamorous lifestyle as an alternative paradigm. In short, ancient astronauts give the Lessins license to dispense with lingering Judeo-Christian anti-sex ideas by casting them as the evil ideology of alien slave masters.
But I think there is also a bit of post-9/11, post-Iraq War trauma at work in the revival of Sitchin Studies and ancient astronautics we have witnessed in the past decade. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Rebecca Jannigan, following the Lessings, emphasizes that the “Anunnaki” first landed in “Iraq” before creating human beings as slaves. In so doing, and combining this with the claim that “Allah” is an evil alien who makes humanity suffer, the Anunnaki are therefore recreated as stand-ins for Islamic terrorists. But in emphasizing their connection, too, to “Yahweh,” the Jewish god, and to gold mining and control of international finance and government, they also make the Anunnaki into substitutes for the international cabal of banking and government elites long suspected of controlling human affairs.
The Anunnaki become a multivalent symbol of all the horrors our modern age tells us to fear: Islamic terrorism, government conspiracies, environmental disaster, confusing technology, etc. All problems collapse into one: Aliens. By ending “the power” of the aliens, we will somehow emerge into a world of freedom and ecstasy where everyone is having as much sex as possible with as many partners as possible. Until such time, the Lessins are there to help you get in touch with that freedom through sex, for a fee.
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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