Ancient Aliens had a two-hour season premiere on Friday, and suffice it to say, I am not willing to subject myself to that much Ancient Aliens in one sitting. Today I’ll look at S04E02: The Doomsday Prophesies, which aired exclusively on H2 Friday night following the simulcast of the premiere episode on History an hour earlier. It's good thing this show is on H2 now, given that they have taken to promoting apparently fake PhDs as "experts." (More below.)
I’ll have less to say about this episode since it repeats much of the same pointless speculation about the Maya from the preceding hour, often in very similar arguments and wording. I think some footage may even be repeated. Fortunately, this time, the episode does try to place the Maya in historical context, noting that they flourished in the first millennium CE, contemporary with the Middle Ages in Europe—which is not exactly “rolling around in the mud,” as one alternative theorist claimed. Surprisingly, the first H2 episode seems rather slower in pace, lingering on topics and driving the arguments into the ground through sheer repetition. How many times can one argue that the gods “came out of the sky” in one hour?
Sean-David Morton, "PhD," of whom I’ve never heard, claimed that the Maya knew the center of the universe was a black hole one light year across. They did not. They knew there was a spot in the Milky Way that had no stars, and they considered it a hole in the sky, like many ancient people. Not the same as a black hole.
It appears that Mr. Morton is a psychic visionary who sells spiritual counseling, worked for psychic hotlines, and received a “PhD” from a school that appears in no directories and does not seem to exist. He claims his degree is from the “International Institute of Health and Spiritual Sciences in Montreal, Canada,” but this school does not appear to be real. I suppose he means the “International Institute of Integral Human Sciences,” which is in Montreal, but it does not grant degrees. Montreal has seven institutions licensed to grant degrees, and Morton's is not one of them. He also claims to attend the Astrological Sciences Institute at Exeter College, at Oxford University, but according to the University, this does not exist either. Apparently, Morton is referring to the “Faculty of Astrological Studies,” an independent group of astrologers with their own unaccredited degree program and who meet on the campus of Exeter College in the summer but are not affiliated with the College. Morton was accused in 2010 of bilking millions out of his followers by falsely claiming he could predict the stock market, and he sued UFOWatchDog.com for investigating him.
I am of course happy to correct this piece when and if Mr. Morton can provide documentation of the Institute's existence and that his degree was awarded by a program accredited by a federally-recognized Canadian degree-granting institution. (Note: Morton claims to also have a doctorate in theology, but this is a D.Th. degree, not a Ph.D., so Ancient Aliens must be referring to his "therapeutic psychology" degree.)
[UPDATE: I found the answer! Morton most likely attended the International College of Spiritual and Psychic Sciences at the International Institute of Integral and Human Sciences, Montreal, which offers "various certificates equivalent to the bachelors, masters, or doctorate degrees." These are not accredited by Canada and are purely honorary. He apparently earned Certification Level V, described as "doctoral equivalent," in their "therapeutic counselling" program. The Certificate entitles the bearer to apply for an equivalency PhD degree through a Sri Lankan university of complementary medicine (Open International University of Complimentary Medicines) whose degrees are not academically recognized outside Sri Lanka.]
So this is what happens when Ancient Aliens moves to H2: standards are now so low that accused psychic frauds now count as “experts,” disingenuously described as “theologians” instead of “psychics.”
Much hay is made of the Mayan calendar, but again this is rather useless speculation about an imaginary end of the world. It is roughly as exciting as discovering when the Gregorian calendar turned from the second millennium to the third. The beginning of the calendar is attributed to Mayan knowledge of an asteroid that hit Austria in 3114 BCE—a rather specific and ridiculous claim.
Morton and other ancient astronaut theorists (AATs) see the imaginary Mayan doomsday prophesies as confirmed by the Hopi prophecies, apparently ignorant of the fact that the Hopi were part of the same widespread cultural diffusion as the Maya and were influenced by Mesoamerican beliefs—including the Mexican view of the cycle of the ages.
Then we briefly discuss the end of days in Christian and Hindu myths, but there is no real effort to make a connection to aliens. But the show is confused about what it’s trying to do. There is no real effort to distinguish between claims that 2012 is a Mayan doomsday or claims that 2012 is the year the aliens return. It certainly isn’t the “end” of the calendar, as Ancient Aliens claims, since the Mayan Hanab-Pakal wrote of dates well beyond 2012.
Following this, we go back to the well about gods descending from the stars, just like last hour, including the same blather about Kukulkan (Quetzalcoatl), the feathered serpent. Philip Coppens concludes that the feathered serpent must be a spaceship since humans can’t emerge from serpents as the art seems to depict. Right. Talk about a false dichotomy. It’s either an impossible record of a vomiting snake or a spaceship, nothing else. Even Robert Temple wasn’t that stupid when he claimed Oannes, the Babylonian god who wore a fish-suit, was an amphibian from Sirius, not a man riding in a fish-shaped spaceship.
Giorgio Tsoukalos became very exciting about the Castillo temple at Chichen Itza, which annually creates the illusion of a serpent sliding down the stairs. This is a fine bit of art but hardly conclusive proof that the Maya (actually a post-Classic composite civilization from after 900 CE) were symbolizing alien space flights. This is doubly true when we realize that far from being the complex and elaborate temple the AATs imagine was built all at once to honor the god, in fact El Castillo as we know it today was built atop several earlier and smaller pyramids, encasing each in successive layers. This one happens to be particularly impressive because its size made it possible to include 365 steps and the serpent illusion. The temple was completed perhaps as late as the twelfth century CE, around the same time as Europe’s great cathedrals. This is not a particularly ancient site, so we are left with another impossible choice: Did the Maya simply remember for three or four thousand years exactly what happened when the aliens arrived, or did the aliens pop in and out of Mexico between 600 and 1200 CE while skipping the Christian and Islamic lands? Aliens are not much for monotheists.
Tsoukalos also claims the Mayan god Bolon Yokte K’Uh (“God of Nine Strides”) is described in the “ancient texts” as “shiny” and “glowing”—an actual description of an ancient alien. This would be great if there were any indication this was so, but as the archaeologist immediately preceding him notes, we know almost nothing about this god. A rare Classic Maya text to mention him is heavily damaged, and I can find no evidence that he is described as glowing or shiny. The closest I can come is the occasional association of Bolon Yokte with the moon (whose glyph is also the signal for the possessive case, like an apostrophe in English) in some older, less accurate scholarly texts. Some think Bolon Yokte might actually be multiple gods, the Nine Lords of the Night.
Now, here’s the rub: The inscription mentioning Bolon Yokte referenced above is the same one that lists the date of 2012 with its world-changing events. A new translation makes clear that the event of 2012 is not the end of the world, but a parade in which the statue of Bolon Yokte will receive a new robe.
The other texts discussed, the so-called Books of Chilam Balam, were something I had never heard of. It turns out there is a good reason for that. These books were written in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. While they contain some stories that date back to the conquest period or before, they are also very much documents of eighteenth century Mayan life and belief—not records of spacemen from 3114 BCE. Here, Bolon Yokte isn’t exactly an astronaut. As Ralph Roys translates: “The drum and rattle of Ah Bolon-yocte shall resound. At that time there shall be the green [i.e., first] turkey. […] They shall find their food among the trees.” Aliens invented Thanksgiving.
But no matter. According to the AATs of Ancient Aliens, the end of the Mayan long count calendar in December offers only two choices: the end of the world or the return of the aliens. Childress, summing up, makes this nonsensical claim: “It’s hard to know the future—what’s going to happen at the end of 2012—but it seems that perhaps the Mayans had some glimpse into the future that we have yet to find out.” Remember that, and hold the AATs (especially David Childress) accountable when we hit 2013 and nothing happens.
Heaven help us, Giorgio Tsoukalos was actually the voice of reason, chiding doomsday theorists and correctly (!) stating that the Mayan calendar round simply begins anew in 2012, with no consequences whatsoever for the earth.
So why did we have to sit through this hour of admitted nonsense?
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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