Well, it was bound to happen sooner or later. When Ancient Aliens started down the path of saying that all human genius was the result of human brains tapping into an alien internet signal, it stood to reason that eventually they would deny that even our own sense of self, our consciousness, belongs to us but rather is a projection from another realm, thus accounting for reincarnation and psychic channeling. This is similar to the New Age idea that the brain is really a receiver for consciousness from the spirit world—i.e., that consciousness is a projection from a realm beyond the physical into the material world. They just bastardize the idea down to its grossest level, which, frankly, is what Ancient Aliens always does. This is New Age religion for dummies, dummies who aren’t quite ready to commit full on to faith and still want to pretend that this is all either entertainment or science.
The title of the episode, “The Replicants,” suggests that the episode will focus on mind-control, soul-cloning, or something like that. The actual content never addresses the episode title at all. What a missed opportunity.
The first segment recounts the story of James Leininger, a young man who believes that he is the reincarnation of a World War II pilot who was shot down and killed. This story has been told repeatedly since ABC News did a report about it back in 2005. Then, as now, the media leave out a key fact: Leininger began talking about his reincarnation at age 18 months, only after visiting a World War II air museum and having nightmares from the scary imagery seen there. The Pittsburgh Daily Courier reported that inconvenient fact more than a decade ago. The show, though, ignores this, declares reincarnation to be similar to uploading data to the cloud, and moves on to Egypt.
The show notes that the Egyptians believed that gods and demigods ruled before the first dynasty, a set of rulers that mainstream Egyptologists believe to be fictitious. The show tells us that Osiris, one of those rulers, was a green-skinned alien from the Orion star system, and they wrongly state that Osiris reincarnated as Horus. In Egyptian mythology, Osiris was resurrected in the Netherworld. Instead, they are misremembering the fact that pharaohs considered themselves the embodiment of Horus in life and Osiris in death. From this mistake, the show concludes that aliens inhabit human bodies by controlling human souls, and all human souls—the immaterial essence of our humanity, which also happens to have no scientific basis—is really the gift of space aliens, from whom we merely rent them.
The second segment delves further into reincarnation and Ian Stevenson’s efforts to prove it through attempting to validate individuals’ memories of their supposed past lives. His research is interesting, but prone to a number of sources of potential bias. We also hear about Dorothy Eady, who called herself Omm Sety, an Egyptologist who believed herself the reincarnation of an ancient Egyptian temple virgin. We get a mystery-mongering version of her life story, one in which her deep understanding of Egyptian language and intuitive understanding of Egyptian architecture has expanded into a semi-legendary story of how she could allegedly close her eyes and trace the outlines of ruins buried below the sand. We have only her word for many of these claims, and you are welcome to take them on as much faith as you have in the reality of the Egyptian gods. This segment had no aliens but happily reveled in New Age spirituality, all but promising viewers a type of immortality, fake faith wrapped in fringe science.
The third segment takes us to KV55, a stripped and unfinished Egyptian tomb often thought to belong to Akhenaten. The tomb once contained a curse condemning the interred not to experience resurrection in the afterlife. The show alleges that the Egyptians had a strong belief in reincarnation, but this is not true. The Egyptians mummified the dead because they expected a resurrection, not a reincarnation. Indeed, the belief of the weighing of the heart in funerary imagery shows that if the soul was adjudged bad, a monster ate it. That is not reincarnation. But it’s important to note that Theosophy wrongly assigned reincarnation to the Egyptians, and Ancient Aliens is cribbing its theology from Theosophy not from fact. After this bizarre claim, the show alleges that Christians believed in reincarnation until Justinian I forbade it. This is a rather unusual distortion of Justinian’s 543 AD letter to Menas in which he criticized Origen’s doctrine of successive spiritual trials, a position ratified in 553 by the Second Council of Constantinople. The West didn’t care much about that, or the Pope’s condemnation 200 year early. Frankly, since I am writing this late at night, it’s rather too complicated for me to pick through, but Origen’s heterodox beliefs revolved around many different points of faith, one of which was the belief that the fallen angels were placed in human bodies to atone for their sin.
The fourth segment discusses Tibetan Buddhists’ belief that their lamas reincarnate upon their deaths. They add that the original Buddhas were space aliens who rode around in lotus-flower-shaped spaceships. David Childress says that “the Dalai Lama is the reincarnation of some kind of extraterrestrial god.” That’s probably news to the Dalai Lama. The show also presents Saddam Hussein’s nutty belief that he was the reincarnation of Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon. The show, though, doesn’t seem much interested in distinguishing between cultural beliefs and political propaganda on one hand, and actual evidence of reincarnation (should such a thing exist) on the other. Indeed, the show presents a false Jewish legend that Nebuchadnezzar was the “reincarnation” of Nimrod and the builder of the Tower of Babel, thus Saddam Hussein was the incarnation of epochal evil. This gives Saddam Hussein, a buffoonish figure of excessive cruelty tempered only by self-indulgent incompetence, far too much credit. Nimrod was not identified with Nebuchadnezzar except symbolically in ancient texts; occasionally he is named the latter’s grandfather. They can’t be the same man since one was a legendary figure from the time just after the Flood, and the other reigned in a known period of history (605-562 BCE).
The fifth segment tried to prove that the soul exists as an independent blob of quantum energy that enters and leaves our bodies through “microtubules.” Aliens allegedly designed our bodies as containers for these quantum souls, a claim they base on myths of gods breathing life into human bodies by placing a soul within. This is a Judeo-Christian reading (cf. Genesis 2:7), and the Mesopotamian myth they claim supports it, Enuma Elish 6.26, actually talks about blood, not breath or soul, animating the newly made man: “From his blood he (i.e., Ea) fashioned mankind for the service of the gods, and he set the gods free” (trans. Budge). Oh, well. Who expects them to read what they discuss?
The sixth segment tells us that the soul is consciousness and all are minor aspects of a single cosmic consciousness, which I guess means that we are all a little fraction of God. It’s a cute thought, but not one that has anything to do with space aliens, unless you imagine that extraterrestrials have the ability to manipulate the spirit world like powerful space wizard-priests. It doesn’t make logical sense to me, since the existence of “cosmic consciousness”—which seems to be God—would remove the need for aliens to bottle it, but I guess Ancient Aliens had to try to squeeze a few alien space wizards into the story somewhere.
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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