We open with physicist Michio Kaku, a biologist, and some kooks contemplating how humans might feed themselves while traveling from planet to planet on some hypothetical future space mission. Then we hear about a 1961 UFO sighting in Wisconsin in which the witness claimed to see two aliens leave a UFO and drop a cracker, which he ate (!) and said tasted like cardboard. That’s because the cracker lacked salt, which gives crackers their buttery taste. The show claims that the lack of salt proves that the cracker (or wafer) was baked by aliens, who may be allergic to salt (!!). This, they say, is the case because ghosts, fairies, and demons can be repelled with salt. This is a lot of weight to put on a badly baked wafer that looks like the burned crust from spilled batter. I’m pretty sure that if you don’t add salt, then there won’t be salt, so it shouldn’t be mysterious.
The second segment covers the old chestnut about the Israelites receiving manna from heaven. Four decades ago, The Manna Machine claimed that the bread of heaven came from a machine whose plans the authors believed was hidden in a description of the Ancient of Days in the Zohar. Oddly, the show chooses to illustrate this with pictures of the Ark of the Covenant. It’s a silly old claim, based largely on the reader trusting the authors that they and they alone have correctly translated the Zohar to reveal hidden mechanical details, but what interests me a bit here is that in commenting on this decrepit old claim the show got Whitley Strieber to utter the word “aliens,” surprising since the Communion author has been so adamant that he didn’t want to label the entities that allegedly anally probed him as aliens. Cash is king, I guess.
Then we move on to animal sacrifice, and Nick Redfern suggests that aliens ate and drank the parts of the sacrificed animals. The real reason for this goes back to the magical thinking of the past and the attempt to make right with the gods by showing animals respect, slaughtering them ritually, and magically making them whole again through rites designed to restore them in the realm of the dead. Walter Burkert wrote a whole book about it, the classic Homo necans, but here the kooks pretend that cattle mutilations—if real (and not just natural decay), the ultimate disrespect to an animal—are the same as Antique animal sacrifices. Here is one key difference: The Greeks and Romans didn’t have butcher shops where animals were killed in an industrial fashion. Meat was butchered and distributed at the temples, and even those destined for the butcher were killed ritually and shared with the gods. The sacrifices were a way of trying to square the violence of meat-eating with the respect afforded to living beings.
The third segment gets into the Greek gods’ ambrosia, which gave the gods immortality and extended the lives of humans who consumed it. In the nineteenth century, a strong argument was made that ambrosia and amrita originated in a belief that the waters of thunderstorms, which watered the fields, also gave life and power to the gods. The argument is long and not worth discussing here, but it’s wroth noting that Ancient Aliens takes the mythical stories at face value without even a moment of consideration as to the deeper origins of the story. From this, the show speaks of kings and patriarchs whose reigns were recorded in hundreds of years, and they just assume it’s literally true. Giorgio Tsoukalos said that Enoch claimed to have been anointed with a substance that smelled like ambrosia, though this does not appear in the Book of Enoch.
After this, the show claims that human blood can confer health and life-extension benefits, so vampire aliens might suck our blood to keep themselves fresh. Nick Redfern seems to claim that blood is a substance invented by space aliens, though this makes no sense since humans are not the only creatures to have blood, and there is no plausible way for there to have been humans before there was blood.
The fourth segment describes the Catholic ritual of the Eucharist, in which bread and wine are believed to become the flesh and blood of Jesus. The literal truth of this is prima facie false, since the bread and wine are still obviously bread and wine. Nick Redfern seems to say that Jesus was an alien and drank human blood to stay alive. Sigh. However, the talking heads seems to have trouble with this idea, and Strieber openly says that he prefers to think of the Eucharist as a “beautiful” story rather than weird alien vampirism. David Childress claims that the Eucharist was inspired by Indian soma rituals, apparently thinking about the hoax claim that Jesus lived in India, though soma was not blood but a plant-based stimulant drink, presumably derived from Central Asian and Indo-European practices. Ritual drinks are not exactly unique to Christianity or the Vedas. The Greeks had their kykeon, for example, that was shared during the Eleusinian Mysteries.
In the fifth segment, Strieber claims that the aliens forced him to drink nepenthe, a substance that causes amnesia. That’s fine, but Strieber calls it a white, milky substance (combine that with the anal probes for some Freudian fun!). However, Homer describes it not as a drink but as a drug that could be mixed into wine (Odyssey 4.219-222). In ancient times it was considered an herb; some today believe it to be opium. Either way, not the same. Naturally, the show assumes that aliens are slipping mickeys to abductees to cover up their vampirism. Of course.
Afterward, the show recaps Zecharia Sitchin’s claim that humans were genetically engineered by space aliens in Sumeria, and then for no good reason they let William Henry pretend that the Genesis narrative of Adam and Eve can be traced directly to equivalent Sumerian stories, a claim popular in the early 1900s but not supportable by facts. Jewish and Babylonian (not Sumerian) stories were in conversation, but the serpent can’t be equated to Enki. The show next alleges that Adam and Eve were “primitive” ape-like proto-humans until “the intake of food” (i.e. the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge) caused them to mutate into anatomically modern humans. There is, of course, no scriptural, legendary, or antique artistic evidence in support of this claim. At best, it seems a riff on Enkidu’s transformation from animalistic wild man to civilized fellow through sex with a prostitute in the Epic of Gilgamesh. There is an argument that could be made here, but the show’s claims are so broken into meaningless fragments as to be senseless.
The final segment discusses how hydroponics can be used to grow nutritive algae to sustain astronauts during long-term space travel. Kaku suggests we may genetically engineer our bodies to consume different types of energy. The show concludes by suggesting that doing so will simply be imitating our vampire alien ancestors.
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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