Gods, Man, & War 2: Man
Tom DeLonge with Peter Levenda | To the Stars… | 2019 | 460 pages | ISBN: 978-1-943272-37-2 | c. $25
When I was young, I thought the apocryphal words of the Caliph Omar on the burning of the Library of Alexandria to be horrible. “If these books agree with the Koran, they are useless; if they disagree, they are pernicious: in either case, they ought to be destroyed.” While the religious sentiment still strikes me as offensive, the older I get the more I have come to realize that too many books are bullshit in dust jackets. Would we really be worse off if books that were full of lies were sent to be pulped and those that added nothing new to the store of human knowledge were never written? Currently, publishers print more than 100,000 titles each year, and 99% of them are read by almost no one. We could do with fewer, and the newest volume of Gods, Man, & War could easily have joined the pile of worthless volumes that would have made the world a better place for not existing.
Gods, Man, & War 2: Man is officially credited to Tom DeLonge with longtime writer on occult themes Peter Levenda credited only as writing “with” DeLonge, but there is no evidence anywhere in the book of DeLonge’s voice, and in a couple of places Levenda seems to slip into describing the work as his own. I have no reason to doubt that Levenda, active since the 1970s, wrote the vast majority, if not the entirety, of the text. That also accounts for the musty smell of the 1970s that hangs over the whole book. In truth, it would probably have been one of the better UFO books of the 1970s, but today it is a weird throwback to another time.
My review of volume 1 in the series, Gods, can be found here (Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3).
Before we discuss the actual content of the volume 2, I need to say a word about the book itself. The books handsomely produced with an attractive production design, good quality paper, and a light but sturdy hardcover binding. This does not, however, mask the inadequacies in To the Stars Academy of Arts and Science’s adventure in self-publishing. The book is riddled with the kinds of amateur errors that a professional publisher would have taken care of, and the text is marred with stylistic inconsistencies, awkward editing choices, and the kind of authorial self-indulgence that a major publisher would have edited out. The company employed a copyeditor, but the errors were noticeable.
This doesn’t even get into the simple problems of usage and fact-checking. The title, as you might have noticed, follows a midcentury throwback to the old way of using “man” as a synecdoche for “humanity,” and older, less inclusive language tends to litter the text. This doesn’t bother me per se, but it contributes to the dated feeling of the book, alongside the pop culture references to movies and TV from the 1970s and 1980s that were before my time.
More importantly: This book is full of basic fact-checking errors, speaking to the author’s (or authors’) ignorance, laziness, or both. Let me give one example that stands for them all. On page 48, Levenda says that reality is fungible and that the very term “real” is “problematic” because it derives from the Indo-European world that gave us both the English “real” and the Spanish “real” (meaning “royal”), thus “‘reality’ was whatever the ‘royal’ said it was.” Ugh. If you are going to construct a sociological theory based on etymology, at least be better at it than Isidore of Seville, who notoriously just made up whatever he wanted to teach a moral lesson. Real in English comes from a French word ultimately from the Latin res, or “thing,” as in something tangible. The Spanish real that we are talking about in this particular usage (“royal”) derives from regalis, from the Latin rex (“king”), which comes from an unrelated Indo-European root for moving in a straight line, i.e., to lead. Levenda has conflated the Spanish real meaning “royal,” from a contraction of regalis, with the unrelated Spanish real meaning “real,” which is indeed from the Latin res like its English counterpart. His superficial patina of learning leads him down questionable paths he obviously doesn’t understand. Everyone makes mistakes, but the worse part is that these errors happen over and over in the book, and no one cared. A mistake is forgivable; not caring to check before building arguments on them repeatedly is not.
To that end, it isn’t really useful to try to critique the book point for point as I often do with these sorts of tomes. So much of the material is half-baked, half-understood, and poorly reasoned that the larger arguments are rendered nonsensical because they rest on pillars of sand. Add to that the author’s (or “authors’”) assumption that the reader is already a believer in what TTSA (or, as they apparently now stylized it, according to this book, TTSAAS) call “the Phenomenon” and also agree on the multipronged nature of said phenomenon, cutting across ufology, the occult, the supernatural, and the paranormal, and you have a recipe for a book that made little sense even to me, and I know much more about the subject than most readers who are not themselves professional ufologists.
Part of the problem is that Levenda doesn’t keep the reader in mind. Consider the book’s first words, in all their un-copyedited glory: “At this time there has been renewed public interest in robots…”. Compelling! It’s like that throughout the GM&W2, which reads like a high-schooler’s passive voice book report rather than an effort to tell a story or engage with readers.
Anyway, the content isn’t much better.
The book begins with questions about machines and consciousness and then starts speculating about whether alien anal probes are the work of robot aliens rather than living ones. It’s always lovely to see the influence of my own work on these kinds of products, but when Levenda offers two pages attempting to rebut my article comparing the Betty and Barney Hill hypnosis sessions to episodes of The Outer Limits and The Twilight Zone that aired immediately prior to those hypnosis sessions, he could at least have done me the courtesy of mentioning my name. (I know it’s my version he’s trying to rebut because I’m the one who expanded the comparison beyond Marvin Kottmeyer’s initial identification of a single image in one episode of The Outer Limits, and Levenda addresses my more expansive view.) Levenda discounts my comparison on the grounds (paralleling those used by Stanton Friedman against Kottmeyer) that (a) there is no evidence that the Hills watched these shows, (b) they were unlikely to lie about it, and (c) even if they did interpret their experiences through science fiction, that doesn’t negate their underlying reality. Part of that is logically correct, but when you strip away enough of the accretions from science fiction, the remaining experience—they lost some time in 1961 and were bothered by it three years later—doesn’t add up to alien abduction. That part, which correlates nearly 1:1 with the specific shows airing for three weeks before Barney’s hypnosis session, strongly implies it is a hypnosis-induced fantasy.
Levenda, building on the “work” of novelist-turned-occultist Whitley Strieber, tries to spin a conspiracy that alien abductions are part of a larger occult war on humanity and that the media have been complicit in covering it up. His evidence, though, is his own highly selective memories of his salad days in the 1970s and 1980s. Chapter 2, for example, discusses pop culture in the 1970s and 1980s in terms of “The Phenomenon,” and the authors write about sci-fi films of those years such as Close Encounters and E.T.: “We were being told that the alien presence on Earth actually may be benign.” Malevolent entities, he said, were confined to “another genre,” occult horror like The Omen and The Exorcist. These demons are actually aliens, and vice versa. Stop for a moment and consider the disingenuousness of that argument. Does he not remember movies like Alien, Predator, The Thing, etc. Evil aliens were definitely a thing in the 1970s and 1980s. Worse for him: Many of these aliens, like those of Alien, The Thing, and so on, either gestated within human beings or masqueraded as them, thematically hitting us over the head with a demand to read the alien as something within us, not in some other dimension.
Levenda has a penchant for mistaking his own experiences for a human universal. It’s probably why he uses his own limited and unimaginative experience of dreaming to discount the notion that abduction narratives are related to the waking dreams of sleep paralysis. He has never had a realistic dream, so he doesn’t believe it possible. I have, so I do.
Another stupid claim was Levenda’s speculation that MJ-12 isn’t a hoax but a “cryptonym” just one letter removed from MK-ULTRA and therefore MK-ULTRA was an “outgrowth” of MJ-12. Ugh. Fake codes within codes, all based on imaginary alphabet conspiracies.
It’s this kind of slipshod, superficial argument that makes it difficult to critique the book as a whole since its superstructure rests on these sorts of cheap, false claims. To that end, Levenda comes exquisitely close to declaring that the official position of TTSA is that “aliens” (i.e. “The Phenomenon”) is not extraterrestrial but is in fact demonic. He writes about encounters with angels, demons, and djinn (Arabian supernatural spirits both good and evil), and he happily concludes that were “aliens” actually extraterrestrial biological entities (henceforth EBEs), they would treat us as badly as we treat termites and would care nothing for our welfare, but since they care about us, for good or ill, they must be supernatural entities. (Clearly, he does not have pets, nor has he visited a farm.) He decides that early modern witches had supernatural contact with The Phenomenon, and therefore “aliens” must share similar powers to demons. Etc. etc.
I saw this diabolizing of ufology coming in TTSA’s earlier statements, but here the effort to remake UFOs as a subset of parapsychology and therefore the occult is heavy-handed, and unpersuasive. Beneath the effort, Levenda is not shy about admitting that he expects TTSA to uncover proof that the supernatural (in the guise of “The Phenomenon”) has an objective reality beyond the bounds of scientific materialism and therefore … well, you know the rest. If the supernatural is real, then the atheists are wrong. If Satan exists, then God must be real. Hell proves Heaven and saves us all. He even declares being abducted and anally probed to be “redemptive”! To that end, Levenda, in all seriousness, devotes several pages to the question of whether aliens and angels have knees and therefore whether standing is a sign of divinity. And of course it wouldn’t be a UFO book without references to Enoch, Oannes, and the Watchers/Sons of God. Those pesky Watchers are the mediators between ufologists and the divine, and ufology seems desperate to prove them real in the hope that it will give us proof of God. It doesn’t work that way, though, any more than the existence of Plato proves the reality of Atlantis. Even if the Watchers really existed (in their angelic form), it wouldn’t necessarily mean that Yahweh existed in the form described in the Bible.
Once you recognize the underlying belief that aliens = demons and therefore the quest for UFO secrets is really a search for God, the rest of the book’s seemingly unwieldy assortment of claims becomes explicable. Levenda’s weird idea that in the modern period the Catholic Church held some sort of “authoritarian will over the people” reflects his hope to find a neo-pagan faith less restrictive than conservative forces of Christianity. But the Catholic Church didn’t even have authoritarian control in the limited sphere of Western Europe during the Middle Ages (witness the power struggle between the popes and the Holy Roman Emperors, for example), much less the whole world even after the Reformation. It explains, too, Levenda’s ahistorical claim that science if a form of religion and that science replaced the Church as handmaiden of government. And it explains why Levenda actually agrees with me (!) that what we call the “UFO phenomenon” is not singular in nature and is most likely human beings projecting their cultural assumptions onto ambiguous phenomena. I outlined my view on this in 2013, but Levenda differs in not going as far as I in following the logic to its is necessary conclusion. Instead, he stops short and assumes that all of the aspects of “the Phenomenon” are paranormal.
I guess that’s why he claims that “sadly” the “Atacama skeleton”—the stillborn fetus stolen from its grave and marketed as a space alien by ufologists—turned out to be human. It’s probably also why he tries to analogize his view of semi-divine aliens interfering with humans by imagining future humans remembering the Holocaust as a battle between two sets of “gods” over the destruction of Jews until only “a small percentage” were saved. The analogy is weird and offensive, but he justifies it in terms of allowing him to follow Zecharia Sitchin in reinterpreting Babylonian stories as alien genocides. He name-checks Sitchin and basically endorses Sitchin Studies, minus the literal emphasis on gold-mining.
I feel like I should talk about Levenda’s long middle section on genetics and whether human DNA reflects extraterrestrial codes, but it’s all window dressing. Big chunks of this sections are devoted to evaluating religious ideas about human suffering, creation narratives, and the afterlife. A particularly bizarre section offers a lukewarm endorsement of evolutionary theory, praises Intelligent Design as a “compromise,” and compares it to the ancient astronaut theory of directed panspermia (aliens shooting meteors full of DNA to Earth to kick-start life) before complaining angrily that “ideology is permitted to drive the search for knowledge.” It isn’t clear at all which ideology he is complaining about, but his defense in that same section of remote viewing and hunting for flying space demons while deriding scientists as “high priests” of materialism suggests that he thinks rather little of mainstream materialist science. He seems to be advocating for some kind of neo-pagan New Age spirituality under the guise of anti-materialist space-poltergeist-based “science.”
The rest of this long, multichapter detour into genetics is similarly littered with attempts to find religious and occult traditions buried in the “code” he thinks space-demons built into our DNA, or that are parallel to DNA, or something like that. These include the I Jing and John Dee’s Angelic Tablets. He basically discovered math and was amazed that it exists in more than one place. He also assumes that ancient depictions of entwined snakes represent the DNA double helix, which makes just as much sense as claiming my slipper represents a paramecium just because they have vaguely similar shapes. And just for kicks, he adds that the chessboard represents a “matrix” for the “genetic code” and that war is inherent in our demon/alien DNA.
None of this speculation finds any actual factual support in Levenda’s book, only recycled claims from Ancient Aliens that he once again seems not to recognize have been part of the ancient astronaut theory for four decades or so and have long been debunked.
There is a chapter on “the human female” and the “unique” toll of menstruation and childbirth, which he describes as a “war” between mother one side and father and child on the other. It descends into an embarrassing raft of sexist stereotypes straight from a 1950s Dianetics manual, and he makes an unsupported assertion that a one-night stand produces a “weaker” fetus than a committed relationship due to “certain genetic traits” that are only present in a conception via committed relationship. That is not how genetics work. A sperm cell cannot rearrange its genetic material depending on the father’s future choice whether to call the mother for a second date—“in fact this is the prevailing belief among biologists today,” Levenda writes. I assume he is confusing genetics with a grossly oversimplified view of epigenetics, but he gave no sources, so I have no idea what he was thinking.
The second half of the book covers consciousness, and there is really very little I can say here since the arguments are primarily philosophical rather than scientific. Where Levenda does delve into science, he is out of his depth, and some of the questions he asks are bizarre. He wonders, for example, if DNA is conscious, or if it produces consciousness. The overarching argument he tries to make is that the human brain is a receiver for “signals” from alien-demons and that we may be thought-forms that pop into this reality. Or maybe not. Honestly, this half of the book was dull, a sort of book report on current scientific studies of consciousness layered on top of an underlying effort to return to Cartesian dualism in the hope that extracting consciousness from the body will create room for spirit worlds and so on. He wants to see consciousness as a sort of anti-material pantheism, so that our nervous systems simply receive a partial signal representing a fragment of the divine whole. It’s warmed over New Age nonsense of the kind Levenda reveled in when he was young and wild and free and beyond good and evil. With strange aeons, even death may die, and all that. But don’t take my word for it. Levenda says it himself: “So, lurking behind all the science and the math, the physics and the biochemistry, and even behind the space program itself, is the ancient dream of the mystics and the gurus: a spiritual regeneration of the human being… .”
Finally, in this section, he starts to give the game away. Amidst his efforts to refute “materialist” understandings of consciousness, he concedes that alien-demons aren’t operating in this reality but instead occupy a non-material plane accessible through inner voyages into our own consciousness—i.e. the shamanic trips to meet gods and monsters that Graham Hancock goes on about when he is tripping on ayahuasca. Levenda shades into darker territory when he speculates—without evidence—that unseen powers manipulate quantum mechanics to induce alien-themed hallucinations in our minds (because conscious genes apparently react to quantum stimuli) so that the Phenomenon may be a “control mechanism” of some supernatural origin:
What we propose is that the alien abduction experience is real in some way: It is the host of an actual experience that involves an external actor or actors, beings whose ability to manipulate consciousness is without parallel, but an ability that human beings are soon to acquire. That these beings are ordinarily invisible to us, that they seem like genies or sprites or ghosts or devils, should compel us to ask deeper questions about the experience and not write it off as the product of an overactive imagination, or hysteria, or mental disorder.
A final section of the book, largely unrelated to anything that came before, discusses cyborg technology, artificial intelligence, and ESP, with ample coverage of Levenda’s patron saint, Helena Blavatsky, and Tom DeLonge’s business partner, longtime psychical researcher Hal Puthoff. It’s mostly irrelevant except that Levenda uses it to justify the inclusion of dead humans among the aliens, for if consciousness survives death, whether as a ghost or a ghost in a machine (internet-uploaded consciousness), then we are the aliens and they are we, and all of the various supernatural creatures are simply machines (i.e. artificial constructions) to penetrate into hidden realms of our own consciousness.” The only question, he says, is whether we create aliens and angels ourselves or whether a force beyond us does.
So, there you have it: The great secret of the TTSA Sekret Machines series is just this: that the only topic worth exploring is ourselves, that ego trumps all, and that the whole of the universe is contained only in our own self-interested self-obsession. Levenda’s book might be steeped in 1970s and 1980s material, but there is nothing so quintessentially modern as the reduction of the entirety of each individual’s existence to, basically, the quest for the perfect internal selfie.
Levenda also has a persecution complex, which I guess cycles back to his refusal to deal with my arguments in their entirety by caricaturing them into straw men. In an appendix, Levenda crows that books by UFO skeptics don’t sell because “no one is titillated by debunkers” and only “self-congratulatory cynics” want to read about why speculative ideas are wrong. I assume he was again thinking in part of me when he claimed “skeptics” misrepresent believers and make fun of them. He claims that a “scientific inquisition” equivalent to Torquemada’s tortures works tirelessly to “prove the weaknesses and probe the vulnerabilities” of TTSA’s claims. That’s called science, but for Levenda, the idea of falsifiability is a relic of the materialist worldview that denies what is truly important, spending out time contemplating ourselves. He also decries the null hypothesis as an unfair burden, misunderstanding it as “working backward” from a belief that the paranormal isn’t real. It’s up to the advocate to prove that it is, to the highest standards, and he doesn’t feel that’s fair. He fears that “debunking” is only “one step removed” from “attacking religion in general.” Oh, the horror! This leads into a truly bizarre rant in which Levenda spends many pages attacking New Atheist authors, specifically Sam Harris (a thinker whose thoughts I have often said ought to be kept to himself) while both condemning the Church for its suppression of the occult and defending it as the keeper of the supernatural flame. He concludes that spirituality (though not dogmatic religion) is good, secularism is bad, and GOD GOD GOD OH GOD WE NEED GOD I LOVE GOD! Or something close to that. It’s a cri de coeur in the form of a treatise on the evils of secular humanism. It ought to be required reading for anyone who supports TTSA before they endorse the company’s bonkers version of “science.”
Ultimately, GM&W2: Man is the out-of-touch ramblings of an author forty years past his prime, looking to justify his hope that mortality is not the end and praying that UFOs are the secret immortality machines to justify his faith. That this is the best To the Stars Academy can produce and the defining vision statement for their view of the Phenomenon is profoundly sad and unquestionably hilarious. The danger is that the company’s faithful will believe it.
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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