Yesterday I began my review of Tom DeLonge’s and Peter Levenda’s Sekret Machines: Gods, and it bears noting that the misspelling in the title is intentional. The authors explain that they chose the spelling to recall simultaneously a punk rock aesthetic, the German meaning of sekret, Soviet secrets, and Greek mysticism. The word, for Levenda, is important as the German word for a secretion, or an oozing, which summarizes how the authors think UFO information will leak out. But more importantly, Levenda wants us to remember that the Greek word for secret is mystikó, related to mysticism. It is religion that is Levenda’s primary interest, and spirituality eclipses UFOs in this volume.
The third chapter opens with Levenda recapping the previous chapter and asking us to accept that the myth of the Watchers mating with human women is hard evidence of contact with space aliens. This makes about as much sense as arguing that global stories of dragons are evidence of prehistoric contact with space-faring dinosaurs. After all, dragons can fly into the heavens (i.e., space!) and resemble modern reconstructions of dinosaurs, just as the Watchers come from the heavens (i.e., space!) and resemble modern accounts of Nordic space aliens. Ah, but there is a difference! Drawing on interviews with so-called Area 51 whistleblower (and convicted felon) Bob Lazar, whom even Stanton Friedman dismissed as a “fraud,” and with “unnamed” figures, the authors allege that the U.S. government is attempting to reverse engineer alien spacecraft, and that these spacecraft are described in the Bible. Dragons, of course, don’t fly in spaceships. Only Bigfoot does that.
Levenda brings in the usual suspects from Abrahamic religion: Jacob’s Ladder, Jacob wrestling God (which Levenda claims to “not understand”), various sacred stones from heaven, Ezekiel’s vision of the Throne of God—all elements discussed to death in earlier ancient astronaut books, and given here in similarly wrongheaded analysis, claiming them to be evidence of UFO “technology.” Even though he claims to reject von Däniken’s and Sitchin’s analyses of Ezekiel’s vision as a spacecraft, he just tweaks them a bit. For him, God’s chariot is simultaneously the Big Dipper (sometimes envisioned as a chariot) and the alien craft that inspired the depiction. He does add one wrinkle to the usual narrative: He acknowledges skeptics’ arguments about the influence of Babylonian iconography on shape of the chariot of God, but, following his cargo cult hypothesis, he instead argues that the real elements of Near Eastern culture reflected in these stories are actually imitations of space alien originals in the first place. This is a cute inversion, but it is a trick of rhetoric, not fact: He assumes a space alien original in order to prove that the “evidence” is best interpreted as such. It’s a circular argument.
Or rather, the space alien original is simultaneously an alien spacecraft and a shamanic journey, for Levenda sees Judaism (and indeed all religion) as a cargo cult trying to spiritualize an encounter with alien craft whose nature he isn’t ready to discuss, causing UFO sightings and divine chariots alike to be cult acts of communion with the divine. “Yes, we know this sounds very New Age-y and mystical, but that is not our intention. Rather such a perverse reaction is the side effect of so much poor contextualization of the experience itself.” Oh really? Levenda himself said that the book’s title was chosen specifically to connect with mysticism. Cool story, bro.
Levenda opens this chapter by arguing that the ritual of blood sacrifice (including human sacrifice) has “evaded serious study,” at least in terms of its cultural role in premodern spirituality, a patent falsehood from someone who ought to be familiar with classics of academic research into the topic, such as Walter Burkert’s Homo Necans (1972). He dismisses all academic work on the subject as wrongly focused on genocide, another patent falsehood. Perhaps the problem is that his references are all a century out of date. He seriously claims that the “modern” scholarly view of blood sacrifice is that it is “a savage custom of foreign races.” I feel like I should have a pith helmet on while reading this Victorian bullshit. Sorry: pulp bullshit. He relates his understanding of human sacrifice to pulp fiction versions from Talbot Mundy, H. P. Lovecraft and various writers of the first half of the twentieth century. Levenda is clearly more at home in the world of science fiction than science fact.
The larger portion of the chapter is given over to following Graham Hancock’s Fingerprints of the Gods argument about why the peoples of Pre-Columbian Mexico industrialized human sacrifice in a way the Old World largely did not. Levenda speaks of the universal synecdoche of blood for life, and he endorses John. H. Grandy’s suggestion that DNA is conscious, thereby concluding that the ancients were trying to free the DNA of the best and the brightest for the alien gods. This is just dumb on so many levels. Why do we need to posit magic DNA when the ancients themselves explained that they offered sacrifice to appease the gods? The Maya, for example, claimed in the Popul Vuh that sacrifice was repayment for the gift of fire, and the Aztec said it was to keep burning the flame of the sun. In both cases, red blood was seen as an analog for orange-red flame. Is that not enough? Or does Levenda just not want to accept that the power of belief in bad ideas is sufficient to motivate awful behavior. The Holocaust should offer plenty of evidence that bad ideas and delusional authority figures can motivate terrible massacres. Of course, Levenda wants to associate Nazis with aliens, too, as though to exorcise the horrific aspects of the human condition. All the bad things we do as humans are simply mistakes, made from bad imitations of perfect supernatural originals.
Levenda rejects the very idea of an earthly explanation for sacrifice because he is revolted by blood and guts and death. Here therefore says the sacrifices of religion as akin to worshiping serial killer Ed Gein as a god, or Hannibal Lecter as the creator. Burkert suggested that human sacrifice emerged from rituals performed to help assuage the guilt people felt from having to take animals’ lives for food, symbolically consecrating animals to the gods to make up for their fate on Earth. Human sacrifice became the ultimate expression of this transfiguration of the sacrificial victim. Levenda can only see the blood and imagine that it is a horrific mistake, traumatized cargo cultists misunderstanding the idea that alien DNA resides within us and should be returned to the gods.
He concludes the chapter by discussing the folly of war, and he speculates that the aliens encoded self-destruction into our DNA to keep us under control.
In this chapter, Levenda relates aliens to the quest to continue consciousness indefinitely, in an afterlife, a new body, or whatever. He literally says that movies like Red Planet Mars (1952) provide information about what aliens might be like, and surely by this point it is clear that Levenda is simply throwing ancient astronaut books and pulp fiction into a blender to create a remixed version of a 1970s In Search of Ancient Astronauts-style special. Levenda’s confidence in his conclusions is matched only by the poverty of his research. He discusses alchemy in this chapter and notes that the (or rather one possible) etymology of the word comes from the old name for Egypt. But he isn’t well versed in ancient literature and can’t manage to connect alchemy to his beloved Nephilim (e.g. Zosimus of Panoplis, Imouth 9, preserved in George Syncellus, Chronicle 14) and thus misses out on “evidence” that would have strengthened his own claims. He doesn’t seem to know that Late Antique and medieval alchemists worked in the ruins of the Egyptian temples, or that their claims to secret knowledge from Hermes, identified with Enoch and Idris, gave rise to the mysteries of the pyramids (via conflation with the temples, whose inscriptions were thought from Late Antiquity to record all wisdom) and, indeed, indirectly to the mysteries of Freemasonry and the ancient astronaut theory. He came close to the heart of the mystery, but through arrogance or laziness missed it entirely.
Instead, Levenda delves into the astral connection between the pyramids and the stars, largely along the lines of Graham Hancock in Fingerprints of the Gods, in order allege that the ancients all tried to return their souls to the stars because, essentially, of panspermia. The reasoning is convoluted and nonsensical, but it boils down to this: Many Old World myth cycles start with a sex act that spawns the gods, so therefore ancient people had a distorted memory of when aliens seeded the universe with microbes filled with programmed DNA. The unanswered questions are evident: If panspermia were true, how would anyone in historic times “remember” something no earthling witnessed? And if the aliens came here to tell them in recent times, then why do we need to presuppose panspermia? Too many assumptions are needed, especially when a more obvious origin point—people know sex leads to kids, so it’s not a stretch to liken cosmic creation to procreation—requires far fewer assumptions, just the human propensity to enjoy and observe sex.
Levenda makes another howler in this chapter. He tries to argue that astronomy and space travel are imperatives that come from within us. Thus, he says of space exploration: “Yet we cannot articulate the reasons why we would expend so much time, effort, money, calculation, and the best minds of our generation towards this goal.” Really? You can’t think of a single reason? The amounts are relatively small, compared to military spending, for example--$18.5 billion per year for NASA vs. $600 billion per year for the U.S. military (in fiscal 2016)—and space exploration has practical scientific and strategic purposes, not just theoretical ones. How, for example, does he think satellite services came to be? Oh, right: He calls these “side-benefits” of an unquestioned “faith” in the need to penetrate space. Perhaps we should put this stupid argument for ignorance in terms Levenda might understand: There are many more defensible reasons to engage in space exploration than to waste time, energy, and talent performing ritual magick to commune with imaginary demons and cast pointless spells. Did the aliens program him to do that, too?
Afterward in this overlong chapter, Levenda attacks “pyramidiocy” by wrongly claiming that Erich von Däniken claimed that aliens built the pyramids. He certainly implied it in Chariots of the Gods, but he never specifically claimed it. Von Däniken would go on to claim that the aliens planned or provided technology, but not that they physically constructed ancient wonders. In attacking von Däniken viciously, Levenda ties him to the Nazis through his editor, Wilhelm Utermann, a former Nazi journalist who went on to a publishing career in West Germany. He speaks of American Nazi William Dudley Pelley’s fascination with pyramid prophecies, and he notes that Neo-Nazis and white supremacists are attracted to ancient astronaut theories because they suggest brown people couldn’t be responsible for ancient wonders. He tears down ancient astronaut theorists as people “who speculate about the real purpose behind the pyramids without any actual evidence from archaeological or textual sources” (cough, ahem, cough… Peter Levenda, who spells “Giza” in the Victorian style as “Gizeh” and wrongly places Khufu in the Fifth Dynasty), but he does so to build up Graham Hancock and Robert Bauval as “serious” researchers of pyramid mysteries with “exhaustive” evidence. Indeed, their books cast a long shadow over this chapter, much of which summarizes parts of The Orion Mystery and Fingerprints of the Gods without much acknowledgement. Levenda plays favorites but lacks the critical thinking to apply the same standards to his favorite fringe authors that he does to those he doesn’t like.
Among the other authors he summarizes with high praise are Robert Temple, whose Sirius Mystery he mistakes for a work of keen scholarship instead of a grab bag of bad ideas; Peter Tompkins, whose faulty and credulous books he sees as insightful; and the authors of Hamlet’s Mill, whose numerological speculation about the significance of 72 in world mythology he takes for conclusive evidence. The last of these he praises deeply, but seems unwilling to consider the fact that numbers derived from multiples of 2 and 3 (72, 216, 432, etc.) could easily have emerged from using simple base numbers like 2, 3, 6, and 12 rather than a lost ancient civilization having passed on around the world a 360° division of the sky (5,000 years before Babylon settled on the number after trying alternatives) and centuries of secret measurements of the slow drift of the stars by 1° every 71.6 years, which was then rounded to 72. One explanation is simple, and the other requires so many assumptions that one’s head might spin. Levenda likes spinning heads.
As the chapter comes to a close, Levenda questions why Egyptians would bother building pyramids, asking if anyone today would “waste” effort on a show place for little practical purpose. Apparently he has never seen the mostly empty skyscrapers—much taller than any ancient pyramid—that societies around the world build to announce their prowess. One World Trade Center in Manhattan currently sits about 40% empty. According to the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, between a quarter and a third of skyscraper space is unusable and is essentially just to make the building taller for show.
He next offers a thought experiment suggesting that mummification might have been the result of ancient humans imitating aliens in stasis pods for interstellar journey. He seems unaware that the claim has been on Ancient Aliens and appeared more than four decades ago in The Outer Space Connection (1975) by Alan Landsburg, when Landsburg suggested mummies imitated alien cryogenic freezing. His lack of research into primary sources also means he missed the references to translucent “stasis” chambers in Al-Maqrizi’s account of the pyramids in Al-Khitat 1.40. Instead, he seems to think he stumbled on something new all by himself.
The chapter ends with lengthy speculation about how Egyptian monuments and religious beliefs anticipate philosophical questions about whether our souls are the same as our bodies, and even Einstein’s Twin Paradox (without offering any evidence for the latter), and that seems like a good place to stop for today. It’s clear that Levenda has entered the Graham Hancock universe, for not only do the two authors use the same material, but Levenda even endorses Hancock’s idea that the “otherworldly beings” encountered in altered states of consciousness are the gods and/or aliens. Like Hancock, Levenda sees ancient history as a tool for investigating the mysteries of consciousness, for he sees the answers to the real questions as lying within us rather than out in space. That way solipsism lies.
I’ll cover the last third of the book tomorrow.
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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