Today I will conclude my review of Tom DeLonge’s and Peter Levenda’s new ancient astronaut book Sekret Machines: Gods, which has proven to be a rehash of standard ancient astronaut material with a good deal of Graham Hancock’s fantastical universe of altered consciousness and lost civilizations thrown into the mix thanks to Levenda’s admitted fascination with Hancock’s ideas. This all culminates in the book’s full-throated descent into a paean for religious belief and spirituality to counter the supposed horrors of science, secularism, and materialism. It’s depressing how frequently ancient astronaut claims turn into religion by proxy.
To that end, the sixth chapter opens with speculation about why immortality is linked to the stars, but Levenda has eyes only for space travelers (who are somehow also divine spiritual essences), unwilling to consider that the fact that the circumpolar stars were considered “immortal” because they never set may be reason enough, with no need to imagine that humans have a genetic memory of panspermia. He then goes on to resurrect the favorite chestnut of all fringe writers, the idea that pyramids around the world must be connected just because a tapering shape is the most stable architectural form for a tall building prior to the age of steel. To support this, he turns to various hyperdiffusionist arguments about cross-cultural contact in the distant past. Some are plausible, particularly when nearby Old World cultures are concerned, but others are speculative at best, particularly the claim that Tibetan culture derives from ancient Egypt. He approvingly cites Robert Bauval, Graham Hancock, and Robert Schoch as evidence for the diffusion of an ur-culture from a sunken lost continent to the Old World and the New, and that a cosmic event caused the flooding at the end of the Ice Age remembered as the Flood of Noah. None of this has anything to do with aliens but it does speak to the love Levenda has for the Hancock school of fringe ideas.
To make it connect with aliens, Levenda, having spent chapters trashing Zecharia Sitchin, decides that he is right after all and that aliens came to Earth to make humans as a slave race: “thus our thesis leans more towards Sitchin than it does a purely accidental, if not transcendental, explanation without embracing Sitchin’s theories completely or abandoning the ideas of directed panspermia, for instance.” The bottom line, he says, is that the answers to humanity’s origins are to be found in studying religion, not science. Like every astronaut theorist before him, Levenda finds a way to restore the importance of religion and undo the existential terror unleashed by the Enlightenment. He even claims that religious ideas of heaven came from a cargo cultist stowing away on a spaceship and returning to tell the tale!
Following this, Levenda describes various rituals around the world that pay homage to or connect people to the stars, and he claims these as evidence of a space alien connection. He neglects to mention similar rituals that connect people to water, the sun, the Earth, the ancestors, and all manner of other natural phenomena that have nothing to do with aliens. In context, they are nothing special, but he tries to make them so by comparing out of context bits and pieces to modern discoveries. For example, he speaks of Daoism’s seven “dark stars” of the Big Dipper, invisible to the naked eye (and different from the two invisible stars of the Dipper in standard Chinese cosmology) and claims them to be an anticipation of the modern conclusion that the first of the stars were made of “dark matter.” “It is almost too easy to draw comparisons between the dark stars of Chinese astronomy and the dark matter of the physicists,” Levenda writes. He offers no source for his discussion of the seven dark stars, and I have been unable to identify a source for it. According to scholarly accounts I read, the T’ang dynasty developed the concept of the two dark stars of the Dipper from the Indians, who had tried to account for lunar eclipses by claiming dark planets passed in front of the moon. Clearly, this is not the same as secret knowledge of dark matter.
“All religion is UFO religion,” Levenda says, appropriating for himself every expression of spirituality on Earth, from chthonic gods to Earth mothers, and especially Abrahamic faiths. Whether they worship the divine in the water, on land, or inherent in all creation, it doesn’t matter. As long as they mention the stars or the sky, they must be based on space aliens. Levenda seems to think this is stunningly new, but he apparently hasn’t met Ancient Aliens producer Kevin Burns, who said nearly the same thing last year: “[Hindu] religion is totally based on extraterrestrials as, by the way, all religions are.”
The remainder of the chapter is an extended discussion of religion, shamanism, and the nature of consciousness, and Levenda implies that the dramatic conclusion of the book series, in volume 3, is that the UFO phenomenon traces back to interdimensional powers that interact with our consciousness. He thinks this is a revelation, which means he hasn’t been watching Ancient Aliens speculate on this exact same line for the past eight years.
This chapter rehearses standard ancient astronaut claims about ancient Persia and India, from gods that ride in winged discs to flying vimanas. Levenda wrongly attributes the English words “divine” and “devil” to the Vedic devas, but they are not directly related. Instead, scholars believe all of these words share an ancestral origin in the Proto-Indo-European word *deiwos (as reconstructed from its descendant words), which first meant “celestial” and later “god.” Levenda purposely downplays the Indo-European heritage shared from Britain to India in order to make it seem as though shared elements derive from an outside source rather than from a shared origin in Indo-European myth and cult. Somehow this leads us back to Zecharia Sitchin and the Nephilim because Levenda identifies them as another expression of mythic wars between angels and demons, wars he believes different cultures participated in on different sides, thus accounting for why some cultures seem to worship other cultures’ devils and vice versa. Diabolizing other people’s gods is a longstanding tradition, as St. Augustine amply demonstrated, and there is no reason to imagine gods and demons are real to explain why.
Nor, therefore, must we attribute Nephilim-giants and their extinction to a “war” among the “races” of humanity to purge genetic “misfires.” For a man so concerned about purging the ancient astronaut theory of Nazi and white supremacist doctrines, he seems unconcerned that he envisions the past as a race war to ensure the purity of the bloodlines. By his own logic about genetic memory and cargo cults, this makes the Nazis “right” because they have a distorted genetic memory of the ancient race wars.
Levenda rhapsodizes for a while about Vedic religion and then laments that “technology has replaced religion as the opiate of the people.”
He goes on to discuss Asian philosophy and religions in mind-numbing detail that I will spare you, and he enters into evidence a divine wheel that the Buddhist Pāli Canon says rises up from the eastern ocean and enters the mansion of a king destined to win in battle. This wheel was like a second full moon. Levenda tells us that this is proof that peoples of the subcontinent saw flying saucers, for otherwise they would never have accepted the idea of a flying heavenly wheel. The flying wheel image, originally associated with the sun, was a longstanding Indo-European tradition, and it would not surprise me at all if this Buddhist wheel is an indirect derivative via the Vedic or Hindu traditions from which Buddhism borrowed. Levenda quotes information about the Buddhist ideal wheel from secondary sources and omits that it is only one of eight ideal possessions of a king, among the others being an ideal gem, elephant, and wife. In context, the similarity to a UFO fades away, particularly when we compare the symbolism of wheels and mills across both Eastern and Indo-European cultures. To make a very long chapter shorter, Levenda describes many different types of mythical wheels, including swastikas, and calls them all flying saucers, just like the ancient astronaut theorists he ridicules for doing pretty much the same thing. He wrongly says that his insight—that mandalas and wheels reflect spacecraft—was “not imagined by many ‘ancient alien theorists.’” At least three episodes of Ancient Aliens specifically connect mandalas to space aliens, like this one.
Levenda adds that he believes, based on Jacques Vallée’s research (whatever that is worth), that UFO sightings peak in years when Tibetan Buddhists hold mass initiations. Fortunately, Vallée provides “peak” years for 7 out of 15 years in the middle twentieth century, so some year is bound to align with some event or another. It’s almost 50-50 odds!
This chapter deals with Greek mythology, opening with the perspectives of Max Müller, who, while brilliant, was a Victorian solar myth proponent and more than 130 years out of date. Levenda discusses Hesiod’s Theogony but omits its clear debt to Hittite myth, and through it Mesopotamian mythology. As a result he presents as “confirmation” of the Nephilim the Greek story of the Giants, a story that he doesn’t know (or doesn’t care) that scholars like Jan Bremmer had long ago argued were in conversation with the Semitic account. Bremmer argued, persuasively, that the stories of the Titans and the Watchers share a close connection. “Such a clear parallel to the Biblical account in Genesis,” Levenda gushes, as though no one had noticed before. The Church Fathers were aware of it, as were the Greeks themselves. Levenda follows the account of the Gigantomachy given by Ovid, but he fails to note that Ovid’s version is erroneous, a conflated account that mixes elements of the Titanomachy, the Gigantomachy, and the assault on Olympus by the Aloadae. His argument, consequently, is without merit since he knows not of which he speaks. He refuses to trace Greek myths to their earliest forms, and he declines to explore the debt that our versions of Greek myths owe to Near East influences—subjects that Bremmer, Walter Burkert, M. L. West, and many other scholars have covered in detail. It is just silly to declare Greek myths to be an independent confirmation of Nephilim contact.
Following this, Levenda recycles his earlier discussion of Gnosticism, making the same points again, and again refusing to explore the actual cultural diffusion that occurred between Mesopotamian cultures and the Jews and Greeks. The result is the absurdity of accepting Noah’s Flood as a real event, despite the fact that geology does not support a global flood. He tries to psychoanalyze the Nephilim and suggests that their issues were psychological and not physical, that they had bad brains and bad genes. Some were physical giants, he speculates, because of a “chromosomal abnormality” due to inbreeding. So where are the bones of these giants? Ah, evidence is for losers! We have faith.
To that end, Levenda notes the tension between the genetic imperative to procreate with people outside of one’s family and the social imperative to stick to one’s own tribe against foreigners, and he decides—and I wish that I were making this up—that the aliens encoded an incest gene into humans to keep us mating within our “ethnicity” or “race” so we’ll remain genetically weak and ripe for exploiting on our prison/asylum planet. He’s not too clear on degrees of consanguinity, the intricate exogamous systems of hunter-gatherer societies, or how genetic diversity works, so it makes sense in his mind.
As we move toward the conclusion, Levenda says that alien abduction stories are preoccupied with sex, genitals, and semen and therefore must be modern Nephilim tales. He claims that humans are “obsessed” with disaster stories and that some outside force must be compelling us to move toward our own destruction, for otherwise we would never have invented the atom bomb unbidden. It quickly becomes clear that Levenda has confused a particular milieu in America for the world as he talks of how “we” as humans are afraid to acknowledge God in public and treat Him as a sop to rubes in exchange for votes. He blames the scientific revolution for disenchanting the world, and he declares that all of the ufologists and ancient astronaut theorists are wrong, that ancient people did not see UFOs and mistake them for the chariots of the gods; instead, we see the chariots of the gods and misinterpret them as flying spacecraft. Levenda declares the mystery of the UFOs to be the mystery of God himself, and the quest for aliens to be the search for the divine. Abductees, he said, have touched the face of an unknowable and vaguely malevolent God:
… the abduction is carried out by acolytes of the Unknown God, the Alien God, and the experience is seen through a scrim of sexual manipulation and psychic dislocation. The abductees become an altar in a new Black Mass as the alien forces push their way into their consciousness, impatient and insistent, using whatever sublimated or repressed material they can find buried in their memories or fantasies.
The bottom line is that Levenda sees aliens as akin to a Gnostic demiurge, an evil(ish) god that tries to manipulate and control us, blocking us from achieving a true transcendence by pushing past them to the real spiritual powers further up the great chain of being. The remaining volumes of the series, he says, will help us search for a new spirituality to embrace the divine.
In what seems to be a plausible reading, Peter Levenda and Tom DeLonge seem to be laying the groundwork to start a cult and want to use ufology to attract acolytes to their mix of warmed over New Age claptrap, Gnostic obfuscation, and Theosophy-inspired pseudo-Buddhist mysticism. It’s sort of an inverted Raëlism, with the gods masquerading as aliens rather than the other way around, but the difference is one of perception more than fact.
So there you have it. The secret of Sekret Machines is that it is not a book about UFOs at all but rather a book about the Nephilim, for the same tired reasons: To prove the Nephilim real is to make the Bible true and justify faith of some kind or another. Other cultures, for what they are worth, exist only to provide support for the story of the Nephilim, and all of human history can be reduced to an effort to approach God through an understanding of the monsters that defied His will. We are all Nephilim hybrids, and all part evil and part divine. We have heard this all before.
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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