THE GODS NEVER LEFT US:
THE LONG AWAITED SEQUEL TO THE WORLDWIDE BEST-SELLER CHARIOTS OF THE GODS
Erich von Däniken | 256 pages | Career Press | 2018 | ISBN: 978-1632651198 | $17.99
Earlier this month, ancient astronaut theorist Erich von Däniken released his latest book, The Gods Never Left Us (Career Press, 2018), which his publisher billed as the first direct sequel to Chariots of the Gods in fifty years. This seemed like hyperbole to me since several of his earlier books were also termed sequels. Perhaps the publisher was inspired by Jurassic World to make a “direct” sequel that ignored the existence of previous, less popular sequels. More likely, they were simply hoping that some marketing puffery would attract readers who will have forgotten about all of the other three dozen books the author produced
Ah, but the appearance of honesty was a bit deceptive. He may not be repeating claims directly, but he did model the book quite closely on its predecessor. The second chapter of Chariots of the Gods contained a science fiction story in which EVD tried to imagine the journey of astronauts who were mistaken for gods on a distant planet. The new book similarly opens with what EVD terms “a strange short story” of his own device, an admitted piece of fiction. While EVD fancies himself a novelist and has published fiction, he is no prose stylist, and the story is pretty bad, made worse by uninspired translation. The story itself, about what would happen when our society makes first contact with space aliens by reading a hidden binary code uncovered by the Large Hadron Collider, is rather turgid, and it takes up 10 percent of the book. Your enjoyment will depend on how thrilling you find action like this: “The next day Roger fixed his Nikon to a stool. It had been loaded with a highly sensitive 400 ASA film and connected up to the motion-sensitive plug.”
Following the overlong and dull short story, EVD briefly summarizes his half-century hypothesis, about space aliens acting out the part of the Sons of God in the Bible, hybridizing human women. He then asks: “Totally insane?” This is either self-awareness or meant as a challenge. He informs readers that he is now of the opinion that at least some UFOs are the ships of the same aliens who visited humanity in the ancient past. He takes a swipe at Zecharia Sitchin by claiming that it is inefficient to mine Earth for minerals when uninhabited rocks produce more for less effort. But then he goes off the rails, arguing that all of the world’s powers, secular and religious, are conspiring together to suppress the truth of aliens because knowledge of space aliens would destroy all world religions, Darwinian evolution, and all temporal and ecclesiastical power. He paints an apocalyptic picture of our entire civilization collapsing for fear that space aliens could refute Jesus, Muhammad, the Buddha, and Darwin. “Slowly even skeptics must realize that, not just the public in general, but science as well, must be protected from the appearance of ETs. Science requires censorship as much as the trusting mass of the people.”
EVD then, essentially, declares himself a prophet, for profit, by arguing that his TV show is part of the aliens’ agenda to prepare humanity for their arrival by circumventing the suppressive elites and transforming the consciousness of the masses directly. Science fiction, he says, is the other prong of the aliens’ agenda, creating the conditions to accept their existence. He devotes much of the rest of the chapter to fantasizing about how ETs might circumvent liberal elites and leftist governments by appealing to the salt of the earth types in the rural heartlands. This is why, apparently, aliens like to abduct and anally probe hillbillies.
The remainder of the second chapter is a grab-bag of loosely related spaghetti from earlier books thrown at the wall—flood myths, the Book of Enoch, crop circles, UFO sightings, anger at religion, and shout-outs to the “irrefutable” proof offered on Ancient Aliens. The latter produced a guffaw of laughter from me, considering how baseless that show has long been.
The third chapter tries to explain human and extraterrestrial biology by exploring hypotheses about the origins of life and the origins of the human species. He uses arguments from creationists, anti-evolution thinkers, and ancient astronaut theorists to undermine the mainstream scientific consensus. His arguments are the same ones creationists have used for a century and a half, particularly the question of how a given structure could have evolved if it would be “useless” without all of its parts. He claims that “chemical evolution” is mathematically and statistically impossible on Earth, so the building blocks of life were sent to Earth from another planet via directed panspermia. Why the aliens then needed to return to have sex with the results he leaves unstated. He adds that he believes that a certain species of beetle, the acid-firing bombardier beetle, was “imported from an alien world.” God may be inordinately fond of beetles, as J. B. S. Haldane joked, but aliens love them more.
Much of the rest of the chapter is EVD’s standard attack on human evolution. For decades he has claimed that evolution only applies to other animals and that humans were genetically engineered by aliens. He cites myths of gods impregnating women as evidence of “artificial insemination”—though it doesn’t seem very artificial!—and specifically claims that (a) the logical argument that these stories are symbolic is “too easy” and (b) ancient humans “were not science fiction writers” and could not have recorded anything that was untrue. Based on that, I suppose the Greeks really traveled to the moon to meet space aliens, as Lucian recorded in his True History. He supports this with the fantasy cuneiform translations of Dr. Hermann Burgard, a fringe loon whom he cited in several of his earlier books. (What? You thought “all new” would really mean “all new”?) Burgard believes that the Sumerians recorded trips to a space station. He concludes the chapter with some facile attempts to undermine Occam’s Razor by alleging that the simplest and most reasonable explanation is a matter of “the zeitgeist,” so if we believe in aliens, then explaining via aliens is the easiest and best way to understand human biological and cultural development.
The fourth chapter opens with material recycled from several of EVD’s earlier books, including Odyssey of the Gods and one of his 1970s volumes, though off the top of my head I don’t remember which one. It doesn’t matter; he admits that the material came from 1972. He devotes much of the chapter to Polynesian mythology, following the familiar pattern of asserting that any reference to the gods in heaven must be a literal account of space aliens in outer space. EVD may not remember that he covered this material in his book In Search of Ancient Gods, and again in some of his recent books, but I do. He throws in a few variations with some slightly different myths, but the overall thrust is the same. He adds material that he admits came from Evidence of the Gods and some more that he doesn’t admit was first discussed in Signs of the Gods and Remnants of the Gods, about the supposed flying chariot of the Kebra Nagast. This time, however, he managed to cite a real passage and not a fake one, as he had done in Signs, so he’s gradually learning, over decades. He adds a raft of mythological examples of gods descending from heaven to the Earth, many of which he has cited before, and here claiming that civilizing gods “always” came from the stars. There is no reason to take the stories at face value, of course, since in myth gods who are not here on Earth can only be in the sky, under the ground, in the ocean, or outside space and time. In mythologies around the world we find examples of all of these, but EVD chooses to focus only on sky travel. To take but the most famous example, Oannes rose up from the sea to deliver civilization to Babylon, while Viracocha rose up out of Lake Titicaca to do the same for the peoples of the Andes.
As with all his other mythological references, he expects us to take stories of gods walking on Earth and sexing up local women literally, so that by identifying gods with space aliens he can assert that aliens have geographical as well as lustful interests. He complains, though, that scholars of religion refuse to concede that the gods were aliens, or that all cultures believe that the gods came from space in their ships. “But in the theological faculties, even those teaching comparative religion, people still live in the Middle Ages. Nothing new is added.” Considering that EVD is rehashing material he wrote about in 1968, which was a recycling of other authors’ work from the preceding two decades, there is rich irony here.
He adds some material about advanced weapons in Sanskrit epics, claims that he has made many times since 1968 and which he here cites to one of his own books, one never translated into English. He has apparently forgotten that the exact quotation he gives he first used in Chariots of the Gods (1968), where he quoted it wrongly to make the passage sound more like a nuclear weapon. He then paraphrases anew the misrepresented and fabricated parts about nuclear fallout that he mistakenly grabbed in his ignorance from Morning of the Magicians, as I laid out years ago.
The fifth and final chapter tries to tie EVD’s conservative politics in with the ancient astronaut theory. EVD is an old man, and a product of his time. He remains fossilized in the 1960s, like a fly in amber, and so he reaches back to the obsolete ideas of that era to frame his analysis. Back then, before the Green Revolution, a wave of Malthusian panic led to concern about the population explosion and whether the world would run out of resources in the succeeding few decades. EVD laughs at the concern over such problems, and he uses this to argue that global warming is of no concern. He dismisses all climate change as the product of natural Earth changes, and argues that no human activity contributes. He is even more conservative on gender issues, devoting several pages to his outrage over transsexuals and feminists, whom he sees as in league to suppress masculinity in favor of a female-led world order:
Within the framework of equality between men and women, some women demanded a program to implement gender equality. Meanwhile, gender has grown into a proper world strategy. “Gender mainstreaming” is even one of the goals of the European Union. But a few fundamentally correct thoughts have turned into a feminist world dictate. There are hardly any scientists left who have the moral courage to stand up against gender. […] There are only unisex people any longer. The biological sex no longer counts for anything. Boys should actually be ashamed to have been born with a penis. […] Anyone who does not adhere to “gender” is excluded from the community of reasonable people
While EVD pays lip service to his opposition to the dogmatism of both left and right, his howling rage at liberal, progress, feminist, and basically anything that smacks of the left belies his pretended balance.
He claims that European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker’s slip of the tongue in 2016, saying that he was in communication with leaders from other planets (“d’autres planètes”) instead of other countries is proof that elites are already in contact with space aliens—in apparent contradiction to the first third of the book when the aliens were actively avoiding said elites.
EVD goes on to discuss a range of modern concerns that he has been railing about for years—genetic engineering, artificial intelligence, European integration—but failing to tie any of it to aliens except to claim that aliens have already made the same advances long ago. He then adds a bizarre paragraph that I frankly have trouble making heads or tails of:
If we were all identical, no extraterrestrial intelligence would bother with us. Because each one would be the same as their neighbor, contact with a single human being would be sufficient. “Humanity” would not be of interest. But now we are units that multiply with pleasure. Sex means the greatest pleasure. Then we collect information for a lifetime and pass it on through electrons. The ETs out there are dependent on our diversity.
So… yay diversity? And yay for pleasure sex with aliens?
And of course EVD swings back around to Al-Maqrizi and his al-Khitat of c. 1400 CE, because he thinks this is clever since he discovered it decades ago. On his authority, he calls the Great Pyramid antediluvian (for EVD does not know that he copied from earlier writers, going back 400 years to Wasifi and the Akhbar al-zaman, or their common source) and alleges that it is filled with prehistoric wisdom. He throws in a bunch of Graham Hancock’s claims about various ancient structures attributed to a lost ice age culture, and he tells us that he believes that the aliens left a library of records in orbit around the Earth. He name checks Martian pyramids, secret UFO files, and all of the accoutrements of conspiracy theories, but without any details or analysis. He expects the reader to already know, accept, and believe.
He concludes by reminding his regular folk readers that the elites can’t keep aliens secret much longer, and the truth will come out soon. Once the liberal elites have been defeated, he seems to be implying, regular, normal, manly conservative people won’t just inherit the Earth but will touch the divine.
The Gods Never Left Us is a typical example of late-period EVD. It is a rambling, disconnected series of claims, most recycled from earlier books, with heavy doses of EVD’s social conservatism. It is not a good book, or even much of a book. As a sequel to Chariots of the Gods, it is an utter failure, lacking even a quarter of the argument, analysis, or originality of the original—which is sad since Chariots was a collection of recycled claims from other authors wrapped in a bad argument given a gloss of entertainment by a former Nazi propagandist. EVD’s glimmers of self-awareness about the weaknesses of his recent books are an improvement, but the lack of follow through on the promise of originality marks it as just another false claim in a career full of them.
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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