In which the author argues that words have no meaning, except what he gives them…
Erich von Däniken (EVD) starts this chapter of Twilight of the Gods by professing his supposed admiration for the linguists who deciphered the Mayan hieroglyphs, though in his characteristic way in confuses the decipherment of hieroglyphs with understanding the Maya tongue, which is still spoken by Maya people today and is therefore not a lost mystery of history. He then explains that translating languages is more art than science and that translations are affected by linguists’ biases, which arise from the “‘zeitgeist,’ the leading trend in ‘rational’ thinking,” whatever that is supposed to mean. Yes, interpretation of ancient texts can vary based on current understanding of philological and cultural issues, but it is not so fickle that the liberal or conservative currents of politics enormously alter the meaning of ancient words to the degree EVD thinks they do, unless of course every translator acts on a hidden political agenda like EVD does.
He suggests that the similarities between the creation story in the Popol Vuh of the Maya (which, incidentally was written in Latin characters, not hieroglyphs) and the Book of Genesis are proof of the veracity of the ancient accounts, ignorant as he is that the currently extant version of the Popol Vuh was compiled after the Conquest, probably between 1554 and 1558 and as a direct response to Christian myths with which the Maya were then being forcibly taught. It was first written down from oral versions by a Spanish priest around 1700.
Wrong on all counts.
Scholars recognize that the very passages EVD earmarks as stunning coincidences are in fact Maya translations of portions of Genesis, a fact known since the 1880s, with a general understanding that the opening of the Popol Vuh incorporated Christian myths being known since the 1870s—and discovered by Germans no less, whom EVD would have, theoretically, read as he data-mined their old books.
Well, that was productive.
Equally productive is EVD’s recycling of his old arguments about the Pyramid Texts as descriptions of flying saucers and rockets traveling to and from space. I will give him credit, however, for apparently at least rewriting some of the material and expanding on the similar passages from Eyes of the Sphinx and Chariots of the Gods. He does this in service of introducing the academic anarchist Paul Feyerabend’s claim that there can be no one method for science and “anything” should “go” in doing science. This allows EVD to say that there is no reason to object to comparing Maya and Egyptian texts to “prove” connections. Well, except for that pesky business that he’s comparing Egyptian texts to Maya texts that were influenced by Christian texts that in turn drew on Near Eastern models including, well, the Egyptian. Yes, there are connections, just not the ones EVD wants there to be.
EVD claims that a passage from the temple of Edfu offers proof of “supersonic” alien flights. But as usual, it’s a translation game, with EVD relying on a 130-year-old German translation without consulting any other versions. In this translation, he reads the following line (translated in the English edition of Twilight into English from the German rather than any original) as proof that Horus was traveling in a flying saucer so fast that arrived before the sound he made (i.e., that he broke the sound barrier):
Well, fine, but I can match that with a 1924 translation that says otherwise:
So, this time Horus was as a winged disk (obviously he is a Transformer), not in a winged disk, and the people became deaf, not that Horus made no sound.
This is just a translation game, picking and choosing the translated words that make a case. It says little about the meaning of the original texts, which EVD cannot read. This is why EVD says that it is equally valid to translate Horus’ title of “Lord of Heaven” as “Space Man,” as though EVD were now a philologist privy to all the secrets of ancient language. “Lord” does not equal “man,” and there is no way we can take our loaded term “space,” with all that implies, and apply that to older thoughts about the heavens as though the ancients thought of the darkness beyond the sky as we do.
EVD is equally amazed that one would associated the sun with “light” and a “disk” since that is how we describe a UFO! Could it be that the sun actually appears (from earth) as a bright disk in the sky? Perish the thought.
Then we get the Djed pillars again, just as EVD has been harping on for almost half a century simply because they look vaguely like electrical transformers. This he relates to the electrical wonders of the Ark of the Covenant, well explored in his earlier work (as well as Graham Hancock's The Sign and the Seal) and based entirely on his imagination working hard to make Biblical claims about God’s magic box literal.
Somehow this is all meant to “complement” the Popol Vuh, and EVD laments that one needs to have spent time with the Maya in order to understand the “mush” produced by a literal translation of the book; that’s why he prefers a more readable but incorrect translation from decades ago. No thinking or knowledge needed.
This lets him interpret all these texts as talking about spaceships, which then allows him to discuss the Babylonian myth of Etana and the eagle (in which Etana is carried high into the sky and sees the earth very small below him—though, crucially, not as a sphere). EVD repeats a passage from an old book, but this time not his. He is here cribbing from Zecharia Sitchin’s Twelfth Planet. EVD is on the left and Sitchin on the right.
EVD reminds us YET AGAIN that he’s “written” 25 nonfiction book (easy to do when you get to just keep copying) as he then presents (by his own admission) a copied catalog of his greatest hits, the art that supposedly depicts the “alien” gods. He offers a quote from a philosopher to the tune that EVD’s theories don’t contradict the laws of science. (Yes, but they just don’t have any evidence proving they're true.) He then ominously tells us that “Judgment Day” is coming when the aliens will come to punish us for not believing EVD.
Bring it on.
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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