In which the author becomes that crazy old man ranting in the street…
Erich von Däniken (EVD) begins this chapter with a claim that, in fairness, he could not have entirely known was an utter lie. Archaeologists have recently discovered inscriptions that prove that the supposed end date of the Mayan calendar on December 23, 2012 is no such thing. In 2009, EVD wouldn’t have known this, though he should have been aware that no one outside the alternative and New Age communities ascribed any apocalyptic import to that date. Since this claim is so thoroughly false, I won’t bother to go into the details of EVD’s mistaken notions about that date.
EVD tries to say something about Bolon Yokte K’uh, the Mayan god, but simply grasps at straws since nothing in the surviving texts (such as the books of Chilam Balaam) has him having anything to do with an apocalyptic reordering of the earth. As I noted in discussing the god in conjunction with his mention on Ancient Aliens, the longest reference to him in Maya literature says that he is associated with fresh turkey, not the apocalypse.
After this EVD proceeds to discuss the “extensive research” he conducted into the Maya and the 2012 prophecies for an earlier (and un-translated) book, which he then summarizes it in what I can only presume is a close paraphrase since this time he admitted copying it. Of course he immediately begins talking about the Aztec who, as best I can remember, are not Maya, but he claims (without proof) that the Aztec religion was identical with the Maya. They are related, derived from earlier Mexican faiths, but they are not identical. The remainder of this section discusses the Spanish Conquest, the Christianization of Mexico, and the gradual process of deciphering the Maya codices. Nothing here is anything but standard issue, identical in content to any number of standard texts. He does, however, appear in places to mistakenly assume that the Maya understood the orbit of the visible planets around the sun rather than their apparent motion around a geocentric earth, though I think this is a translation problem from German to English.
I don’t really understand the reason why EVD thinks “Maya specialists” are disturbed by the juxtaposition of their advanced astronomy with human sacrifice. The Nazis had rockets and death camps and no one (well, almost no one--pace, Michael Bara) thinks aliens gave Hitler rocket plans. Similarly, he takes widespread Native American myths of sky beings as proof of alien contact despite the widely understood fact that the human brain is hardwired to imagine planes above and below the earth (see David Lewis-Williams' The Mind in the Cave). EVD leaves out all the Native myths about the subterranean beings since these don’t back up his alien thesis. The Zuni, for example, said their people emerged from lizard-creatures below ground.
After this we again have more fake quotes being used to support alien intervention, though this time EVD didn’t fake them. He relies on the problematic and often incorrect translation of the Chilam Balam of Tizmin in Maud Makemson’s Book of the Jaguar Priest, but even here he has sliced and diced it to make it fit his thesis, leaving out parts about being underwater and so on. I wrote about this problem here. I also noted there that that EVD had had used Makemson’s text (and mucked it up) in the updated Odyssey of the Gods e-book, where, in a first, he appears to have copied material from Twilight and inserted it into Odyssey. The man is a great environmentalist. No text goes un-recycled.
But EVD leaves himself an out, suggesting that the Maya calendar may have “miscalculated” the date of the gods’ return. This way he’ll be safe when next year dawns with no aliens. But math isn’t EVD’s strong suit, so he doesn’t understand how calendars are correlated. He seems to think that the early Church misjudged Jesus’ birth year so that it’s “really” 2029 and therefore the Maya calendar correlations are wrong. But scholars didn’t correlate the Maya calendar to the life of Christ but the conventional year numbers used by Western society. The correlation would hold true no matter whether we choose to call a given year 2012, 2029, or Lime Sherbet. Nevertheless, he later says we can “pretty much rely on” 2012 being the aliens’ return date.
In the ongoing promulgation of EVD’s conservative politics, he slips in a barbed aside about the way the world should have ended long ago if we believed the Islamic prophecy that the Sixth Imam would arrive when “women act like men and the men act like women.”
Then we get more of the tired old bit about the “intergalactic mother ship” in the Mahabharata and it supposed amazing weapons. As I have shown, this is a false quote manufactured by Pauwels and Bergier in Morning of the Magicians and David Childress. Despite EVD using the English version of the Sanskrit epic for his book, the English edition of Twilight presents a mangled English re-translation of EVD’s German translation of the English translation of Sanskrit original. It’s a mess, and the mess is compounded by EVD incorrectly stating that “Civa” flies into the sky to destroy the Triple City, which he reads as a mother ship. In the original, Siva descends from the sky to destroy the Triple City (on the ground—it is said to “stand,” not “float” or “fly”) with what is very clearly meant to be lightning, sending its buildings tumbling into the ocean.
His discussion of “vimanas” as flying space ships / space stations is just all out misrepresentation. I wrote about this fake myth here.
EVD starts to move toward the chapter's conclusion by speculating why certain numbers, like 72, 108, 216, 432, etc. appear so often in myth.
Graham Hancock tried to explain it as the precession of the equinoxes, with its slow rotation of the stars by one degree of arc every 71.6 years, which almost (but not quite) 72. EVD just thinks it’s aliens. How about the obvious? These are all multiples made by cumulative multiplications of 2 and 3, the easiest numbers with which to generate a wide range of figures that have the largest number of ways of dividing and apportioning them. For example, 72 has many more factors (1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 9, 12, 18, 24, 72) than 70 (1, 2, 5, 14, 35, 70) and therefore would be more useful in an age before decimalization. Why do you think old coins were divided into "pieces of 8" rather than 10, or that stocks were traded in fractions of 64 rather than decimals before computerization?
Bonus stupid: EVD also confuses “immaculate conception” (Mary’s birth free from original sin) with the “virgin birth” (Mary’s pregnancy)—and he went to Catholic school! Worse, he consistently misuses “immaculate” (clean) to mean “virgin” throughout his discussion of gods born of virgins. This was, of course, the result of aliens using artificial insemination to create a race of “chosen” people.
Want to guess again? Honestly, I don’t see how this is racist. The racist part is when EVD says that brown skinned people are too stupid to have achieved even the minimal level of culture he allows for the prehistoric peoples of Europe (whom he also sees as dimwits in need of alien lessons), right down to spoken language itself.
Oh, well. EVD at least almost reports the contents of the Genesis Apocryphon (one of the Dead Sea Scrolls) correctly, though under the long-obsolete name of the “Lamech Scroll.” In it, Lamech wonders if his wife committed adultery, so he asks his father Methuselah who asks his father Enoch. EVD says Enoch reported that heavenly beings placed their seed in her lap, but I can’t find that in any scholarly translation of the highly fragmentary scroll. In fact, the very section that would contain that information is precisely the point where the text has fallen into unreadable fragments. Here are the fragments EVD won't show you, as translated at UNCC's religious studies page:
Are you willing to bet on the strength of these lines that Noah (Lamech’s son) was a space alien?
“You can be absolutely certain that those ETs—or their descendants—will be making another visit to our planet. It can be proved.” And when they do, they’ll “reactivate” the alleged chamber under the Sphinx, the Osirion at Abydos (the description of which he borrows from Graham Hancock’s Fingerprints of the Gods where Hancock pretended the temple built by Seti I c. 1280 BCE was a 10,000-year-old temple of the Lost Civilization), and the cave in Ecuador with the fake metal library to support their space colony! How does he know this? Because, he says, the aliens “made it into the Book of Mormon”! Sigh. EVD uses Mormon 8:25-30 as his proof, a prophecy of the time of tribulation, failing to note that the miracles supposedly set to happen come not from the sky but “out of the earth”—and that it is earthquakes and volcanoes being prophesied, not the return of aliens.
He then finishes up with the plateau of El Enladrillado in Chile, which is apparently a large, natural bed of rock that has cracked in roughly rectangular segments but which EVD insists is an artificial platform of gigantic stone slabs. (Others think UFOs landed there, cracking the rocks.)
I think it’s important to quote at length the finale to this chapter because it demonstrates EVD’s deep-seated conservatism, his disgust with modern society, and the way these two forces combine to shape his version of the ancient astronaut theory.
This isn’t a dispassionate theorist promoting a scientific vision. This is a self-appointed religious prophet desperately seeking converts in a world of sinners and blasphemers.
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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