In which the author prays for “memes” from the Great Vibrator in the sky…
Finally, I’ve reached the end!
Erich von Däniken (EVD) begins the final chapter of Twilight of the Gods by rehashing the mathematical odds of extraterrestrial life on other planets, discussing the Fermi Paradox (if a large amount of alien life exists, we should have evidence of it by now), SETI, panspermia and other random claims about the potential existence of life on other planets that have very little to do with the specific claim that aliens sexed up earth women and taught them how to build pyramids.
He tells us that we may be only years away from building a warp drive because, he says, Genesis 11:6 tells us that “nothing they (humans) plan to do will be impossible.” This isn’t a scholar talking, or even an honest investigator; this is a polemicist with a religious agenda. But, he says, this doesn’t matter because the aliens could have used other technologies to reach earth, where they induced an “artificial mutation” to (a) create human beings and (b) tick off “evolutionists” and their liberal agenda, even though EVD understands the scientific evidence for evolution is strong. (It is, after all, the justification for his belief in aliens.) Fortunately, he says, the ancient astronaut theory helps us to reconcile nasty old evolution with the more palatable creationism of religion: “This doesn’t contradict evolution—rather it complements it with the creation of a (symbolic) Adam and Eve.” In other words, evolution happened, just not to us. EVD can rescue religion from science!
EVD tries his hand at some ill-informed philosophizing about what happened before the Big Bang, and, unable to wrap his head around complex physics, humbly puts forth that the mysteries of physics are due to “vibrations” of the “Great Cosmic Intelligence,” which he says others (but not him) might choose to call “God.” I think the “Great Vibrator” might be more appropriate since EVD’s ideas are mere intellectual onanism. Another manifestation of the Great Vibrator, he says, are “memes” which “infect” the universe with intelligence and force all intelligent species to want to travel to the stars. This happens, he argues with ignorant ridiculousness, because electrons carry the information across the stars since they are “immortal” and “run backward in time,” carrying information about space travel from the future to the past. He uses evidence from supposed psychic mediums to support these claims.
This might be an interesting line of speculation had it not been cribbed wholesale from two previous writers’ work. (And I can say that because EVD argues that there are no coincidences: if two things look alike there must be a connection!) EVD is paraphrasing without credit Jacques Bergier’s assertion in Extraterrestrial Visitations from Prehistoric Times to the Present that ancient stones like Gurlt’s Cube are extraterrestrial spy devices meant to monitor human activity (which I discussed here), a “meme” derived from Lovecraft’s Shining Trapezohedron. The alien spies themselves are from Charles Fort’s Book of the Damned, which speculated on humans being under the observation of extraterrestrial beings without their knowledge.
EVD finishes this incoherent mess of a book with a critique of organized religion, intolerant of other faiths and about to face a crisis point when the arrival of aliens renders their truth claims void. But he equally hates science because it fails to account for the “facts” about aliens preserved in the religions he also hates! Instead, he proposes a third way, made up of his own muddled mixture of religious claims about “vibrations” and an intelligent designer, combined with a limited scientific understanding of how the Great Vibrator works through the laws of physics. The aliens are, in EVD’s view, the Great Vibrator’s emissaries, angels sent forth from the heavens under the spell of the Great Vibrator’s Holy Memes, something like the way the Holy Spirit visits the faithful in Christian lore.
Mercifully, Twilight of the Gods wheezes to its close with EVD’s lament that if only mainstream archaeologists would accept his theories we’d be “prepared” for the “return of the gods.”
As a book, Twilight of the Gods is a mess. Its chapters are disorganized, wildly discursive, largely unrelated to what came before or what follows, and studded with self-plagiarism, self-summary, and self-congratulatory asides. The translation is, in places, muddled, and EVD played fast and loose with both facts and quotations from his sources. So sloppy is this book that it makes Chariots of the Gods (which was heavily edited by a professional writer back in the day) look like a masterpiece of logic and reasoning. Twilight of the Gods fails by every standard of what makes a book worth reading.
As a historical document, however, Twilight of the Gods is incredibly important for the argument EVD didn’t really know he was making. He failed in his argument about aliens, but he inadvertently laid bare the conservative panic at the heart of the ancient astronaut theory. He showed in great detail exactly how a certain type of conservative mind tries to salvage the comforts of religion and mythology from the overwhelming evidence in favor of science. EVD’s Great Vibrator and his alien emissaries are merely God and the angels with a slightly scientific gloss. The aliens’ engineering of humans according to the Great Vibrator’s Holy Meme is simply the Genesis creation story told in the idiom of genetics. The aliens of Chariots of the Gods (which, in its unexpurgated manuscript form, initially included Jesus) have ceased for EVD to be creatures from another world but instead have become fleshy embodiments of the religious spirit.
If Chariots of the Gods was meant to replace Genesis as a new account of the creation and early history of mankind, Twilight of the Gods has become the ancient astronaut theory’s Revelation, prophesying wildly into the inky blackness of space, a shrill, desperate voice calling out for God to come back and smite the unbelievers and reward the good with a Millennium of peace and paradise, presided over by the Prophet Who Believed, now vindicated by the supernatural with the respect denied him by the unbelieving heathen. In another life, EVD might have become an L. Ron Hubbard, Raël, or Marshall Herff Applewhite.
It is as I have always said: The ancient astronaut theory was never really about aliens.
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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