In his interview with Skeptiko host Alex Tsakris last week, Ancient Aliens Debunked filmmaker Chris White discussed his beliefs about Noah’s ark, the Great Flood, and the beings that lived before the Flood, whom he considers to be supernatural beings from another dimension that interbred with humans and gave rise to a hybrid race, which the Flood destroyed. These are the Nephilim of Genesis 6, the “sons of God” (literally: sons of the gods) and their children, the “mighty me of old, the men of renown.” Here’s part of what he told Tsakris:
…I think when you go back into anthropology you see a consistent profile of these beings. They’re summoned the same way; they’re consistently referred to as evil, deceptive, very, very intelligent, have an agenda of sorts, seek and accept worship. But I think the deceptive thing is really what comes so clear from Sumerians forward. These things will tell you what you want to hear.
White also explained that myths and legends support his views about the universal nature of these beings since their description does not vary across time or cultures, though only Christian myth preserves the complete story. He explained that skeptics have failed to challenge the existence of such myths:
Now, that’s the philosophical situation that we’re in and until somebody starts to stop saying that they don’t exist and admit that they do, then we can start having a rational discussion with skeptics and everybody else. But at this point we’re at really the Dark Ages of people owning up to it. Nobody’s challenged me on this. They’ve only said, “All you’ve cited on this were Christian Apologist sites and I can’t look into that because it’s a Christian Apologist site.”
All right, I’ll take the bait. I will say that there is no consistent myth of super-intelligent evil beings who lie and deceive for personal gain. Nor is possession “always negative.” T. K. Oesterreich—a German philosophy professor and believer in the reality of possession and psychic powers—compiled a massive study of possession in 1921, Possession: Demoniacal and Other (English trans. 1930), which details in excruciating detail the many and varied forms of possession experienced by peoples across time and space, which differ greatly in their details. Oesterreich, however, saw possession as being remarkably consistent across time and space, agreeing fundamentally with the account given in Mark 5:2-10 (parallel to Matthew 8:28-34 and Luke 8:26-39). The evidence he marshaled, though, belies the fact that possession is not typically the thrashing, violent usurpation of the soul typified by The Exorcist. (Exorcist author William Peter Blatty used Oesterreich’s book in writing his novel.)
In truth, leaving aside whether such possessions have objective reality outside the mind, these possessions are rarely “negative” but are frequently welcomed by the possessed and play an important social role in the cultures that experience them. To take but the most famous example: The Greek Oracle of Delphi experienced possession by the god Apollo, and this was considered a very good thing. It is primarily in the Christian tradition that possession is considered negative, because monotheistic faiths by definition view interactions with beings other than the singular god as threatening to that deity’s supremacy. In traditional cultures, possessions can be positive, negative, or neutral. Christians are welcome to view the oracles as negative and manipulative, but those who created, employed, and experienced them did not.
But this isn’t really getting at the heart of the matter, is it? White’s primary claim is that the beings described in Genesis 6, the “sons of God” and their children, the “men of renown,” were real trans-dimensional beings and their hybrid children. Here is the relevant passage from Genesis (6:1-4), the entire of the Biblical narrative of them:
And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose. And the Lord said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years. There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.
Non-literalist scholars read this as the Biblical authors’ acknowledgement of a hero mythos among the Jews parallel to that of the Babylonians and other Near Eastern peoples, including the Greeks. I’ve written about these before. The typical story is that the gods bore children to humans, who became semi-divine supermen. Obvious examples include Gilgamesh, Perseus, and Heracles. As I noted before, explications of this biblical passage by later Jewish authors, as in the Book of Giants, make explicit the parallel, counting Gilgamesh among the “hybrid” giants
Insofar as hybridization goes, there is again no consistency across cultures. Julius Caesar claimed Venus as his divine ancestor, while Native groups across the Americas speak of talking animals as their ancestors. Where gods are invoked as ancestral beings, they are the ancestors of still living groups and therefore the “hybrids” are what we would call “humans.” Among the Greeks, the Great Flood killed off people who were the offspring of the men Prometheus made from clay and the woman Hephaestus fashioned, Pandora. The age of the “hybrid” heroes was much later, and the ancient Greeks counted those “hybrids” among their direct ancestors. Sure, you could argue they got things in the wrong order, but then you’re rewriting myths to conform to a preconceived narrative. You might also try to squeeze the first man and Pandora into the “hybrid” mold, but to do so would condemn Adam and Eve to the same fate, since Adam was also made from clay and Eve fashioned later by (a) God/god(s).
Among the Maya, the Flood killed off most of the men of wood—not hybrid god-creatures—and modern humans arose later. But even these wooden men still exist, as New World monkeys, and I doubt anyone would try to explain that monkeys are hybrids from another dimension.
As for the claim that traces of the “Watchers” from the Book of Enoch can be found in world myths, I confess that I am at a loss. The Greeks had no evil “Watchers” on the order of those of the Book of Enoch, unless you count the Fates, who “watch” what people are doing but are not evil. The closest I can come are the Titans, the former race of gods who were condemned to Tartarus; their leader, Kronos, served as an oracle of the dead. (This was the view of occultist Richard Cavendish.) But this hardly seems the same, and at any rate the story is derived from Near Eastern models which also influenced the Enochian account, so they are not completely independent.
Nor do the Norse have Watchers, though Odin had two ravens who told him everything that occurred on earth each day. I don’t think that the ravens were quite what White had in mind.
Really, the only way to stretch the concept of Watchers to cover most mythologies is to adopt the idea of the early Church Fathers that pagan gods are themselves demons, so therefore all pagan mythologies are really demonologies of various Watchers and other infernal cliques. On the authority of St. Peter (Ephesians 2:2 with 6:12), Christians identify Satan with “the air” (in the KJV; “the unseen world” in other translations) and therefore demons with the air and other natural elements; from this, they see Watchers in pagan nature spirits, but I am at a loss to find any who answer to the Watchers of Enoch. The best I can do is suggest that White is referring to the widespread Near Eastern myth of the succession of the gods, in which an older race of gods is dispossessed by the younger and banished; but this is no means universal outside the Near East.
Where there are similarities in otherwise unrelated myths, it is on the structural level, and these similarities need no demons or Watchers to explain them. White mentions ayahuasca, the hallucinogen that South Americans use to access the spirit world. As I have repeatedly discussed, David Lewis-Williams (in The Mind in the Cave and Inside the Neolithic Mind) has carefully examined how altered states of consciousness, acting on specific neurological pathways in the brain, produce identical “visions” across time and space, which are then filtered through the cultural expectations of the people seeing them. If you wish, like Graham Hancock (see his Supernatural), to believe that the brain is channeling another dimension, that is your business, but it doesn’t imply the flesh-and-blood existence of beings capable of hybridizing with human females.
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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