By J. Douglas Kenyon
From a Human Potentials conference in Washington, D.C. to a Whole Life Exposition in Seattle, from campus bull sessions in Berkeley to cocktail party discussions in Boston, no talk of the hot alternative explorations into the mysterious wellsprings of civilization gets very far these days without at least a passing reference to the work of Zecharia Sitchin. And there are no signs that interest in the author of the five volumes of The Earth Chronicles, and the forthcoming Divine Encounters from Avon Books, is cooling.
In fact, Sitchinites, as his true-believers unabashedly call themselves, have managed to proclaim in nearly every available forum, from talk shows to the internet, their gospel according to Sitchin, namely that mankind owes most of its ancient legacy to visiting extraterrestrials. Moreover, Sitchinist evangelism has, with some help from the movie Stargate, achieved a not insignificant foothold in the public imagination. And while many may quarrel with his conclusions, very few will dispute that the Russian-born Israeli resident and ancient language expert has indeed come up with some very intriguing, if not compelling, data.
Indeed, few can match Sitchin’s scholarly credentials. One of a handful of linguists who can read Sumerian cuneiform text, he is also a recognized authority in ancient Hebrew as well as Egyptian hieroglyphics. Not a little controversy, though, surrounds his unusual method of interpreting the ancient texts. Whether Biblical, Sumerian, Egyptian or otherwise, Sitchin insists they should be read, not as myths, but quite literally, essentially as journalism. Forget about Jungian archetypes and metaphysical/spiritual analysis. If somebody says a group of 50 splashed down in the Persian Gulf, he argues, under the leadership of Enki and waded ashore and established a settlement, why should I say that this never happened, and this is a metaphor, and this is a myth, and this is imagination, and somebody just made it all up, and not say (instead) this tells us what happened.
Beginning with The 12th Planet in 1976, Sitchin has expanded his unique explanation of the ancient texts into a vast and detailed history of what he believes were the actual events surrounding mankind’s origins. Presented is extensive 6,000-year-old evidence that there is one more planet in the solar system, from which astronauts, the biblical giants (Nephilim), came to Earth in antiquity. Subsequent titles in The Earth Chronicles series were The Stairway to Heaven (1980), The Wars of Gods and Men (1985), The Lost Realms (1990) and When Time Began (1993). A companion book to the series Genesis Revisited was published in 1990.
Laid out in the series is an elaborate tale of space travelers from the theoretical 10th planet (12th if the Sun and Moon are included) in the solar system, called Nibiru, or Marduk in Babylonian. This planet, claims Sitchin, has a very eccentric orbit traveling from far beyond Pluto, cutting across the orbits of the rest of the planets, and then half-circling the Sun between Mars and Jupiter, taking 3,600 Earth years in the process. On its closest orbital approach, about 450,000 years ago, a band of Nibiruans known as the Anunnaki, landed on Earth in southern Mesopotamia and proceeded to mine gold, evidently needed for their planet’s survival. Early efforts in the Persian Gulf proved inadequate, so underground mining in South Africa was begun.
Unused to such backbreaking toil, the workers ultimately rebelled, precipitating a visit to Earth by Anu, the Lord of Nibiru. At a meeting convened to resolve the problem, it was decided to genetically engineer a race of slave workers by crossing the ape-like creatures then inhabiting Earth with the Anunnaki. About 300,000 years ago, after a period of trial and error, the perfect model of a primitive worker was achieved by implanting the engineered embryo into the womb of a birth goddess. Mass production quickly followed. The rest, according to Sitchin, is history.
His books go on to describe in detail the evolving love/hate relationship between men and the gods and how that relationship shaped the early days of man on earth.
Whatever the Annunaki may have thought of their new creation, the literary critics have found Sitchin’s work impressive. A dazzling performance raved the Kirkus Reviews. The Library Journal found it Exciting…Credible.
Cornered recently at his New York office, the author took some time to comment for Atlantis Rising on his new book Divine Encounters, expected in stores in November just in time for the Christmas gift-buying season, and other topics of interest both modern and ancient.
Encounters relate to many stories from Biblical, Sumerian and Egyptian sources. From the Garden of Eden to Gilgamesh, Sitchin believes all references to deity, or deities, are actually indicating the Annunaki, but he does distinguish between the current so-called UFO abduction experience as studied by Harvard professor John Mack and the ancient encounters. Stressing that he personally has never been abducted, he points out that whereas the current experience is usually viewed as a negative phenomenon with needles and other forms of unwelcome intrusion, in ancient times, to join the deities was a great and unique privilege. Only a few were entitled to such an encounter.
Many of the encounters were sexual. The Bible clearly states, he points out, that they (the Anunnaki) chose as wives the daughters of men and had children by them, men of renown, etc., the so-called demi-gods regarding which there are more explicit tales both in Mesopotamian literature and Egyptian so-called mythology, and Greek to some extent, Alexander the Great believed that these sons of the gods were mated with his mother. The Epic of Gilgamesh tells how one goddess tried to entice the hero into her bed and how that he suspected that if she succeeded he would end up dead. Other encounters involved virtual reality, and experiences akin to the Twilight Zone. Also up for analysis are the experiences of the prophets Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Isaiah. Finally, Sitchin claims to have unraveled the secret identity of the being named YHWH and to have come to a conclusion that is mind-boggling even for me. Nothing further could be elicited on the subject. Buy the book, he suggests.
In the nearly 20 years since The 12th Planet first appeared, Sitchin has seen a considerable change in attitudes toward his work. Still, unlike von Dannikin and others, Sitchin’s study has not been lambasted by other scientists, a fact which he attributes to the soundness of his research. The only difference between me and the scientific community, I’m talking about Assyriologists, Sumeriaologists, etc., is that they refer to all these texts which I read (literally) as mythology. Today, he says many researchers have come to follow his line of reasoning. By his latest reckoning, there are nearly thirty books by other writers who have been spawned by his writings.
While Sitchin’s facts may be beyond challenge, many of his conclusions are another matter, even among today’s most avant-garde thinkers. Mars researcher Richard Hoagland complains that Sitchin is trying to treat the Sumerian cuneiform text like some kind of ancient New York Times, while others, like symbolist scholar John Anthony West, believe subtleties in the high wisdom of the ancients have completely eluded Sitchin. For those, his views are essentially simplistic and materialistic. He is a mechanistic reductionist and a throwback to 19th-century positivism. Still, others are reminded of the efforts of fundamentalist preachers to pin the mystical visions of Saint John the Revelator on specific historical personages (i.e., Napoleon or Hitler or Saddam Hussein as the anti-Christ, etc.).
Sitchin though remains unrepentant, with little use for what he calls the established view, which he says is that the texts deal with mythology and that it all is imagination, and, whether metaphor or not, that these things never happened. Someone just imagined them. In contrast, he has no doubt that these things really happened.
The argument that the Sumerian and Egyptian civilizations got their impetus from extraterrestrials, however, does not rule out the notion that there could have been earlier and perhaps even more advanced civilizations on Earth. There’s no denial of that, he says, citing Sumerian and Assyrian writings. Ashurbanipal, for instance, said he could read writing from before the flood, and describes cities and civilizations that existed before the deluge, but which were wiped out by it. So on any question of whether there could have been an earlier civilization before the Sumerians or even before the flood, which Sitchin places at seven- to eight-thousand years prior, the answer is absolutely yes. No matter how far back he goes, though, Sitchin sees only the hand of Annunaki behind human achievement.
Plato should be taken literally too, though Sitchin says he has some difficulty placing the location of Atlantis, whether it was in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, whether it was in the Pacific in what was known later as Mu or whether it was in Antarctica, I don’t know what actually (Plato) was talking about, but the notion that once upon a time there was a civilization that was destroyed or came to an end through a major catastrophe, a great flood or something similar, I have absolutely no problem with that.
Sitchin is among those who believe the Great pyramid is much older than is maintained by orthodox Egyptology. In his second book The Stairway to Heaven he was at considerable pains to establish that the famous cartouche cited as evidence that the structure was built by Khufu, was, in fact, a forgery. Sitchin meticulously makes the case that Colonel Howard Vyse actually faked the marks in the spaces above the King’s Chamber where he claimed to have discovered them. Since publication, additional corroboration has come from the great-grandson of the master mason who assisted Vyse. It seems that Colonel Vyse was seen entering the pyramid on the night in question with brush and paint pot in hand and was heard to state that he intended to reinforce some of the marks he had found, ostensibly to render them more legible. Upon failing to dissuade Vyse from his plan, the mason quit. The story, however, was kept alive and handed down through the family till it eventually came to Sitchin, further reinforcing his unshakable conviction of the true antiquity of the Great Pyramid.
Regarding the face on Mars, Sitchin is more ambivalent. Whether or not the face is real or a product of light and sand, he is more impressed by other photographed structures. Citing his own training at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University in the 1940s, he argues, One of the rules you learn (in archeology) is, if you see a straight line, it means an artificial structure because there are no straight lines in nature. Yet there are quite a number of such structures recorded by the cameras.
According to Sitchin, it all corroborates the Sumerian statement, to be found in his first book. Mars served as a way station, he says, citing a 5,000-year-old Sumerian depiction and other texts (see illustration): They say that the turn was made at Mars. He believes an ancient Mars base may have been recently reactivated which could account for the disappearance of the Russian Phobos Mars Mission as well as the U.S. Mars Observer two years ago. He also speculates that such a site may prove to be where many UFOs are now originating.
When the reporter inquired as to just what he might think of the work of de Santillana and von Dechend in Hamlet’s Mill (1969), Sitchin offered to kiss him on both cheeks. It seems that the two MIT professors in their great investigation of the origins of human knowledge and its transmission through myth, had raised the question: But now, is Nibiru as important as all that? and had gone on to answer it, We think so. Or, to say it the other way around: once this astronomical term and two or three more are reliably settled, one can begin in earnest to get wise to and to translate the Mesopotamian code.
Sitchin does not hesitate to stake his claim, I think that I achieved it. For him it is clear, Nibiru is and remains the 12th planet.
As to when it will return to Earth’s vicinity, Sitchin isn’t talking. Not yet anyway.
Perhaps in a future book…
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