Saturday, February 22, 2014

From my new book: The Visionaries...

How did a trained scholar of ancient Hebrew literature and a Dead Sea Scrolls specialist get involved with research on ancient aliens? Answer: I found myself dragged into it, kicking and screaming. Some time ago, I was being interviewed on a nationally syndicated radio show, “Coast-to-Coast A.M.,” when host George Noory asked me whether I thought some of the ancient texts I deal with have anything to do with alien visitation. Inexplicably, I found myself answering that from a Jewish perspective, it's actually easier to talk about to talk about “space aliens” than it is to believe in various and sundry supernatural entities, including Satan and an assorted host of angels and demons. This is because Judaism as a faith is strictly monotheistic, and from time immemorial has been wary of focusing on intermediary beings between God and humankind. If we start paying too much attention to angels and demons, God forbid, people might start worshiping them instead of the Almighty.
My conclusion: ancient aliens, whether they ever visited us in antiquity, are by no means un-kosher! After my interview that night, I got to thinking about what I had said. There is in fact a veritable library of ancient Jewish literature – books systematically “banned” from the biblical canon – whose main focus involves supernatural entities, angels, demons, and yes, Satan. The fact that Judaism has historically been so wary of such entities is probably the main reason these books were excluded in the first place. But the accounts are there, nonetheless, and this reality, over time, forced me to go “where no scholar has gone before” – doing serious research on what these ancient Israelites may or may not have seen. Were they just fabricating the stories they told about these entities – a polite way of calling them liars? Or did they really experience something? Did they really have contact, “close encounters,” with what we can categorize, if not “extraterrestrials,” then at least “non-terrestrial” beings? Perhaps what they saw were “inter-dimensional” beings, who have been with us almost from the beginning of time and manifested themselves in various ways to people of disparate cultures, from the pagan gods and goddesses of antiquity to the entities reported by modern UFO contactees.
Just as I began to look into all of this, I was approached by the History Channel, which contacted me independently and asked if I’d be interested in doing an interview for their series “Ancient Aliens.” If any more impetus were needed for me to continue this line of research, this was it. I happily said yes and charged into the realm of “close encounters.” My immediate fear was obvious: I might never again be able to show my face in the halls of academia. But if this is where the research was leading, how could I not be honest with myself? My work would subsequently lead me into distinct directions.
First, I discovered the research of Jacques Vallée, the French computer scientist, venture capitalist and seminal ufologist after whom the character “Lacombe” in the film Close Encounters of the Third Kind was loosely based. Vallée had started by investigating the appearance of strange lights in the sky, looking into the possibility that we may have been visited by some kind of extraterrestrial spacecraft. His focus shifted however, to considering the possibility that we are dealing with beings who are truly “inter-dimensional,” who appear across space and time in apparent defiance of physical laws.
Then, I began to examine the research of certain scholars of ancient literature, who have identified a group they refer to as the Visionaries. These were an assortment of ancient Israelite priests, returning from exile in faraway Persia, as early as the sixth century B.C. A new temple was built in those days, replacing Solomon's great structure, destroyed by the Babylonians nearly a century before. But the new temple was ruled by a corrupt and power-hungry lot, as far as the Visionaries were concerned. Being shoved aside and marginalized by the “powers that be,” the Visionaries instead cultivated spirituality. They began to have dreams, visions and revelations, in which the heavens were opened, and a host of spiritual beings were presented to them.
Suddenly, the writings of Jewish antiquity began to dovetail with Jacques Vallée’s “inter-dimensional hypothesis.” I began to realize, at the risk of being shunned and marginalized myself, by my fellow academicians, that I might really be onto something here. Are today's close encounters and alien visitations basically the same experience that the ancient Visionaries had, describing angels and demons, and writing scores of scrolls, parchments, and entire books, that were systematically banned from the Bible? Come what may, I had to find out.