If you’re like many who read these pages, you might be skeptical about religion and its claims. You’re put off by apparently childish beliefs in a God who according to the teachings of Jesus is a loving parent, but who also ends up committing and ordering acts (like Noah’s flood and military slaughters) that can only be described as immoral and even genocidal.
Yet, if you’re like me, you also recognize in ancient biblical traditions powerful sources of wisdom and inspiration for transforming the world. I’m talking about biblical interpretations by Jesus himself, by the prophets, and their more recent embodiments such as Martin Luther King, Dorothy Day, William Barber II and Liz Theoharis. You’re probably loathe to throw out the baby represented by the heroes just mentioned with the bathwater of demeaning beliefs unworthy of adults concerned with peace, justice and saving our planet from the ravages of climate change and nuclear war.
If you fall into either category, I recommend that you read Escaping from Eden: does Genesis teach that the human race was created by God or engineered by ETs? It is authored by Anglican priest and scholar Paul Anthony Wallis. The book vividly describes the religious dynamic we’re all used to with its tendencies to enslave and stunt human growth on the one hand and to liberate and call us to our higher selves on the other.
It also offers cogent exegeses of familiar Genesis stories that centralize an unfamiliar theogony that involves us all.
Let me explain.
Perhaps shockingly to most, Wallis’ basic thesis is that the Eden and subsequent stories in the first eleven chapters of Genesis are not about God at all. Instead as the book’s full title suggests, many of the tales describe extraterrestrial aliens (ETs) and their interactions with early humans. For Wallis, recognizing the aliens hidden in plain sight within the Genesis myths and legends can help liberate us from powerful contemporary actors who use religion to infantilize and enslave the rest of us.
Does all that sound too far out? Wallis insists that it shouldn’t. In fact, he argues, his observations are grounded in sound, long-standing biblical scholarship that has puzzled over and/or ignored references to plural gods in a text ostensibly promoting monotheism.
On top of this, Wallis emphasizes the fact that we humans live (and always have) in a universe populated by many human-like species. This is attested to by worldwide myths and stories found among humans everywhere – e.g., in Sumerian cuneiform tablets, in Greek and Roman mythology, in the Popol Vuh, and in the Judeo-Christian Bible. It is also verified by innumerable “close encounters” throughout history, by science-fiction writers like Erich von Daniken in his Chariots of the Gods, as well as by NASA astronauts, the U.S. government and even by the Vatican itself.
More to Wallis’ point, the Bible is an especially noteworthy source attesting to the existence of extraterrestrial agents who visit the earth and interact with human beings. Some of the ETs help humans; others attempt to enslave them.
Though commonly overlooked as such, (and as we’ll see below) interactions with ETs are found in the myths involving the First Man and the First Woman, in the legends of Abraham and Sarah, of Sodom and Gomorrah and elsewhere. They are also found in the prophetic books of Ezekiel and Elijah as well as in Christian Testament conception stories of John the Baptist and Jesus himself. Additionally, they are suggested in “apocalyptic” literature found throughout the Bible.
In all these accounts, one finds tales not only of gods, angels, monsters, and devils, but of giants so large that they make humans feel like grasshoppers, of agents with extraordinarily long lives, of divine beings of immense physical attraction begetting exceptional children with human partners, and of vehicles that we today would call UFOs.
For Wallis, the key to perceiving such overlooked realities is found in accurately translating the plural Hebrew term Elohim which is centralized in the familiar creation myths of Genesis. Normally, this term has been translated simply as “God.”
However, Wallis points out, this fatal mistranslation leads to insoluble problems linked to monotheism (e.g., why is Elohim plural in a monotheistic text?), and to moral quandaries where a biblical God commits and orders genocidal acts of extreme cruelty.
Actually, Wallis explains Elohim’s plural form is correctly translated not as “God” or even “gods,” but as “Sky People,” the “Powerful Ones,” or the “Engineers.” Elohim refers to extraterrestrials who rescue an already created world rather than constitute it from scratch. Among them is that minor entity called “Yahweh.” Eventually, the Mosaic tradition identifies him as the one and only god of the Hebrew people.
In developing these ideas, Wallis shows that a close reading of the first chapter of Genesis reveals that the Hebrew Bible contains no account of the world’s creation at all. Instead, in what is often taken as a creation myth, the earth and seas already exist as does “darkness” which assumes the existence of a contrasting sun and/or moon and stars.
This leads Wallis to conclude that Genesis’ ancient “creation story” is really about a recovery or planetary reset following some sort of extinction level event that geologists tell us occurred following the last ice age, or the collision of earth and a meteor, and/or a planetwide flood. According to this interpretation, the tale in Genesis describes how “Powerful Ones” (Elohim) – extraterrestrials – used their extraordinary powers to restore order to a planet suffering from a post-traumatic stress syndrome.
To show what I mean, here how Wallis retells the Genesis story:
Following a planetary catastrophe, the earth remained shrouded in darkness, empty, barren and covered in water. In response, Spirit-Beings, the Powerful Ones (Elohim) from beyond the earth came to its rescue. They hovered over the planet’s watery surface dissipating its darkness. Soon light manifested itself as the sun, moon, and stars once again became visible.
Next the Powerful Ones separated the earth’s waters to create saltwater seas, freshwater rivers and habitable land. Vegetation, fish, birds, and animals returned to fill the air, land, and seas.
Within a plain called Eden the Sky People created an enclosed safety zone and filled it with animal and botanical life. In the soil of the plain near the Tigris and Euphrates, precious mineral deposits, including high grade gold also came to light.
Using the elements of the earth to make clay, the Engineers next fashioned Earth Creatures (Adam) to look like their makers. Their bodies lay silent and motionless until the Powerful Ones breathed spirit into them.
Once animated the new humans were put to work in the enclosed zone. They ate a vegan diet and lived a subsistence lives in harmony with the animals.
Gradually the Powerful Ones noticed that the humans were depressed. All the other animal species were male and female. The humans needed such companionship too. So, the Powerful Ones generated females of the species from the asexual Earth Creatures’ bodies. As male and female, human society was then poised to begin its journey.
Then one day the humans found themselves in conversation with a Sky Person known as “the Snake.” He walked upright and had arms and legs. The helpful Snake showed the humans how they might achieve a higher level of consciousness. The change would raise their understanding and self-awareness and improve the quality of their lives. Not surprisingly, the humans accepted the Snake’s offer. Here, the female of the species took the lead. The resulting upgrade brought with it moral conscience and sexual awareness. Humans began to wear clothes and gender roles emerged. With the first childbirths, human society began to take form.
All of this incited a long-lasting conflict among the Powerful Ones. Some of them were afraid that the newly empowered humans might become too independent. As punishment for breaking rank by effecting an unauthorized human upgrade, the Snake Sky Person was shorn of its limbs and forced to eat the other Powerful Ones’ dust.
For their parts, the male and the female humans faced parallel repercussions. The Engineers locked them out of the enclosed zone and forced the humans to fend for themselves in the wild, untamed country of Eden. There the humans continued to produce children. However, the land of Eden had not been prepared or cultivated for this eventuality. Consequently, circumstances forced the humans to work hard just to provide for their families.
In addition, exiled from the enclosed area, the humans no longer enjoyed access to the healing plants which before had cured their every injury and ailment. Denied such cures the humans began to die.
As human society grew and became harder to manage, the Council of Powerful Ones decided that the human beings were living too long and took a decision to limit the humans’ lifespans. Additionally, troubling news of abductions of human females and resultant hybridization by some Powerful Ones (bnei Elohim, sons of the Powerful Ones) also reached the ears of the Council. This was not what they had intended. After a period of intense debate, a final solution was reached. Earth was to be wiped clean of the human menace by means of a massive flood.
But not all the Powerful Ones concurred. Along with a warning about the impending flood, the dissenters gave a man called Noah instructions about constructing a rescue vessel, sealing his family inside (together with a stock of plants and animals to eventually reseed flora and fauna) and re-booting the human population with the DNA of Noah’s extended family. Then came the deluge.
In the aftermath of the flood, as human society re-expanded, the people migrated east of Eden. When they reached the Shinar Plain, Mesopotamia – the home of Sumeria and Babylonia – they settled and built a huge tower – as a gateway between the people and the Powerful Ones, a means of reaching the heavens from Earth.
However, when some members of the Council observed the project, they were deeply disturbed. Old fears resurfaced about humans usurping the power of their betters. Another brutal response was called for. Accordingly, the Sky People used their great powers to arrest the development of human civilization. They did this by taking from the humans the language which had united them, confusing their ability to speak so that the humans would no longer be able to communicate with one another and operate as a single society.
Two Types of Biblical Aliens
The tale just reviewed reveals a powerful internecine “Battle of the Elite” hidden in the Genesis accounts and continues to our day. It pits some Powerful Ones (Elohim) who were benevolent towards the emerging race of humans against other Sky People who sought to keep humans subordinate and unconscious.
In the biblical stories benevolent Powerful Ones:
- Reconstitute planet earth after the unprecedented cataclysm referenced above
- Create earth creatures who physically resemble their creators
- Divide the earth creatures into male and female to relieve their creatures’ loneliness
- Provide a safe zone where humans live in the company of their powerful mentors and where food, shelter, and healing plants are provided.
- Instruct the earth creatures (through a Powerful One called “the Snake”) about how to achieve moral consciousness
- Intervene to save at least some humans from an approaching universal deluge
- And eventually in the deified Powerful One, Yahweh, liberate people enslaved by the Pharaohs of Egypt.
Meanwhile, more malevolent Sky People:
- Take measures to keep the earth creatures subservient
- By forbidding humans from attaining moral consciousness
- Punishing them for doing so by inflicting painful childbirth experiences on their women and harsh labor upon men, and by driving both women and men out of their paradisical safe zone, thus depriving them of food and healing plants, while consequently introducing sickness, shortened lives, and death
- Punishing the Snake (the humans’ moral mentor) by amputating its arms and legs
- Sending a universal flood
- Preventing humans from cooperating with one another by eliminating their universally understood common language
- Routinely ordering humans to commit genocide on the Powerful Ones’ enemies
None of this is to say that the stories Wallis examines should be taken literally, though he gives an impression of doing so. My own tendency is to continue treating the stories Wallis examines as myth and legend and as such to mine them for the extremely rich meaning they contain.
However literal or not, the tales in question serve to highlight the facts that:
- We do exist in a populated universe
- Religious traditions across the planet are strangely unanimous in recording close encounters with extraterrestrial entities
- Earthly elites (emperors, kings, popes, and priests) have typically used such records to instill fear within and enslave their subjects
- Those same powerful agents have ignored and obscured accounts with ETs that empower non-elites by inspiring them to rebel against their enslaving masters
In any case, Paul Anthony Wallis’ book calls us to re-examine our prejudices about the biblical tradition, whatever they might be. He suggests that it is more powerful and relevant to our postmodern world than we’ve been led to believe.