Aliens take the place of God

Big interview - «God is the greatest»: Erich von Däniken comes out as a believer

“God is the greatest”: Erich von Däniken comes out as a believer

Erich von Däniken, 83, is one of the most famous Swiss people in the world. He's sold 75 million books on aliens. In the interview he talks about his career from hotel manager to bestselling author, his faith and death.

The man is 84 and is currently writing his 42nd book. When Erich von Däniken welcomes us for a conversation in his office in Interlaken, he speaks precisely, easily understandable and never opinionated. How different from all the athletes and politicians who are trained and honed by media consultants! A man with charisma sits in front of us. He has also mastered the art of flattery: Sometimes he pauses for a moment and says: "Oh, I see you know your way around!"

Mr. von Däniken, did you celebrate Christmas too?

Erich von Däniken: Yes, very traditionally with my family.

Do you have any idea why we are asking this question?


With your theories - the gods were extraterrestrial visitors, we descend from extraterrestrials - the impression can arise that angels are just astronauts.

It's not like that at all. I was brought up in the Christian tradition and never became a godless person. I am still a member of the Catholic Church and I pray every day.

But do you understand our question?

Yes. My theses are by no means in contradiction to the Christian religion. Let's assume I'm right and we get a visit from the extraterrestrials. Shouldn't we all then have to become very small and say to ourselves: Yes, who are we in this universe? Aren't we all equal and brothers on this tiny earth? Wouldn't this be the moment to finally give up the disputes that are rooted in religious beliefs and racism?

But when we are children of the gods, the extraterrestrials, it becomes difficult to believe in the eternal God.

Not at all. The extraterrestrials come from another planet, maybe they are the offspring of extraterrestrials there too. We can continue this series forever - but at some point the beginning of everything will come. And there is divine creation.

But your theories contradict evolutionary theory. So to the origin of the species over millions of years at the provisional end of which today's man stands.

No, not that either. I have never questioned the theory of evolution. Man is the product of evolution. But at a certain point the extraterrestrial influence has come. We can think of it like an apple tree that has been grafted on. To this day, science has been searching in vain for the "missing link", that is, the being that stands between primates and modern humans. Obviously this being does not exist. Because the leap in development from primate to human can be explained by the influence of extraterrestrials.

Revered and ridiculed

Erich von Däniken was born in Zofingen AG in 1935. He spent his school days in Schaffhausen and Freiburg in Üechtland, where he attended a boarding school of the Jesuit order. As a teenager he was interested in books on philosophy, theology and archeology. But before he became an “extraterrestrial researcher”, he made a career in gastronomy: he learned to cook and eventually became a hotel manager in Davos. At the age of 33 he published his first book: "Memories of the Future". It became a best seller, as did that
40 other books from his pen. Von Däniken has sold a total of 75 million copies. Of course, he was also much criticized or ridiculed for his "hocus-pocus" books. In 2012 he was awarded the “Golden Board in front of the head” for the “most amazing pseudo-scientific nonsense of the year”.

How did a hotel manager become Erich von Däniken as we know him today?

I was a restless boy and so my parents decided to send me to the Jesuit boarding school St-Michel in Friborg, where I was taken care of by excellent teachers. Among other things, I also dealt with Bible translations from Latin and Greek into German. And then doubts crept into me.

What doubts?

God is the greatest. He is omnipotent and omnipresent. And then I read in the book of Ezekiel that God came down from the clouds in a vehicle. Ezekiel sees wings, wheels, metals and he describes the noise of these machines as the roar of an army camp. This can not be. The real God doesn't need vehicles. That was the beginning of my doubts.

What did your teachers say?

They told me that Ezekiel saw God's chariot. But an omnipresent God doesn't need a car!

After the Jesuit boarding school, you went into gastronomy.

Yes, I come from the catering trade on my mother's side. I was supposed to take over my mother's restaurant in St. Gallen and did a corresponding training, including as a waiter at the Hotel Schweizerhof in Bern. But the topic of extraterrestrials could not let go of me and I started to write newspaper articles. On December 8, 1964, a German-language newspaper in Canada published a double-page spread on this subject.

What brought the breakthrough to become a bestselling author?

I became director of the Hotel Rosenhügel in Davos. I also wrote my first book on the side. The manuscript was over 400 pages. I sent it to Econ-Verlag in Germany. Because space stories were published there. I got a rejection. My writing is polemical and unprofessional. Anger and defiance broke out in me. I copied my manuscript 20 times. Back in the 1960s, this was an arduous task. I sent my manuscripts to 20 different publishers. But I only received rejections.

Then how did you find a publisher?

So I was the director of a four-star hotel. One of our guests was Thomas von Randow, the then science editor of the German "Zeit". In the evening we often talked about God and the world over a whiskey ...

Sorry for interrupting you: you were already drinking whiskey back then and now we are experiencing you in enviable mental and physical freshness at the age of 83 - how does that work?

Well, I have two or three whiskeys every day before bed. Johnny Walker Black Label. You won't get a stomach ache or headache from this. But let's get back to the subject. I told the guest from Germany my thoughts about the extraterrestrials. He was interested and said: You should write a book! I replied that I had written a book but unfortunately couldn't find a publisher. The next day he was in my office, telephoning the publisher of the Econ publishing house.

The publisher who rejected your manuscript?

Yes exactly. He said on the phone that he had someone there who had written a crazy book but was by no means crazy himself. I got an appointment with Econ-Verlag.

The book became a bestseller.

Yes. I owe a lot to Jürg Ramspeck, the former editor-in-chief of “Weltwoche”, who has since passed away. He was also a frequent guest at our hotel and knew about my manuscript. Before the book was published, he did a multi-part series in “Weltwoche”. That was the perfect advertisement. In 1969 I gave up my job as a hotel manager. I've been writing books ever since.

You have now sold 75 million books in over 30 languages. Did you get rich?

No. I was way too inexperienced. It was only after a long time that I had honest advisors by my side. Before that, others did the business. But I don't want to complain. There have been years when I earned more than 500,000 francs. However, I invest the money in my projects on an ongoing basis. I don't need a mansion or a Ferrari. I have my office in Interlaken and have lived with my wife in a chalet in Beatenberg for 18 years. I cannot imagine a more beautiful place on earth.

With your very first book you turned the whole scientific world against you. Have you ever had doubts and thought of giving up?

No never. The arguments made me stronger and stronger. According to the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche: "What doesn't kill me makes me stronger."

Did you find the "missing link", the evidence of the extraterrestrial visit?

No. There is not a single objective evidence. But there is strong evidence. Nevertheless, one can also argue about it.

So there is no evidence of our descent from the gods.

No. But the religions of more than 30 different, independent cultures say that the gods - or God - created humans in their own image.

Did the religious scriptures inspire you?

Yes, already in college in Friborg. To my questions and doubts I often received the answer that one simply had to believe. But such answers were not enough for me. So I compared the scriptures with other religious scriptures.

You have now convinced millions around the world that you are right. Scientists too. Is there a key experience there?

Yes. 30 years ago I was invited to give a lecture at NASA in Huntsville. At dinner I discovered Josef Blumrich ...

... who played a leading role in the NASA moon flight program ...

... correct. He asked me why in the world I had the Bible with me. The Bible is not a book about technology. I told him, Yes, all you have to do is read the book of Ezekiel with today's eyes. Then you recognize the blueprints for spaceships. Blumrich, after all the chief designer at NASA, did this. This resulted in the book “The space ship of Ezekiel. It was the first scientific confirmation of spaceships in ancient scriptures. Others from scientists from other faculties followed.

Although you have not yet found objective evidence for the extraterrestrials, your views have become scientifically acceptable today. Why actually?

The zeitgeist has changed.

How do we have to understand that?

In the 1970s, science still said there was no extraterrestrial life. Today science says that there must be extraterrestrial life for statistical and philosophical reasons alone. Then it was said that it was not even possible to bridge the huge distances over light years. Today we know that it is possible. Then it was said that extraterrestrial life was never human-like. Thanks to the panspermia theory of the Swedish Nobel Prize winner Svante Arrhenius, we know that human-like life is also possible out there. At least this is in line with all religions.

In what way?

In the beginning there was God. The first species created by God. The DNA of this life was distributed in the universe like matter after the Big Bang. Such thinking was completely impossible in science in the 1970s when my first book was published. The time was not yet ripe.

You are currently writing your 42nd book. When you look back - where were you wrong?

It happened in detail, but never in the matter. At first you are opinionated and gullible. For example, I went to Egypt for the first time at the age of 19. We visited an island in the Nile and the guide explained that the island is called elephantine because from a bird's eye view it looks like an elephant. I adopted this in one of my books. It was a mistake: the island doesn't look like an elephant at all. It is so called because elephants once lived there.

Is there a life after death?

Yes. I don't have the slightest evidence of this. But I am of the opinion that we are part of a grandiose creation, will continue to live after our death and will eventually return to earth.

At the end we come to a very earthly topic. What went wrong with the «Mystery Park» Park?

The park is still open from May to October and visitors are thrilled. Although the public always brought me into contact with the Mystery Park, I was the source of the ideas, but never the operator of the facility. If I won the lottery, I would buy the park and put an extra million on advertising. Lo and behold, the park would work. I also think the renaming to Jungfraupark is wrong. It says nothing about the grandiose puzzles that are shown.

You are now almost 84 years old. Are you still looking for evidence of the extraterrestrials?

Thanks to my level of awareness, all possible clues are brought to me. We get between 200 and 300 emails every day. My secretary Ramon Zürcher usually sees after a few sentences whether there is anything to it. If necessary, we will go on a trip. I am still on the road for more than 200 days a year to see possible evidence or to give lectures.

What does your wife say about these frequent absences?

She agrees with it. After all, I've been happily married to Elisabeth for 58 years.