Michael Cremo on Forbidden Archeology, Our Billion-Year-Old Human History and the Spiritual Satisfaction of the Vedas

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The Daily Bell is pleased to present this exclusive interview with Michael Cremo

Daily Bell: Please answer these questions as if our readers were not aware of your many articles and books. You are a Hindu creationist. What does that mean?

Michael Cremo: Hinduism is a system of religious thought. It is a general term, much like Christianity is a general term. Christianity includes a lot of churches, including the Catholic Church, the Greek Orthodox Church, the Mormon Church, the Baptist Church, Methodist Church, Presbyterian Church, Anglican Church, etc. Christians have a lot of ideas about the origin of life and the universe. All of them are creationists, in the sense that they believe God had something to do with it. Many Christians think that God created humans by evolution. Many other Christians think that God created humans and the other life forms directly, without evolution.

Although all Christians are creationists, the term is generally used for those Christians who do not accept the Darwinian theory of evolution. It is the same with Hinduism. Hinduism includes lots of different spiritual traditions. Some worship one God, some worship many gods. I belong to a Hindu tradition that accepts one supreme God, known by the name Krishna. I believe God, by whatever name people know him, did not use Darwinian evolution to create human beings and other species of life. Therefore some people call me a Hindu creationist.

Daily Bell: You have been called ‘the intellectual force driving Vedic creationism.” Isn’t that ironic given that you are not Indian and didn’t grow up in India. What’s happened to the Hindu culture that it does not espouse its own cause?

Michael Cremo: The situation among Hindus is complex, just like the situation among Christians is complex. Christians have lots of different ideas about evolution. Some accept it, and some do not. The same is true among Hindus in India. Some Hindus in India accept the Darwinian theory of evolution. Others do not. My guru, or spiritual teacher, A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (1896-1977), did not accept the Darwinian theory of evolution. He saw it as contrary to the accounts of the origin of life given in the sacred texts of India. He publically opposed the Darwinian theory of evolution and espoused a kind of Vedic creationism.

When I carefully studied his position, I decided it was valid. But as I said, there are many Hindus in India who accept the Darwinian theory of evolution. One reason for this is that the British ruled India for a long time. They set up an education system that taught British ideas, like the theory of evolution. In 1948, India became politically independent from Britain, but the education system installed by the British remained intact and it still teaches the theory of evolution.

Daily Bell: Your father was a military intelligence officer. How did this influence you?

Michael Cremo: It influenced me in two ways. First of all, our family moved around a lot when I was growing up, to different places in the United States and abroad. This opened my mind to the reality that there is more than one way of looking at the world. The American way is one way, but other people have other ways of looking at the world. In my travels, I was exposed to lots of different worldviews, including the traditional worldview of ancient India. This latter worldview made a lot of sense to me, so as I was growing older and had to formulate my own worldview, I adopted it. One aspect of the ancient Indian worldview is the idea of extreme human antiquity, the idea that humans have existed since the beginning of life on earth. So that is where I got this idea.

Second, because my father was involved in intelligence work, I was aware that there is such a thing as secret knowledge. There are facts that many people are not aware of. When I started my research into the history of archeology, looking for archeological evidence for extreme human antiquity, the first place I looked was in the current textbooks of archeology. There I did not find any such evidence. I found only evidence that supports the current evolutionary theory of human origins.

According to that theory, humans like us first appeared on earth less than 200,000 years ago. But because of my familiarity with intelligence work, I realized there might be some facts that were not being included in the textbooks. So I decided to look beyond the textbooks. I started looking at the original scientific reports, in many different languages, from the time of Darwin to the present. When I did that I discovered many reports of discoveries of human bones, human artifacts, and human footprints many millions of years old. I documented those reports in my book Forbidden Archeology.

Daily Bell: You served in the Navy. Was that a good experience for you? What was the emotional journey from being a military man to where you are now? What changed in your life?

Michael Cremo: You have to keep in mind that I was not serving voluntarily. At that time in the United States (the late 1960s) there was something called the draft, which means that the government would call you to enter the military and you had to go. Today they have a better system, an all-volunteer system. Still, the experience was good for me. There was a slogan at the time: Join the Navy and see the world. I was sent to a weather station in Iceland. During my time in Iceland, I explored the glaciers and volcanoes, studied Old Icelandic, and read the Old Icelandic sagas. But I never completely identified myself as a military person. I continued to see myself as a human being searching for truth about myself and truth about the world I live in. So my Navy experience was another step on that journey.

Daily Bell: Is it true you decided to devote your life to Krishna in the early 1970s, after receiving a copy of the Bhagavad Gita at a Grateful Dead concert?

Michael Cremo: Yes that is true. The copy was not exactly free. I gave a donation for it. I took the book home and read it very carefully. In the front of the book was a notice that readers could write to the publisher for more information. So I did that and learned that the book was published by the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, which had centers throughout the world. I decided to visit one of the centers, and I was surprised to see the young people there living the teachings of the book. I was impressed by that. My friends and I often discussed different philosophies as a kind of mental entertainment. We never dreamed of living a philosophy. So I was impressed to see a community of young people doing that. It occurred to me that I could also do that, and eventually I did. I do not claim to have a monopoly on truth. I think one can find truth in a lot of different places. But I found mine in this place.

Daily Bell: What is Hindu scripture? A religion? A narrative?

Michael Cremo: Hinduism is a general term used to collectively represent a set of Indian spiritual traditions. What they have in common is a reverence for a set of scriptures called the Vedas. Veda is a Sanskrit word that means “knowledge.” The Vedic literature is vast. The most widely known Vedic scripture is the Bhagavad-gita, which is considered to be a summary of the essential spiritual teachings of the Vedas. Among the Vedic scriptures is a group called the Puranas, or histories. They give accounts of the origin of the universe, the origin of species, and the history of the human species.

Daily Bell: What is a Vedic creationist?

Michael Cremo: I have been called a Vedic creationist. Today, by creationist, people generally mean someone who accepts that God, or some other intelligent being or beings, has something to do with the origin of life and the universe, with the order and complexity that we observe around us. So I accept that. Until fairly recently, when people used the term creationist, they generally meant a Biblical creationist. So although I am a creationist, my ideas are inspired by my studies in the Vedic literature. Therefore some people call me a Vedic creationist. I prefer being called a Vedic creationist over being called a Hindu creationist. The word Hindu does not appear in the ancient Sanskrit writings of India. It is a term that came into use a few hundred years ago.

Daily Bell: How have your work and writings been received in India?

Michael Cremo: It is the same as everywhere else. Some people like my work and writings, some people do not like them, and some people just do not care at all. I have done several lectures tours of India, speaking at universities all over the country, such as the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore, the University of Calcutta, the Indian Institute of Technology in Chennai, and many others. Major newspapers, like The Times of India, The Hindu, and others, have given extensive, favorable coverage to my work.

Daily Bell: Tell us about your book, Forbidden Archeology, and why it is so controversial in the West. Give us its main thesis.

Michael Cremo: I think it is controversial everywhere. The book was inspired by my studies in the Puranas, the historical writings of ancient India. According to Puranas, humans like us have existed on earth for millions and millions of years, going all the way back to the very beginnings of life on earth. According to modern evolutionary thought, humans like us first appeared on earth less than 200,000 years ago, having evolved from more primitive apelike creatures. Most scientists claim that all the physical evidence supports this idea. However, when I did eight years of research into the history of archeology, I found something different. I found that from the time of Darwin to the present, many scientists have reported in the professional scientific literature discoveries of human bones, human artifacts, and human footprints millions of years old. I put all that evidence together in Forbidden Archeology. Of course, this evidence contradicts the textbook theories about human origins, and therefore the book is extremely controversial.

Daily Bell: If human beings are millions or years old, why didn’t they evolve into super-humans? Where did they go?

Michael Cremo: First of all, I do not accept the Darwinian theory of evolution. But I do accept another kind of evolution, which I explain in my book Human Devolution: A Vedic Alternative to Darwin’s Theory. The key point is that material bodies are vehicles for nonmaterial conscious selves. According to this idea, the conscious self is different from the material body. According to the Vedic cosmology, there are different kinds of human bodies in the universe.

The Vedic universe is a consciousness-based universe. This universe has different levels, inhabited by beings of different levels of consciousness. So there are superhuman beings, with higher levels of consciousness. They exist on a different level of reality. So it is possible for the conscious self that now is dwelling in an ordinary human body, on this level of reality, to occupy the body of a superhuman being, on a higher level of reality, in a future life. So there can be an evolution of the conscious self through different kinds of bodies. The bodies are not changing, or evolving, but the conscious self can evolve through the different kinds of bodies.

Daily Bell: Where do dinosaurs and other supposedly non-human timelines fit into all this? Do you believe in evolution at all?

Michael Cremo: I do not accept the Darwinian theory of evolution. But I accept the evolution of the conscious self through different kinds of bodies. These bodies are vehicles for conscious selves. According to one’s level of consciousness, one obtains a certain kind of body. Today, because there are no conscious selves that require a dinosaur body, we do not observe such bodies in the world around us. But the universe is a big place, and such bodies could be present elsewhere.

Daily Bell: You wrote “Puranic Time and the Archaeological Record” as a precursor to Forbidden Archeology. What was that about?

Michael Cremo: I actually wrote that paper after I wrote Forbidden Archeology. I spent eight years doing the research and writing of Forbidden Archeology. When the book was finally published in 1993, I wanted to present the subject matter of the book at scientific conferences. I joined the World Archeological Congress (WAC), an international organization of archeologists, which holds a congress every four years in a different city around the world. In 1994, the Congress was held in New Delhi, India.

I thought that would be a good place to present a paper based on the book Forbidden Archeology. So I submitted a proposal to the WAC to present a paper called “Puranic Time and the Archeological Record.” The Puranas are the historical writings of ancient India, and they present vast cycles of time, lasting many millions of years, during which human populations are present on earth, and there are archeological discoveries that are consistent with this. The academic committee of the WAC accepted my proposal, so I went to Delhi and presented the paper. The paper was later published in the peer reviewed conference proceedings volume Time and Archeology, edited by archeologist Tim Murray and published by Routledge, a major scientific publisher. This was the first of about thirty papers that I have presented at major international scientific conferences on archeology and the history of science.

Daily Bell: You claim that people have lived on the earth for millions, or billions, of years, and that the scientific establishment has suppressed the fossil evidence for extreme human antiquity. Can you give us some examples?

Michael Cremo: Let me explain a little about suppression of evidence. What I am talking about here is not some conspiracy to suppress truth. Instead, I am talking about something that historians of science and philosophers of science have understood for a long time, namely that theoretical preconceptions often influence how scientists respond to evidence. I call this process “knowledge filtration.”

Evidence that conforms to a dominant theory passes through this intellectual filter very easily, but evidence that radically contradicts a dominant theory is filtered out. The scientists who are doing the filtering do not think that they are deliberately suppressing true evidence, which if known would cause people to reject their theory. Instead they think they are just being responsible scientists, ignoring evidence, which to them seems like it could not possibly be true. I will give one example from the earlier history of archeology, and one from the more recent history of archeology.

In the nineteenth century, gold was discovered in California. To get it, miners dug tunnels into the sides of mountains, such as Table Mountain in Tuolumne County. Deep inside the tunnels, in deposits of early Eocene age (about 50 million years old), miners found human bones and artifacts. The discoveries were carefully documented by Dr. J.D. Whitney, the chief government geologist of California, in his book The Auriferous Gravels of the Sierra Nevada of California, published by Harvard University in 1880. But we do not hear very much about these discoveries today. In the Smithsonian Institution Annual Report for 1898–1899 (p. 424), anthropologist William Holmes said, “Perhaps if Professor Whitney had fully appreciated the story of human evolution as it is understood today, he would have hesitated to announce the conclusions formulated, notwithstanding the imposing array of testimony with which he was confronted.” In other words, if the facts did not fit the theory of human evolution, the facts had to be set aside, and that is exactly what happened.

Such bias continued into the twentieth century. In the 1970s, American archeologists led by Cynthia Irwin Williams discovered stones tools at Hueyatlaco, near Puebla, Mexico. The stone tools were of an advanced type, made only by humans like us. A team of geologists, from the United States Geological Survey and universities in the United States, came to Hueyatlaco to date the site.

Among the geologists was Virginia Steen-McIntyre. To date the site, the team used four methods—uranium series dating on butchered animal bones found along with the tools, zircon fission track dating on volcanic layers above the tools, tephra hydration dating of volcanic crystals, and standard stratigraphy. The four methods converged on an age of about 250,000 years for the site. The archeologists refused to consider this date. They could not believe that humans capable of making the Hueyatlaco artifacts existed 250,000 years ago.

In defense of the dates obtained by the geologists, Virginia Steen-McIntyre wrote in a letter (March 30, 1981) to Estella Leopold, associate editor of Quaternary Research: “The problem as I see it is much bigger than Hueyatlaco. It concerns the manipulation of scientific thought through the suppression of ‘Enigmatic Data,’ data that challenges the prevailing mode of thinking. Hueyatlaco certainly does that!

Not being an anthropologist, I didn’t realize the full significance of our dates back in 1973, nor how deeply woven into our thought the current theory of human evolution has become. Our work at Hueyatlaco has been rejected by most archaeologists because it contradicts that theory, period.” This remains true today, not only for the California gold mine discoveries and the Hueyatlaco human artifacts, but for hundreds of other discoveries documented in the scientific literature of the past 150 years.

Daily Bell: You’ve appeared many times on Coast to Coast AM, which is considered by some to have a bad scientific reputation. And you’ve been criticized for cherry-picking your evidence and for writing pseudoscience. How do you respond?

Michael Cremo: I have never tried to make an exclusive career for myself among professional scientists. I do not consider myself to be a professional scientist. I consider myself to be a human being searching for the truth. I do not think that professional scientists are the only people on earth looking for the truth about human origins. So my policy is to stay in touch with all kinds of people looking for the truth.

I think the millions of people who listen to Coast to Coast are looking for truth, so I feel comfortable in speaking to them. Actually, there are professional scientists who listen to Coast to Coast. One scientist who heard me invited me to speak at his university in the United States. So I stay in touch with lots of different audiences. The professional scientific community is just one audience that I communicate with. And within that particular audience there are various reactions to me and my work from different groups of scientists.

The reactions in your question are typical of a group that I call the fundamentalist Darwinists. They support the theory of evolution not for purely scientific reasons, but because it confirms their prior commitments to a strict materialism. They do not want to hear me, and they do not want anyone else to hear me, so they say those kinds of things. Sometimes they try to stop me from lecturing at universities.

But there is another, larger, group of scientists who are more open-minded. They may support the theory of evolution, but they do so for truly scientific reasons. Evolution is not an ideology for them. So they are willing to listen to alternatives, they are willing to listen to evidence that is not consistent with evolution. Scientists in that group have accepted my proposals to present papers about my work at meetings of the World Archeological Congress, the European Association of Archeologists, the International Congress for History of Science, etc.

Scientists in that group have included my papers in peer reviewed scientific publications and have invited me to speak at some of the leading scientific institutions in the world, such as the Royal Institution in London, the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow, the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore, and many others. They have also invited me to speak at many universities throughout the world. And they have given thoughtful, respectful reviews of my books in scientific journals. They may not agree with me, but at least they are willing to listen, and that is an important first step, if ideas are going to change.

Daily Bell: Tell us more about your book Human Devolution. What is devolution in your view and how was this book a furtherance of Forbidden Archeology?

Michael Cremo: In my book Forbidden Archeology, I presented archeological evidence that contradicts the current evolutionary theory of human origins. After people read the book, they asked me, “Okay, if you have all this evidence that contradicts the Darwinian evolutionary account of human origins, then what is your explanation for human origins?” My book Human Devolution is my answer to that question. Before we even ask the question “where did human beings come from?” we should first ask the question “what is a human being?” Today, many scientists will say that a human being is just a machine made of matter. They believe that consciousness is a temporary byproduct of bioelectrical activity in the brain.

But I think if we look at all the scientific evidence, including medical studies of out of body experiences, we will see that a human being is composed of matter and consciousness. And by consciousness I mean something independent of matter. Consciousness is not produced by matter. Instead, consciousness is simply covered by matter. So in short many scientists believe that as conscious beings, we have evolved up from matter, in the sense that consciousness is produced by matter. But I believe we have devolved, or come down, from a state of pure consciousness. By devolution, I mean the process by which consciousness becomes covered by matter. But it is a process that can be reversed. Consciousness can be restored to its original pure state, free from contact with matter. That is the real purpose of meditation, yoga, and other spiritual disciplines.

Daily Bell: Where does the newly discovered city of Dwarka off the coast of India fit into all this?

Michael Cremo: The city of Dwarka has to do not so much with human origins but with the history of Vedic culture in India. According to the Puranas, the historical writings of ancient India, the fabulous city, ruled by Krishna, existed about five thousand years ago. And then it was swallowed up by the ocean. But according to most historians today, there was no Vedic culture in the Indian subcontinent five thousand years ago. There is a city called Dwarka on the coast of northwest India today, and in the waters off the coast of the present day Dwarka, the remains of an ancient city have been found, which could be the city mentioned in the Puranas.

Daily Bell: What about the land bridge to Sri Lanka? It’s been seen from satellites.

Michael Cremo: Here is an ancient Sanskrit epic called the Ramayana, which gives the history of a manifestation, or avatar, of God called Rama, who played the role of a king. He engaged in a battle with the ruler of the island kingdom of Lanka. To get his army across the ocean to Lanka he made a bridge of huge floating stones. After the battle the huge stones sunk into the ocean. According to traditional historical calculation, these events took place over a million years ago. Today, satellite photos show an underwater “bridge” going from the southern tip of India to the island nation of Sri Lanka. Many people think this is Rama’s bridge. I believe it could be, but I would like to see some further research. Some scientists claim that the “bridge” is just some natural formations of sand bars beneath the water. So it would be interesting to do some drilling. If drilling encountered beneath the sands some formations of rocks that should not be there naturally, that would provide some confirmation that the structure is indeed a bridge.

Daily Bell: Is there a great river in India that has dried up – which was in fact the cradle of Indian civilization?

Michael Cremo: According to many Western and Indian scientists, Vedic civilization arose in India less than 3,500 years ago. According to traditional sources, Vedic civilization has been present in India for at least 5,000 years, and in reality much longer than that. The Rig Veda is one of the principal Vedic texts. It contains some clues about the antiquity of Vedic civilization in India. One part of the Rig Veda gives a list of the major rivers in northwestern India. This list goes from east to west. The first river is the Ganges, the second the Yamuna, the third the Sarasvati, and the fourth the Sutlej.

Today one can still see the Ganges, the Yamuna, and the Sutlej, but the Sarasvati is not there. However, satellite photos and geological research on the ground reveal the presence of an ancient river channel, now dried up, just where the Sarasvati should have been. Along this dry river channel are the sites of many ancient towns and cities. According to geological studies, the last time a river was flowing in that channel was about five thousand years ago. Because the Rig Veda mentions the Sarasvati as a great flowing river, and also mentions cities in the area, the Rig Veda gives evidence for the presence of Vedic civilization in India at least 5,000 years ago.

Daily Bell: Isn’t it more likely that Indian civilization is ten or twenty thousand years old than a million?

Michael Cremo: Likelihood depends on one’s background beliefs. If one believes that the textbook ideas about civilization (namely that civilization first arose about six or seven thousand years ago) then the idea that Indian civilization is millions of years old is not going to seem very likely. But if we look at the history of science, we see that textbook ideas have often proven to be wrong. So it may be wise to keep an open mind about these things.

The Puranas, the historical writings of ancient India, contain accounts of human civilizations that existed millions of years ago. And there are thousands of temples and sacred places throughout India that have traditional histories going back millions of years. One reason why many people regard these accounts as mythological is that they accept the textbook idea that human beings first came into existence less than 200,000 years ago. However, in my book Forbidden Archeology, I have shown there is archeological evidence that humans like us have existed on earth for millions of years. In light of that evidence, the likelihood that Indian civilization is millions of years old increases.

Daily Bell: How do you explain the homo sapien timeline and coming out of Africa and all that?

Michael Cremo: Today most official textbooks will say that humans like us first appeared in Africa about 150,000 years ago, and then spread from there to other parts of the world. This account is based on two kinds of evidence: archeological evidence and genetic evidence. But both kinds of evidence are incomplete.

In my book Forbidden Archeology, I documented archeological evidence showing that humans like us were present in Europe, Asia, the Americans, and Africa millions of years ago. In my book Human Devolution, I show that the genetic evidence for a recent human migration out of Africa is flawed. These studies have focused on analyzing differences in the mitochondrial DNA of existing human populations. The mitochondrial DNA is passed on only by the mother, not by the father. But these studies fail to take into account that in the past many females died before producing children, which means many lines of mitochondrial DNA have not come down to the present.

So studies of the current variations in mitochondrial DNA, being incomplete, do not give reliable results. The best evidence we have for human origins is the archeological evidence, and if we take into account the evidence from Forbidden Archeology, we see it contradicts the textbook account of humans like us originating fairly recently in Africa and spreading from there around the world.

Daily Bell: Do you believe ancient Hindus went to the moon?

Michael Cremo: Yes, but this question should be understood in light of Hindu, or more accurately, Vedic or Puranic cosmology. The Vedic universe is a consciousness-based universe, with different regions accessible to those with appropriate levels of consciousness. According to the Vedic cosmology, the moon is in the celestial region, and is accessible by yogis and mystics with higher levels of consciousness.

Daily Bell: Did they have flying machines? Are these sculptures to be seen on the tops of ancient Hindu Temples in the South of India?

Michael Cremo: The ancient historical writings of India, the Puranas, contain many accounts of flying machines called vimanas. There were many kinds of vimanas. Some of them, used in this region, or level of the cosmos, were made of metal. Other vimanas, used for reaching higher levels of the cosmos, were made of more subtle elements. One can sometimes see images of vimanas in temple sculptures. Interestingly, the top part of the tower of an Indian temple is sometimes called a vimana.

Daily Bell: Does Atlantis fit into your theories somewhere? How so?

Michael Cremo: It depends on what we mean by Atlantis. If we mean the idea that there were areas of the world that once supported human cities that are now underwater, then I accept that. The city of Dwarka provides an example.

Daily Bell: Any last points you want to make or reading you want to suggest? What are you working on now?

Michael Cremo: I think we need to end the government-enforced monopoly that the supporters of the current evolutionary theory of human origins now have in the public tax supported education system. Alternatives should be there in the textbooks, in at least a few pages. People may wish to have a look at my most recent book The Forbidden Archeologist, which is a collection of columns that I wrote for Atlantis Rising magazine.

In those columns I explore various aspects of my work, in short, easy to read essays. People interested in the reactions of scientists to my work may wish to have a look at my book Forbidden Archeology’s Impact, in which I document all kinds of reactions from positive to negative. Right now I am putting together a book of about 24 papers that I have given about my work at mainstream scientific conferences about archeology, anthropology, and history of science.

Daily Bell: Thank you for spending time with us. We look forward to reading more of your work.

Michael Cremo: You’re welcome.

Reprinted with permission from The Daily Bell.

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