Fallen angels. The paranormal. Global warming. Quantum physics. Such subjects immediately inspire a definitive, if not visceral, reaction in readers. There is often no middle ground. One has faith, or one does not. One believes in the supernatural, or one dismisses such claims to be the products of naïve superstition or over-indulgent imaginations. Currently, the controversy concerning global warming rages throughout the media. Yet as organizations and individuals ardently defend their polarized points of view on the topic, the clock continues to race toward what could be the most devastating environmental disaster our civilization has ever known.
It is not very often that an author successfully tackles even one of these topics in a manner that appears unbiased and agenda free. What would be even more extraordinary, however, is if an author dared to tackle all of these subjects in a single volume and somehow managed to produce a work that is genuinely objective, thought-provoking, as well as inspirational. This is precisely what Craig Hines has accomplished with his debut book, Gateway of the Gods: An Investigation of Fallen Angels, the Nephilim, Alchemy, Climate Change, and the Secret Destiny of the Human Race.
The genre of "New Age" nonfiction is a realm overpopulated by paranoid conspiracy theories, unfounded fears of demonic or extraterrestrial infestation, and sketchy claims of alien abductions. It is an area of research that speaks directly to a restless public that awaits a more convincing declaration of "the Truth." But more often than naught, such works further obfuscate the boundaries between nonfiction and science fiction. The field continues to thrive on account of the growing sense of social unrest that has overtaken Western culture throughout the recent tumultuous years. But yet most of those strange books sitting on an isolated shelf in the furthest corner of your local bookstore are predominantly viewed by the general public as part of a genre that produces quite a few misses and only the occasional hit. Hines' book is a truly remarkable example of the latter, for it becomes clear from the surprisingly autobiographical tone taken for the introductory chapter that this is a work quite unlike the other books crowding this particular market.
When first evaluated, Hines' proposals and theories might appear a little far-fetched and admittedly, "out there" (cue The X-Files theme). But his seemingly radical ideas are supported by meticulously detailed evidence drawn from a number of diverse and authoritative sources. Much of Hines' credibility stems from how carefully he presents his research, and instead of arguing with irrefutable tones of condescension or inflated erudition, Hines opts for an admirably conversational approach. His occasionally lofty and ambitious demands upon the reader's suspension of disbelief are unfailingly tempered by his pleasantly humble and remarkably candid narrative voice. It is for these reasons that Hines can weave through the theoretical landmines of theology, paranormal investigation techniques, advanced physics, global warming and even medieval alchemy, and emerge unscathed. When individually treating these topics, Hines does so with a winning combination of skepticism and enthusiasm, always mindful of the details and privileging information that can be proven as fact, or ideas that his reliable instincts are convinced are facts-soon-to-be. Yet ultimately, it is when Hines coherently bridges one of these controversial topics to another, illustrating the hitherto unacknowledged parallels between them that the reader can't help but marvel as the fantastic becomes plausible right before their eyes.
But what exactly is Hines doing with these topics, and what is it that he ultimately tries to prove?
"Thousands of years ago, intelligent beings from another realm developed inter-dimensional "gateways" to transfer themselves to our world. While here, they were able to physically interact with our ancient ancestors and many specific accounts concerning "the gods" and "angels" have been passed down in legends and myths. Sometime later, these beings returned (or were forced to return) to their place of origin and the gateways were deactivated. However, they left behind clues and symbols that would withstand the trials of time so that a future civilization might decipher their message and understand how to reactivate the gateways. They also recognized that eventually the earth's climate and ability to support a large population would fail, accelerating the possibility of extinction for many species (including humans). Therefore, the human race is expected to rediscover the gateway technology so that we can reunite the realms as well as transform ourselves into advanced inter-dimensional beings."
Hines himself acknowledges that his theory is "incredible" and that it "therefore depends upon a considerable amount of speculation." And while the notion that certain obscure Biblical accounts (hitherto assumed to be nothing more than didactic metaphors) may actually have taken place and that in order to prevent the supposedly nascent apocalypse, the modern race of human beings (those folks concerned foremost with cell phones, iPods, and American Idol) must somehow reconnect with extraterrestrial beings to aid in their salvation is, to speak modestly... a bit of a stretch. Yet somehow, throughout the course of this fascinating and enthralling book, Hines makes sense of this and actually succeeds in supporting his outlandish claims with crucial and compelling evidence. It is not long before the reader entirely surrenders and willingly opens themselves to Hines' theories.
How does the author manage this? Quite simply, by giving the reader the impression that he is just as incredulous, if not more so, than the most ardent skeptic within his audience. However, you can almost hear the author say with a modest and reserved sense of wonder--"But this is what I found."
Hines' ability to distill very complex and ostensibly impossible subjects into an accessible and above all convincing prose is an invaluable asset, for the book obviously requires a great deal of patience and trust on behalf of the reader in order to fully comprehend the implications of the material presented. These stylistic qualities also ensure that the full impact of the book's conclusion is not lost in the veritable labyrinth of information that the author stacks up along the way. The book is constantly introducing new information, broaching a new topic with each chapter. At times, the reader might become frustrated and not quite understand where it is that Hines is leading them. For example, the reader might not initially understand what ghosts and other reports of paranormal phenomena, such as Electronic Voice Phenomena (EVP), have to do with fallen angels and "gateways." However, immediately following this chapter devoted to the paranormal, Hines presents an overview of modern theoretical physics, and introduces the reader to such concepts as Supersting theory and M-theory, and it becomes clear that many of these so-called "supernatural" occurrences documented by EVP could in actuality be audible "bleed-throughs" from parallel dimensions! The book is filled with many similar "Eureka!" moments--and while Hines might threaten to lose readers as he unpacks and lays the groundwork for his seemingly intimidating exploration, he genuinely thrills readers once they start to intuit how the pieces of this elaborate puzzle will fit together. While one might wonder if there was another perhaps more linear way that Hines could have structured and arranged his exploration, the book very well might have collapsed under its own weight if certain topics became integrated with one another too soon. Though unorthodox, it appears that this was the only way that the author could prevent overwhelming himself and the reader with the amount of information that needed to be presented. The book reads at first like several loosely related essays collected under a single cover, only to suddenly bullet toward a theoretical climax, yielding a reading experience more akin to finishing a great mystery novel as opposed to a heavily researched non-fiction study.
Throughout the book, Hines clearly recognizes that some of his theories will appear quite new to readers. He also demonstrates a conscientious awareness that his ideas will challenge what many hold to be indissoluble fact. With many of Hines' theories, firmly established and traditional religious teachings are called into question. For instance, most people think that they know the story of the first fallen angel, commonly identified as Satan or Lucifer, who rebels against God only to be cast down to Hell along with his demonic brethren. However, Hines reveals that this take on the story is found nowhere within Biblical texts. With this revelation, readers are directed to the predominantly obscure Book of Enoch, an ancient text that chronicles the story of the original fallen angels, or "Watchers," as they are more specifically referred to, and their interactions and integration with the human race. According to the Book of Enoch, these angels came to Earth through "gateways" and consorted with human women, producing monstrous hybrid offspring, known as the Nephilim. Hines points out that the reason more people are not familiar with this account is because the Book of Enoch was deemed heretical by the Church, because the clergy objected to the notions that angels could manifest in physical forms and above all, that angels could engage in sexual acts with human beings.
Hines is not the first author to deal directly with the Book of Enoch and its account of the Nephilim. However, he is the first to raise a number of bold and provocative questions concerning the story. Is there factual evidence that these events actually took place eons ago? If so, how exactly did the angels get here? How could they have mated with human beings if science has proven that different species cannot interbreed? Are the ancient descriptions of these beings' appearances compatible with our modern understanding of genetics? Hines' responses to these questions are not only eye-opening, but many contemporary scholars familiar with the Book of Enoch will wonder how they could have ever missed so many of the clues that existed right in front of them. By referencing additional sources and ancient legends alongside the most detailed sources throughout the Book of Enoch, Hines has managed to provide context clues that demystify obscure passages and references within sacred texts that have been misconstrued for centuries.
Hines treads potentially disastrous ground by integrating science and religion, and mixing faith with the secular notions of fact and fiction. Yet at the same time, there are instances in which Biblical passages are re-evaluated as literal, or rather, historical accounts that serve as the only adequate record of important incidents in humanity's mysterious past. What Hines ultimately does is offer a coherent, simplified, and perhaps even purified critique of vague and often cryptic passages within the Bible that may have been misunderstood or perhaps deliberately obscured. Hines does not set out to debunk Western religious beliefs. Instead, he returns to the oldest and most authoritative sources in order to present what most likely was the intended meaning of the original texts. He finds fault with the way in which some choose to interpret Scripture, with the hope of restoring and reacquainting readers with the original message. In most cases, Hines advocates that one need only read the lines before them instead of reading between them. Hines sets out to show how these commonly accepted "myths" are incorrect by first deconstructing them, and then exploring other avenues of thought that provide a more suitable explanation for the available data. In other words, these "myths" within the Bible (not to mention the sacred texts of other completely separate and unrelated cultures) are our best documentation of the past. Therefore, the question becomes: do these "myths" contain any factual truth?
Ultimately, however, Hines does not make the mistake of anticipating that his readers will believe his every word, or that his book offers the definitive answer to the many enigmas of our universe. Rather, Hines constantly reminds readers that other possibilities, some of which are quite mundane, could also explain certain anomalies in his theories and that one need not necessarily turn to the heavens for adequate answers. With Gateway of the Gods, Hines does something virtually unheard of in metaphysical nonfiction studies: he devotes an entire appendix to debunking himself! But of course, even after dissecting the cornerstones of his theories, several questions remain that can only be answered by an appropriation of what most would deem supernatural and scientifically improbable.
While paling in comparison to the astonishing objectivity of the first appendix, Hines includes several other appendices to further enlighten his audience. The second appendix turns to modern science to speculate how these supposed "gateways" might have been created and how they were operated by the angels, while the third appendix draws attention to problems and inconsistencies within the work of Zecharia Sitchin and Patrick Heron, two earlier authors that have also dealt with the topics of the Nephilim and ancient civilizations. Yet again, Hines avoids self-righteous critiques and with his tongue only occasionally in cheek to instead demonstrate an admirable sense of professional discipline, he exposes hosts of theoretical contradictions, crucial mathematical errors, embarrassing translation mishaps, and various other devastating misinterpretations within the works of these established and credentialed authors. The remaining appendices provide further information and tutorials so that interested readers can participate in certain experiments to verify some of the theories presented throughout the book for themselves. Hines is adamant in his hope that readers will think more critically about the theories presented within not only his book, but the works of any writer that claims to have access to "the Truth." As well, his concern for the continuing exploration of these topics by individuals in other fields of study is the only way that our society can ever make any progress in validating or refuting the supernatural, and ultimately determining what exactly humankind's role is in the greater scheme of the universe.
Considering the density of research and the unique approaches taken to topics throughout the book, Hines has effectively raised the standard for alternative research. He has managed to present an argument as equally rooted in scientific skepticism as it is in spiritual conviction. If only a portion of Hines' theories prove to be correct, it means that our society must considerably re-evaluate our understanding of the past. Above all, we must be particularly cautious and wise when we choose what to do with our future. Ultimately, once the implications of Gateway of the Gods resonate within the reader, one recognizes the book as being either a call to action for the human race, or one hell of an intriguing interpretation of life and all that we think we know about it.