Rice University Religious Studies Scholar Claims Renaissance Painting Shows Unknowable UFO Mystery Beyond Human Knowledge
Jeffrey J. Kripal is the J. Newton Rayzor Chair in Philosophy and Religious Thought at Rice University and ought to know better when it comes to studying the role of space aliens in ancient history. Anyone who has risen to such a position, and who has written about the role of the paranormal in the sacred, ought to have a bit of conception of the difference between the scientific and the supernatural, and between the plausible and the implausible. And yet in the recent edition of Edge Science magazine (No. 31, Sept. 2017), Kripal has an article, taken from his new book Secret Body: Erotic and Esoteric Currents in the History of Religions, rehashing the infamous claim that a gray splotch on a Renaissance painting of the Madonna and child is a flying saucer occupied by space aliens. He wants to accept all of the ufological evidence but sidestep the problems with claiming alien intervention by proposing that an unknowable “entity” manifests as shiny metal discs.
I know it’s been a bit of a refrain recently, but it has become rather difficult to find new and interesting things to write about. I thought about saying something on Trump judicial nominee Brett J. Talley, who is a ghost hunter and a horror novelist since he has some rather odd views about his professed influence, H. P. Lovecraft. But, really, there isn’t much to say that hasn’t already been discussed far and wide. Basically, he doesn’t know how to define Lovecraftian fiction: “The subgenre of Lovecraftian fiction, I feel like is not really that well defined,” Talley said in 2013. “What makes stuff Lovecraft? And I think really if you asked people, you’d get a lot of arguments about this.” Not really, but it’s just not something worth spilling ink (or pixels) over.
Most conspiracy theories about Freemasonry tend to focus on its alleged connections to the Knights Templar and occult Christian secrets, but a century or more ago, it was Masonry’s alleged connection to ancient Egypt that offered grist for occult speculation. I came across an obscure but strange book called Freemasonry from the Great Pyramid of Ancient Times (1885) by Freemason Thomas Holland in which Holland outlines his belief that the Great Pyramid of Giza was actually a divine map to the mysteries of Freemasonry, crafted on orders from Yahweh by Israelites to show future generations the rituals and mysteries of the Craft. While this is silly on the face of it, derived from Charles Piazzi Smyth’s belief that the Pyramid contained a plan crafted by the God of Israel, and the frequent Masonic insistence that their Craft could be traced back to Egypt (and, specifically, the Great Pyramid), the expression of it is a bit bizarre.
The fictitious pseudohistorical Atlantis of Brasseur de Bourbourg, Augustus Le Plongeon, and Ignatius Donnelly has had a long and ignominious influence on the word. I came across a bizarre argument from 1914 and 1915 that the swastika is proof of the existence of Atlantis and that Atlantis is therefore also the garden of Eden from the Bible, for the four branches of the swastika symbolize the four rivers of Eden. In reality, the swastika is one of the most common shapes used in cultures around the world, due to its simplicity and symmetry. It is almost certainly an independent invention many times over, but Atlantis theorists have speculated that the shape, like the equally obvious pyramid form, could only have been invented by a race of lily-white supermen on a paradisiacal Atlantic island.
Thousands of years after Homer first made reference to the Trojan horse in a short passage of The Odyssey, an Italian archaeologist now claims that the mythical wooden creation was actually a boat, according to reports appearing this month in Italian media. Francesco Tiboni, a naval archaeologist at the University of Marseille, published an article in Archaeologia Viva claiming that the story of the Trojan Horse was nothing more than a mistranslation of one key word in Homer.
A few months’ time will mark the 25th anniversary of the end of one of my favorite childhood TV series, Count Duckula, which ran on ITV and Nickelodeon from 1989 to 1993. The Cosgrove Hall production was a spinoff of the popular Danger Mouse series, but for me it was the funnier and more informative series. It was my first exposure to British humor, and also to many of the tropes of imperialist science fiction, fantasy, and Gothic horror, setting the stage for many of my later interests. It also featured a magnificent art style that was also highly influential on my own art style
Weekend Roundup: Tom DeLonge Rakes in Cash, "Curse of Oak Island" Rakes in Viewers, and a Russian Man Claims a Mars-Sphinx Link
Regular readers will remember that last month ufologist and fading rock musician Tom DeLonge launched a public benefit corporation to promote science fiction movies and what he describes as high-speed time travel transportation systems. Oh, and something about UFO disclosure, but not really, except when it is. As part of the launch of To the Stars… Academy of Arts and Science, or TTS-AAS, in its official and illogical abbreviation, the company offered shares of stock to the public.
Is it possible that I am running out of things to write about? It seems that this has been a particularly slow week for bad claims about history, and I am inclined to think that the collapse of the media’s interest in fringe history is to blame. Over the past couple of years, the number of cable shows focusing on fringe history (broadly defined) has declined markedly. Where once they filled several hours per day several days per week, to the point that one weekend there were nonstop fringe shows on some cable channel or another, now there are only a few, led by Ancient Aliens, a show that stopped being about history when it decided to become a spiritual movement and a lifestyle brand. Even written fringe is in decline. Nephilim theorists like L. A. Marzulli have devolved into pro-Trump pundits, and even the clickbait sites are reduced to recycling recycled content.
This week the Screen Junkies team returned from a month of crisis following sexual harassment allegations against Andy Signore, and they released a parody trailer for Stranger Things. In the trailer, the overriding argument is that the show is basically nostalgia porn, a program hand-crafted for 40-somethings to relive their childhood. It’s funny, as they say, because it’s true.
Yes, The Curse of Oak Island returned last night, but as it has dragged on, the program has become a reality show more than a documentary series, and the deaths of two cast members make it much less fun to criticize the increasingly rickety program. When and if they uncover anything worth mentioning, I might return to talking about it.
The Daily Mail ran another of its stupid clickbait articles, and it has earned quite a bit of play across the fringe internet for reasons that baffle me. The new article implies, without bothering to explain, that the city of Nan Madol, in the South Pacific, had something to do with the lost continent of Atlantis. The news peg is that the Science Channel took some satellite images of the city, which the internet quickly misunderstood as meaning that Nan Madol had been “newly” discovered. This, in turn, prompted the Daily Mail to write about the online speculation as though it had substance.
I'm an author and editor who has published on a range of topics, including archaeology, science, and horror fiction. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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