But for this episode I also need to disclose before discussing Alan Butler that he and Christopher Knight sent me a threat of legal action because they mistakenly believed it was illegal for me to review their 2004 book Civilization One prior to its publication date without their permission, despite the fact that their own publisher had sent me advanced galley proofs and asked for an early review in Skeptic magazine. Because there was no embargo on the book’s contents (nor would I have signed such an agreement), there was nothing illegal about reviewing the book. The authors' publicist eventually apologized to me.
This disclosure is particularly important because that 2004 book introduced Butler’s ideas about the “megalithic yard,” abbreviated by him as the MY, which Butler also wants to apply to the layout and design of Washington, DC. We’ll get to that in just a moment, but first a little bit of background on the pseudoscientific uses of metrology is probably in order.
For a long, long time nobody really cared all that much about units of measurement. Most measurements were based on the human body, and as such they varied significantly from location to location depending on who was doing the measuring. Even when a relatively standardized set of measurements came into force in a given time or place, they were not shared across cultures or from one time period to the next. Thus, the Romans and the Egyptians, for example, did not share their units of measurement.
For the most part, this ad hoc system of local measurements continued down to the early modern period, when the rise of science led to a movement for more consistent units of measurement. Queen Elizabeth I standardized the mile, for example. In the late sixteenth century the forerunner of the metric system was first proposed, and it was fully developed during the 1600s. In these same years, John Greaves, an Oxford don, launched modern pyramidology by publishing a tract called Pyramidographia (1646) discussing the measurements of the Great Pyramid. It was the age of scientific metrology.
Then, during the French Revolution, France adopted the metric system, which at the time was based on estimates of the earth’s polar circumference. Long story short, fringe theorists took inspiration and started to wonder if ancient people hadn’t based their measurements on the size and shape of the earth as well. In 1859 John Taylor claimed that Noah had built the Great Pyramid as a scale model of the earth. This culminated in astronomer Charles Piazzi Smyth’s Our Inheritance in the Great Pyramid (1864), in which he not only agreed but also determined that the measurements used, the so-called pyramid inch, were inspired by God and could predict the future. The idea of a prehistoric, quasi-divine unit of measurement took hold from here, given a boost by early twentieth century speculation (later refuted) that ancient cultures like Egypt and Mesopotamia shared a single prehistoric unit of measurement. The Italian historian Livio Stecchini, a defender of Velikovsky, assumed all measurements were related and proceeded to “prove” it by concluding that all measurements derive from an exceedingly accurate Egyptian knowledge of the earth’s circumference. His system was so complex that it involved four different feet, in a ratio of 15:16:17:18, with each foot having two variants based on the cube root of 24 and the cube root of 25. He never provided hard evidence that any of these measurements were actually used in archaeological sites, but his work inspired claims in numerous New Age and fringe books, not least of which was Hamlet’s Mill.
This was the same time that the Megalithic Yard sprang into existence, emerging from the same milieu of speculation about precision measurements and ancient wisdom, a reflection of the Cold War emphasis on scientific advancement projected back into an imaginary past. The MY is an imaginary measurement developed by Alexander Thom based on incorrect mathematical computations of the measurements of megalithic European sites. Even though megalithic sites are made from irregular blocks and many sites are heavily damaged, Thom concluded that the original measurements used by more than 100 megalithic sites favored a basic unit of measurement of 2.72 feet, give or take a smidge, and this implied a central prehistoric bureau of weights and measures. Critics noted that Thom’s measurements based on damaged sites and were, in places, off by as much as a foot, drastically affecting his statistical analysis used to compute his yard.
Today, most archaeologists believe that there was some effort at standardized units, likely based on the human body, but that they were not applied as rigorously or as accurately as Thom believed. In short, he discovered that people tended to use their feet to measure things at a time when most of their feet were a bit smaller than ours.
Nevertheless, because Thom was working in the age of the counterculture and Gerald Hawkins’s claims about Stonehenge as a “prehistoric computer,” New Agers adopted his ideas as proof of a lost civilization, perhaps even Atlantis, that pre-planned prehistory. Knight and Butler decided that the MY could be determined to the ten-thousandth of a millimeter, giving that measurement as 82.96656 cm, based on a conversion of a slight variant of the MY’s imperial measurement into metric, without consideration for the fact that a converted measurement cannot be more accurate than the original unit of measurement. (They generally round it to 82.3 in Civilization One.)
They also decided that the MY wasn’t just a unit derived from the human body. Instead, adopting Stecchini’s ideas (influenced in turn by Piazzi Smyth’s), they proposed that the MY was a fractional measurement of the earth’s circumference as calculated from an assumed prehistoric 366-degree circle. Butler provided no archaeological evidence of a 366-degree circle but claims to have derived the number from the Phaistos Disk because that possibly Minoan artifact contained 30 divisions on the obverse and 31 on the reverse, suggesting 366-day calendar on a cycle of 40 years (with a 40-day intercalary month). For Butler, a Minoan 366-day calendar implied a 366-degree division of the cosmos, especially since the 40-year cycle echoed Thom’s suggestion that 40 megalithic inches made up the MY. I trust it is obvious to you that that there is absolutely no reason to suggest any connections between these numbers. Indeed, our 360-degree circle is no corruption of an older 366-degree circle; the convention of assigning 360 degrees to circle derives from Babylon’s use of a base-60 system. There is no evidence for any 366-degree system or circle. The coincidences Butler sees in support of it derive from the fact that 360 and 366 are both divisible by 2, 3, and 6, and produce fractional values that can be computed with 4, 9, and 12.
Butler claims that in a 366-degree earth where each degree contains 60 minutes made up of 6 arc seconds each, that each arc second is exactly 366 MY wide.
Let’s crunch the numbers using Thom’s 2.72 feet: 366 X 60 X 6 X 366 X 2.72 divided by 5,280 gives us 24,843 miles, about 60 miles too small for the earth’s equatorial circumference. Let’s try a different way: The earth’s circumference is 24,901 miles at the equator. So, dividing it out, we get 2.726 feet to the “yard,” which, to two significant figures, gives us 2.73. It’s close, but no cigar. Using the metric figures yields a calculation of 83.10 cm to the “yard,” which does not agree with Butler’s own 82.97. Running the numbers the other way from Butler’s figures out gives us 40,010 km, which does not match the 40,090 km of the earth’s circumference.
Using the polar circumference gives us a better fit, since the 40,010 km more closely matches the polar circumference of 40,007 km. Running the numbers the other way, it gives us a megalithic yard of 82.960 cm. In imperial units, 24,860 miles gives us a “yard” of 2.722 feet, and Thom’s 2.72-foot MY yields a circumference of 24,843 miles.
It’s cute, but it depends entirely on asserting a sixty degree arc minute and six arc seconds, a fudge factor for which there is no archaeological support. Working backward, we can see that to achieve his results, Butler simply divided the polar circumference (and why polar except that’s what the metric creators did?) by the length of the MY and then by 366 twice. He then rationalized the inconvenient remainder of 360. But many different numbers could be rationalized as some combination of the key numbers of 2, 3, 6, 9, and 12 since there are so many possibilities. It’s a neat coincidence that this works out to 60 and 6, but 366 divided by 6 yields 61, not 60, which should be the more logical number of minutes to aim for.
Butler and Knight use these same numbers to propose whole sets of relationships related to mass, weight, volume, and even temperature—they say that if absolute zero is negative 1000 degrees, then water boils at 366 degrees. “Remarkable!” they proclaimed in Before the Pyramids (2009), oblivious apparently to the fact that temperature scales are arbitrary and the size of a degree differs between Fahrenheit and Celsius and can’t be said to be inherent in the universe.
Butler has previously attached the Megalithic Yard to Washington, DC in Before the Pyramids and on the Washington DC’s Chamber of Secrets website—which despite its name is not an American remake of Harry Potter. Instead, it’s a crackpot assemblage of bizarre claims about Washington, including (and I am not making this up) the “fact” that the Ark of the Covenant is buried in front of the White House and the “fact” that Washington, DC and Teotihuacan in Mexico share a mathematical relationship to the moon (which he believes was built by time traveling Freemasons from the future, or at least people who shared the same cult beliefs) as well as the asteroid Ceres (which he also believes is artificial):
The makers of the Moon created Ceres and left it in the Asteroid Belt to show that they had taken most of the material for Earth's Moon from the Asteroid Belt. They gave Ceres a quite remarkable relationship with the Moon in terms of its size and mass and they also replicated its circumference on Earth, between Washington DC (which is the most Megalithic city ever created) and another Megalithic city from the past, Teotihuacan. And to make certain there could be absolutely no mistake, this measurement of 27.322 Megalithic degrees or 2.986 km ran from the Megalithic hub of Washington DC - the middle of the Ellipse, to the Pyramid of the Moon in Teotihuacan. It is extremely hard to fathom how such point specific evidence could possibly be ignored.
But Butler has never been good at math. I previously discussed how his moon measurements, lynchpin of his MY-future-Freemason conspiracy, are also disastrously wrong.
In terms of Washington, DC, his claims rest on a series of Google Earth measurements that allegedly show distances between DC monuments are multiples of megalithic yards and the number 366. Could this be for real? Well, no. You see, when you multiply a megalithic yard by 366, you get just about 1,000 U.S. (imperial) feet (997 by Butler’s numbers), give or take, depending on the exact decimal used. The error of one yard every thousand feet is negligible across the miles of distance Butler measures. Now what would you say are the chances that distances in a city planned out in imperial measurements would, within the margin of error for covering uneven terrain, use even multiples of 10, 100, or 1,000 feet? The metric system hides this fact, but the original imperial measures used in laying out Washington, DC shows that that “system” Butler “uncovered” was not a secret prehistoric plot but rather a conventional grid planned by Pierre L’Enfant in the 1790s using standard imperial measures, just like the public records of the time always maintained.
As for the goddess-worship? That’s another figment of Alan Butler’s imagination, albeit one based on a common misconception about Masonry derived from Albert Pike, who used the trappings of the Victorian occult in describing Masonry in Morals and Dogma of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry in 1871, rationalizing Masonry with appeals to Isis and the Greco-Roman goddess of the Mysteries that did not exist before he invented them. (Around the same time, the Grange also adopted nearly-identical Classical trappings, part of the Classical and occult revival that found equal expression in Theosophy.) It is from this book that claims about Masons worshiping Isis (or any other goddess figure) emerge.
For Butler, his time traveling Freemason moon-builders travel through space and time at the behest of the ancient Virgin Goddess, whom they worship as the constellation Virgo. He therefore looks around Washington and sees images of the “goddess” Columbia and reads them as Freemasonic idols of the Goddess. There is no evidence that the Freemasons worship a goddess; rather such goddess references were intended as symbolic and as justification for preexisting Masonic rituals. Columbia was the Uncle Sam of her day, a symbol. Would you take seriously the claim that a secret cabal of Illuminati secretly worship Saturn under the guise of Uncle Sam? Well, this is the same thing.
Columbia was a bit of symbolism created on the order of the British national symbol Britannia (created in the 1600s), herself imitating the Roman goddess of the city, Roma. No one actually worshiped either Britannia or Columbia, or any of their analogues: Germania (Germany), Marianne (France), Italia Turrita (Italy), etc. Indeed, Columbia isn’t even a Freemason invention! Columbia was invented by an African-American poet named Phyllis Wheatley in 1776. The DC statue most frequently identified with her, the Capitol dome’s Statue of Freedom, is allegorical, and was designed as a bit of classicizing allegory—from a concept by future Confederate president Jefferson Davis! Davis, despite frequent claims to the contrary, was not a Freemason. Indeed, after the Civil War, Davis specifically denied any involvement in Masonry (confirmed by the Masons) during an anti-Masonic propaganda blitz attempting to assign blame for the war to the Masons.
Scott Wolter, however, adopted Alan Butler’s ideas in their entirety. In the Hooked X (2009), for example, he describes at length how he and his wife see Washington as a giant sexual fetish, with the Washington monument as a giant Freemason penis penetrating two overlapping circular paths (identified as a vesica piscis) that surround the monument to form the city’s vagina. “Could the towering phallic (sic) have been erected as a beacon to the Goddess above to release her divine powers to the earth?”
Note that the supposed vagina did not exist until a recent re-landscaping of the monument grounds:
(In the style of Dan Brown's Lost Symbol)
Somewhere in Minnesota
7:59 PM CT
The secret is how anyone could take this stuff seriously.
But someone did. Someone always does.
The forensic geologist gazed at the Nielsen ratings he cradled in his palms. The numbers were good, almost too good.
Make another one, he told himself. You have nothing to fear.
As was tradition, he had begun his journey toward tonight’s episode by donning the garb of a truth-telling exposer of Masonic truths, his earth-toned shirt and rugged Duluth Trading Company Bulldozer backpack selected to recall a movie archaeologist from those Spielberg films. Tonight, however, he was going to go for a different franchise. A Dan Brown franchise.
As he prepared to loose the daunting truth on the world, the forensic geologist wondered who on the outside would ever believe so much truth could be assembled in one our-long show. Stranger still a show airing on the same channel as Ancient Aliens.
“It’s time,” a voice whispered.
The forensic geologist let his gaze drift over to the television. A pleasant warmth began to stream through his body. He exhaled, smiling inwardly as he once again realized that he had gotten one over on the unsuspecting academics who had refused him entry into their most sacred ranks.
The history we’ve all been told is wrong.
Some believe Washington has hidden messages. Messages only George Washington knew. It is colonial times. Sitting at his desk in the flickering light of an oil lamp, a man carefully scrawls on paper as the staccato rap of George Washington’s fist shakes his door. The men look at one another silently and the plans. Masonic symbols in all the streets. The plan is a good one. Washington is pleased.
History is wrong. The words echoed in his ears as the forensic geologist got ready to expose the truth. He was in the heart of Washington getting ready to find evidence of something “huge.” The man claimed to be a friend, but can anyone truly be a friend when dealing with “DC,” what the geologist called “The District of Columbia”?
Rotund and jovial, Alan Butler was flush with the proceeds of two decades of books exposing and re-exposing the Freemasons as pagans. He knew the Freemasons would someday time travel to the past to build the moon, but the public wasn’t ready to know this yet. The time would be right. But only after the geologist paved the way.
“Do I have something to show you,” Butler said, jarring Scott Wolter from his complacency. Wolter struggled to pretend that he was not aware that Butler had written the book on the Masons secret symbols fifteen years ago, or that Wolter had himself written a book with a chapter on the same just five years ago.
Butler removed a marker and drew four uneven lines on a map of Washington. It’s a symbol of the goddess, Wolter realized. Five points in the star must be the symbol of Venus, even though there was no evidence of Venus having a five-pointed star. Ancient goddesses used six-pointed stars, but that was just another layer of the conspiracy.
“Fancy a pint?” Butler asked.
“Now you’re talking my language,” Wolter replied.
In an upscale bar whose wood was dark and shiny, Butler played measurement games. He showed the geologist that the megalithic yard, divided by 10 could be used to make a cubic unit the size of a pint. This is proof of magic goddess powers, Butler thought. You’re all too blind to see it.
Wolter struggled to pretend that this information was new to him. The public needs to know, but they can’t know I know, he thought. I’ll pretend this is all Alan’s idea. No one will ever check my book, The Hooked X, to see that I’ve already written about this goddess worship or think Washington is a giant vagina with a huge penis in it.
“It’s the pubic triangle!” Wolter exclaimed. Diamonds, triangles, angles—all are vaginas. Washington is a 100 square mile diamond. Don’t listen to the people who tell you that Washington has three straight lines and the irregular Potomac River since 1846. Or that the District of Columbia, before the 1846 retrocession, was what was square, and not at the time synonymous with the city of Washington, then only a small part of the district. Those are stupid details that the Masons use to hide the truth. It’s a vagina-diamond.
My God. The city is a vagina and I get to tell everyone in America on national TV. Vagina!
Wolter drove past monuments at the center of Washington, the marble temples serving as backdrop to a voice over that repeated what the audience had already heard. It was good to repeat things. It kept the mind sharp and made sure no one missed the subtleties and nuances.
Beneath the interplay of light and shadow on the grassy lawn of a park, Wolter and an older, professorial man walked. They discussed the origins of Washington, DC and the rancorous colonial debate that led to the nation’s capital landing on this humid piece of rural real estate. George Washington laid out a square of 100 square miles to define the federal district, even though parts of it would not end up in the final district.
But that wasn’t important.
The important thing is that the first boundary stone—that sandstone monument to sacred geometry—had been laid by the Freemasons. The Freemasons may have been secret practitioners of goddess worship, Wolter thought aloud, recording his thoughts in voice over. Sure, there wasn’t any evidence of this. But what was evidence against the weight of belief in the holy vagina and the penetrating power of the penis?
Wolter scowled when his hand-picked expert on early Washington told him that there was no Masonic symbolism in the city’s layout, no sacred geometry. He’d show him.
“I think it’s obvious,” he said. He continued talking, minute after minute, not letting anyone else speak. This was his time. He had the floor, and he wasn’t going to let some academic tell him what was true and what wasn’t. He ranted about secret agendas, goddess worship, and ideology that no one but him and Alan Butler recognized. They knew. They could see.
It was the kind of thing that could blow the lid off the mysteries of the vagina. All these people in the world. They had to be worshiping goddesses. Why else would men be interested in women if it wasn’t about begging goddesses for fertility and magic powers?
He’d show them all.
The Washington Monument was covered in scaffolding, wooden frames encasing the old phallic tower. It had looked that way since the August 2011 earthquake. Maybe it was a symbol from the goddess that the city had lost her favor.
One cream paper Bulter and Wolter drew out the ellipses that overlap at the Washington Monument while crouching as close as security would let them to it. The ellipses created a vagina for the Monument to penetrate. Sure, those ellipses might only be a few years old, but Wolter felt confident that no one would notice if he just told them that DC architect Pierre L’Enfant designed it two hundred years old. Butler was happy not to tell the audience that the ellipses measured 366 megalithic yards because the ellipses were 1,000 feet across—but the audience would never know whether Butler was himself ignorant that 366 megalthic yards was just about 1,000 feet or if he simply hid the fact to create “amazing” coincidences that would fuel book sales and television appearances.
Wolter watched as computer graphics showed the audience again that Washington was a vagina. Vagina. Could it be any clearer that the people who designed the grounds in ancient times--almost TEN years ago—were secretly creating a symbol of holy sex?
Wolter took out his cell phone, white and shining in the hazy Washington sun. He showed Butler the square that bounded the old District of Columbia—which he again purposely conflated with the city of Washington—and told Butler that the square was the Masonic square and compass.
But this wasn’t enough.
The District must have been named for a goddess, Columbia. Never mind that she was invented only in late eighteenth century, by a woman and an African American no less, not a Mason. She was real. The goddess worshiped by the Freemasons.
Through the bustling streets of Washington Wolter sped, his SUV taking him the ornate Scottish Rite Masonic Temple, dripping in gold and encrusted with marble. A Mason, Akram Elias, wearing an American flag lapel pin and a pink tie, stared wistfully at Scott Wolter as Wolter demanded answers about goddess worship.
And he would have answers.
Recapping what he learned brought comfort to Wolter. Seeing his truths splashed across the screen in white distressed type on a teal background reminded him that he was right. Saying them out loud every five to seven minutes only reconfirmed his beliefs. Goddess statues were everywhere. So were male statues, but no one cared much about them. Nobody liked looking at men. They did not have vaginas. Or boobs. But mostly vaginas.
Elias, an ex-Grand Master of the Freemasons, had ideas about the Masons’ secret symbols, but Wolter knew more. He knew Elias had appeared on Ancient Aliens and America’s Book of Secrets and a Dan Brown tie-in documentary—always using the mysteries of Freemasonry to build his career as a DC-based consultant for Capital Consulting and a onetime documentary producer. Every time he was on TV, it made him more famous and more likely to gain clients. He put these kind of things in his corporate biography.
Elias and Wolter knew a secret truth that neither mathematicians nor historians understood: geometry and freedom are “feminine” concepts. Math was a woman. Obviously. It wouldn’t be so hard to understand, like a typical woman, if it weren’t female.
“America is an idea,” Elias said. “Freedom.”
That is why the Masons were also engaged in a conspiracy to impose global population control and socialism, Wolter thought, until he realized he was thinking of a previous episode, a conspiracy thriller he had shot a few weeks back. This was the Dan Brown episode, he reminded himself.
The phone rings. Wolter jumps to answer. Butler found something. Something big. Something he “discovered” in 2011 and already wrote a book about but will pretend just happened anyway.
“The Pentagon,” Butler read loudly from a pre-written script.
“Whaaaaat?!?” Wolter half-shrieked, his voice rising like the constellation Virgo over a Masonic temple. He was secretly pleased with himself, confident that his line reading sounded completely natural. No one had the heart to tell him it did not.
Wolter’s SUV sped through Washington’s sunny streets as he recapped his thoughts once again, hoping that the repetition would make his viewers believe that a secret elite was worshiping women somewhere in Washington. Not real women, of course. That would be silly.
Wolter remembered 9/11 and the shock and horror of seeing the Pentagon in flames and ruin. He showed pictures of the 9/11 attacks because exploiting 9/11 to lend emotional weight to a goddess worship theory while simultaneously making himself seem heroic was a two-for-one bonus. Who could doubt the word of a post-9/11 science hero?
Butler had another theory, and Wolter knew it was “earth-shattering.” The circle enclosing Stonehenge is five times smaller than the one enclosing the Pentagon. FDR, Butler said, put the Pentagon in Alexandria, Virginia to create a “megalithic triangle” with sites in DC that was 33 X 366 MY in length, even though this triangle—stretching from the Capitol to the Pentagon to the Ellipse—is irregular and obviously has no single “length” since it has three legs of different sizes. That did not matter so long as one leg met his megalithic assumptions.
“Alan,” Wolter said, “you continually amaze me.”
Butler smiled. He knew.
Wolter was sure that Washington must have been a “City of the Goddess,” and he was sure that the Freemasons keep the goddess hidden. He didn’t have to do anything so crass as prove that the megalithic yard existed by going to, say, a megalithic site in Europe to find it. He didn’t need to do anything so labor intensive as actually try to find evidence that the Masons—or anyone else in American history—worshipped a goddess.
He had Alan Butler.
And Alan Butler believed time travelers from the future built the moon.
And it was amazing.