On Saturday and Sunday, Andrew Collins and Hugh Newman put on the Origins 2016: The Origins of Civilization Conference at the Rudolf Steiner House in London. The even brought together a veritable Legion of Doom of B-list fringe historians, including Collins and Newman, along with Robert Bauval, William Henry, Graham Phillips, Greg Little, and more. The event didn’t receive a lot of promotion, and to judge by a search of social media, it didn’t generate much of an urge for attendees to post or tweet about the “news and revelations” promised for the conference. The Rudolf Steiner House in London did not list the event on its own event calendar for this weekend, and Newman’s Facebook links to discussion of the event were inaccessible by the time the conference closed last night. I found only a couple of tweets from attendees.
It seems appropriate to have fringe historians gather at the Rudolf Steiner House. Steiner, the founder of Anthroposophy, drew on Theosophy—the wellspring of fringe history—and declared the Aryan Germans to be the most spiritually advanced of the human races. He was, after all, the man who said in Vom Leben des Menschen und der Erde that “One can only understand history and all of social life, including today’s social life, if one pays attention to people’s racial characteristics. And one can only understand all that is spiritual in the correct sense if one first examines how this spiritual element operates within people precisely through the color of their skin” (trans. Paul Staudenmaier). You earn no bonus points for guessing that Steiner declared that spiritual purity manifests as white skin and in “the mission of white humankind,” while nonwhite skin was of a “demonic character.” As he said in a 1915 lecture, “People have white skin color because the spirit works within the skin when it wants to descend to the physical plane.” Nonwhites, he continued, were “atavistic” and of a “demonic character.”
Fortunately, though, as Peter Staudenmaier noted in his book on Anthroposophy, Between Occultism and Nazism, Steiner looked forward to a gigantic race war in which racial distinctions would finally vanish, albeit when “the new dawn of the white race” led to the mass destruction of the nonwhite.
So what did our favorite fringe historians report in the house that Steiner built? Well, basically more of the same that they always do, at least according to the pre-event program distributed online. But consider what Collins and Newman say are the goals of the conference: learning “to use intuition, quantum realities and onsite investigations on your own quests of discovery…” The program states that the weekend ended with a “focused meditation” on three subjects: “Göbekli Tepe, the Giza Pyramids and the Matter of Britain.” Where to start? Telling the audience that there is a “quantum reality” to ancient history Is bad enough, but I sincerely hope that they didn’t mean to imply that “onsite investigations” are anything more than following the rules about visiting ancient sites established by their owners and guardians. That last bit of meditation, the “Matter of Britain,” I take to refer to the last of the three medieval British mytho-histories, the others being the Matter of Rome and the Matter of France. As Jean Bodel first wrote in his twelfth century Chanson de Saisnes:
Ne sont que III matières à nul homme atandant,
More or less, the Matter of Britain is the Arthurian cycle and its offshoots.
You can read for yourself what the Origins 2016 speakers were scheduled to talk about, but I am rather taken by the fact that the fringe theorists in attendance are at odds with one another in their speculation, and that this doesn’t seem to matter. Andrew Collins planned to reveal that the Great Pyramids were secretly aligned to the constellation of Cygnus, while Robert Bauval was on hand to say that they were built in the shape of Orion. Andrew Collins has repeatedly argued that the Watchers were actually Neolithic shamans, while William Henry is on hand to contradict him, saying that the Watchers were not
…simply the memory of ancient shamans adorned in cloaks of vulture feathers responsible for the genesis of western civilization at places like Gobekli Tepe and Catal Hoyuk in ancient Anatolia. The angels and Watchers of Enochian tradition are also light beings that in paST (sic) ages have provided humanity with profound knowledge of spiritual technologies that enabled our ancestors to communicate with God and achieve bodily ascension through metaphysical processes still practiced until recent times by certain schools of Tibetan lamaism.
I have to stop there and say that it’s rather astonishing that Henry and his audience are gleefully rewriting Judeo-Christian tradition to rehabilitate the Watchers. In Judeo-Christian lore, they are Fallen Angels, sinful creatures confined to hell and the authors of evil. Here, Henry seems almost to advocate venerating these ancient demons as conduits to God. This is only a stone’s throw from modern Satanism, which posits Lucifer as a gateway to the divine.
If attendees were happy to be told that demons and Fallen Angels provide a spiritual Skype link to God, what, precisely, did they think they were contacting yesterday afternoon in a bizarre gathering called EarthQuest Core in which the attendees received training in how to commune with “otherworldly beings” in order to gain insight into ancient mysteries:
In the afternoon on the Sunday we shall be doing something slightly different. Under the banner of the EarthQuest Core Event various key researchers will attempt to show why understanding intuitive processes is important in the exploration of ancient mysteries sites around the world, such as Gobekli Tepe and Giza.
If I read this correctly, it sounds like (a) if we are supposed to take William Henry seriously, then the attendees were being trained in how to make contact with demons, who are actually “good,” and (b) fringe historians have given up trying to prove their claims with facts and now seek to convince their followers by appeal to supernatural proofs, in a spirit realm that conveniently cannot be measured or tested. This is the fringe history equivalent of the old “it was all a dream” trope on TV.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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