I’m sure many of you are probably bored with the medieval pyramid myth, but I have been reading Kevin Van Bladel’s book The Arabic Hermes: From Pagan Sage to Prophet of Science (Oxford, 2009), and part of it clarified a problem that explains a good amount of how the pyramid myth developed. The short form is that it wasn’t originally a pyramid myth. The oldest version of the story that we know of was told by Abu Maʿshar, a ninth century scholar, in his now-lost Book of Thousands. I knew his text from a quotation preserved in Al-Maqrizi, taken from Saʿid al-Andalusi, Al‐tarif bi-tabaqat al-umm 39.7-16 (1068 CE), quoting Abu Maʿshar speaking of Hermes Trismegistus:
In the current (June 2015) issue of Edge Science magazine, Chris Aubeck and Martin Shough published an excerpt from their forthcoming book, Return to Magonia (Anomalist Books). In the article, the authors attempt to determine the cause of a prodigy reported in German leaflets in 1665 and in various books thereafter. That year, according to these reports, a plate-like round form, dark in color, hovered in the sky over Stralsund, a militarized Hanseatic city that had recently become part of Swedish Pomerania as a result of the Peace of Westphalia at the end of the Thirty Years’ War, but remained subject to ongoing tensions between Sweden and Brandenburg, the future Prussia.
Ancient astronaut theorists never miss a chance to make money. If you have a spare $1200 to $1650 and are free in September 2016, you can join Scotty Roberts, Micah Hanks, and Jason Martell for the second “ancient alien cruise,” which manages to have the unique honor of featuring two non-ancient-astronaut theorists among its three ancient astronaut theory celebrities. (Hanks, David Childress, and Robert Schoch participated in the first ancient alien cruise.) Micah Hanks pretends he’s simply a journalist asking questions, while Scotty Roberts has played down his ancient astronaut connections in anticipation of his potential TV career as a “History Tripper.” So, the next time you see these guys claiming they don’t advocate the ancient astronaut theory, be sure to ask them why they’re taking money to promote it as the featured ancient astronaut theorists on a cruise literally called the Ancient Alien Cruise. (Also: A+E Networks owns the Ancient Aliens name. How is it I’m the only one they’ve accused of sowing “confusion” over their intellectual property?)
And now on to the main event.
Bad history abounds. It’s a truism that history is written by the victors, but it’s truer to say that history’s polemical purpose is to justify the present. In his dissenting opinion in Obergefell vs. Hodges, the case that legalized same-sex marriage across the United States, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that marriage is “a social institution that has formed the basis of human society for millennia, for the Kalahari Bushmen and the Han Chinese, the Carthaginians and the Aztecs.”
In the latest edition of Edge Science magazine (June 2015), Anthony Mugan claims that it is time to reappraise the Sirius Mystery and that there is evidence that the skeptics are wrong about the lack of evidence that the Dogon had secret knowledge of the Sirius star system. This gets a little complicated due to the amount of backstory needed to understand it, so I will try to keep this as simple as I can.
Today I’d like to follow up on two earlier posts. First, I’d like to discuss a bit more about the Westford Knight and the question of who carved the Massachusetts oddity and when. You will remember that in discussing the question of whether the carving of the sword handle was a modern one, I noted that Peabody Museum specialist David Schafer had indicated that he knew of documents in the Westford Historical Society that showed that the handle had been carved by some boys in the late 1800s. At the time I wasn’t able to confirm this, and I wondered if this were different than the claim reported in David Goudsward’s book on the Westford Knight that a woman had said her brother had carved a “peace pipe” on the rock ledge in the late 1800s.
At this point I know better than to take anything Nick Redfern writes at face value, but I was quite shocked at his apparent lack of reading comprehension, as well as his descent into David Childress-style recycling of his own earlier work. In a new article posted at Mysterious Universe, Redfern recapitulates, often point for point, portions of a 2013 chapter he published in Lost Cities and Forgotten Civilizations by Michael Pye and Kirsten Dalley (Rosen Publishing) in 2013. Anyway, I read the piece because it promised a wacky theory about the pyramids, but instead it merely revealed the sad case of an apparently paranoid man who imagined he unlocked the aliens’ master plan. The man in question was Bruce Cathie, who died in 2013, and who believed that “harmonic mathematics” proved the existence of a world energy grid that powered flying saucers (which he speculated came from the Venus of Theosophy) and allowed the construction of the pyramids.
Earlier this spring Destination America, one of the Discovery Networks’ cable stations aimed at a “hillbilly” audience (according to wording used in their own programming), refreshed their graphic design as part of their move to give the channel a more distinct identity. According to Ferroconcrete, the design firm behind the change, their guiding motivation in developing the new look was the channel’s “homespun lineup of all things good: fun, food and phantoms.” Yes, being stalked, attacked, or raped by a ghost—as Destination America programming claims happens every day—is “homespun” and “good.” But take a look at the icons Ferroconcrete created to represent “America.”
Because America is overrun with Biblical creationists seeking to impress a particular strain of conservative evangelical Christianity on the country, we tend to ignore other forms of creationism, including the Islamic creationism fashionable in the Muslim world and spread under the auspices of leaders like Adnan Oktar, the Turkish creationist who runs an international outfit under the pseudonym Harun Yahya. Like its Christian Intelligent Design counterpart, Islamic creationism casts itself as scientific and appeals to the glamour of science to spread its message. I bring this up because Graham Hancock has just posted an article by Canadian Islamic creationist Nadeem Haque, who wishes to prove the unity of science and Islam through appeals to pseudohistory.
As most of you have probably figures out, I’m very interested in the development of the medieval legend of the antediluvian origin of the pyramids of Giza. I find it interesting both for its own inherent merit as a cross-cultural quasi-epic myth, but also because fringe historians have cited it as “true” history, so if the pieces of the story can be separated and traced back to their sources, it undermines any claim—however tenuous—that the story is literally “true.” Anyway, I was very pleased to have finally found the connecting tissue that explains how the Jewish apocalyptic legend of Pillars of Wisdom became attached to the Egyptian pyramids.
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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