Attack of the Nephilim! "Skeptic" Takes on Graham Hancock's Watchers, While Jim Vieira Explores Psychic Connections to Giants
This week eSkeptic and Skeptic published the final version of Mark J. Defant’s review of Graham Hancock’s Magicians of the Gods, an earlier draft version of which stoked Hancock’s ire in a radio debate featuring Hancock, Defant, and Sketpic publisher Michael Shermer on Joe Rogan’s podcast earlier this year. The review, while very good, represents one of the major problems I have had with skeptical activism: Graham Hancock published Magicians of the Gods almost exactly two years ago, and at this point the criticisms and the arguments lack a certain impact, largely because fringe history has already moved on (Hancock is working on a new book about North American “mysteries”) and anyone who might have stood to gain from reading the review has already read Magicians (or never will), and the damage has been done. That’s one reason that I worked my ass off to review the book in time for its initial release. Two years on, it has almost become moot. Almost.
In the updated analysis, Defant addresses some of the more recent events that have connections to Hancock’s book. One of these is the weak and unusual academic paper by Martin Sweatman and Dimitrios Tsikritsis that attempted to demonstrate support for the Hancockian idea that the Turkish site of Göbekli Tepe represents a monument to the constellations of the night sky at 4 minutes past 1:01 PM on September 11, 10,950 BCE. “That Sweatman distances himself from Hancock’s theory is telling, but in my decades of reading scientific papers I have never come across an article more speculative than this one,” Defant writes. I don’t blame him for not recognizing the true reason for this—and it isn’t a scientific one—but it’s worth noting that the real reason is that Sweatman and Tsikritsis modeled their work not on Hancock but on Andrew Collins, from whom Hancock borrowed the astral claims. Collins and Hancock have differences in their fantasies about the “real” purpose of Göbekli Tepe, and that alone accounts for the majority of the differences between the article and Hancock’s book.
Defant also seems a little fuzzy on the concept of the Watchers, the fallen angels of the Book of Enoch, equated with the Sons of God of Genesis 6, whom Hancock identified as the survivors of Atlantis. Defant implies that the Watchers are Hancock’s creation, though this is certainly not true. The characters feature in literature dating back to the Book of Enoch, and the equation of the survivors of Atlantis with the Sons of God from the Bible can be found wholesale in Hancock’s greatest model, Ignatius Donnelly’s books Atlantis: The Antediluvian World and Ragnarok: The Age of Fire and Gravel.
But there is a bit of news, of sorts, in Defant’s review that is worth reporting: In Magicians Graham Hancock tried to discredit recent (2015) surface luminescence dating work by Ioannis Liritzis and Asimina Vafiadou and published in the Journal of Cultural Heritage that dates the Sphinx Temple to the reign of Khafre by claiming that the stones the pair dated were actually from “restoration work” done to the original primeval Sphinx Temple.
I wrote Dr. Liritzis and asked him to comment on the assertions made by Hancock and Schoch. He told me he was aware of Hancock’s “ideolipseis” and assured me that the samples Hancock claims were from a coating placed over the blocks to shield them from weathering “were not shielded coatings…but derived from the whole block in between a firm contact!” In other words, the Sphinx and Temple Complex are evidence of an ancient civilization that existed in the third millennium BCE, not thousands of years earlier.
From there, Defant offers a series of solid geological arguments and logical ones, too, that carefully expose Hancock’s illogical fantasies and reveal the assumptions and warrants necessary to keep them afloat in the face of logic. The whole piece is worth a read because it is very good, but it is also two years too late, and skeptics would do well to make their commentary more timely to better serve the public before it has moved on from the controversy du jour.
I wish I could say the same about gigantologist Jim Vieira’s two-part article on Ancient Origins (here and here) in which he plumbs the fictitious prophecies of Edgar Cayce for evidence of giants from Atlantis. Or, as he put it In what us actually a commercial for the Edgar Cayce Ancient Mysteries Conference on October 6, where he will appear: “I have conducted a lengthy comparative analysis of the Cayce material, the literature of Rudolph Steiner, the Rosicrucian’s (sic), the Freemasons, the Theosophists, Plato, as well as worldwide indigenous oral traditions, myths and legends. What came forth was as unexpected as it was bizarre.” No, it isn’t. Vieira points to all of these stories as sharing similarities to the Biblical story of the Sons of God and the Nephilim, and he declares this evidence of a secret tradition going back to primeval antiquity. I needn’t belabor the point to note that the similarity is NOT A COINCIDENCE, OR A CONSPRIACY. Placed in chronological order, Plato and the Biblical writers drew on a common Near East tradition about civilizing demigods in the pre-Flood world, and the modern occult traditions simply draw on these original stories and pretend to have prehistoric sources.
I have chronicled many times the development of various fringe history myths from the Near East Flood narrative, and their common origin is simply beyond dispute. From the Genesis narrative and the Book of Enoch, we find nearly the whole of modern fringe claims about antediluvian worlds descend. Plato’s version is modeled on the Near East Flood myth, at least in its Greek form, as the final extant lines of the unfinished Critias make clear in reproducing Zeus’s judgment on sinful Atlanteans in parallel to God’s judgment on sinful humanity in Genesis.
Vieira, however, takes from this little more than a superficial trait: The fictitious pre-Flood giants were often considered superhuman in form and were depicted in art with extra fingers and toes. Rather than seeing this as a symbol of the giants’ demigod status, he takes it as proof that giants were real and had six fingers and toes. “Hopefully, this information will strike the reader as profoundly as it has me and you will be open to entertain seemingly heretical notions about the past.”
The second part of his article is more depressing. He claims that there was a global religion that worshiped hermaphrodite deities, which he terms “androgynous”—following an older Victorian usage of the word to mean hermaphroditic rather than gender-ambiguous. Consider this bizarre and wrong sentence: “The Androgynous Thoth is widely reported to have been from Atlantis in esoteric circles, he was also known as Hermes Trismegistus, Hermaphrodite is Hermes + Aphrodite.” Leaving the grammar problems aside, Thoth was not a hermaphrodite, or androgynous, and this false fact derives from Manly P. Hall’s Secret Teachings of All Ages, where hermaphrodites are said to have been the first creation, in imitation of the gods, and which later occult authors extended to Hermes, apparently under the misapprehension that Hermaphrodite wasn’t the child of Hermes and Aphrodite, but a combination of them. Basically, if Hermaphrodite is the union of Hermes and Aphrodite, and Thoth is the same as Hermes, then Thoth is a hermaphrodite, too. All of this derives, more or less wholesale, from Helena Blavatsky, who in The Secret Doctrine declared the Third Root Race, the people of Lemuria, to be the descendants of hermaphrodite civilizing heroes and the possessors of none other than the Mysteries embodied in the occult societies of today. Vieira also repeats the popular recent fringe meme that any sculpture depicting a basket or a bag is proof of a cult of Watchers who bequeathed civilization from their purses. And, man, does he think that these purses are really feminine.
Vieira knows nothing more than what he read in modern occult book, plus his own retrograde gender notions about how carrying a “man bag” makes you fruity, especially if you try to present as a male. What kind of manly god has a purse? A secret hermaphrodite. Having established that accessorizing makes a male god androgynous, Vieira delivers his conclusion, one that (surprise!) endorses his friends’ belief that ancient myths are literally true:
This alternative view of history makes sense of all the strange and mythological traditions of the world, where our current scientific paradigm addresses none of it and leaves us in the dark with the misperception that our ancestors were superstitious, illogical and insane. Besides the tragedies of the burning of the Library of Alexandria and the Mayan Codices being destroyed, it looks like modern science has thrown out thousands of years of legitimate evidence in the form of myth, legend, religious documents, oral traditions and secret society literature. The more I dig, the more I lean toward the ancient world described by Edgar Cayce and others as being the more probable reality.
I’ll repeat again that the reason that ancient myths and religious documents aren’t good evidence is because they form a clearly evolving tradition where stories grown, change, and develop over time, reflecting not an underlying world of gods and monsters but an evolutionary tree of baroque takes on a few rather simple and obvious myths of dwarves and giants.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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