Benton Rooks Lauds Graham Hancock, Complains that Academics Believe in Linear Evolution of Civilization
The Disinformation Company, or as it styles itself, disinformation®, is a purveyor of conspiracy theories. If we are being generous, we might say that they explore alternative points of view, and if we are not being generous, it might be fairer to say that they make money off of hoaxes and lies, mixed with paranoia and New Age spirituality. They also have a business relationship with Graham Hancock, for whom they are the U.S. publisher of his book Supernatural. You wouldn’t know that from reading Benton Rooks’s review of Hancock’s Magicians of the Gods for Disinformation this week, nor would you learn that Rooks and Hancock worked together in creating the genre of “ethnodelic storytelling” to describe shamanic-influenced literature. In short, the review isn’t exactly what it pretends to be.
This close connection is important in evaluating how much to trust Rooks when he tells us that Graham Hancock is “the closest thing we have to a real” Indiana Jones.
The business concerns, however, are secondary to my interest in the way Rooks’s worldview led him to view Magicians of the Gods in a completely different way than I did when I read the book. Rooks advocates New Age spirituality as filtered through mind-altering drugs, and he seems to believe that trances and hallucinogens put us in direct contact with godlike entities from other dimensions. Because he views the world through that paradigm, in reading Magicians of the Gods he saw the book as a ratification of his spiritual views.
Thus, he sees Hancock—a fellow advocate of hallucinogenic drugs—as claiming that the ancient peoples of the Near East “have been in contact with the elder Atla[n]teans is through trance states” and the “devastation to the Earth’s geological core can be brought on by the spirits or Gods through both extreme weather in order to teach humans valuable (albeit sometimes distinctly mysterious) lessons.” I didn’t see either of those claims in Magicians, so I even went back to check Rooks’s reference, which was to page 115. In the edition that the U.S. publisher provided me, that page talks about post-glacial flooding but makes no mention of spirits or gods.
Rooks clearly comes to the book from a different perspective, and it’s fascinating to see how he brings to the text his own worldview and therefore emphasizes the references in the text to Hancock’s spirituality. As we know from Supernatural, Hancock does indeed believe in the power of shamanic trance states to contact other realms of consciousness and other beings who may or may not be gods. (He once claimed to have had a battle in his mind with a goddess while high.) But in Magicians, these beings don’t appear as actively engaged with the material world, and the “gods” he discusses are actually the white men he believes ruled Atlantis and were mistaken for deities by non-white people.
But look at how far down the rabbit hole Rooks is. He believes that Hancock is unfairly denied his rightful role as a major historical figure because Rooks mistakenly believes that academia views civilization in the same terms as Lewis Henry Morgan, who in 1877 delineated the continuum of savagery to barbarism to civilization and the linear progress of civilization. Thus, Hancock’s views aren’t taught in schools “likely because it disrupts the idea of perfectly neat and linear historical evolution; the central arrogance of the West certainly seems to be that we are somehow the greatest civilization that has ever existed.” Linear evolution hasn’t been the dominant view since at least Franz Boas more than a century ago, but it is telling that Rooks conflates academic views of civilization with political claims about the greatness of Western civilization in order to form a counterpoint to his preferred philosophy, Vedic-inspired degeneracy whereby the earth runs down to destruction. I wonder if he ever stopped to consider what he think his own ideology of inferiority says about his views of civilization as degenerate. Also: Is he not aware that pretty much the entirety of one major American political party is obsessed with cataloging the alleged degeneration and destruction of Western civilization? I hear plaintive cries to “Make America Great Again” or to save Europe from hordes of Eastern invaders, but very few arguing that America or the West is currently at the top of their games.
The fact of the matter is that terms like “greatest” and “degenerate” are value judgments that exist relative to a perceived ideal, and those ideals are culturally derived. Rooks seems to find his ideal in an imagined past where an eco-friendly, world-bestriding civilization lived in harmony with each other, with nature, and with a spiritual world that exists beyond this corrupt and corrupting material plane. It’s a pretty fairy tale, but one unsupported by evidence.
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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