So this is what it has come to. A NASA spokesman officially denied this week that it is running a child slave colony on Mars after a guest on conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’s Info Wars program made the assertion. The denial made national headlines because Pres. Donald Trump is known to watch, and apparently trust, Jones’s program. On the broadcast, Robert David Steele made the accusation and alleged that global elites use pedophilia as a gateway toward what is essentially vampirism under a pseudoscientific gloss, with their fear hormones used to keep the wealthy forever young.
“Pedophilia does not stop with sodomizing children,” Steele told Jones. “It goes straight into terrorizing them to adrenalize their blood and then murdering them. It also includes murdering them so that they can have their bone marrow harvested as well as body parts.”
There is no longer any difference between the news and the snake oil filling the fever swamps of the fringe. The only good news is that the mainstream news media and NASA are still treating these claims as stupid and contemptuous, but the fact that they are increasingly making headlines is disturbing.
Meanwhile, Ancient Origins published an article by Lucy Wyatt in which the author alleged, without evidence, that the Knights Templar attempted to take control of the ancient city of Harran during the Crusades in order to gain access to the Hermetic wisdom of the Sabians who formerly inhabited it.
It is important to reflect at this point on what might have been the genuine mission of the Knights Templar. There is no doubt that St Bernard played a key role in creating the cover story that this select group of religiously inspired crusaders existed to protect the routes to Jerusalem. But given the low numbers of Templars, at least to begin with, this explanation does not make sense. What is more plausible is that they had a presence in the Near East because, after the First Crusade in 1097, St Bernard and others from the Court of Burgundy became aware of occult knowledge contained in a body of writings known as the Corpus Hermeticum considered to be ‘older than Noah’ having been composed by Hermes Trismegistus and therefore of great interest. And one group of people who knew a lot about the Hermetica was the Sabians, who at the time of the Crusades lived in Harran.
According to Wyatt, the effort to take Harran was strategically suspect because the city was on the “wrong side” of the Euphrates and offered no benefit in terms of controlling the Holy Land. In this, the writer claims to be following fringe historian Adrian Gilbert’s 1996 book Magi. However, this constellation of claims doesn’t quite hold up to scrutiny.
In 1096, the first Crusade commenced and a French noble named Baldwin became the first Count of Edessa, the county which included Harran. As the medieval writer al-Qadi reported, the Harran had long been the home of to a non-Islamic people who escaped conversion to Islam by identifying themselves with the Sabians, a “people of the book” from the Qur’an specifically exempted by Islamic law from conversion. They also identified their god-hero, Hermes Trismegistus, with the Islamic prophet Idris. However, the date when this took place is disputed, with al-Qadi favoring a date of 830 CE, but references to the Sabians of Harran occurring back before 770 CE. In 990, the Numayrids, a Shia Arab tribe, took control of the city, and in 1032, Shiites destroyed the Hermetic temple of Harran and suppressed the Sabian community. While the Byzantine Empire had retaken most of Edessa in the 1030s, Harran remained under Shia control.
Anyway, the first Baldwin had become the Count of Edessa and naturally wanted control over the territory he had been assigned, but this lasted only until 1100, when Baldwin was elected King of Jerusalem. He was succeeded by another count named Baldwin, who reigned until 1118. During this period, the county of Edessa was not the backwater that Ancient Origins suggests, but it was in decline relative to its former importance in centuries past. Baldwin II of Edessa wanted to reattached Harran to his crusader state, and he put together a coalition of princelings from surrounding crusader states to accomplish this goal. In 1104, the coalition besieged Harran, which attracted the attention of the Seljuk Turks, who countered the effort and eventually won the Battle of Harran, breaking the power of Edessa.
You might notice that cover stories and Knights Templar do not play much of a role in what was a complex effort among many groups to navigate the fault line between Muslim and Christian control in a volatile region. Harran is only on the “wrong” side of the Euphrates if you assume that the only goal of the Crusaders was to control the Holy Land. If you view the strategic map in terms of petty rulers trying to maximize their own territories, it makes perfect sense why a ruler of Edessa would want to annex the next major town over from his border, essentially adding to his territory the province east of the Euphrates.
The problem with assuming that the Knights Templar joined the fight because Bernard of Clairvaux wanted to get his hands on the Hermetica is that the Europeans didn’t know anything about the Hermetica at the time. The ancient texts had been lost to the West at the end of Antiquity and were only rediscovered after Byzantine copies were translated in Italy in the Renaissance. Hermes Trismegistus was considered a bit of an unsavory character on account of the fact that he was a pagan and possibly possessed of the evil wisdom of the Fallen Angels, according to European texts. In order for the claim to make any sense, the Templars needed to know about Hermeticism before they went in search of the very Hermetic documents they would need to possess to know about Hermeticism! [Update: As the comments below note, I misread the dates given in the article, and it appears that the author claimed that the Templars learned of the Corpus Hermeticum during the First Crusade, not before, though this still creates the problem that if they had the Corpus from Eastern sources, there is no reason to go invading Harran to look for more since the whole Middle East was lousy with Hermetic literature.] It’s probably also worth noting that the Corpus Hermeticum is the name given to the collection of Greek material as edited and published in the Renaissance. It is not the same as the literature the Sabians would have had access to, since the extant Corpus is only a selection of the much vaster Hermetic literature of Antiquity, and it omits (with the exception of the Emerald Tablet) all of the Arabic Hermetic literature of the Middle Ages.
Wyatt writer offers another whopper—that the Sabians were not simply Hermetic Middle Easterners but were instead Egyptians!
Indeed, it is possible that the name ‘Sabian’ derives from the ancient Egyptian word for star, sba, and they may have been ancient refugees from Egypt. The Sabians could have been the last remnants of Egyptian priesthood which mostly disappeared from Egypt in the 4th century when Romano-Christians destroyed what was left of Egyptian temples.
While it is true that the Arabs said that the Sabians made pilgrimages to Giza to make sacrifices at the alleged tomb of Hermes Trismegistus, there is no evidence whatsoever of an Egyptian priesthood in Harran, a city that had its own religious traditions for thousands of years.
Wyatt never did return to the idea of the Knights Templar in Harran, and she did not bother to try to make an actual argument for why we should assume that they participated in to find esoteric wisdom in Harran. The actual warrant for the claim appears to be Masonic lore, where the allegation that the Templars learned of Masonry from “Syrian Christians,” allegedly descendants of the Essenes, has led many fringe writers to swap in Sabians for Syrian Christians. One old version of the story came from the Archdeacon Walter B. Mant back in 1830:
These knights were all Freemasons; from some of the Syrian Christians, who had yet retained the mysteries of the Craft, they received their initiation, and no one was admitted into the Templar’s society before he had been prepared by reception into the three degrees of Masonry. […] These were the men who, returning from the Holy Land, brought with them the true principles of Freemasonry, and patronising the operative branch also, re-established the Order on its true basis.
Modern writers are merely attempting to make old stories seem more scientific by layering historical facts atop stories developed as legends and myths.
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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