On NPR on Wednesday, CNN’s conservative commentator and Trump surrogate Scottie Nell Hughes demonstrated astonishing hypocrisy when the opponent of all things “liberal” embraced postmodernism’s most pernicious interpretation to declare that objective truth no longer exists: “It’s kind of like looking at ratings or looking at a glass of half-full water. Everybody has a way of interpreting them to be the truth or not true. There’s no such thing, unfortunately, anymore as facts.” I’m confused: I thought conservatives opposed relativism for destroying Western Civilization. Slimy elites will say anything when convenient to justify the excesses of the powerful.
On another note, yesterday afternoon the Xplrr Media crew delivered another podcast about The Curse of Oak Island, but it offers nothing much worth mentioning. Scott Wolter repeated his claim that the so-called “Hooked X®” found on a stone on the island is not Templar (we agree on something!), and he alleges that the show planted the object for ratings. Wolter, who expressed his lack of interest in Oak Island, reiterated his upset that the show is financially benefiting from his “Hooked X®” hypotheses, though he said he was happy that they gave him credit. J. Hutton Pulitzer heaped fawning praise on Oak Island executive producer Kevin Burns, and he speculated that the History Channel demanded a Templar theme to promote a forthcoming Templar-themed drama series. Wolter said that the show must have found nothing serious about Templars or else they would have asked him to appear. But didn’t he say last week that they did ask him and he refused? “I could just see that this was made up,” Wolter said of the Templar material under discussion on Curse of Oak Island.
And now to today’s main attraction: In doing some archival research I came across a classic case of a ufologist manipulating a historic text to create a fake account of ancient astronauts. Fortunately, due to the obscurity of the medium in which it was published, this account did not become as famous as some other fake texts. Our example comes from the winter 1953 edition of the Civilian Saucer Investigation Quarterly Bulletin, a newsletter published briefly in Los Angeles during 1953 and 1954. An unsigned article entitled “300 Years of Flying Saucers” makes the following unusual claim:
Emanuel Swedenborg, 1759, scientist and tutor of King Charles II of Sweden, mentions in one of his works on the universe that “the inhabitants of Mercury travel through the universe visiting planets in a globe extending itself lengthwise. They have exceptional memories and know more than inhabitants of any other planet. They possess the knowledge of all things in this solar system and scientifically are highly advanced. They delight in exploration of other planets. Their appearance is heralded by a whitish flame burning briskly. They wander through the universe. Strangely enough, they know that the art of printing is being used on earth.”
Would that be something if it were true? Unfortunately, the author either intentionally or ignorantly mangled the original Latin text into something it is not. Swedenborg was a scientist who became a Christian mystic after having dreams and visions that he believed came from God. Among his many claims, he argued that the universe was full of life because God would not make such a vast universe for only one planet. In a treatise entitled “On the Earths in the Universe” (or “The Earths in Our Solar System”) (1758), Swedenborg described his fanciful philosophy of how the other planets were inhabited by spirits that traveled the universe in groups, like birds in their flocks, as they roamed the cosmos for knowledge. In section 43 we find the text altered above, as translated in 1868 by the American Swedenborg Printing and Publishing Society:
On a time the spirits of Mercury appeared to the left in a globe, and afterwards in a volume extending itself lengthways. I wondered whither they were desirous of going, whether to this earth or elsewhere. […] Hence I was led to conclude that the spirits of Venus, who were on that part of the planet, were in concord with the spirits of Mercury, and that they had relation to the memory of things material which was in concord with the memory of things immaterial, to which latter memory the spirits of Mercury have relation: hence a more powerful operation was felt from them when they were there.
The remainder of the false quotation was apparently assembled from other sections of the treatise. Section 81, discussing angels from Jupiter, gives the material about printing. Swedenborg reports that he told the angels that the Holy Word on Earth was spread through printed texts. “They wondered exceedingly that things of such a nature could be made public by writing and printing.” Section 94, on Mars, describes a vision of a multicolored flame heralding the arrival of Martian spirit beings.
As you can see, the 1953 writer cherry picked lines and ran them together, with some paraphrasing and a few interpolations. The most vital change is the creation of a flying saucer (“a globe extending itself lengthwise”) from an original which referred to the murmuration of souls darting about the universe in different shapes, just as starlings do, not a vehicle they rode in.
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.
Enter your email below to subscribe to my newsletter, The Skeptical Xenoarchaeologist, for updates on my latest projects, blog posts, and activities, and subscribe to Culture & Curiosities, my Substack newsletter.
Terms & Conditions
Please read all applicable terms and conditions before posting a comment on this blog. Posting a comment constitutes your agreement to abide by the terms and conditions linked herein.