“There are consequences to ideas. There are consequences to mythologies.” So said Himmler’s Crusade author Christopher Hale in the Channel 5 documentary The Nazi Quest for the Holy Grail, which aired in Britain last week and which I have now viewed. The program drew a direct line between Heinrich Himmler’s belief in Atlantis as the homeland of pure Aryans and the Holocaust because his “investigations” led him to believe that race-mixing after the fall of Atlantis was responsible for the loss of much ancient wisdom. The historian Herman Wirth scoured the history books and decided that Plato’s myth of Atlantis was true. He convinced Himmler that ancient myth could be proved through archaeology and could thus support Nazi race theories.
The documentary also covered Otto Rahn’s quest for the Holy Grail, and it made an interesting observation about the origins of Rahn’s beliefs that I was not previously aware of. Rahn was inspired by Heinrich Schliemann, who had claimed that he was able to follow clues in Homer’s Iliad to locate the site of the lost city of Troy. In so doing, he had proved ancient mythology to be true. Rahn consequently decided that the same method could be applied to the epic poem telling the story of the quest for the Holy Grail, Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Parsifal. Rahn consequently attempted to use the geographical descriptions in the poem to locate the Grail.
This is particularly interesting because Schliemann had simply made up the myth of using Homer to find Troy. As I discussed last year, Schliemann had actually received noticed from Frank Calvert that Calvert had discovered archaeological ruins on his own land in Turkey that he thought might be Troy. Schliemann worked backward from the existence of the site to Homer in order to create the myth that he had simply followed Homer to Troy. However, in 1822 a Scotsman named Charles Maclaren had actually done what Schliemann claimed to do; he in fact deduced the exact site of Troy—the one Schliemann excavated—by using Homer. However, Maclaren did not rely solely on Homer but rather used his text as one data point, along with the ancient geographies compiled by authors like Strabo, who knew where Troy had once been, to pinpoint the specific hill, called Hissarlik, where the city lay buried.
But so powerful was the myth that Schliemann perpetuated that it inspired Rahn to go in quest of the Holy Grail using Parsifal and for any number of Atlantis-hunters to think that Plato’s fictional dialogue was, with suitable revisions and alterations, a road-map to a lost continent. Down to the present day ancient astronaut speculators and fringe historians site Schliemann’s work as “proof” that taking ancient texts literally will prove mythology true. And all this because Schliemann was a tireless self-promoter who wanted to craft a story that would give him and him alone credit for finding Troy.
This is the same combination of showmanship, opportunism, and dishonesty that characterizes today’s fringe archaeologist and pseudo-historians. Perhaps that’s one reason why, as always, I am flooded with bizarre messages every single time H2 or its affiliated international channels shows America Unearthed. Consider this weird rant that came in just after a broadcast yesterday (with original spelling and grammar):
Far as Scott Wolter, and the series America Unearthed, comon people, it's a show... with good alter history, speculation!!! There is alot in the United States, that shows whether pre-history or history, that much was known about the "New World" all along... and no doubt by way of so to speak secret societies. The problem evoked here, in presentation is very evident even today and on into tomorrow that there are just certain concepts some people, mainly Christian that want to hold onto, that really have nothing to do with the reality of Jesus as a person, (which that is all he was or could be) that make him to be in their eyes, conscience... for lack of a better word, "paradigm" think of him only as someone paranormal. The secret about secret societies is there is no secret!!! Yet, with persecution that Cathars, Merovigians, Carolinians, Templars let alone Jews ever experienced from the time of the early Catholic Church on, what else to do but go underground with so to speak "secret societieis?" The many codices, and alter histories that are led into question, if not for the Catholic Church, (an organization that has sequestered, let alone destroyed many ancient manuscripts from either the old world or the new, as the Mayan Codex is exampled, and if to reveal the "truth" amidst all this writing would not exist any longer in today's world... and ergo, so too the Protestant faith as it stands.) much would be accessible for public consumption let alone scholarly review to reveal much that is in question of the program. Usually, nay sayers are there not for the sake of history or science, as the evidence is just too telling otherwise, it is because they feel threatened to their pre-existing establishments of organized religion, in which such concepts... everything from a Jesus Code to extraterrestrial aliens, confronts them and what they think in regards to their own spirt, that is lost without the figurehead of Jesus as conventionally perceived in his execution on the cross. More times than not, there is plenty of evidence that is found, catalogued, and not mentioned publicly, as if one would only read the Brookings Report on the public reception of alien contact alone. This kind of thinking applies to all kinds of mystery and curiosities such as presented on the History Channel in this manner, and so... executives of the series aren't going to overact to the issues as they are, as in their minds... history, science, the body of Christ...Sasquatch, mermaids, and aliens etc.,... are all "ENTERTAINMENT!" Think of that! Oh, and by the way some of those media executives who say they haven't followed the program are already elected and honorary 33 degree Masons, Rosicrucians, if not actually Occulists or Jewish!!! Ha Ha!
Just look at the sheer volume of conspiracy theories folded together: aliens, alternative Christianity, anti-Catholicism, anti-Freemasonry, antisemitism, Bible codes, Bigfoot, cryptozoology, secret societies… and all attributed to a crippling fear of the decline of mainstream organized religion! I love the way “Jewish” is used as though it were an even more extreme form of Freemasonry, an ultra-secret world-bestriding cult. The writer seems to accept all the fringe ideas as true, even though they contradict one another in whole or in part, and atop all of that also sees a Masonic-Jewish conspiracy to control the media and also seemingly attributes to this conspiracy a belief that the very subject of their fringe history conspiracy is only “entertainment.” Why would people terrified that Jesus might not have been resurrected also be Jews trying to suppress the truth about aliens and Bigfoot? Why would people threatened by fringe topics in turn make endless TV documentaries claiming they are all true?
But it just gets worse. At Bubble News we read an unconfirmed report from a college student in the Philippines that his or her art history professor delivered a lesson about the origins of Mesopotamian art in extraterrestrial visitation and the genetic engineering of humanity from Neanderthals by the Anunnaki. Still worse, one reader wrote in response that she or he was sure that this must be something they teach in school because the story “sounds familiar.”
This is the real problem with fringe theories. Studies have repeatedly shown that people have trouble remembering the source of information, and even whether facts are true or false—only that they heard it. A newspaper correction, for example, makes readers more likely to remember and believe the original mistaken information than the correction. Fringe ideas shown on television enter into that nebulous zone of things people remember hearing and then percolate up through memory as “facts” from authority. Simply through repeat exposure a fake idea becomes a “fact” that enters into the body of common knowledge.
Of course, not everyone is taking this lying down. Here’s yet another explication on the convergence of religion and ancient astronautics by liberal Christian Margot Hernandez. According to Hernandez, ancient astronaut theories are interesting but challenge the received wisdom of the Bible. Therefore, she will support ancient astronaut ideas only if ancient astronaut theorists agree to exempt “Judeo-Christian-Islamic theology,” which unique among world religions must be understood in social and cultural context. Sigh. Aliens, like demons before them, are what those other people worship.
But since this has been a depressing tour through the dregs of human ignorance, let’s finish with a bright spot: This article summarizes the case for why Jules Verne caused the “Great Airship Mystery” with his novels of flying ships. The period illustrations, many of which I had not seen before, are worth the click.
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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