This week Graham Hancock appeared on The Joe Rogan Experience for a three-hour discussion of fringe history, which is the length of two feature movies. If you made it through the entire three hours in one sitting, you have much more patience than I do. It’s a mind-numbing slog through Hancock’s id, and it was one that came complete with his now-frequent claim that attacks on his work hurt his feelings. “I’m human,” he said, “and it hurts.” Over the course of the three-hour discussion, Hancock discussed attacks on him and how archaeologists are working to discredit him almost a dozen times that I counted—and I skipped over some parts. The pity party overshadowed pretty much everything else in the discussion.
This interview differs from Hancock’s others in that he is joined by Randall Carlson, another a fringe theorist whose work on geology Hancock used in his new book, Magicians of the Gods, even though Carlson has no education or credentials in geology. Both Hancock and Carlson admit that their views on ancient history (human and geological respectively) are shaped by psychedelic drugs, as we shall see. Both Hancock and Carlson had some trouble understanding that The Joe Rogan Experience is a podcast, primarily accessed as audio (though there is a video version), and so they came with a PowerPoint presentation and some photos that Rogan told them that most of the audience can’t see.
Hancock has trouble perceiving irony, and he did not recognize that he was describing himself when he announced that scientists are not objective but instead identify their personalities with their theories, and thus “any attack on that idea becomes an existential attack on you yourself.” Since a half-hour earlier Hancock talked about how he found attacks on his ideas personally painful to his ego, I am dumbfounded that he is unable to see his own reflection in the mirror.
Joe Rogan agreed with Hancock wholeheartedly, and he endorses that idea that “academics” are refusing to investigate or teach material that disagrees with their paradigms. “It makes your education look like shit,” he said after pausing to think about how college professors use what Hancock calls a “knowledge filter” to impose orthodoxy. I am not a regular consumer of the podcasts of Joe Rogan, so I was not aware that he was a full-fledged anti-academic conspiracy theorist and not just a goofy fringe/New Age proponent.
Hancock says that archaeology is “ideology” that follows the view that civilization moves from the primitive to the sophisticated in linear format, leading to use as the apex and pinnacle of a teleological evolution. This was the view of the Victorians, after Henry Lewis Morgan proposed in 1877 that humanity moved from savagery to barbarism to civilization in linear form, but that hasn’t been the case in anthropology or archaeology for many decades. Claude Levi-Strauss was a notable opponent, arguing that barbarism was primarily the province of those who would describe others as barbarians. Modern scholars, as usual, have a number of competing views.
The other important takeaway is that all of these characters are essentially stuck in the 1990s. Joe Rogan talks about how he gained his information about these ideas from the 1993 Mystery of the Sphinx documentary, and that he read Fingerprints of the Gods in the 1990s. Hancock talks at length about the various battles he fought against archaeology in the 1990s, and he seems to be attributing to archaeology Clovis-first paradigms also not supported since the 1990s.
Carlson, who says that he got many of his ideas from nineteenth century catastrophist textbooks, claims that global elites are trying to suppress the truth about asteroids and their role in climate change in order to promote a political ideology of social control that they can blame on global warming. Carlson also denies that human beings could cause the extinction of megafauna, and based on this he concludes that humans are not able to cause mass extinctions; ergo, climate change-driven mass extinctions are a political hoax used to impose global control. Carlson returns to the idea that climate change is not caused by human beings over the course of the three hours, and the more he talks, the more his politics leak out around the edges. (Carlson has expressed similar views for several years.)
In a new claim, Hancock denies the Bering Strait hypothesis of the peopling of the Americas and speculates that the ruins of his lost civilization were destroyed by a comet that crashed into North America, where it was located, perhaps remembered as Atlantis. No trace of this civilization exists, but he speculates that the comet simply destroyed it all.
In the second hour, Hancock returns to his hatred of archaeologists, to which he adds climate scientists, and announced that he believes that astrology is “an ancient science” that he thinks, based on a book he read, may have a real impact on human consciousness. Hancock says that elites use “ideological tools” and “arguments from authority” to make it impossible to “think outside the box” by imposing beliefs about astrology, climate change, and ancient history that all right-thinking people must believe. This leads to a lengthy discussion of altered states of consciousness and Hancock’s belief that modern society does not sufficiently recognize and reward imagination, creativity, and dreams, the last of which he suggests may be actual messages from another dimension.
Carlson spends his part of the hour endorsing various catastrophist views of how the end of the Ice Age created what is essentially Noah’s Flood.
The third hour begins with Hancock, now becoming hoarse from speaking, blasting archaeologists again for authoritarian tendencies and exposing his own uneasy relationship with the middle decades of his life by explaining that authority figures have failed us and lied to us at every level, especially in politics, which is why we must therefore question human history. In short: Nixon was a crook, so archaeology is also a fraud.
Rogan wonders why Hancock writes books, which he says are an inefficient way to change public attitudes. “There are a lot people that won’t read a book,” Rogan said. “Documentaries are so easy. All you do is open your stupid mouth, lay down, turn on Netflix, and bam! You know, you can absorb it. People are lazy.” And there in a nutshell is the problem! Even a lengthy documentary will contain a fraction of the words of a long-form magazine article, let alone a book, and they rely more on emotion than logic.
Hancock, however, says that he needs the audience to go out and buy the book that he says archaeologists don’t want you to read: “That is the best way to put one finger up to the mainstream,” he said. Hancock claims this is the first time he has ever begged a show’s audience to go out and by a book. He would like it to be a rallying cry against authority of all stripes.
There was almost another hour after that, but that was really the climax of the show. The remaining time Hancock spent summarizing various claims from his book about supposedly anomalous archaeological sites covered in Magicians, including his claim that Atlantis can be found worldwide, including in Indonesia. Hancock denied being a Freemason and said that he wouldn’t join the Freemasons. Indeed, Hancock denies that there is a Masonic global conspiracy. (“Most of them are in it for the beer. Freemasonry is mostly a male drinking club.” – He specified that’s after hours drinking, not during meetings.) However, Hancock did assert that Masons have “ancient knowledge,” and all three men can’t understand why dollar bills have a pyramid on the back (“Why can’t it just say ‘one dollar’?” Rogan asks), none of them recognizing that the image is the Great Seal of the United States, which is, I imagine, what they mean to question. Rogan feels that the all-seeing eye represents the pineal gland while high on drugs. Meanwhile Carlson babbles on about how the Masonic statue of the weeping virgin is a catastrophist drug metaphor based in the resurrection of Osiris. He argues that Father Time’s sickle is really a representation of a comet and that the virgin weeps for the destruction of the antediluvian world before the comet destroyed it. In quick flash of some slides that Carlson didn’t mean to be seen, there were references to Enoch, and this is (sigh) yet another Watchers story, filtered through Masonic conspiracies.
In actually, the image was created by Amos Doolittle to illustrate a book by Jeremy Cross in 1819 as an allegory for the death of Hiram Abiff and the discovery of his body, the key narrative of Masonry’s Third Degree. This is not a secret, or at least hasn’t been since the original texts slipped into the public domain more than a century ago. (There was a late Victorian conspiracy theory that it was an astrological allegory, which I imagine is the source Carlson is ultimately reliant upon.)
The show concludes with Rogan, Carlson, and Hancock discussing the drugs they enjoy taking and praising voters for legalizing marijuana in several U.S. states. Hancock says he looks forward to visiting each state where pot is now legal, and he is positively giddy about continuing to use the marijuana he previously identified as causing extreme paranoia in him. I don’t disagree with his assessment that adults should be able to make their own decisions about drugs. but I disagree that such drugs help to produce better evidence for ancient history. Carlson, who said he did acid and peyote for months on end, claims that his acid trips are what inspired him to oppose mainstream geology and embrace catastrophism after he realized that the land is, in its own way, alive.
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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