Today I learned that no good deed goes unpunished. As most readers know, I maintain a growing library of important texts related to fringe history and pseudo-archaeology. Since there is no full public domain translation of the Epic of Gilgamesh, and I certainly wasn’t going to pay thousands in licensing fees to use a modern one, I put together my own version from public domain material and my own editorial emendations and additions based on more recent translations. I started from the base of William Muss-Arnolt’s translations, published in 1904, and added in translations of fragments that were discovered and translated in the 1910s and 1920s. Because Muss-Arnolt’s material was in the wrong order, incomplete, and often wrong, I took a pretty strong editorial hand, and about 50% of the text is mine, though I tried to echo Muss-Arnolt closely enough that it isn’t always easy to tell. I don’t claim it as my own translation because, obviously enough, I don’t read cuneiform to work from the primary sources. That’s also why I don’t sell it for a profit; I don’t feel it is enough of my own labor to charge for. But it also isn’t in the public domain. I wrote half of it.
So imagine my surprise to discover that after generously making this available for free online that Wikisource copied the whole thing to their site, and from it, dozens of booksellers have created eBooks and print-on-demand volumes featuring my translation, attributed to Muss-Arnolt. (I licensed it, once, to a non-profit for educational purposes.) Basically, everybody is making money off of it but me.
But if my work had managed to find a second, third, and a two-thousandth life at the hands of long-tail e-book mass producers, this unauthorized reincarnation pales before Graham Hancock’s latest pronouncement. This past weekend, Hancock announced that he now believes in reincarnation: “Maybe we are meat robots, all matter, no spirit. A lot of people believe that. But its only a belief, not a fact. I think we’re all spirit and these bodies are the avatars we need to function in the material realm. Reincarnation makes a lot of sense to me.”
It is clear that Hancock sees himself as a spiritual guru in the making, and now he has a dogma to complement his theology. Over the past few years, he has described how he has come to believe that divine beings lurk on the other side of the veil of consciousness, gods accessible through drug use, particularly the herb ayahuasca. But now this belief in a polytheistic pantheon is tied to a pantheistic belief that the universe itself is a divine agent and invested in each individual’s spiritual development: “Why would the universe invest in creating this incredible ride if we only get one chance to learn the lessons it teaches? I think we come back, again, and again, and again until, maybe, finally… we get it.” Basically, Hancock is now a Buddhist with occult and hippie tendencies.
I am somewhat intrigued by the notion Hancock has developed of a teleological purpose to existence. While, yes, this is a common enough philosophical conceit, it also seems to reflect the same set of faulty ideas he brings to his study of ancient civilizations. He genuinely seems to have difficulty with randomness, chance, and fallowness. He, for example, finds it impossible to believe that humans could live a hundred thousand years without constructing cities filled with high technology, and in this light, it becomes obvious that the reason for this is that he believes that humanity has a specific purpose. And if that teleological purpose is to achieve a certain level of culture, then it is inevitable that he must project that into the past.
Similarly, he has difficulty with the concept of cultures rising and falling on their own, the victim of internal and external forces with no grand plan behind them. Here, too, he sees teleological plans at work. A conspiracy of guiding gurus—the Shemsu Hor or Atlantean priests—must be behind it. And he is especially unnerved by the randomness of natural disasters. That must be why he has become obsessed with the idea of a comet destroying Atlantis. It is the shattering moment of randomness that explains the failure of his teleological ideology, and he is attempting to render that random, soul-shattering horror safe by suggesting that the ancients were able to predict the return of the same comet cloud and the date of the next disaster. By making random events into part of a well-documented divine plan, something that can be predicted and accounted for, he can restore his own faith that there is a guiding force beyond a material world that he seems to fear might be home to no god.
How long will it be, though, before he claims to know (or to be) a reincarnated member of his lost civilization?
5/2/2018 10:22:41 am
" How long will it be, though, before he claims to know (or to be) a reincarnated member of his lost civilization? "
5/2/2018 08:01:03 pm
I wonder if we should start a pool on when this revelation will take place. I give it six months, tops.
5/2/2018 11:46:31 am
If Hancock does claim to be a member of the ancient civilization, wouldn’t that mean he would finally describe what that civilization was? Because I’ve read a bunch of his books and I still have no idea.
5/2/2018 12:52:08 pm
I know, it's very disappointing. I want to know about their aesthetic sensibilities, their economic structure, their policy on homelessness. I want to know about a day in the life of the average Atlantean. Instead, all we get is, "They made maps. And radioactive arks. And voice-activated levitation manifolds." What the hell am I supposed to do with that?
5/3/2018 07:39:27 am
5/2/2018 12:07:27 pm
Of course most people get reincarnated as worms or insects so it's not that great. The short sharp life of a rabbit seems like heaven by comparison. Ow! A shark just ate me! Here I go again. Damn! Just eaten by another shark! Hey I recognize this place, it's the Hell of Ice Knives. Drat and bother!
5/3/2018 07:40:46 am
To quote one of my favourite bowls of Petunia's: "Oh no, Not again!"
5/2/2018 12:16:42 pm
Read Neale Donald Walsch and it will all become clear. Hancock is right, of course.
5/2/2018 12:29:36 pm
I have personally seen very similar things to what you are describing with Hancock. All of this may begin with something they perceive to really explain history or even a minor aspect of it. This is the basis for the New Age breaking down traditional ways of thought. Then they are forced to resort to using faith based narratives that can't be proven such as reincarnation to explain their madness. We do see one our most popular subjects of conversation on this blog beginning to go down the very same pathway that Hancock is. In fact I think the alterna-gossip last year stated that the two had even spent some time together. I research odd history. Since I have been doing this two people who I became acquainted with simply went bat shit crazy and were institutionalized. This genre also breeds people with Christ complexes who now feel they can minister to the world because they figured out some ice age settlements may now be under water.
5/2/2018 12:48:50 pm
Is it any wonder that some fringe producers develop a Christ-like (if Christ was an arrogant asshole) attitude given the level of commitment and devotion by some of their followers and a certain degree of semi-celebrity status that they attain. The followers are generally operating entirely by faith and confirmation bias and attack anyone whose objective criticisms challenge their faith or the standing of their prophets. Doesn't take too many people like that who back you to the hilt to get an over-inflated sense of importance about yourself and your message. Just look at any fringe message board and how people react to even polite, well-reasoned, and objective criticisms of whatever topic is under discussion.
5/2/2018 01:06:16 pm
Says Captain Drinky-poo of the SS Chug-a-lug.
5/2/2018 05:24:27 pm
Americanegro: angry, old, gay white male pretending.
5/2/2018 05:33:20 pm
Okay, you hate gays. We get that. Message received.
5/2/2018 06:24:00 pm
Americanegro: Wrong as usual Goober. You are Goober and that’s what you’ll be called. Goober.
5/2/2018 02:03:22 pm
Actually, its Doctor Drinky-Poo. Based on your comments here in general, it is quite obvious that unfortunately there are no meds in your cabinet. I would encourage you to rectify that.
5/2/2018 02:50:19 pm
You seem fascinated with this fantasy Kiddie Table. Do you understand the concept of "where the bathing suit covers" and "no toques la cosita"? I'll wait for your reply because I know you gotta get your drink on. Of course after that nothing you do or touch is your fault; that's how it works, right? You're a One Note Norman, Nelson. You think you're Walter White but you get the line wrong: "I AM the Stranger Danger!"
5/2/2018 06:46:08 pm
Goober, AKA Americanegro is angry, old, gay white male pretending. Goober’s comments are designed to inflame. He’s just a Goober wanting what he doesn’t earn or deserve. He’s a Goober.
Pseudo-science by its very nature often tends to work like a belief system, or religion. With prophets who know the revelation.
5/2/2018 05:34:57 pm
Sort of. Certain positions can become ingrained in "mainstream" science to the point that deviating viewpoints can be viewed as approaching heresy. Or, there can be competing schools of thought, each of which is so set in its paradigm that they view the other schools of thought as heresy that should be marginalized.
5/2/2018 04:15:14 pm
Mr. Docrock lets us drink and shows us pictures on his phone, then we play games. He says not to tell our parents.
5/2/2018 05:40:42 pm
Jason, angry, old, gay white male desperate to get Hancock to notice him.
5/2/2018 06:34:51 pm
Henry, angry, young, gay white male desperate to get anyone to notice him.
5/2/2018 07:01:43 pm
Jason: Why do you call Hancock a Biuddhist? believing in a cycle of reincarnation/rebirth that can be escaped is not unique to Buddhism. Jainism and many forms of Hinduism also have this belief. Moreover, Hancock's apparent elevation of the universe to the role of intelligent, planning, creator is contrary to Orthodox Buddhism, which outside Indonesia (for legal/constitutional reasons) rejects the idea of a supreme creator deity. So does Jainism, but Jainism accepts souls unlike orthodox Buddhism.
5/2/2018 07:05:51 pm
Jason: Why do you call Hancock a Biuddhist?
5/2/2018 07:45:18 pm
It sounds like Hancock is suggesting that we *will* eventually "get it", i.e., some kind of enlightenment, which suggests a sort of universalist soteriology like we find in the Lotus Sutra. I can't recall, off hand, any religious denominations outside of (some forms of) Buddhism espousing this kind of guaranteed liberation by way of reincarnation.
5/2/2018 08:08:38 pm
The difference between the soteriology posited by the Lotus Sutra and that posited by Hancock is that the Lotus Sutra's soteriology (which I do not agree with, but you acknowledge that it is not universal) is placed within a Buddhist context, whereas Hancock's soteriology is placed within a pantheist context. And pantheism is not the same as Buddhism. So many people associate reincarnation with Buddhism to such an extent that upon gaining evidence that someone teaches or believes reincarnation, they assume that such a person is a Buddhist or influenced by Buddhism.
5/2/2018 08:21:37 pm
"The Ājīvikas, based upon what little we know about them, have taught that all people would inevitably reach salvation/an end to the cycle of births and deaths"
5/2/2018 08:53:07 pm
Americanegro: You cite, I presume, the Lotus Sutra in defence of the view that "all people would inevitably reach salvation/an end to the cycle of births and deaths" - yet my Buddhist tradition, the Theravada, rejects the Lotus Sutra and even the forms of Buddhism that accept the Lotus Sutra as authoritative in some sense do not necessarily accept the idea that all people will inevitably reach Nirvana.
5/2/2018 09:40:09 pm
I don't know no Sutras but Theravada accepts Buddhuahood, therefore it accepts an omniscient being committed to liberating limitless beings over a limitless period of time. You are limitlessly uninformed.
5/2/2018 10:21:50 pm
Americanegro: If I were truly limitlessly uninformed, I would be lacking even the information through which I write answers that you respond to.
5/3/2018 12:36:36 am
Let your imagined rules not be your purpose. Calm the heck down.
5/3/2018 03:37:57 am
Actually Nyingma asserts a "truly-existing Buddha-Nature", not just sat, but satya-sat.
5/3/2018 08:04:47 pm
Americanegro: I would not deny that becoming a Buddha takes kalpas of preparation, but that was not what we were arguing about. Rather, we were arguing about whether all Orthodox Buddhist sects teach that Buddhahood is inevitable.
5/4/2018 01:41:00 am
"Americanegro: I would not deny that becoming a Buddha takes kalpas of preparation, but that was not what we were arguing about. Rather, we were arguing about whether all Orthodox Buddhist sects teach that Buddhahood is inevitable."
5/4/2018 08:44:51 pm
Americanegro: Your words, being full of venom and lacking information (aside from simple negations), are barely worth responding to. That having been said, I will reply, because you deserve some thanks. I will have to look into the link between the Dalai Lamas and the Nyingmas. I was mostly familiar with the connection between the Nyingmas and the Kagyus, but I know little about the history of the Geluks (aside from their suppressioin of the Jonangs and their marginalization of non-Geluk traditions, especially during the 19th century CE).
5/5/2018 02:04:41 pm
Oh, you don't like negation? Yet you cite (actually "mention" as if you were citing) Nagarjuna? NETI, NETI, NETI. What you call "venom" I call calling you on your constant setting yourself up as an authority and your infliction of your Buddhuism which is just as bad as Gunn's demon infested Xtianity. Give it a rest dude. As Groucho said "I love my cigar too, but I take it out once in a while."
5/5/2018 02:29:16 pm
Americanegro: There is difference between your negations and Nagarjuna's negations. Nagarjuna was refuting metaphysical understandings of the world by revealing their absurdities through logical arguments (and there are some Theravada authors who quite respect Nagarjuna - I can list some if you want), but you are asserting that my factual claims are wrong (something that I am willing to accept) while often not telling me how I am wrong - instead you resort to simple insults about my general competency. A naked assertion that another person is wrong is easier to dismiss or ignore than an assertion clothed with evidence (whether factual or in Nagarjuana's case logical), especially when the naked assertion is accompanied by insults.
5/5/2018 07:06:02 pm
Aside from the Gadarene swine I think you'll have trouble coming up with demons in "Christian Scriptures" so again I negate you, denying both the allegation and the allegator.
5/5/2018 08:00:23 pm
Americanegro: Thank you for asking me to provide Christian scriptural texts discussing the commonness of demons in the world. You have mentioned the Gadarene swine, but I can provide other Christian scriptural references to demons. Off the top of my head, and in no particular order:
5/5/2018 10:13:11 pm
You've vanquished me at last... or have you? You say pittita I say tittita.
5/6/2018 09:46:50 am
Americanegro: The book that you quote to me, although asserting that some (if not most) diseases are caused by physical and mental issues, also asserts that some are caused by Satan and related spiritual forces and that Christian ministers should be able to cure such illnesses through exorcisms. So your source, although not as willing to claim demons as the cause for many problems as Gunn or the Christian Bible, acknowledges it as a possibility. The Christian Bible, Gunn, and the book that you cite all agree that evil spirits, whether Satan or in thrall to Satan, are problems that Christians can deal with through faith in Jesus.
5/2/2018 07:48:55 pm
Yet Buddhuism accepts that Buddhus can emanate complete universes.
5/2/2018 09:02:31 pm
Goober, angry, old, gay white man makes more inane comments.
Every Random Nazi Ever
5/3/2018 12:40:37 am
Your hatred of homos completes me.
5/3/2018 07:52:58 am
Many, many people have problems with concepts such as randomness and lack of purpose. Not just religious people, although they are most prone to assign purpose and reason, where there is none.
5/3/2018 08:05:22 am
My how this conversation sounds like a Jr. High School locker room ranking cut low session. What bunch of intellectuals were are here. Everyone wants to read you guys hating on each other. Kind of makes the rest of us look like idiots for even commenting here. I'm afraid to say anything about the article. Off to my safe space I suppose. Thanks to everyone who posted a comment germane to the subject at hand!
5/3/2018 12:13:10 pm
5/3/2018 12:26:32 pm
Always nice to hear from Captain Drinky-poo who pregames for happy hour at noon EDT.
5/3/2018 11:37:12 am
Until Hancock can channel an Atlantian warrior who can debate Ramtha I have no use for him.
5/5/2018 11:52:27 pm
Uh oh, someone made Jason mad by thinking for themselves again...but good to see Jason is there to make fun of and bully them again to satisfy his cult members. I'm not sure why Hancock's beliefs matter to Jason, I don't accept 80% of what Hancock says, but if he wants to believe in the fairly logical premise that the universe is conscious and reincarnation is likely, well so what? Science has data that states the might be right, this isn't mumbo jumbo...well I guess it is for some that need it to be.
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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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