Recently, we’ve seen an author named Kathleen McGowan appearing on Ancient Aliens, and I assumed this was because she is the widow of ancient astronaut theorist Philip Coppens, who married her a year before his death, not long after McGowan divorced her previous husband, Peter, with whom she had three children. But McGowan has started cross-pollinating other programs on the History family of channels, and she showed up Wednesday on Bible Secrets Revealed to discuss the “sacred feminine” and the early Church’s suppression of femininity.
I watched this episode because it promised to explore the Book of Enoch and the concept of the Watchers, key elements of the ancient astronaut theory. While this segment was interesting, though not without the suggestion that Biblical authors were hiding the “truth” about giants, the show was mostly intent on exploring the “sacred feminine” and the “Holy Bloodline.”
But what can we expect? Bible Secrets Revealed is produced by Prometheus Entertainment, the same company that produces Ancient Aliens. No wonder its episodes have slowly started to slide into conspiracy territory and have just a hint of ancient astronauts and/or lost civilizations lurking behind the narration. It’s very subtle and easy to miss, but the wording gently suggests that the Bible is covering up a broader secret history.
However, to return to McGowan:
Bible Secrets Revealed did not identify McGowan’s credentials and presented her as a Bible expert even though she is in fact a novelist, not a historian. McGowan holds no academic degrees, by her own admission, and has only a high school diploma. McGowan blankets her website with references to the History channel, using her appearances on History and H2 in order to legitimize her tenuous claim to “expertise” on ancient spiritual mysteries.
McGowan is a former journalist for the apparently defunct LA-based The Irish News and a former marketing representative for The Walt Disney Company, a 50% owner of History’s parent company, A+E Networks. The show failed to disclose that McGowan believes she is a direct descendant of the “sacred bloodline” of Jesus and Mary Magdalene. This would seem to be important information on a show devoted to discussing the relationship of Jesus and Mary Magdalene.
This is the most basic ethical requirement of journalism: You have to disclose conflicts of interest. That is why I have to tell you that shortly before his death last year McGowan’s second husband, Philip Coppens, exchanged nasty words with me (he called me names) over whether the Famine Stela discussed non-human intelligences delivering plans for the first Egyptian pyramids, since that information is relevant to determining whether I am being fair and honest in evaluating McGowan’s claims to semi-divine status.
“Everyone’s going to think I'm on The Da Vinci Code bandwagon, but I’m not,” McGowan told USA Today in 2006, when Simon & Schuster spent $275,000 to market her “autobiographical thriller” The Expected One, in which she explored in fictional form her divine ancestry. McGowan told the Los Angeles Times that she quit her Disney job and maxed out her credit cards because God told her she needed to reveal the “true” story of Mary Magdalene, which she experienced as a series of “visions” in the 1990s. This came shortly after a deceased astrologer began communicating with her from the spirit world about numerology, according to her own published statements. She wrote the book as “nonfiction,” but converted it into a novel when publishers rightly refused to print evidence-free speculation and visions as academic history.
At the time, her editor, Trish Todd, explained that she had complete faith that McGowan was in fact directly related to Jesus: “Yes, I believe her. Her passion and her mission are so strong, how can she not be?” Ms. Todd clearly has very little experience of the world. McGowan’s literary agent, Larry Kirshbaum, left his position as head of Warner Books and shortly after began to represent McGowan because he became convinced, during conversation with McGowan at a party, that she is a semi-divine demigod. “You have to give her any benefit of the doubt because she’s totally rational. I believe her absolutely.” He called her book “a gift from God.” Kirshbaum used his reputation and clout to score McGowan a book deal above and beyond what most first-time, uneducated, and unproven writers receive.
Simon & Schuster paid McGowan $1.5 million for three novels about her divine heritage on the strength of 2,500 copies sold of her self-published first book. McGowan refused to explain what evidence she had to support her claims of divine ancestry and instead told USA Today that she expected the Catholic Church to try to attack her claims.
Reviews of the book were devastating; reviewers uniformly found the writing slipshod, dull, and uninspired and the story uninteresting. Somehow, though McGowan had convinced readers that her divine heritage had given her unique insights. Simon & Schuster’s Touchstone Fireside printed 250,000 hardcover copies and 125,000 paperback copies. According to Nielsen BookScan, the novel sold 50,000 copies in its first six months. The publisher, however, claimed that an additional 50,000 copies were sold through additional “channels” (such as select online sales and some fringe history book club bulk purchases) not tracked by BookScan. The Expected One entered the bestseller lists in 2006, and today McGowan claims that the book (or all of her books together, depending on the source) sold one million copies worldwide. Her two sequels must not have sold as well since I haven’t been able to find any sales figures for them. Her nonfiction Touchstone book, a self-help guide to using the Lord’s Prayer, must not have performed to expectations either, as I can find no reported sales figures.
I can’t find any suggestion that Touchstone has extended their relationship with McGowan past the publication of her 2010 book The Poet Prince. Her most recent book, The Ballad of Tam Lin: Legends of the Divine Feminine, was published in 2012 by something called “BookBaby,” a self-publishing platform.
It seems interesting that she has begun appearing on History and remaking herself as an “expert” in Biblical mysteries. I couldn’t begin to speculate on the reasons why, but there is certainly more than enough material in the facts presented above to lead to some interesting speculation. I wonder if McGowan and Coppens spent nights debating whether the “non-human intelligences” they communicated with were aliens, angels, trans-dimensional beings, or Bible ghosts. It must have been like the fringe history version of James Carville and Mary Matalin.
There is apparently absolutely nothing that will disqualify someone from receiving a million-dollar book contract and a prime position on the History channel—not a lack of any higher education, not claims to be directly related to Yahweh and Jesus, not even seeing repeated visions of dead astrologers and Bible figures.
This is the takeaway: Simon & Schuster, Prometheus Entertainment, History, A+E Networks, and the Walt Disney Company did not care whether there are any facts to support McGowan’s claim to be semi-divine. None of them even bothered to ask. (Nor, for that matter, did most of the journalists who have profiled her.) Fine: I’ll start saying that I am the last descendant of Poseidon, god of the sea. Back the money truck up!
And you wonder why we are bombarded with Ancient Aliens, America Unearthed, and their ilk.
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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