I must admit to being a bit surprised by the apparently good news I read today in Bloomberg News about the changes coming to National Geographic as a result of its takeover by Rupert Murdoch. According to the report, the National Geographic Channel’s tabloid trash had long been National Geographic’s profit center, and the crappy taste of cable TV audiences exerted pressure on National Geographic to dumb down in print and online. In fact, the report says that TV executives bristled that National Geographic’s leadership thought the shows should be fact checked and scientifically responsible. But now as part of a larger company, the National Geographic branded media products no longer are the tail wagging the dog after being diluted into the Fox empire, and their new boss, James Murdoch, the son of Rupert and head of 21st Century Fox, intends to transform them into a luxury brand for quality science journalism and entertainment, describing the new vision as “HBO” for science.
I’ll believe it when I see it, but it sounds a lot better than Discovery’s strategy of flooding TV with reality crap and creating whole networks for paranormal pseudoscience
Speaking of pseudoscience, Jerry Lutgen recently posted an article summarizing Scott Wolter’s new claims about Freemasonry and the Kensington Rune Stone to the Kensington Rune Stone International Supporters Club Facebook page in a posting on May 9. Lutgen is a friend of Wolter, a former guest on America Unearthed, and the creator of a Talpiot Tomb website. He is currently working with HistoryTec, a nonprofit corporation dedicating to pursuing Wolterian fringe ideas, namely the Talpiot Tomb and Pre-Columbian European contact with America. His paper summarizes Wolter’s presentation to the Anoka, Minnesota Freemasons last month.
According to Lutgen’s summary, Wolter places particular interest on the numbers that appear in the text of the Kensington Rune Stone:
8 Götalanders and 22 Northmen on an exploring (or acquisition) expedition from Vinland west. We camped by 2 skerries one day’s journey north from this stone. We were a-fishing one day; after we came home we found 10 men red with blood and dead. A.V.M. (= Ave Maria) Save from evil.
These numbers, then, are 8, 22, 2, 1, 1, 10, 10, and 14.
Wolter wants us to see the 22 as referring to the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet and therefore to the Kabbalah, even though there is no Kabbalistic material in the text. He assumes that 22 is also related to the Egyptian mystery religions of Isis and Osiris. The number isn’t associated with them so far as I can tell, but it does appear in a tangential way because some New Agers allege that the 22 trump cards of the tarot derive from the Egyptian mysteries. This is mostly due to Antoine Court de Gébelin, a Freemason who helped invent the esoteric interpretation of the tarot in 1781. He alleged that the tarot’s trumps represented the twenty-two letters of the Egyptian alphabet (which he saw as identical to Hebrew—this was before the decipherment of hieroglyphics) and were invented by Hermes Trismegistus, who was, of course, also Enoch, inscriber of the Pillars of Wisdom. Gébelin was a Freemason, so basing any interpretation of ancient history on his Masonic occultism becomes an exercise in circular reasoning.
According to Wolter, as summarized by Lutgen, if we “reassemble” the Masonic story of Hiram Abiff in the Select Master degree in chronological order, the sequence of numbers exactly follows that of KRS. It’s rather lengthy to quote the text in full, so I will instead link you to it. You have to love the internet—all of the secrets are somehow revealed, especially those in the public domain and no longer covered by copyright. Lutgen quotes selectively from the following passage as his example of confirmation of Wolter’s hypothesis. The quoted material is in boldface:
The ninth Arch was erected by our three Grand Masters as a place wherein to deposit a true copy of all the Holy Vessels and Sacred Treasures contain in the Sanctum Sanctorum above; also to meet in Grand Council to confer the Master Mason degree when the Temple should be completed. There were employed on the other eight Arches, twenty-two men from Gebal, a city of Phoenicia, together with Ahishar and Adoniram, all of whom were well skilled in the arts and sciences generally, but particularly in sculpture. Their hours of labor were from nine at night till twelve, the time when prying eyes are closed in sleep.
While the full text is much longer, it is notable for not containing several of the numbers from the KRS, notably 10 and 14. The numbers 1 and 2 are too common to ascribe any significance to, but both appear in both texts. Further, it should easily become apparent that while 8 and 22 appear in both places, several other numbers occur in the Masonic text but not on the KRS: 9, 3, 12. So how does Wolter plead for us to ignore these numbers? He argues that the KRS has 9 lines of text on the front and 3 on the side, so which add up to 12, thus matching the numbers from the story.
Wolter calls this the “Ritual Code” and argues that accepting the numerological importance of the KRS eliminates the need to interpret the text literally, and he says that there is now no reason to interpret it allegorically either. Under this new interpretation, the text is irrelevant except for the coded numbers. Unfortunately, Lutgen’s summary does not indicate how or if Wolter squared this with his earlier assertion that the translation of one particular phrase as “taking up land” (or “acquisition”) was essential to interpreting the KRS as a Templar land claim. Are the words relevant or not?
All told, there is much less to Wolter’s alleged correlation between the KRS and the Select Master degree than he implied. It might be the case that the numbers 8 and 22 were meant to reflect the Masonic numbers, but it isn’t necessarily so. The numbers aren’t exactly important to Masonry (the reference is to 8 of the 9 Arches, which is the important number), or rare. Here’s Daniel Defoe using the same numbers in Robinson Crusoe: “In the middle was another, not above twenty-two paces round, but built stronger; being eight-square in its form…” Prior to that, William Dampier, in his Voyage around the World, reported that on night in 1699 he measured “at Eight in the Evening, twenty-two” fathoms off the coast of New Guinea. Here’s a line from the Domesday Book of 1086 that includes four of Wolter’s numbers: “There are two ploughs in the demesne, and twenty-two villains with ten bondsmen have eight ploughs” (trans. Henshaw and Wilkinson).
Even Lutgen recognizes that the connection requires “speculation” in order to accept, but he says that Wolter has an explanation for any discrepancies: The two texts are not directly related to one another but instead both derive from a secret stream of occult numerology. “Therefore, he is claiming that both the KRS and the Masonic stories are actually derived from material available to a 14th century Cistercian monk.” Unfortunately, Lutgen adds that Wolter cannot provide a plausible path for this material to have arrived at its alleged end points. Lutgen further asks whether a Freemason of the nineteenth century could have been responsible for creating the KRS, and his only argument against that hypothesis is Wolter’s own geological work, which even he recognizes is not sufficiently conclusive.
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.
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.