Today’s post is late and brief because my cat hasn’t been responding well to his bronchitis medicine, and it’s been a bit challenging. He’ll be going to see the vet again this week, and I sincerely hope that the vet can find the right medicine to help his cough.
Did you know that the Josh Gates documentary series Expedition Unknown returned for its second season this past week? Neither did I. Granted, I don’t watch the Travel Channel very frequently, but apparently the show generates such little buzz that I didn’t even see a Facebook mention, a tweet, or a commercial. Oh, well; I didn’t miss much.
The second season premiere sent Gates to the United Kingdom in search of King Arthur. He covered the usual sites and many of the most popular recent claims about the alleged historical Arthur, particularly efforts to find in him an early medieval post-Roman military leader. There was no mention of more interesting suggestions that seek mythic origins for Arthur in Late Antique or Indo-European lore. The photography was typically beautiful, but there was very little in the show I hadn’t heard many times before. Heck, in describing the famous medieval hoax whereby Arthur’s bones were alleged to have been unearthed in 1191 at a fortuitously important moment for Glastonbury Abbey, which desperately needed money, Gates didn’t even both to share with his viewers one of the most interesting reasons the claim is almost certainly a hoax: The bones were supposedly those of a giant! Giraldus, writing in the Liber de Principis instructione, Distinctio I, folio 107b (c. 1193), made this clear: “You must know that Arthur’s bones, which were found in that place (Glastonbury), were so big that in them the words of the poet seemed to find fulfillment: ‘The farmer … will … marvel at gigantic bones in the upturned graves’ (Virgil, Georgics 1.497).” He goes on to give measurements, which are translated in my Fragments on Giants page.
Meanwhile, Matthew R. X. Dentith, the author of The Philosophy of Conspiracy Theories, attended a lecture at the Leys Institute Library in Ponsonby, Auckland, New Zealand, in which two lecturers tried to explain the spiritual mission of UFOs. I was dumbfounded at how a lecture given in 2015 was virtually indistinguishable from a Theosophical lecture given more than a century ago, though with the addition of flying saucers and anti-U.S.-government conspiracy theories. The underpinnings of the esoteric, though, were pure Theosophy:
Gordon, himself admittedly perplexing by what he was saying, told us about the various planes of the physical; the known and admitted to by the Sciences planes of the solid, liquid, gaseous, which are just but a part of the grand nature of the physical. Science, it seems, is either blithely unaware – or hiding the existence – of the four etheric planes. These etheric planes are important for our knowledge of cosmology, because whilst Mars, for example, might look like a dead world, that is only because the space brothers who live there exist in the etheric. Indeed, Earth is the only planet in the solar system where humans like ourselves exist purely in the dense, non-etheric physical planes. That’s also where we will stay until such time we stop using nuclear power.
In December 1905, David Starr Jordan, the first president of Stanford University, attended a lecture by the Swami Ram Telang (who had borrowed the name of a more famous Indian holy man who had claimed to be an incarnation of Shiva), and he heard the same set of claims, including etheric planes, space brothers on other planets, and so on. It’s Theosophy in its most cosmic form, and I’m amazed that anyone still promotes it as a revelation! Jordan’s report was published in “The Plane of Ether” in Popular Science Monthly and is noteworthy mostly because he misunderstood Theosophy as genuine Hindu philosophy, and Helena Blavatsky as an Indian man. I’ve posted his article in my Library. That said, a still closer parallel can be found in this 1921 Theosophical text.
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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